27/28 November 2020, 11/12 Kislev 5781

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” So said Prospero in The Tempest.

So this week’s Torah portion is all about Jacob’s famous dream and the meaning it offers for life; both sleeping and awake. What he sees when he sleeps and when he wakes up is quite affecting.

Famously Jacob dreams of a ladder which has angels ascending and descending. The direction they move is intriguing; unusual for celestial beings (surely?), that they are grounded and move upwards.  The Jungian psychotherapist and former monk Thomas Moore made much of this idea in his book Care of the Soul. He says the downward, “descending” movement in human life is the most important. And that’s what Jacob’s angels demonstrate.

Is that why we love this dream, this portion called simply “Jacob left”? “Thomas Moore frequently spoke about “growing down” – that is, adding substance, weight, and depth to our character. Is this what the angels were demonstrating? The messier, more real experiences are what make us soar. The poet John Keats called life ‘the vale of soul-making.’

So that when Jacob awoke on the bare uncomfortable earth with a stone for a pillow, in a moment of recognition of what he saw he was able to say

Achein yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo yadati, “Oh yes Surely God is in this place and I, I did not know it!” (Gen. 28:16).

Being awake is what we all strive for. Noticing those moments where it all comes together.

I’m so conscious of so many making adjustments to expectations and hopes during these days. Families marking Bnei Mitzvah or a wedding. This week Liz and Yoni Avital accompany their son Ariel as he becomes Bar Mitzvah. It will be at their kitchen table and we will be cheering on with pride. John Rubinstein, his teacher will guide him and Richard Greene and I will lead the service and I hope we will be able to say; God was in this place and I, I did know it.

Shabbat Shalom to All,


(Thanks to Rabbi Rick Shechter for his teaching on Thomas Moore)