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Parashat Behar

May 20, 2022
19 Iyyar 5782
Leviticus 25:1 - 26:2
34th Day of the Omer

From the mountaintop
A vantage point unlike any other
caught in weekly patterns,
tasks assigned,
habits fulfilled,
the mountain is rarely visited
after all, who has time

But sojourns to the mountaintop
have their own timetable,
their own rhythm.
Giving us the opportunity
to truly experience the journey
forcing us to stop,
and look around

Our visits to the mountaintops
come in waves
           waves of joy
           waves of grief
           waves of change foisted upon us

Once we arrive
           we consider
           we ponder
           we receive
           we reflect upon the knowledge,
that little bit of extra knowing,
of dare we call it, wisdom
that reaches deep within
and reminds us
beyond all measure
that this journey, each and every part of it,
is a gift
and with each successive journey to the mountaintop
more becomes illuminated
even as we find ourselves on ground level once more

This week’s Torah portion is Behar -- "on the mountain top." This week I will simply stay with the imagery of the Torah portion, which begins on the mountain with the conversation between God and Moses on next steps for the people. The mountain top is Mount Sinai, a place where it is possible to see more broadly, take in a wider view, and expand one's field of vision.

We are in the narrowest of places, assailed by the rapid pace of information unable to assimilate all of the information coming our way. We barely get over one shock when another comes our way. It feels like the worst of humanity is on display governed by self-interest, fear, and hatred. This feeling is not a good way to enter into Shabbat or to feel the Divine presence in the world.

We can view the world from our narrow individual vantage point or we can climb the mountain and get a glimpse of the larger vista, that vast swath which is humanity. That glimpse reminds us that we are truly created in the image of the Divine and that knowledge gives us incredible power. 

Our knowledge reminds us of the importance of kindness to one another and how small acts of kindness have the capacity to have ripple effects in ways one could not have foreseen or imagined.

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the shmitah year -- the 7th year of redemption of the land -- but it also refers to our behavior to one another. "And you shall not wrong one another" (Leviticus 25:17). It is so easy to be angry and it is easy to be afraid, but it takes courage to use this moment as a moment of redemption. And what we are asked to do is to go up on the mountain and open ourselves to the empathy and kindness that resides within each one of us. And when we descend from the mountain top we find ourselves transformed.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Fri, August 19 2022 22 Av 5782