We all plan self-improvement projects.  But one mistake we often make is that we think we can change ourselves all at once.  The truth is changing one’s self doesn’t happen easily.  It happens slowly and by increments.

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob leaves home and a difficult family situation, lays down to sleep, and has a spectacular dream.  He dreams of angels going up and down a ladder.  Given the slow evolution Jacob goes through on his journey, the dream can signify that Jacob can only progress in his journey step by step.  As a model for us, Jacob shows us, that we can progress on our journeys only step by step.

When trying to improve our character, we cannot leap quickly up.  Small ladder-like steps can lead to large accomplishments over time.  Quick leaps, on the other hand, can lead to falling down the ladder.  To be secure, a ladder needs to lean against something high up.   It is expected, of course, that we will slip back a rung, but we should not worry.  Catch hold of the next rung and start climbing again.  Lasting change is never achieved quickly or easily.  To reach our personal goals, we need to keep climbing, like Jacob, one step at a time.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about their strengths and weaknesses.


  • What would you would like to change about yourself?
  • How would you go about doing that?
  • What do you think would be easy to change?  What would be difficult to change?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.