Looking Back, Looking Ahead : Vayetzei

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By Sam Abraham

Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10–32:3)

My bar mitzvah Torah portion, Vayetzei, is about Jacob’s dream. Jacob runs away from his brother, Esav, after stealing Esav’s birthright. Jacob stops for the night and dreams about a tall ladder that reaches to heaven. God tells him that this place will be for Jacob and his offspring, that God will protect him. Jacob wakes up and says “Achein, yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh, v’anochi, lo yadati.” Jacob realizes God was in this holy place all along.

The ladder in Jacob’s dream symbolizes many things. The ladder can represent the Shabbat Morning service, which ascends from basic to more complicated prayers. Each prayer plays an important role, just like the ladder needs all of its rungs to function properly. The most important part of the service, where my ladder reaches heaven, is the Amidah.

The words of the Amidah help me reflect on my life, and remind me to thank God for helping me through tough times. When we connect with God during the Amidah, He can help guide us in the right direction. Similarly, when Jacob runs away from his family, he may have asked God for guidance about where to go and what would be next for him.

The ladder in Jacob’s dream also symbolizes a person’s life span. Each rung on the ladder represents a different memory.

Since I’ve been little, I have Shabbat dinner with my family or friends. In the summer, I celebrate Shabbat with my friends at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. No matter where I am, it is a meaningful time for me to connect with important people in my life. Jacob’s ladder reminds him of the many different stages of his life. Even though relationships are complicated between Jacob and his family, he has many good memories as a young child. I too, have many wonderful memories that I know will guide me as I grow into an adult and will give me strength as I face challenges along the way.

Jacob’s ladder was more than a dream. It was an opportunity for him to pray to God and reflect on his life before moving on to living without his family in a new place.

As I become a bar mitzvah, and begin my life as a Jewish adult, I have many sturdy rungs on which to stand; and, at the same time, many rungs still to climb as I look forward towards the future.

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