Listening to the car radio on my way home from a particularly long trip I heard an accomplished, world famous traveler declare that her most amazing travel experience was accomplished within the confines of her own home. She had observed the most exotic sights in the privacy of her own room.

Here was a woman who toured the world on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. She traveled far and wide on a journey of self-discovery. She experienced the global perspectives of multiple cultures and faiths. She had taken in the sights, smells and tastes of exotic far away lands. But to her amazement she discovered that there is no place like home.

She discovered that true beauty is not to be found in distant lands unless one has first discovered it within. She also discovered that once beauty is discovered within the allure of travel no longer beckons because beauty within is far more satisfying then beauty without.

True Treasures are At Home

At that moment it occurred to me that mankind is never content. An inner force drives us to reach out and seek greater beauty, to venture out in pursuit of greater knowledge, to explore new frontiers and to scale new heights. We spend billions of dollars on the exploration of outer space. We expend tremendous energy in our attempt to unravel the inner workings of the genetic code. From the microscopic to the macroscopic we are constantly driven to explore the secrets of heaven and earth.

The story is told of a fellow who dreamt that there was a treasure to be found under a bridge in a distant city. He woke up and traveled to that far away bridge but when he arrived and started to dig he was immediately challenged by a police officer. When he told of his dream the officer broke out in raucous laughter. You trust these dreams? he asked incredulously. Why, just last night I dreamt that there is a treasure awaiting me under the floorboards of a home in the following city. To our friend's astonishment, the police office proceeded to provide his own home address!

How ironic that he traveled such a great distance in pursuit of a treasure that all along was waiting for him in his own home.

We, too, expend so much energy traveling the world, exploring its secrets and studying its nature, all in a quest for meaning and beauty. To our surprise we discover that true beauty has all along been lurking within. We work so hard to find the beauty of our universe but truth be known, there is even greater beauty within us. For in every human being lurks a piece of heaven.

Bringing Heaven Down to Earth

The human being is an amalgam of body and soul. Heaven and earth have conspired to create the composite that is man. The material is earth and the spiritual is heaven. A force of gravity weighs us down and lulls us into a false sense of comfort. We are naturally responsive to the material pleasures of earth; its beauty tempts us, its delights seduce us. However, despite its endless attraction we are often left unsatisfied.

This is because earth's beauty is only a glimpse of the beauty above. Meaning on the earthly plane is only a shadow of true meaning above. When we plug into earthly beauty we inherently sense that we are only teasing ourselves for there is yet so much more beauty to behold.

Why then do we not immediately opt for the truest form of beauty? Why do we waste our time with the partial and often flawed rendition?

Because plugging into beauty on earth is facile, almost effortless. Plugging into beauty above is laborious, a constant challenge. We each have a latent, G‑d given ability to bring heaven’s beauty down to earth1 but making that choice is difficult.2

The great Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev is reputed to have complained to G‑d. “You have placed the allure of the material before our eyes but concealed the allure for yourself within your book (the Torah.) Could you not have reversed the order and thus made it a little easier for us?”

Dreaming of Heaven and Earth

In our Parshah we read that Joseph had two dreams. In one dream he and his brothers were gathering sheaves of wheat in the field when the brothers' sheaves suddenly bowed to Joseph’s sheaf. In the second dream eleven stars, the sun and the moon bowed to Joseph's star.3

These dreams were identical in content but not in context. The first dream occurred on earth the second dream occurred in heaven.

Pharaoh also had two dreams; in one dream seven emaciated cows consumed seven healthy cows and in the second dream seven healthy stalks absorbed seven dried out stalks.4 Both of Pharaoh’s dreams occurred on earth.

Why is it that Joseph’s dreams ascended from earth to heaven but Pharaoh’s dreams remained on earth?

In Joseph’s first dream everyone engaged in the laborious task. Bundling sheaves in the field under the hot sun is difficult work. But one who is prepared to work hard is capable of climbing the ladder to heaven. One who chooses not to take on this hardship remains, like Pharaoh, forever on earth.

Not for us is the facile and effortless. G‑d did not bring us to this world so that we can live the easy life. We are here to make the difficult choices, to make the arduous climb, to bring heaven down to earth. That is what makes us special, that is what makes us human, that is what makes us the chosen people.