In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob has escaped from his brother and runs to the house of his uncle Lavan. On his way to his uncle, Jacob dreams of a ladder that stretches up from earth to heavens. There are angels of God ascending and descending the ladder. Jacob recognizes that this is a holy place. God reveals his promise to Jacob to make his descendants into a great nation.
“I am God, the God of your father Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will
give to you and your seed the land where you are sleeping. And your seed will be as dust of the earth and spread in all directions, and through you will all the families on earth be blessed. I am with you and will guard you. I will not leave you until I have accomplished what I have promised.”
This week you can try forming your challah dough into the shape of a ladder. This shape is also traditionally done for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur. It is symbolic of the fact that during this period of teshuva or repentance, we hope to always be going in an upward direction. We are striving to improve ourselves on both the spiritual and physical levels of our daily lives. Another idea about the ladder is that it represents the true nature of man. In reality we do go up and down in terms of our growth, but if we are conscious of our goals, we will be able to ascend in some small way each year.