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Bo: Conquering the Mountain

Miriam aflalo

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

 “Sanctify for me every eldest.” (Shmos 13, 2)

“And I passed through the land of mitzraim and I hit every eldest.” For this reason, the Torah says: “Sanctify for me your every eldest.” And so we find in Meseches Nedarim (12): There is a mitzvah to sanctify the eldest, even though he is already holy. So why sanctify him more? This mitzvah tells us that we shouldn’t be satisfied with what the Torah sanctified; rather, we should add more kedusha on our own. The first thing born is very dear to us. Therefore,  one shouldn’t be overly possessive about his first,  but should part with it and give it to Hashem. The first has the potential to bring thoughts of impurity and haughtiness, and therefore, we have to try to give it extra keduasha. (Darchei Mussar)

At the top of the mountain children are born. Their parents made the perilous trek all the way to the top to find the best place to raise their children. The children breath the clear air of the peak from the moment of their birth, and the sky seems almost tangible. At the top of the mountain, you can hear the joyful cries of children playing without worries, with the majestic view as the backdrop.

The parents’ climb had not been easy. They fell on sharp rocks, and stumbled on sudden bumps. It was a painful ascent.  The parents carved for themselves a path through the brush, forgoing sleep at night, despite exhausting days.  They gritted their teeth when the climb was hard, and persevered.

Their children were born where the sun shines, sparking in the clear air over the mountain. And there are no bumps or rocks blocking the vision.

We are the children of the mountaintop. We were born to sweet air, to a gorgeous view.  We played and frolicked and didn’t know we were on the top of the mountain.  A good neighborhood. Proper Jewish education. Food with hechsherim. No struggles to keep Shabbos.

Life on top of the mountain is good and pure. Yet, one day the dawn will break on the mountaintop, and we will suddenly understand that the mountain isn’t ours. Even though we were born here.

The Torah explains  that the kedusha which is bestowed as a present from Hashem, should not be sufficient.  You must acquire  holiness yourself — which you reach through your efforts. Because whatever you reach through your own exertion is what endures.  (Ibid)

No. This is not the way to reach kedusha. The levels of spirituality are not received like a gift. They must be  attained. To reach holiness and become close to Hashem, you need to struggle. The acquisitions of the soul are only yours when you were the one who worked on them.

Like we find by Bnei Yisroel - when they left Mitzraim, they reached the level of prophesy.  Soon  after that, they cried over things of small value. Because true prophets reach their level through painstaking work; therefore, they remain on that level. However, the generation of the desert didn’t work to reach the level of prophesy. Rather Hashem gave it to them freely since He wanted to elevate them to receive the Torah. But their inner selves didn’t change and therefore, when the nevuah left them, they cried over slices of onions. (Ibid)

There are people who continue to live on the top of the mountain, only because their parents worked to have them born there. They grow up, mature, and raise their own families on the mountaintop. And they live their lives according to the rules of the mountain.

But the mountaintop is not truly theirs.

In order to reach spiritual heights, you have to labor over them —  to feel your heart pounding, and your body breaking to smithereens.

In order that the mountaintop should be yours, it’s not sufficient to receive it as a child. You have to pave your own path to your own personal mountaintop. So your face will also shine with the special glow of those who climbed mountains.

There’s no need to go down the mountain in order to ascend once again. We were lucky enough to be born up here. But how much personal work is left, to truly conquer the mountain. Working on our personal middos and overcoming our personal desires. Doing mitzvos from love, and new enthusiasm. And throwing the habits of our youth to the bottom of the mountain.

We thank our parents for bringing us to the best place in the world. But Hashem is waiting for our personal efforts. So we too will be worthy to touch the sky, and live on the mountain of Hashem.

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