Climbing your mountain

Miami's Community Newspapers

One of the most perplexing stories in the Bible is the story of the Binding of Isaac. God commands Abraham to climb a mountain and bring his only child as a sacrifice. Why a mountain? On the mountaintop, no one could witness and praise Abraham’s faithfulness and sacrifice.

Abraham’s lonely journey up the mountain to carry out God’s will is my story, your story, the Jewish story. It is the story of all of us who meet God alone on the mountaintop, who step up with the courage of our convictions and make sacrifices in our lives, whether big or small, without anyone knowing, without anyone singing our praises or patting us on the back.

For those who were not raised following Jewish practices, making the choice to embrace traditions such as keeping Kosher, observing the beauty of Shabbat, attending Torah class and making Mitzvah requires devotion and commitment. Don’t underestimate the sacrifices you make. You are meeting God alone on the top of a mountain and He sees and knows and celebrates your sacrifices because He is there waiting for you.

We each have our own challenges. Sometimes it feels as if we’re walking up the steps of an escalator; only the escalator is going down. Those who go mountain climbing or rock climbing will tell you that not every step results in going higher – sometimes you slip down a notch. But even that minor setback is part of the process.

Life is not a straight line or a well-paved road. Judaism’s view of a righteous person is not necessarily one who doesn’t falter every now and then. A righteous person is one who falls again and again, but gets up each time and continues the climb.

Whether your particular mountain is related to your career or relationships with family members, don’t let setbacks send you hurtling down the mountain. Learn from the experience and use it as a springboard to catapult you to greater heights up that mountain.

Sometimes when things get tough, we may think to ourselves: What does it matter? Who really cares? Nobody notices our efforts anyway. We give to a worthy cause. We remain honest, moral and ethical in our business. We comfort our crying baby at 3 a.m. We visit an elderly parent. Who knows about these noble and virtuous acts? Who is cheering on our efforts? The answer is God, your biggest fan.

The true test of who you are takes place when you think no one is watching. God cherishes every act of devotion and sacrifice. It all matters. And even when you think no human being will know the difference, there are important people who are most certainly watching – your children.

Says a child to her parent: “When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator and I immediately wanted to paint another one. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat and I learned it was good to be kind to animals. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned little things can be very special in life.”

Our children are looking and learning from everything we do and don’t do. As role models, we provide our children with the knowledge, courage and inner strength they need to climb the mountain they will encounter later in life. This is the hope and the continuity of our nation and for all civilization. The secret to our survival began with a man named Abraham who met God alone at the top of a mountain, and we have been meeting God on that mountain ever since. As a people, even when we struggle, even when we are wounded, we somehow prevail. It is who we are. We never stop climbing that mountain and we never will.

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