In Our Kishkas: Jacob’s Ladder

In VaYetzei, this week’s Torah portion, we see a rich image of Jacob’s ladder. There we read:

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheva, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. He dreamed and saw a ladder standing on the ground and its top reached up toward heaven. God’s angels were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:10-12)

Jacob’s Dream by William Blake (c. 1805, British Museum, London)

What are we to make of this image? What is the meaning of this ladder? The Midrash explains that this ladder represented the future empires that would rule the world (Pirkei D’rebbi Eliezer ch. 35) In many ways this is seeing the ladder through the lens of “Ma’aseh Avot Siman L’Banim- Everything that happened to the patriarchs is an indication for their children( Bereishit Rabba 40:6) Jacob was a sleep during the comings and goings of all of our collective diaspora’s. ( More on this sleep)

On another level I am intrigued to think about Jacob’s Ladder in the context that it itself might be indicative for later generations. I was thinking about it in the context of this great article on epigenetics I read in the Guardian. The article reported in a study by Rachel Yehuda that showed

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations. (The Guardian)

Jacob was running for his life, what if that trauma has been communicated to us his descendants through our genes? In this sense, things that happened to our ancestors actually indicate things for us their children. It really gives new meaning to the image of Jacob’s Ladder itself looks like the  double helix  ladder of  atoms that make up our DNA. Image result for DNA

While we are often depicted as a religion it is clear that we are also a people; it is in our very kishkas.

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