There are few times in Torah where a human being feels more alone than Jacob does at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei. Fleeing his brother who is seeking revenge for the theft of his father’s blessing, Jacob must leave home for the very first time. He goes toward a place, Haran, he has never been, but where he’s been told that his family members reside. He has no map and no plan on how to get there. Stuck without shelter, he simply lies down on a pile of rocks, far from other people. This is, indeed, one of the lowest points in all of Torah.
However, it is here that the miraculous happens to Jacob – he finds God. While he is sleeping, he has a vision of a ladder going toward the heavens, with angels ascending and descending on it. God then tells him that the promise of his forefathers is with him, and that he will be protecting along the way. He awakes and announces, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God and this is the gate of the heavens!”
We have all felt the dread of loneliness surround us. Thanksgiving, in particular, is hard for some of us in our community. We so want to be loved and accepted by our family, and while some of us feel that deep in our hearts, others do not. Jacob’s story is a reminder to reach out to one another. That is what God does in this week’s Torah portion, and that is what the Native Americans did for the Pilgrim settlers - they helped create a community when none existed prior. That is the role of the angels, in their accent and descent on the ladder. They are reminders that communities can emerge when we least expect it and, that like Jacob, even at our lowest point, hope can appear as if from nowhere.