On Our Spiritual Journey

Yael Eckstein  |  May 3, 2021

Mount Sinai

The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai, — Leviticus 25:1

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Behar-Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1–27:34. Behar means “the mountain,” and Bechukotai means “My decrees.”

Before the pandemic hit, one of the highlights of my workweek is taking the bus from my home in northern Israel to our Fellowship offices in Jerusalem. My favorite part of the two-hour ride is the entry into Jerusalem. Any way you approach the holy city, there are mountains and valleys with breathtaking views and an inspiring sense of majesty.

The Jewish sages taught that Jerusalem’s geography is not accidental; it is symbolic. On any approach to God, there are mountains and valleys, highs and lows. Both the peaks and vales are part of walking a spiritual path.

This week we read two Torah portions: Behar, which means “at the mountain,” as in “The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai,” and Bechukotai, which means “my decrees,” as in “If you follow my decrees …” (Leviticus 26:3). Taken together, these two titles represent the balance between the inspirational highs and the less inspiring walks through the valleys of our lives.

Our Spiritual Journey

Mountains represent high points in life — like getting married, having children, or watching a gorgeous sunset. They also represent spiritual moments when we feel deeply connected to God. In the Bible, we often find that such spiritual moments took place on mountains – like the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai or Elijah’s vision on Mount Carmel. From these vantage points, it is easy to feel inspired and appreciate the beauty of life.

Then there are the valleys. Sometimes these are difficult times, but they also represent regular life. The day-in and day-out routines that occupy most of our days. These times are not as inspiring or necessarily satisfying. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, walking through life in obedience to God even when it is challenging, or we just don’t feel like it.

When we read these two portions together, we remember that we need both forms of worship on our spiritual journey toward God. Sometimes we need to feel inspired and connected; other times we need to follow God’s decrees from a place of faithful obedience. We need to traverse the mountains and the valleys in order to make it to God’s Kingdom. But no matter where we are, it’s always possible to enjoy the journey!

Your Turn:

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