Some people are dreamers, and others are more practical and down to earth. To really make the most out of life, you've got to be a little bit of both. In this week's portion, Jacob, our forefather, had a prophetic dream in which he saw angels going up and down a giant ladder that went from the earth up to heaven (Gen. 28:12). One thing we can learn from this is that to reach the highest heights, we, like 'Jacob's ladder,' need to set our sights sky-high but at the same time, make sure to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.
In our story, some friends learn how to join heaven and earth.
"JOINING THE CLUB"
David and Joel sat shivering in the old oak tree, hunched over as the wind did its best to blow the baseball caps off their heads.
"Are we supposed to be having fun?" asked Joel between chattering teeth. He turned, looked at the broken down wall behind him, and shook his head. "This clubhouse has had it; let's get out of here forever."
A few of the neighborhood kids had built a small tree fort-clubhouse several years ago. Back then, when they were younger, it was a lot of fun to play in the simple structure, but now that they had grown, the clubhouse felt too small and was falling apart. It just wasn't the same, especially on cold windy days like this one.
Joel expected David to agree to pack it up, but David, wearing one of his winning smiles, turned to him and said, "What do you mean - leave the clubhouse? This is a great place! All it needs is just a little work. I say we put on a new roof, for one thing, and of course fix the walls, moving them out and making the whole place bigger while we're at it, and maybe we can rig up an elevator..."
"Whoa, hold it!" cut off Joel with the wave of his hand. "Get back down to earth, man! You're dreaming. We can't do any of that stuff."
Just then a big gust of wind came, blowing a loose board off the roof, as if to emphasize Joel's point. The boys ducked.
"Be practical," Joel went on. "First of all we would need power tools - that we don't have. Then we'd need tons of lumber that costs a ton of money - that we don't have. Not to mention hours and hours of time ... are you planning to quit school or something?"
Instead of convincing David, Joel's arguments only made him dig in his heels. "Just like you to only see the problem with everything. I may be a dreamer, but your head is stuck in the mud!"
And back and forth it went, until the heat of the argument made everyone forget about the cold.
Then suddenly they heard another voice. "Hey! You guys trying to wake up the hibernating squirrels or something?"
David and Joel looked up with a start. The boys had been going at it so loudly that neither of them even heard their friend Brandon coming until he had already swung himself into the tree fort next to them. Immediately the two of them tried to pull him into the argument.
"He's a hopeless dreamer!" cried Joel.
"He's a killjoy!" countered David.
Each explained his side of the story, fully expecting Brandon to agree. "Well," said Brandon, looking at David "you're right - it is good to dream about making things better. The truth is, a lot could be done to fix this place up."
David looked gloatingly in Joel's direction. "But," continued Brandon, "you're also right. Dreaming by itself won't get anything done. To fix the clubhouse won't be easy, and will take a lot of time and effort."
The boys were confused. "How could we both be right?"
"Let me give you an example," Brandon said. "We used this ladder to get to the top of this big, high tree, right? Is the ladder only up here?"
The boys shook their heads.
"And is it only on the ground? Of course not, it's both up here and on the ground."
So what?" countered Joel impatiently.
"Don't you get it?" smiled Brandon "That's it. If you want to get anywhere, you have to be like the ladder, with its head in the clouds..." he nodded at David, "and also its feet on the ground!" he smiled at Joel. "I say we fix the place up, but little by little. We can work on Sundays, borrow tools, and scavenge free wood from the stuff they throw out from the construction site down the street. What do you say?"
The stormy wind suddenly calmed down, just like the boys' previously stormy feelings. They voted unanimously to start right away on what they named 'project ladder,' and begin reaching the heights - one step at a time.
Q. How did David and Joel feel at first about each other's ideas for the clubhouse?
A. They felt like the other person's way of looking at things was totally wrong.
Q. How did they feel after speaking with Brandon?
A. They saw that each of their ways of seeing things was good, but they would only succeed once they learned to work together.
Q. Would David's outlook alone be enough to get the job done? Why or why not?
A. David was a dreamer. He had high hopes, and big goals. While those are an important part of any project, without facing the practical details and potential obstacles, the dreams will stay only dreams that never get to see the light of day.
Q. What about Joel's alone?
A. His problem was the opposite. He was practical to be sure, but he got so bogged down on what was wrong, he couldn't see what could make it right. To get great things done, you need both dreams and details.
Q. Who do you relate more to: David or Joel?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it ever possible to fulfill all of our dreams?
A. Yes, and no. If we mean to fulfill at some later date what we dream of now, it can surely be done with enough effort and dedication. However we should never stop dreaming for even greater things in the future. That means that wherever we reach, our dreams will always be one step ahead, urging us to accomplish even more in our lives.
Q. What if our nature is just to be a very dreamy, 'top of the ladder' person, or a very grounded, 'base of the ladder' person. Is there any way to balance out and achieve our goals?
A. It can often help to temporarily make ourselves 'act as if' we have the opposite trait, with the goal of ultimately reaching a more centered balance. Then again, we can always team up with someone else with the opposite trait and work together to reach our goals. But it's always important to remember that G-d made us all different for our best ultimate good, and to appreciate and celebrate who we are.
Q. Who do you relate more to: David or Joel?