“And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.”Gen. 28:12
Torah portion Vayeitzei begins with Jacob’s famous dream of angels going up and down a ladder. The Klausenberger Rebbe teaches that this verse presents two ways to improve one’s character. The first way is “a ladder set up on the ground.” This means we start at the bottom and slowly climb, changing our bad habits into good ones and becoming a better person step by step. If we keep moving upwards, we will eventually reach the heavens.
The other path to character refinement is ascending right to the top. This means trying to remedy our faults all at once. The most likely outcome of this method is falling back down to where we started. Humans are not angels; we cannot move from one state to another in an instant.
Judaism places a huge emphasis on becoming a better person but there are no shortcuts to self-improvement. What’s important is not how fast you change, but rather that you keep moving higher.
Image: “Jacob’s Dream” (detail) by William Blake, 1805