Jacob’s ladder defines how we Jews view holiness in this world. Our greatest level of holiness is when the ladder stands firm on the ground but has its peak in the clouds. If the ladder isn’t planted strongly into the dirt, we know the ladder is bound to fall. We’re not looking to sever ourselves from physical matter, but instead use it as a means to attain more recognition of God.
Many of us want to feel spiritual! We want to escape to the forest, close our eyes, meditate and fly away to untold destinations where we can experience true holiness. That’s beautiful, and at times very necessary, but it’s not the goal. Our objective isn’t to feel spiritual, but to recognize that spirituality is everywhere. Although we might merit inspiration from time to time, the sensation isn’t what we’re searching for. We’re looking to uplift everything we do by giving it Divine significance.
It could be that after the Holidays are over we experience low states of consciousness and minor depression. Here we were just a few days ago dancing and singing and now we’re back to real life. But we need to take the inspiration that we felt and spread it into everything we do. All of our interactions with people, places and things should now be infused with the experiences we had. That’s real holiness.
This is the secret of Eretz Yisroel. In ‘דברים הנוהגים בסעודה ד, Reb Nosson illustrates how the entire celebration of Tishrei’s Holidays is only to reveal the Holiness of Eretz Yisroel. Everything from the Shofar’s blast to the beating of the aravos is about bringing us to Eretz Yisroel. But Rebbe Nachman said that the land’s holiness is simply the houses and the apartments? So which is it that makes Israel holy? Is it the Holidays or the dirt on the roads? So many of us shell-out thousands of dollars to come to Israel and experience the holy sites. The Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs and so on. Why did the Rebbe stress that the holiness of the land is its sticks and stones? Because we’re humans, not angels. We’re not looking to throw away our bodies and bask in the eternal light. Holiness is found everywhere we look. It’s not passion or emotion, although it could be. Holiness is deep deep in the mud and high high in the sky!