Shlomo Ezagui

Stairway to Heaven

Once, a student follower of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (Poland, 1787-1859) came to visit his spiritual mentor and guide. The Rabbi of Kotzk asked him to share inspiration from his father-in-law, a well-known Torah study author.

“My father-in-law would say, ‘When Aaron the great priest lost his two sons on the day the sanctuary was dedicated, the Bible says Aaron was silent. His response to this terrible catastrophe was to recognize the hopelessness of a human ever to understand the ways of an infinite God. His reaction to this event, and his lack of response to God, was greatly praised.’

However, King David expresses himself in the book of Psalms, ‘So that I can sing your honor and never be silent.’ King David would sing God’s praises even in times of pain and hardship.”

The Rabbi of Kotzk was tremendously ecstatic about this interpretation. “We see the great virtue of King David and the joy that permeated him through and through.”

The Book of the Zohar tells us that the ladder Jacob saw in a prophetic dream on his way out of Israel represents the method of connecting with God through prayer. The ladder was “standing firmly in the ground, and its top was high in the heavens. And behold, the angels were going up and down.”

Typically, spiritual angels would come down from heaven and then bring back a report to God.

When a person prays and vocalizes his praise, needs, and thanks to God, this creates a real spiritual energy, similar to neurotransmitters. These are the angels, the results of this expression in the heart, and they bring the prayer before God. Therefore, the angels created by Jacob’s prayers were moving upward to bring, from the source of all, the blessings up in heaven, that which is necessary in this world.

The ladder of prayer that reaches high up into the heavens must start down in the earth. The code of Jewish law states, “A person should not approach his prayers, but only with a bent-over head.” An outstretched head exudes arrogance, while a bent head represents humility.

The ladder in Jacob’s dream had four rungs. The first step in approaching God is acknowledgment. Realizing that, as hard as we try, we are not self-made. Realizing it is God’s input and influence that finally creates the results we seek. We do not control the price of oil, the weather, or the desire of someone else to compete with our source of income. We acknowledge God’s power over everything and thank Him for all His Kindness.

The next step in proper prayer that accomplishes a transformation in an individual is the emotional excitement over the exceptional opportunities God grants us every day, that He has faith in us and wakes us. We hear the melody of the Universe and the beauty of existence and sing along.

The third step, designed by the great Spiritual giants of the great assembly headed by the prophet Ezra, moves from emotional excitement to intellectual appreciation.

Here we recite the passage, a commandment, and a serious source of strength from God, “Hear O Israel, God our God, God is one.” We involve our mental capacities in connecting ourselves with the awareness that all is God. How we feed our mind ends up becoming who we are. When one meditates on the Oneness of God and that there is nothing else besides Him, we are led to the Heavens on the fourth rung.

At the fourth level of prayer, we are standing with our entire being and presence before God, totally connected to His awareness. When two people in any relationship are so close, it is natural that each one feels for the other and will do whatever possible for the other. This is the fourth level, where we ask for what we need.

Through this process and exercises every morning, we derive real strength and blessings to go through the day successfully.

The holy Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchok Luria said, “All his great levels of Holiness and spirituality were reached only because of his constant joy and happiness.”

Chapter 246

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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