Behar… on the mountain. Imagine what it would be like not only to climb a mountain, but to spend 40 days on highest elevation with beautiful stark landscape surrounding you. Your days would be spent in conversation with the Divine. Maybe not a face-to-face conversation (we’re pretty used to that these days), but still the conversation would fill you with an energy that lit you up from the inside and outward. I’m not a big fan of camping, but right now this sounds pretty good to me. Leaving all my worries behind and sitting in a meditative relationship with God.
Is this what Moses experienced? I have no idea. Our text describes something like this, and we know that the story leads us to believe that whatever happened up there, it was very profound. I believe every encounter has the potential for emotional and/or intellectual depth if we allow ourselves to be open to it. But we don’t get to leave life and reality behind. And neither did Moses.
Often, this week’s Torah portion is a double portion: Behar/Bechukotai. Taken together, we can read it as “on the mountain with My laws.” Even when Moses experienced these transcendent moments with God on Mount Sinai, he didn’t leave his leadership responsibilities at sea level before he started climbing. Integral to their conversation were the laws God wanted to transmit to the Israelites. Still, when Moses came down from the mountain, light shone from his face like rays of the sun. I can only conclude that Moses’ time with God gave him a renewed sense of joy for the task that lay ahead of him: leading the people to the promised land. And he would need to squeeze out every drop of joy and radiance from God as he tried to hold his people accountable to this new society and new laws.
Forty days meditating with God on a mountain is unlikely to be blocked out in our planners or digital calendars. Still, we all need some version of climbing to the top of a spiritual hill to capture a renewed sense of joy. We won’t be leaving anything behind; rather we can find a new way to embrace the “rules” – our obligations.
Where is your spiritual mountain? Your Har Sinai? The garden? A walk in the neighborhood? Buried faraway in the pages of a fictional story? Instead of spending 40 days on your spiritual mountain as Moses did, let’s all try to find a few minutes every day, for at least 40 days. According to this week’s double portion, if we follow the rules and fulfill our obligations, God will bless us.
I don’t know about you, but I could use a good blessing from anyone. I’ll gladly accept one from God. As you come down from your mountain, may you be blessed as well. Amen v’Amen.