Even when climbing the corporate ladder, we should never forget to maintain our spiritual standing. We must continue to climb the spiritual ladder as well.
This week’s Torah portion is Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3), which means “and he left,” referring to our forefather Jacob’s departure from Beersheba. Among the primary episodes in this week’s reading is Jacob’s new life in Haran and his marriage to Rachel and Leah.
Shortly after leaving Be’er Sheba, Jacob stops to rest for the night. He sets up camp in Beit El, which many commentators insist was actually a reference to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. While asleep that night, Jacob has a dream of a ladder that reaches to the heavens. On the ladder angels were going up and down, over and over again.
The commentators note that the gematria (numerical value) of the word “ladder” (in Hebrew: sulam) is 136. This is the same numerical value for the word “money” (in Hebrew: mammon). As such, there must be a connection between these two words! There must be something in common between the angels, the ladder and money. What could the connection be?
One of the explanations offered is that in one’s younger years, a person is better able to focus on spirituality and growth. For example, until this time, Jacob had spent his days (and years!) studying in a yeshiva (Torah academy). But as all yeshiva students eventually do, Jacob left the yeshiva to pursue marriage and a career. Unfortunately, at this point in their lives, many people often abandon their Torah studies and focus solely on money. They often abandon their commitment to God, Torah and self-improvement.
Going out to make a living is a major test in life. Not only does a person have to make enough money for food and rent to support his family, but being out there in the “real world” often challenges a person’s values to be straight and honest.
Jacob’s Dream – Climbing the Corporate Ladder?
Perhaps this is the connection between “money” and “ladder.” Maybe Jacob’s dream about angels going up and down a ladder was a lesson that even when climbing the ‘corporate ladder’ (ladder = money), we should never forget that we must be like the angels. We must never neglect to maintain our spiritual standing while ascending the ladder. We should never stop climbing the spiritual ladder, even when we’re out and about trying to make a living. (If I were not a rabbi, I’d probably say “trying to bring home the bacon!)”. And even when we slip and fall down the ladder, we can always pick ourselves up and try again.
As we see later on in our Torah portion, Jacob passed the test with flying colors! He remained impeccably honest and impeccably pious! Even when he worked for his father-in-law, the town liar, cheat and thief, Jacob never lost his cool. He remained true to himself and true to his God.
And so must we! Even when we’re out there making a living, we can never compromise our values. Yes, be sure to climb the corporate ladder, but be sure to climb the spiritual ladder as well.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.