“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” — Zechariah 4:7
The Torah portion for this week is Behaalotecha, which means “when you raise up,” from Numbers 8:1–12:16, and the Haftorah is from Zechariah 2:14–4:7.
Psalm 121 begins, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?” (v.1). The Jewish sages explain that this psalm was written as a conversation between a father and his son who was about to begin a long journey. The son looked to the mountains, which seem so large, so insurmountable, and wondered how he was ever going to cross over them. The wise father reassured his son that God would see him through, causing the son to exclaim: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v.2).
More than likely, many of us have had this same conversation with ourselves at some point in our lives, and maybe even several times throughout the day. We look at the mountains in our lives – the obstacles in our path – and wonder, “How will I possibly overcome them?”
Indeed, mountains can be daunting. They seem so large, so strong, and utterly intimidating. At times, that is just how our problems seem. Can an illness suddenly disappear? Can I ever change my desperate financial situation? They seem insurmountable and overwhelming. How can I go through this difficult time without breaking? Can I be stronger than the storm? Can I overcome this challenge?
This is why I love the following verse from this week’s Haftorah reading from the book of Zechariah: “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.”
First some context. Around 520 BCE, Zerubbabel, governor of Judah who led the first group of exiles back from Babylonia, was tasked with rebuilding Israel following the 70-year exile. The Persian king had agreed to help the Jews return home, but the problem was that the people whom the Babylonians had relocated to Israel in place of the Jewish people weren’t thrilled about the Israelites returning. So they created all kinds of problems for Zerubbabel, making up lies and creating multiple obstacles. Zerubbabel had hoped to rebuild Jerusalem and the Second Holy Temple, but these challenges made it seem as though those goals were doomed to fail.
Sometimes, I think God makes things look so impossible just so that He can demonstrate to us that with Him, anything is possible. God told Zerubbabel that those “mighty mountains” would become like level ground. In other words, all the challenges and obstacles that Zerubbabel faced would suddenly and miraculously melt away. And that’s exactly what happened.
When we are up against a mountain, we need to remember that our God is greater than any obstacle or problem in our path. He is the creator of every mountain – and He can move them even when we can’t.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President