The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai . . . — Leviticus 25:1. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1–27:34 and the Haftorah from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
The drive to Jerusalem is always special. Most visitors approach Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv where Ben-Gurion Airport is located, but just about any direction you come from will offer the same vista. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains and Jerusalem herself is at one of the highest altitudes in Israel.
The Jewish sages teach that Jerusalem’s geography is not accidental; it is symbolic. Any approach to God includes mountains and valleys, ups and downs, highs and lows. Both the peaks and the vales are part of walking a spiritual path.
This week we read a double Torah portion. We read Behar, meaning “the mountain” as in “The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai . . . .” in Leviticus 25:1. We also read Bechukotai, meaning “My decrees”‘ as in “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands . . . “ (Leviticus 26:3). Taken together these two titles represent the balance between inspirational highs and the less inspiring walks through the valleys of our lives.
Mountains represent the high points in our lives —milestones such as getting married or having children. Or they can be inspirational moments like watching a gorgeous sunset or the waves of the ocean. They can also be spiritual moments when we feel deeply connected to God or moved by His spirit.
In the Bible, we often find that such spiritual moments took place on a mountain (Behar) – like the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai or the prophet Elijah’s great spiritual victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. From these high points in our lives, we can appreciate the beautiful view of the life around us.
Then there are the valleys. Sometimes these are difficult times in our lives, but not necessarily. The valleys also represent “regular” life. The day-in and day-out routines that occupy most of our life. These times are not so inspiring or satisfying. It’s putting one foot in front of the other and walking on until we reach the next high point. During these times in life, we simply follow God’s decrees, walking in obedience and with faith. We do the right thing every day even when it’s hard and no one is looking, or even when we don’t feel like it.
When we read these two portions together, we remember that we need both forms of worship on our journey toward God. Sometimes we need to feel inspired and connected; other times we need to simply walk in obedience. As we keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate goal, we will succeed.