Jacob's departure from his parents' home in Israel and his journey to Haran is a metaphor for the painful excursion experienced by every Jewish soul. In Haran, Jacob toiled for his uncle Laban, who mistreated him terribly. Nevertheless, he succeeded in amassing great wealth and, most importantly, he married Laban's daughters and raised and educated a righteous Jewish family amidst a sea of corruption. The soul, too, leaves her Father's bosom and descends into a hostile world. She, too, has the ability to thrive in her new environment—to amass great spiritual wealth and establish a Jewish home which will make her Papa proud!

Before Jacob traveled to Haran, he made one important pit stop at the Temple Mount. In this holiest of venues, he offered prayers to G‑d, beseeching Him for the strength and fortitude to succeed in the difficult mission which lay ahead. In fact, according to the words of our sages, the ladder which Jacob was shown that night in his fateful dream, the ladder which was "set on the ground and its top reached to heaven," is an allegorical allusion to prayer. The person who prays properly ascends a spiritual ladder, rung after rung, until reaching the apex—"its top reached to heaven"—during the Amidah prayer.

Taking her cue from Jacob, before confronting the daily "hostile" work environment, the soul takes refuge in the holy environs of the synagogue, where she prays for success in the day's mission.

Before confronting the daily “hostile” work environment, the soul takes refuge in the holy environs of the synagogueKing David writes,1 "A prayer of the poor man when he enwraps himself and pours out his words before the L‑rd." The holy Baal Shem Tov interpreted this verse in chassidic style, adding a wonderful new depth to the already profound world of prayer.

Different people approach prayer with different attitudes. We all have so many pressing needs and desires that we approach G‑d with a long laundry list of demands. However, the pauper—the truly humble person who feels that he has nothing—has only one request: his prayer is that he have the honor and pleasure of "pouring out his words before his Maker." He realizes that there is no greater privilege than the opportunity to unburden himself thrice daily before the King of kings. G‑d is our Father and we are His beloved children. How lucky we are that our Heavenly Father has an open-door policy towards his children!

All too often our prayers are self-centered. While addressing our needs is a vital and fundamental part of prayer, we must never lose sight of the most remarkable aspect of prayer—it is a moment of transcendence, a moment when we have the undivided attention of the Master of the Universe. What a privilege!