The Mount

Pull quote #1: The sages tell us that God particularly chose to give us the Torah on Mount Sinai since it was the lowest of all mountains.

Pull quote #2: A person who reaches a proper altruistic state has adjusted his feelings of insignificance alongside the feeling of esteem and importance.

Caption: None

The Hebrew word for “at the Mount” is “Behar.”  Yet a careful reading of the Torah actually begins by saying, “God spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai . . . ”  The word behar connotes that God spoke to Moshe on a mountain and not Har Sinai, the mountain on which He chose to give the Torah to the Jewish nation.  The sages tell us that God particularly chose to give us the Torah on Mount Sinai since it was the lowest of all mountains.

It was chosen because of its modest height, thus teaching us the quality of humility.  However, it was also chosen because it was still a mountain, thereby making it known to us that while humility is of great importance, we should never allow this midah (trait) to turn us into doormats for the rest of the world to tread upon us with liberty.  On one hand, humility is to be accompanied by a measure of self-esteem and self-assertion in order to provide us with the necessary attributes to face our spiritual and worldly trials and challenges.  Thus, these two teachings are alluded to in the words “Har Sinai” – because “har” denotes and is symbolic of loftiness and self-esteem while “Sinai” characterizes humility and self-nullification.  Of the two teachings, humility and self-nullification, the “Sinai” attributes to it the foundation upon which the attribute of “mount” is attached to ensure that one will prevent his humility from turning him into milquetoast.

According to the Rama, “Self-nullification and humility are a direct result of being cognizant of God’s greatness.  When a man ponders his own insignificance in relation to God’s greatness, he attains a state of self-abnegation, for he realizes that Godliness is the true and ultimate existence.”  Self-nullification is not to be confused with self-denial or self-subjugation but is realized when “the state of nullity is imperceptible, i.e., when a person himself does not perceive his degree of nullification.”

A person who reaches a proper altruistic state has adjusted his feelings of insignificance alongside the feeling of esteem and importance.  It is not he who is esteemed and important but God!  This recalls the saying of the Sages: “The servant of a king is himself a king.”  Surely this does not cause the servant to become conceited.  His privileged status merely reflects the king’s importance and not his own.

The sign of true humility (and self-nullification) is the point at which a person is able to feel as elevated and self-assured as a mountain – and yet know that this attribute does not stem from haughtiness (or accumulation of material wealth) but that it stems solely from his complete “nullification” to Godliness.

Compassion:

“A man is not truly compassionate until his joy at his neighbor’s good fortune is as great as his compassion at his neighbor’s misfortune.” (Rabbi Levy Yitzchok of Berdichev)

A Final Thought: Guard Your Wisdom

“A fence around wisdom is silence.” (Avot 3:17)  It is a protection against loss of wisdom.  When one talks foolishly or unnecessarily, one is also thinking foolishly.  This is unwise and indiscreet.  “The wise man knows what he speaks, but the fool speaks what he knows.” (R. Joseph Hayyim Caro)

Candle Lighting Times and Torah Portions

Friday, May 6

Light candles at 7:20 p.m.

Saturday, May 7

Torah Portion: Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

Friday, May 13

Light candles at 7:25 p.m.

Saturday, May 14

Torah Portion: Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

Friday, May 20

Light candles at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 21

Torah Portion: Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

Friday, May 27

Light candles at 7:35 p.m.

Saturday, May 28

Torah Portion: Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

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