The View from the Summit

Friday, May 24, 2024 | Iyar 16, 5784

The name of this week’s Torah portion, Behar, means “on the mountain,” which is where Gd revealed the Torah and Ten Commandments. Our sages taught that a mountain setting was purposefully chosen for this monumental revelation because climbing a mountain provides an elevated vantage point to gain a perspective that cannot be achieved from ground level.

There is a rabbinic story about a respected rabbi who visited the rooftop of a city’s tallest building. When asked if he was impressed by the view, he responded that it taught him of the lesson that “If we lift ourselves up just a little higher, we can see how small the world really is.”

Yet, of all the possible mountains for Revelation, Gd chose the smallest of mountains – Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) – teaching an important lesson about humility. While having a higher physical and metaphorical perspective is crucial, we must be careful not to become arrogant in our perceived “higher” stature over others. True elevation comes from how we treat one another showing our sincere humility. 

No one understood this perspective better than Israel’s first [and only] astronaut, Ilan Ramon. Ilan had the incredible experience of viewing the world from the quiet beauty of outer space, the ultimate vantage point to perceive our life’s small scale in the vast cosmos. As Ilan said: “The quiet that envelops space makes the beauty even more powerful, and I only hope that the quiet can one day spread to my country.” How desperately we need Ilan’s hopes for peace in Israel today!

What many do not know, is that tragically, both Ilan and later his son Asaf both made the ultimate sacrifice for our Jewish homeland. Yet even in the face of devastating loss, Ilan’s widow Rona transformed her unimaginable grief into inspiring leadership with the Ramon Foundation, perpetuating the values emulated by her husband and son, “academic excellence, social leadership and groundbreaking daring.” For this, in 2016 Rona was rightly honored as a “civilian hero” called by many a true “Woman of Valor.”

How timely it is that this week we honored the “Women of Valor” in our community – the eight valued Jewish women’s groups whose selfless efforts have uplifted and strengthened our Jewish San Antonio for generations:

Like the iconic description in Proverbs 31:10 of the Eshet Chayil, the “Woman of Valor” whose value “surpasses that of rubies,” these organizations embody kindness, compassion, and an unwavering dedication to acts of service. The remarkable women who comprise these groups are the driving forces, the catalysts for positive change, and beacons of light guiding our community.

In recognition of their invaluable contributions, we proudly presented seven inaugural awards recognizing the passion that fuels their sacred work. Including an eighth award that will be housed at JFSA recognizing the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy division, representing the collective spirit of all the remarkable Jewish women in our community whose valor shines as an everlasting inspiration.

Just as Rona Ramon transformed immense grief into the uplifting Ramon Foundation, these “Women of Valor” similarly ignite hope. Like Rona, they are true eshet chayil, deserving of our highest esteem. Their selflessness motivates us to emulate their strength, determination, and ability to elevate our community, even amidst these trying times. It is the Jewish Federation’s sincere honor to recognize these groups because we are…


Shabbat Shalom.