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    Jacob’s ladder – Vayyetzei

    Jacob's ladder, illustration from the 1728 "Figures de la Bible"

    Jacob’s ladder, illustration from the 1728 “Figures de la Bible”

    The tale of Jack and the Beanstalk must have been suggested by the Biblical story of Jacob and the ladder that joined earth and heaven (Gen. 28:12).

    The numerical value (g’matria) of sulam, “ladder”, is the same as anav, “modest or humble”. The way to heaven is not by means of arrogance, making oneself high and mighty.

    The sinners of the tower of Babel thought they could storm the heavens and unseat God, but it didn’t work. It’s the person who lives a quiet, modest, humble life who rises high in God’s estimation.

    The Chassidim say that the person who worries about how far he is from God is the one who is really closer to the Almighty than anyone else.

    My wife and I were once invited to a Bar-Mitzvah lunch at someone’s home. We weren’t certain whether they kept kosher but they assured me, “Rabbi, we’re very orthodox!” That worried us even more. Boasting about how great you are is not the best recommendation.

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