Mountains (Harim)

הרים

Growing up in Texas, we spent many of our summer vacations in the alpine loftiness of the Rocky Mountains. It was an experience of exaltation, seeing farther and feeling more expansive by going higher and higher.

Back home, climbing the bluff near our ranch afforded 360 degree views of the Texas Hill Country. Here there was a little climb, but the magnificence came not so much from being above it all, but from the sensation of being in the center, able to spin around and see all the surrounding countryside in a circle.

For our ancestors, ascending a mountain was a chance to get the perspective of being airborne. Mountains are regarded as sacred places in many religions and cultures. For Jews, formative experiences of our people took place atop hills or beside mountains. Going up a mountain, having that higher perspective, entered our spiritual lexicon. Aliyah is the language of ascent that we use to describe a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, moving to Israel, or coming up to bless the Torah in the synagogue.

Half of the human population depends on vital resources, especially water, from highly diverse and fragile mountains ecosystems. (Learn more about Mountain Ecosystems on The Encyclopedia of Earth.)

Psychologists use the metaphor of a Peak Experience to describe life’s high points and experiences of transcendence. Spiritual practice is not just about attaining the heights, but about bringing down and containing the energy from life’s summits.

Wander and climb through this Gateway of Mountains to explore the symbolism of mountains and peaks in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

Cascades Mountain Range, Charles Danan

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Soundtrack: Mountain Ambiance in the Himilayas

  Featured Image: By (WT-en) Wikid at English Wikivoyage (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Learn what the Bible says about peak experiences, or return to the Gateway of Mountains.

Torah Study: Peak Experiences in the Bible

The Bible has many references to important experiences associated with mountains: Moriah, Sinai, Nebo, Carmel, Tabor, and so on (most of them on the scale of hills). Here are four biblical themes associated with mountains and ascent: Test "God tested Abraham, and said...

Peak Experiences in Our Lives (Plus a Midrash)

"Peak Experience" is a term coined by Psychologist Abraham Maslow to describe the times of emotional transcendence in human life. "Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as Peak experiences, which are profound moments of love, understanding,...

Moroccan Chant of Psalm 24

  Traditional Moroccan Jewish chant, sung by my husband Avraham Danan Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? And who shall stand in God's holy place? One clean of hands and pure of heart . . . Psalm 24    Featured Image: By Tommy from Arad (Chebicka...

Going Up and Coming Down the Mountain

While most people have peak experiences at one time or another, there are two challenges: their rarity and their evanescence. Peak experiences may be rare and fleeting "highs" lost in the rush of events and the passage of time. But if we can integrate them as part of...

Moses’ Peak Experience, Beholding the Divine Presence

In Exodus 33-34, Moses asks to behold God's presence, literally, "to see God's face." God responds that Moses can see God's "back" only, because no one can behold God face-to-face and live. Moses then ascends Mount Sinai alone, stands in a cleft of a rock and receives...

A Peak Experience on a Peak in Jerusalem

During one of my first visits to Jerusalem, on Tu Bishvat, the early spring New Year of Trees, my then fiance Avraham and I climbed the stairs to a rooftop on a building in Mount Zion, in the Old City. The feeling evoked my childhood ascents to "the bluff," a small...

Pilgrimage to Forgiveness

by Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, Ph.D. My husband and I are on a pilgrimage to Mt. Baker.  Yes, a pilgrimage. There’s nothing else to call it. From our home 100 miles away, we watch the mountain every day. A glaciated volcano, white giant, heavenly being, silent witness,...

Tzedakah for Mountain People (and others)

People living in the Himalayan mountain range have the highest rates of blindness in the world. This may be the result of genetic predisposition, high altitude, sunlight, diet, or a combination of all these factors. The amazing Himalayan Cataract Project brings high...

Tzedakah for Spiritual Ascent

There is a Jewish mystical concept that by the merit of giving tzedakah (or learning Torah or doing a good deed) in memory of a loved one, we can help their soul ascend on its journey (aliyat ha-neshamah) in the next world. A humanistic understanding of this would be...

Musar: Ethical Development as an Ascent

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair says, "Heedfulness leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity, purity leads to separation, separation leads to holiness, holiness leads to modesty, modesty leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to piety, piety leads to the Holy Spirit,...

Sharing Circle: Mountains

Peak Experiences Have you had an experience of trial, vision, spirituality or exaltation in a mountain environment? Have you had a "peak" experiences (at any altitude)? What was it like? Do you have any practice or do anything to nurture peak experiences? If you have...

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve; they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” ― Anatoli Boukreev, Mountaineer   In memory of Ben Horne  Featured Image: Denali, Alaska. "The mountains are calling and I must go."--John...