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
Choose your favorite Pathway, or follow them in order:
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...