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Eikev: Ups and Downs of Life

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Getting married, having children, a fun vacation, a great job – these are the highs of life. A loss of a loved one, a failed endeavor, a broken heart – these are the lows.

Life has many highs, also many lows. How are we to relate to them? Is there a way to see the lows as positive? Or would we be better off only with highs?

A verse in this week’s Torah reading speaks of highs and lows, and while it describes the Holy Land, it could very easily describe us:

The land to which you are crossing in order to inherit it is a land of mountains and valleys …

Like the Promised Land, we each have our mountains and valleys – our highs and lows. The question is why? The Promised Land is the most idyllic of all places – literally and figuratively, physically and spiritually. Why then is it a land of mountains and valleys? Would not a land of plains be much better suited to agriculture and therefore more ideal?

The mystics use the metaphor of a seal engraved upon a heart to explain the meaning of mountains and valleys. Mountains resemble a down-to-up mentality, the desire to climb higher. Valleys are receptacles made to receive what comes down from on high to the earth. One is about getting higher, the other about digging deeper to open and receive.

This period in time – The Seven Weeks of Comfort, which follow The Three Weeks of Affliction – also reflect the high that follows the low.

A story of a holy Rebbe who was so absorbed in the divine highs of his Torah learning that he did not hear the cries of his baby child who had fallen out of the crib brings all of the above into stark relief.

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