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    Looking for angels – Vayyetzei

    Jacob has won a hollow victory.

    Jacob’s ladder, illustration from the 1728 “Figures de la Bible”

    He has the birthright. He has the blessing. But the price is that he has to leave home.

    A refugee from all that he loves, he has no pillow but a stone, no bed but the ground, no tent but the heavens.

    Lonely, penniless, depressed and afraid, he wonders what the future will bring, or even whether he will survive.

    Yet somehow he succeeds in sleeping, and that is when he dreams his famous dream: “Behold a ladder set up on earth, its top reaching to heaven, and behold angels of God ascending and descending upon it” (Gen. 28:12).

    The imagery of the ladder has taken hold of the imagination of every commentator.

    Some say the ladder is symbolic of prayer, others that it links earth and heaven and denotes that the soul is from above and the body from beneath.

    All very interesting, but the angels and the ladder have to be seen in context.

    Surely the message is that no-one is ever completely alone, no-one is utterly friendless, no cloud lacks its thin silver lining. There is a protecting Presence whose agents are the angels.

    But not only this. No matter how lowly one feels, one can still look up and find angels, symbols of the inspiration to continue and to determine to rise above the moment.

    In English history that’s “Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!”

    In Jewish tradition it is, “There’s hope for your latter end” (Jer. 31:16).

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