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Parshas Bamidbar - A View from the Mountaintop

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 06/06/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

Several midrashim depict how when G-d sought an appropriate mountain upon which to give the Torah, two mountains, Mounts Tavor and Carmel, vied for that opportunity claiming they were naturally suited to the task. G-d responds that they were blemished with arrogance and thus unworthy of that role. Instead, G-d selected Mount Sinai, a low and humble mountain, to serve as the focal point for G-d’s revelation.


Despite their tainted status these two mountains were each rewarded in playing a vital function in two historical events.


It was from the vantage point of Mount Tavor that the Jewish armies waged battle against the powerful general Sisera and his troops, handily defeating them.


On Mount Carmel the great prophet, Eliyahu HaNavi, challenged the worshippers of Baal. On that very mountain a fire miraculously descended from heaven consuming the sacrifice of Eliyahu, resulting in the nation crying out, “G-d is the Lord” and dispatching with the followers of Baal.


If these mountains were indeed flawed why were they honored so remarkably?


Although we commonly assume the Torah was given atop Mount Sinai alone, a fascinating Midrash indicates otherwise.


Evidently a piece of Mount Moriyah, the very place upon which Yitzchok was bound, was separated ‘like Challah from a dough’ and transplanted to Mount Sinai.


Why was it necessary to add this extra piece to the mountaintop?


How are we to understand the feuding mountains and their desire to be the platform for the giving of the Torah?


In a touching letter penned by the beloved Mashgiach, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, he reveals the key to understanding this mystery.


Rav Wolbe recorded his innermost feelings one particular night after having just returned from praying at the Kosel HaMaaravi. He writes:


The last time I prayed at the Kosel I pondered how I am standing at the ‘highest point in the entire world’. Just as when one stands atop a high mountain and surveys the scenery surrounding him, all the houses seem so small, all the structures look so insignificant, similarly does one who stands near the holiest place on earth discover how everything suddenly diminishes in importance. The man-made buildings, businesses, and all the enterprises man invests so much energy in, shrink from importance. Man stands at the spiritual peak of the universe and gains an accurate perception of what true greatness is and what is truly puny and lowly. A new world is revealed before his very eyes, an elevated world, one filled with sanctity, purity, and service to the Almighty. This is the ‘real’ world that sustains, which is above all else. It is worthy to travel to this point from the edges of the planet so as to stand in this holy place. (אגרות וכתבים ח"ב שכה)


Each of these mountains represent an outlook that assists us in gaining a more accurate perception of the non-reality we are often blinded by.


The perception of our nationhood, a people carrying the legacy of the Patriarchs and possessing the G-d granted right to our homeland, helps us view ourselves not merely as a powerful conquering nation, but rather more correctly as bearers of a special privilege and responsibility.


The awareness of our moral supremacy is instilled by the knowledge of the truth we received from G-d himself and fueled by the hand of providence that is apparent in every twist and turn of our glorious history.


Yet this consciousness is dangerous as often the claim to privilege and truth is corrupted into a sense of self-righteousness that often develops into distorted expressions of personal power and right.


G-d respected the notion but feared its consequence.


He therefore validated their noble sentiments by permitting Mount Tavor to infuse national pride at the episode with Sisera and promoting Mount Carmel as the stage for a magnificent display of moral rectitude and pure faith.


But they would play second fiddle to Mount Sinai.


It is the humble realization of each one’s personal mission and special connection to G-d that is the sole notion that can assure one will never succumb to delusions of personal greatness, for one who truly stands in His presence can never attribute success to oneself.


The yardstick to measure whether one is approaching that level of acuity in his relationship with G-d, is by evaluating how much one is personally willing to sacrifice one’s personal interests for that relationship.


This legacy of Avraham’s willingness to slaughter his son and Yitzchok’s initiative to request to have himself bound, in an unconditional loving devotion to G-d that we aspire to emulate.


That is then the essence of the Sinai/Moriyah merger: genuine humility enthused by selfless allegiance.


When we sense our self-worth in the awareness of G-d’s love, belief and trust in us, we no longer need the veneration of others, nor are we compelled to promote ourselves, simply in order to feel worthy.


The myriad of pursuits we seek in order to define ourselves become insignificant. We begin to view from upon high, the world as a place of opportunity to emulate G-d’s attributes and become closer to Him, rather than perceiving it as a playground for self-gratification.


The Torah reports how the entire nation responded, יַחְדָו, in unison, נעשה, “We shall do!”


The Ibn Ezra points out that the word יחדו doesn’t mean, יחד - together, rather יחיד - singular.


Some suggest that their unified response was so in sync without any overlap that it sounded as a singular voice.


What significance is there in this choir perfect response? Would their united reply have been deficient were there a merging of voices over a few seconds?


I would like to suggest that the Torah is teaching us that when one senses one’s uniqueness from within oneself and the personal relationship each one of us is fortunate to possess with the Almighty, only then can one humble oneself before others and truly tolerate, appreciate, and love another, attaining an exquisite and genuine achdus, unity.


On Shavuos we reposition ourselves once again upon Mount Sinai striving to get a more accurate picture of those miniscule distractions of a false world that attempts to confound us and portray itself as worthy.


May we never be deluded, and may we regale in the joy evident in loving eyes of our Father and never resort to pettiness in asserting our place.


May we climb that mountain and remain there every moment of our lives. 


באהבה,


חג שמח,


צבי יהודה טייכמאן