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The View from the Mountaintop

05/23/2024 02:59:52 PM


Rabbi Micah Peltz

This Shabbat we will read parashat Behar, which begins with the words, “The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai…”  The commentaries wonder: why does the Torah need to reiterate the fact that laws that follow were given on Mount Sinai?   The Israelites haven’t yet moved from the mountain, isn’t it obvious that they are still there?  The 11th-century French commentator Rashi answers this question by explaining that the addition of the words “on Mount Sinai” indicate that all of the mitzvot were first given at Mount Sinai, but then were told again to the people in the wilderness of Moab, in the book of Deuteronomy.  What Rashi is getting at here is the idea that while Torah originated at Sinai, it needs to be retaught, reexamined, and renewed in every generation.  

This week I spent two days in New York at the Hartman Institute.  I was there for the first session of their three-year Rabbinic Leadership Institute program that I will begin this summer in Jerusalem along with 28 rabbis from across denominations in North America and Israel.  This is an important opportunity to engage deeply with texts from our tradition and innovative thinkers to gain a better understanding of the issues facing our people and to help strengthen the connection between Jews in Israel and North America.  One of the many things that I already appreciate about this program is how it helps me zoom out from day-to-day challenges to think about the bigger picture.  The educational, spiritual, and programmatic experiences we create at TBS provide us with knowledge, connection, and meaning, and they also tie us to something bigger than ourselves, or even our community.  Through their words, rituals, and values, they help weave our lives into the fabric of Jewish history, Jewish peoplehood, and Israel.  Sometimes there are so many details to tend to, so many deadlines to meet, that we don’t think about the greater meaning of our holy work and our holy community. Perhaps this is also why our Torah portion references Mount Sinai at its very beginning.  After the time that has passed and the laws the Israelites have received since the revelation at Mount Sinai, the people might have gotten lost in the details.  They no longer recall what it’s all really about.  So the Torah, with this subtle reference to Mount Sinai, reminds them, and reminds us, not to forget that view from the mountaintop.  

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784