by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
Is there a connection between the names of the two parshiyot, B’har and B’chukkotai? Not really, but we could think of one. What does B’har mean? “In the mountain”. And B’chukkotai? “In my statutes”. Of course everyone is impressed by mountains. Those who try to climb them are not only impressed by the vision but daunted by the task. People rate mountains by their levels of difficulty. It applies metaphorically too. Some ambitions are harder to fulfil; others are less of a strain. In the Bible, Abraham was told to ascend Mount Moriah: Moses was summoned to the peak of Mount Sinai. We are not given much detail about the climb even though there are not likely to have been well-trodden paths up either mountain. Maybe they almost sailed up the heights, carried along by the Divine command.
Religion confronts all of us with heights to try to reach, heights of spiritual exaltation, heights of ethical excellence. In our case there are paths which have been marked out by predecessors who found that the Divine statutes and commands were the way to go. It could never have been easy. It required perseverance and dedication, and it still does. We might not reach the final peak, but we will certainly get higher than those who wouldn’t even contemplate making the effort.