Sunday, 3 April 2016




 “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” - Martin Luther King Jr.   

When I read King’s words, two images from two different cultures, two different historical experiences pop into my mind. The first is taken from my own heritage and relates to one of our forefathers Ya'akov (AKA Jacob). I am referring to his 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.” (Bresheet, AKA Genesis 28:10-22)

    The second image comes from the African American experience. It is expressed in the words of one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes. In his poem Mother and Son, he writes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair….. And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light.”

The thread that connects the two and which they both share is the message of faith. Both stem from a dreary present. The Biblical Ya'akov is on the run for fear of his life. Hugh’s plight is the result the racial policy that plagued his reality and the reality of his ancestors.  Both the ladder in the dream and the staircase in the poem lead to unknown realms. Most importantly, they both offer hope.
    Unlike the stairs in the poem, however, Ya'akov’s ladder, his stairway to heaven, seems more sturdy, more reassuring and has the reaffirmation of G-d’s promise to Am Yisrael: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.  Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you”

    This promise is reiterated later in Yirmiyahu (AKA Jeremiah) 46:27:"Do not be afraid, Ya'akov my servant; do not be dismayed, Yisrael. I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Ya'akov will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.” It is faith in the promise for a better future that kept us, Am Yisrael, going.
    It is also faith in a better future that the words of the mother in the poem are so drenched with:
    “ So boy, don’t you turn back.  Don’t you set down on the steps   ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.  Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’,”

    The message of both experiences is loud and clear. We must continue to climb and never give up, no matter how hard, rocky and sometimes dark the journey towards our goal is.

I will end with another quote by another favorite poet, Rabindranath Tagore, “Faith is the

bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”

These are hard times for us, Am Yisrael, in particular, and for the whole world, in general,
but we must not despair. There is the light at the top of the staircase and beyond the 
edge of dawn even though we may not see it. All we need is, like the bird, to spread our wings and soar beyond and above the dismal present towards the light that is there and into the bright and glorious future that awaits us!


  1. 4:39 am. I'm like the undead. I don't sleep much. I like your blog. It is thoughtful and well written and pertinent as always. I remember this.
    I have been lucky all my life. I feel God when I am at my most alone, when I'm in danger. He doesn't intervene but I sense his presence. My first fight, when the bell rang, the world fell away and I reached into limitless nothingness, I reached with my heart.
    Another time was when I got home from State Line.
    I wasn't going to go out that night. I watched myself pick up like I was a robot. I made a spliff with tobacco and smoked the crack. I was wasting it that way but I didn't have a tube. The fear hit me. Crack was taking over. I was going out on a work night. I was breaking my own rules. I started sobbing, and I prayed, I begged..." I stopped and listened. Would he answer? I thought I felt a thin presence. I reached out into the nothingness, with my heart. I wasn’t sure. I finished the crack. But that broke it off. I never smoked crack again.

  2. Jesse, my friend. I am always, always, so so proud of you! (y)

  3. I was just coming here to delete this. My life in Vegas was shot through with darkness. But I couldn't have picked a better town. I guess I needed to know. That was the fight of my life, with that stuff.

  4. I am glad you did not delete it. I am so so inspired by your life story, jesse. You are a role model in the manner that you have come back. What s life story <3

  5. Bat-Zi, I could not agree with you more. We must never give up. Many times keeping faith is all we have and this allows us to doggedly continue on our journey believing that someday we WILL see the light, our life WILL get better. Thank you so much for this uplifting article, you always have a positive influence on my day.

    1. Durng WWI, Rabbi Avraham Yzchak Hacohen Kook found hmself in London, the target of German bombers.His home became safe haven fr the Jews who lived iin nearby. Hs crampt little basement, below his synagogue became a safe have for those who sought shelter. Children there constantly cried, Mothers feared for their lives as bombs burst in the air, and on land so near them. When anxt became most manifest, he begsn to sing, but in s whoper , st first., sayng "Let us sing, sing loud and clear!
      a chorale of voices joined him in new song, growing louder stll