The two Parshahs of Behar (Leviticus 25) and Bechukotai (ibid. 26–27), which on many years are joined into a single Shabbat, share a very common theme, and actually reinforce each other.

Behar, which means “on the mountain,” refers to Mount Sinai, “known as the smallest of all mountains.” It is interesting to note that the Torah describes Moses as “the most humble one on earth.” As the 40-year leader of the Jewish nation, Moses obviously had many outstanding and stellar qualities, but his humility merited his receiving the Torah and transferring it to the Jewish people.

How was Moses so humble? Wasn’t he cognizant of his incredible status relative to the Jewish people and G‑d? How could an individual as powerful and influential as he feel himself to be of lesser value than anyone else around? Being a leader of the entire Jewish nation requires forcefulness and a commanding nature—qualities seemingly incompatible with humility.

The commentaries explain that Moses did recognize the great attributes that made him the intermediary who connected G‑d with the Jewish people. However, he did not recognize them as his personal accomplishments; rather, he considered all of his greatness to be a gift from G‑d.

Moreover, his humility did not contradict his ability to lead his people. On the contrary, as a result of his lack of arrogance and self-pride, he gave himself over to G‑d and His mission. All that Moses did was a reflection of the divine will; he dedicated every ounce of energy to that purpose.

This harmony between humility and strong conviction is hinted at in the names of this week’s Parshahs.

The Paradox of the Low Mountain

The Talmud tells us that when G‑d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, there was a debate among the mountains, each one vying for the coveted spot from which the Torah would be given. Mount Sinai was chosen because it was smallest of all mountains. But if G‑d wanted to emphasize humility, why did he give the Torah on a mountain? He should have given it in a valley, or on the plains.

This teaches us about modesty and pride: A very strong personality can have an unassuming nature only by realizing that talents, genius and skill come directly from G‑d. As the first paragraph in the Code of Jewish Law tells us, “Do not be embarrassed by those who mock you.” We, as Jews, do not have the luxury of being like a valley or a plain—of having our height and pride sapped from us. We should be like a mountain—and elevate ourselves with a strong identity.

Still, we must retain a sense of humility: we must be a mountain, but a low mountain.

Like Letters in Stone

This ties into the theme of the Parshah of Bechukotai. The Hebrew word chukim, from which the name of portion is derived, is often translated as “statutes,” referring to those commandments whose explanations defy mortal logic. Chassidic thought explains that the word is related to chakikah, which means “engraving.”

Our relationship to G‑d’s commandments cannot be like words that are written on parchment, as the parchment and ink are two separate entities. Our goal has to be to relate to G‑d’s will like letters etched in stone: the lettering and stone are one unified entity. When we sense this unity, and truly bond with G‑d, we cannot help but be humbled.