This week's parsha is Parashat Vayetze, which tells the story of Yaakov leaving his hometown of Be’ersheva, Israel and journeying to Charan (in today’s Iraq), where his mother's family lives. He leaves to flee from his brother Esav who seeks to hurt him for taking his father’s blessing and also by command of his parents to find a suitable wife. As night falls on the first day of his journey, Yaakov comes upon an open field where he decides to stop and rest for the evening. That night, Yaakov experiences the fateful dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven, with Hashem appearing and promising the land under him to his descendants, as promised to Avraham and Yitzchak.
After this vision, Yaakov arrives in Charan and stays with his uncle Lavan, where he falls in love with Lavan’s younger daughter Rachel and asks for her hand in marriage. Lavan agrees in exchange for seven years of hard labor. At the end of the seven years, Yaakov marries the girl he thinks is Rachel but in reality it is really Leah, Rachel’s older sister. Yaakov confronts Lavan but Lavan tells him that the eldest had to get married first and if he wants to marry Rachel then he must work for another seven years. Again he agrees, and works another seven years, for marrying Rachel. Yaakov eventually stays for 20 years and is subsequently blessed with 11 children from his wives. After these 20 years, Yaakov decides it is time to return home. Taking his family and possessions in stealth out of fear of Lavan preventing their departure, Yaakov begins the journey back towards Eretz Yisrael.
What I would like to take from this parsha is the significance of the ladder in the dream as a symbol and lesson from the parsha. Yaakov's dream of the ladder connecting heaven and earth symbolizes the ups and downs we all face in the journey of life as represented by the angels ascending and descending the ladder during Yaakov’s journey to Charan. This parsha reminds us of our ability to overcome obstacles through perseverance, ascending rung by rung towards our goals. Even when experiencing setbacks that cause us to slip down temporarily, the ladder remains within reach to climb again with renewed commitment. Just as the dream strengthened Yaakov to continue his travels, it encourages us to persist towards our goals.
Although there are numerous interpretations of the meaning of this story, I believe that the lesson we learn about overcoming obstacles in life is one of the most significant lessons that can be learned from this parsha, as this lesson can be applied not only to our personal lives and relationships with others, but also in an academic setting.
The lesson of perseverance in the face of challenges is especially relevant now as Term 1 timed summatives approach for Grades 6-10 and examinations for Grade 11. Instead of becoming upset over not achieving a desired outcome, the parsha teaches us to acknowledge our mistakes and identify areas for improvement. This allows us to grow and become better students. Just as the angels ascend and descend the ladder symbolizing ups and downs, exams are opportunities to showcase our knowledge along with areas to grow.
Rather than focus on any temporary setbacks, the lessons of Yaakov's perseverance in climbing ever higher inspire us to view results objectively and then renew our efforts towards continued improvement through focused study and practice.
Eden, Grade 12