The story of Jacob’s ladder, found in Genesis, is told in all three of the Abrahamic faith traditions. Though it might be interpreted differently in Judaism, Christianity or Islam, its basic message of connecting with God and aspiring to ascend to some higher meaning for our lives runs through the three traditions. Briefly, while Jacob is fleeing his brother he finds a place to rest, using a stone for a pillow (source of the name for New England’s premier dance festival, Jacob’s Pillow, incidentally), and has a dream about angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven.
In his novel, The Oath, Elie Wiesel tells the story of a Jewish survivor of a pogrom, and at one point Wiesel writes:
“Through song,” said the Rebbe,“ man climbs to the highest palace. From that palace he can influence the universe and its prisons. Song is Jacob’s ladder, forgotten on earth by the angels. Sing and you shall defeat death, sing and you shall disarm the foe.”
Interesting that this story of Jacob’s ladder has often found its way into song. Besides many settings by contemporary songwriters, there is the traditional hymn, As Jacob with travel was weary one day as well as the Spiritual, We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder, which expressed the hope of an enslaved people that there was a better land in their future, and was used to great effect in Ken Burns’ film series, The Civil War.
Song is Jacob’s ladder. Sing and you shall defeat death. Sing and you shall disarm the foe.
If you have a better idea, the world is waiting to hear it.