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Education is the key to pride

Friday, 20 May, 2022 - 2:55 pm

A few weeks ago I took my eldest children on a hike up the Franklin Mountains. Standing at the beginning of the trail and looking up at the top, one of them wondered if we would make it up there because it seemed so overwhelming. After some initial hesitation we started walking and before we knew it we were at the top.

The opening verse of this week’s parsha states that G-d spoke to Moshe at Mt. Sinai to communicate a host of laws. The mention of Mt. Sinai here seems unnecessary since all the Mitzvot recorded throughout the Torah were all communicated to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. Even more ironic is the fact that while the verse clearly states this communication happened at the famous mountain named Sinai, the name of this week’s parsha is simply “Behar - on the mountain.” Why not include “Sinai” in the parsha’s title?

The two words “mountain” and “Sinai” represent two opposite ideas. Mountains by definition are elevated - connoting pride and overbearance - but the specific mountain named Sinai was not known for its grandeur. Quite the contrary, Sinai was chosen by G-d to host the great revelation of Torah to the Jewish people specifically because it was humble and unassuming - integral character traits necessary to achieving personal spiritual perfection. In light of this it seems odd that a parsha would be named simply “mountain” - which connotes pride - without the important caveat that comes along with the word “Sinai.”

While humility is essential, there comes a time when confidence and pride should take center stage. On the first day of school every student enters feeling like they know nothing, but after studying for a while, fluency and confidence in the subject matter should replace their initial shyness. Retaining a healthy dosage of humility is crucial to being the best at anything you do, but it shouldn’t be the overarching trait of your professionalism. When you know what you're doing, you should be proud of it.

Torah is like a huge, towering mountain and just knowing there are 613 commandments can be overwhelming for anyone standing at the beginning of the trail. Reading the Five Books of Moses leaves one with more questions than answers since the details of most Mitzvot are cryptic to say the least. It makes you feel like a “Sinai Jew.”

But the Torah and all its 613 commandments define us as Jews, so there must be a way for every Jew to know them and own them. There must be a way to graduate from being “Sinai Jews” and become more pronounced “Mountain Jews.”

That’s why Maimonides gifted the Jewish world his Mishneh Torah - the most comprehensive encyclopedia of Jewish law to date - and the Sefer Hamitzvot - a concise counting of all 613 mitzvot. With brilliant clarity he provides every Jew the opportunity to become familiar with every aspect of Jewish law. Even without becoming an authority on Jewish law, Maimonides empowers every Jew to be proud of his or her heritage.

I invite you to join me on a year-long journey in studying the 613 Mitzvot with Maimonides. Register here to receive daily messages of links to a video and audio recording of the daily Maimonides study program I am offering this year, and become familiar with our awesome heritage.

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