When We Walk on Our Own

Yael Eckstein  |  November 9, 2021

Elderly woman pushing a walker while walking down the street.

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. — Genesis 28:12

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayetze, which means “and he left,” from Genesis 28:10–32:3.

I was in the supermarket the other day. There was a young mother walking hand-in-hand with her young daughter, maybe 5 or 6 years old. I passed them a few times in different aisles. The little girl kept asking her mother for all kinds of goodies, growing more and more irritable each time the answer was no.

Finally, she changed her demand. “Mommy, pick me up. I want you to carry me.” “No, sweetie,” the girl’s mother answered, “I have to shop. You’re old enough to walk on your own.” Needless to say, this did not go over too well. “Mommy!” Now the girl was whining. “Pick me up! I don’t wanna walk!” “No dear,” said her mother, “you’re a big girl. You can walk.”

Suddenly, everything changed. “I’m a big girl,” the little one repeated, and stopped asking to be picked up. I smiled at the mom as she gave me a look of exasperated relief.

Watching this scene got me thinking. Is this what we seem like to God? Are we like that little girl, always asking God to pick us up even when we can walk on our own?

When We Walk on Our Own

In this week’s Torah portion, we see Jacob leaving home alone and afraid. As he slept, he had a dream in which God promised to protect him on his journey (Genesis 28:15). But before God said this to Jacob, He showed him a vision. Jacob saw a ladder standing on the ground, “with its top reaching heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it

It’s strange that the Bible says the angels were ascending before they were descending. Wouldn’t we expect angels to descend from heaven before ascending back up the ladder? Why were they going up before going down?

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, a great rabbi who lived 200 years ago, explained that the angels ascending the ladder represent the spiritual power of human action for God on earth. The descending angels are God’s blessing in response to our behavior. When we take the initiative in building God’s kingdom, when we walk on our own, God responds by protecting us and bringing success to all that we do.

Like the exchange between the mother and the little girl that I witnessed that day, God wants us to walk on our own. Then, He will be there with us on our journey.

Your Turn:

In what ways do you need to walk on your own right now? Ask God to give you the strength and confidence to know that you can!