Ten years ago, a few weeks after I diagnosed my uncle with multiple myeloma, I got up in the middle of the night for a diaper change on my two month old daughter. As I walked out of the bedroom, I saw, I felt, seated on the large couch in the living room five people. The room was dark and the moon’s glow danced on their presence through a thin satin curtain. Seated from left to right were my uncle’s younger brother who died at the age of forty five, his dead mother- the family peacekeeper, his father who died on Yom Kippur in my mother’s arms exactly the way she had dreamt it some twelve years earlier, his father’s dead sister who shared the same house for more than forty years, and my aunt’s husband who had died recently.
I hesitated. I was not scared. My immediate reaction was “I wonder if they’re hungry? They’ve come all this way to visit. I should be a good host and put some dates and pistachios in front of them.” In the twilight of wakefulness, my reality mimicked the moon’s dance. I remembered angels don’t eat, and if they do as in Abraham’s tent they get punished. I had enough on my hands, so I retired back to my room.
Still, a couple of weeks later, over Shabbat dinner, I told my uncle of the encounter. He, a psychiatrist of more than thirty years and a devout student of the new age Kaballah, knew. We both gazed in each other's eyes and hugged without a further discussion. Two months later, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, my uncle joined his parents, his brother, and the other visitors who had appeared before me.
At times, a silent dream speaks a thousand words more than all of reality.
This week, Jacob has a monumental dream. There is a staircase, its bottom on the Earth, its top in the Heavens. Angels of God ascend and descend. Next to Jacob stands God, reassuringly.
We live in between the polarity of our struggles, never perfect. Sometimes we rise; often we fall, at best we help others get up. We admire van Gogh’s Irises. We admire perfection. But we fall in love with fault. We start our journey with a cry, only to be soothed by our mother, the very first step full of pain. Life is lived not as a flower in a perfect vase in a painting in a museum, but as a rose covered with thorns amongst weeds tended by a loving keeper, all limited in time and space. In the holiest moments of our services, we emulated angels climbing Jacob’s ladder, our soles together, reaching high, yet at the end, our feet back on the ground we walk one step in front of another, broken, grateful, faithful. It is not possible for God’s light to enter or leave us without those cracks. God wants our brokenness for He cannot bless us without our faults. We admire those ascending, and judge those descending, while God loves both.
The most obvious, profound and least discussed aspect of the dream is that there is only one ladder! We are all on various stages of ascending towards the Beloved and returning to Earth to fix her brokenness. As the Shema reminds us there is only one God! We must not judge someone else’s position on that ladder for we all have purpose; we come from the same dust and return to the same God.
The necessary ingredients for a proper connection are a deep burning desire, prayer, acts of kindness, humility. The lines break without good intentions, the phone dropped without acts of loving kindness. Prayer is not asking, but drawing closer to Oneness. The ego must fall for the Light to get in.
We have all had the experience of buying a new car, suddenly noticing the same on the road. Conversely, we have all looked desperately for our keys, hidden in plain view. Our awareness of the universe tunes in and out like the knob on the radio searches for a frequency. We see only what our minds are prepared to let in.
To dream is to see the future now, prophets tell us repeatedly throughout the Bible. In God’s world, time does not exist. Not for He Who Was, Has Been and Will Be. Time is an illusion of man.
The very five senses which we need to walk, weigh us down and detract from the climb. Solitude and meditation propel us. Those crazy enough to jump out of an airplane have experienced the deep serenity and oneness associated with freefalling from some 12,500 feet. The senses dropped, noise removed, vision shut down, the bird of paradise inside our caged physical body is freed to take flight high above spiritual oceans. Prophecy happens in dreams when we are absent from our senses, present in the other world. At night we ask God to return back our souls; in the morning we thank Him for the safe keeping, trusting us with His gift.
A few years ago, my niece died at the unrealized age of 25. She suffered much. The night before she died, she appeared in my dreams. She was dressed all in white, next to her a white suite case. She had just washed her clothes, all satin white, and was folding them, preparing for her departure. Such serenity filled her. Such peace filled me. She smiled and hugged me. She thanked and left me. In the morning I received the call that she had passed.
Judaism forbids fortune telling. I am not advocating an attempt to speak to the dead. But I do know that while civilizations disappear, global weather changes erode mountains, and vast species go missing, the intangible remains more powerful than what seems real. The ephemeral dream, the fleeting thought, the pounding prayer go on. Faith endures. Paradoxically, we put off the important in search of the magical, while God’s garden with all of her majesty eagerly awaits our steps.
Someday, if you love me truly, deeply, and let me love you so in return, I will meet you on that ladder, for our paths shall cross again.