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    Mountains & molehills – B’har

    Why does a Torah portion that lays down the laws of social justice bear the title B’har – “On the Mountain”?

    The prosaic answer is that, according to traditional interpretation, the portion is named after the first important Hebrew word. But there is an additional level on which we can understand the concept.

    Social justice implies that no-one will be disadvantaged by society. Neither lack of lineage, nor old age, disability, illness, poverty or any other drawback makes you less of a human being and less entitled to respect and support.

    As the portion also tells us, the amount of land you own does not make you a mensch: indeed in the final analysis you don’t own the land at all because it belongs to God and we are only tenants of the Divine Landlord.

    What has this to do with mountains?

    Simple: the heights symbolise the challenge for human beings, whose task is not to limit themselves to the often grubby and selfish life they know on earth but to have eyes ever fixed on the highest of ideals.

    The true mensch raises his sights from the molehills and yearns for the mountains.

    So maybe he will never get there?

    Let him only make the effort and he will certainly achieve something.

    I heard a D’var Torah years ago when they were talking about a man on the moon and discussing a Hebrew prayer that says, “We look up to the moon but can never reach it”.

    The rabbi I heard said, “You might not reach the moon, but if you make an effort you get higher than the person who doesn’t even try!”

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