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    Getting to the top of the mountain – Mishpatim

    Moses the mountain climber?

    We know of him as a leader, a teacher, a judge ­ but mountain climbing is a demanding physical skill, and even at Sinai Moses was not such a young man any more. Yet the exhilaration of the moment and the support of the Almighty got him there.

    Exodus 24 begins, “To Moses He said, ‘Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadav and Avihu and seventy of the elders of Israel… but Moses alone shall come near to the Lord'” (Ex. 24:1-2). Later the chapter tells us, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me in the mountain, and be there…'” (Ex. 24:12).

    The purpose of him “being there” was to be schooled in the details of the Oral Law, and that needed time.

    Metaphorically, this verse has a message for every one of us, though none of us is Moses and none of us has his prophetic gifts or privileges.

    We are all capable of spiritual ascent. Even the least emotional human being has moments of spirituality. No-one is entirely earth bound, without soul, spirit, heart or inspiration.

    But there are two stages in climbing a spiritual peak. There is “come up”, and there is “be there”. And the first is sometimes harder than the second.

    (In a sense there is an analogy in the famous statement of David Ben Gurion that hard as it was to create the State of Israel, it was even harder to maintain it.)

    The Psalmist recognised the problem when he asked in Psalm 24, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord: who may stand in His holy mountain?” Note the two stages ­ first to ascend, then to stand.

    But, you may ask, don’t human beings need to get back to ordinary daily living? Can you stay on mountain tops for ever? Are we not meant to live our lives on earth, with other people, and getting on with the day to day concerns of earthly living?

    True. But some mountains are physical. Others are metaphorical. Metaphorical mountains can come with you wherever you go.

    In ordinary daily living you can still stand on the mountain if your sights are raised to God and He guides and inspires your steps, if your ethical principles are of the highest and you refuse to stoop low and injure, exploit or undermine other people, if your thinking is noble and worthy and you prefer to think always of purity, beauty, truth, justice and peace, compassion, faith and hope.

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