This week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayeitzei contains the famous story of Jacob’s ladder. The word sulam in Hebrew means ladder, and when Sulam was first conceived as an inclusion education program, it was named for it’s first student, Jacob. And Sulam, Jacob’s ladder, was born.
What is the significance of a ladder in terms of a program for children with learning challenges? Beside the obvious, of simply learning in a step by step (upwards) progression, there is a deeper symbolism, which is implicit in the Parsha. For Jacob to succeed, he needed to go through the step-by-step process of building his faith, encountering challenges, yet always forging ahead. The curious part of Jacob’s dream is that angels were walking up and down the ladder.
Why, when angels have wings and could simply fly to their destination did they step up and down the rungs of a ladder? According to the sources, the inherent message of the story is that great accomplishments are not achieved by flights of fantasy, or glorified leaps into success.
Even the very best of us must navigate the steps required to overcome challenges and obstacles. The ladder represents the requirement that each of us take very concrete steps toward success.
For me, the most encouraging part of the story is that there is always a way up! Even when we fall back a step or two, we are sill on a ladder that leads us toward our goals.
At Sulam, we teach our students that their journey is not an all or nothing event. Like the Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”, we at Sulam celebrate each rung a student climbs. We revel in gradual, yet consistent achievement.