Thursday, June 21, 2007

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On a Mountain

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

In this week’s portion of the Torah, Hashem said that Aaron was to be gathered unto his people (die) on Mount Hor. Why did he have to die on a mountain? In fact, why were so many spiritual highlights experienced on mountains?

Here are just a few of the many times the Torah tells us that something happened on a mountain:

- Avraham built an altar on a mountain.[i]

- Avraham was told to sacrifice Yitzchak on a mountain.[ii]

By tradition, we learn that this particular mountain was to become the location of the Temple Mount.

Tradition also tells us that Yaacov’s famous dream of angels going up and down the ladder was on the mountain that was to become the Temple Mount. [iii]

- Later, when Yaacov made a covenant with Lavan, it was on a mountain. [iv]

- Moshe’s experience with the burning bush happened on a mountain.

- When God first enlisted Moshe, He told him, “For I will be with you and you will serve God on this mountain.” [v]

- The Torah was given on that mountain, Mount Sinai.[vi]

- Moshe also died on a mountain.[vii]

All of these wonderful things happened on mountains, but when the evil kings fought their battle in the Valley of Siddim. [viii] And that valley had many pits filled with slime.

What are we to learn from this?

A mountain is a physical metaphor. Its very shape tells us what the Torah is teaching us here. The mountain is high. It is broad at its base and comes to a point at its top. From the top you can see all around. From the bottom your vision is limited. The higher the mountain, the grander and broader is the view.

A valley is low. Your vision while in a valley is limited to the hills surrounding it. The deeper the valley, the narrower the vision.

All of this relates not only to the physical perspective but also to the spiritual perspective. When the Torah wants to indicate that something is high, it places that scene on a mountain. But what does it mean to be high? Is there a high and low in the spiritual world? There is no high and low in the spiritual world in a physical sense but there is a higher and lower in a spiritual sense.

The physical is the spiritual manifesting itself in a concrete manner. It does this from within the physical. In truth, the physical and spiritual are one entity seen from two perspectives. The “external” is the lower material perspective or world, and the inner is the spiritual or higher world. The terms higher and lower are being used just to explain this phenomenon in a way that we can understand, but really the physical and spiritual are in the same place at the same time.

When the Torah wants us to think more spiritually, it tells us to go up on a mountain. The more spiritual, the higher the mountain. And when the Torah addresses a physical thing, it happens in a physically low place, like a valley.

The lesson here is when we wish to think spiritually, we must move “up” away from the broad base, to the narrow (singular) top, and from there we will be able see all around.

[i] Gen 12:8
[ii] Gen 22:2
[iii] Gen 19:3
[iv] Gen 31:54
[v] Ex 3:12
[vi] Ex 19
[vii] Deut 32:48
[viii] Gen 14:10

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.


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