Rabbi Miriam's Blog
On my recent trip to Israel on a beautiful afternoon, we drove along the coast of the magnificent Mediterranean Sea to visit a childhood friend near Natanya. As we got off the main highway towards his neighborhood, I suddenly saw, as I made the turn, a large-scale sculpture. It was very different. At first glance I did not recognize its meaning. I thought it was based on the theme of Jacob’s ladder, but looking a little closer, I realized that the images are soldiers and not angels ascending the ladder to heaven. I was stunned. What is all this about, I wondered.
When we got to our friend’s home, I asked him to explain to me the meaning of this unique sculpture at the entrance to his neighborhood. He looked at me with a surprise on his face, and asked, “Don’t you know what this is?” “No,” I said. He went on, “Do you remember about 7 years ago a homicidal Arab detonated his backpack and killed about 14 soldiers waiting at the bus station.” “Yes, I remember,” I answered. He continued, “In the commotion of smoke, screams, and body parts all over the area, people ran to aid the wounded. Suddenly, while everyone was busy triaging the wounded, the homicidal bomber detonated himself and killed another eight soldiers.” “Oh my God. Yes, I remember this event,” I commented. “Well,” he continued, “this is an artist's interpretation of these soldiers ascending to heaven on Jacob’s ladder.” My heart was heavy and profoundly sad.
I could not get the sculpture out of my mind. Suddenly, I remembered Maimonides' writing and interpretation on the purpose of Jacob’s ladder. In his book, Guide to the Perplexed, Maimonides quotes, “He had a dream; a ladder was set on the ground and its top reached the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. And God was standing upon it” (Gen 28:12-13). He explains that the purpose of the ladder is to explain the relationship between two realities, between the existence on earth, and the existence in the “world of heavenly spheres,” both are set into action by God. The ladder is the connection between the two worlds, the heavenly and the earthly worlds. The angels ascend and become inspired, and then they descend and transmit the understanding they got in heaven to the earthly world.
Since in Isaiah 56:7 it is written, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” I believe at Ahavat Torah we put into practice and observe this verse for the past six years.
We, each and every one of us, are the ascending angels who get inspired by our tradition’s teaching, whether it is the Torah, New Testament or the Koran, and than descend and convey our understanding of living in peace and harmony with one another. The best moral lesson is that at this point in our relationship, we practice patience, give love, and value the deep understanding with our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters.
May the steps of Jacob’s ladder be the stepladder to peace, harmony and understanding of one another. Amen.
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.