Mountains

Mountains

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

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Soundtrack: Mountain Ambiance in the Himilayas

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

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 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

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

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

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...

Wind

Wind

Wind (Ruach)

רוּחַ

Wind (in Hebrew ru-ach רוּחַ, “ch” as in Bach) is invisible, borne on the air, and beyond human control. It can be gentle and restorative or powerful enough to cause great destruction. And the added mystery is that within each one of us is a tiny wind—our breath—keeping us alive from moment to moment. Ruach is the power of animation, whether stirring the branches of a tree, scattering seeds, lifting flocks of birds, or enlivening a human being. In the Tanakh, Hebrew Bible, the word Ruach can have all these meanings: wind, breath and spirit. A related word, Rei-ach, means scent, which holds the key to many precious soul memories.

Join me on this path in this Gateway of Wind and Spirit to explore the rustlings of Spirit in Jewish tradition and in your life.

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The Power of Wind

The Power of Wind

Winds can be fearsome and awe-inspiring. Even today, with all our advances in science and technology, we are still at the mercy of powerful winds like hurricanes and tornadoes. The prophet Jeremiah declares the weather as signs of God’s power over nature: “When His...

A Daily Spirit of Gratitude

A Daily Spirit of Gratitude

Modah Ani 12, chant by Rabbi Shefa Gold Ruach also means "Spirit." Rabbi Shefa Gold has composed 36* chants for "Modah Ani," I am thankful, the short prayer of gratitude recited upon awakening each morning. These chants are free to download and also available in a...

Elijah: God is not in the wind

Elijah: God is not in the wind

Jewish folklore portrays Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu HaNavi) as a kindly old man who visits our Passover Seder to drink his cup of wine. In the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible, Elijah was known as a zealous champion of monotheism and opponent of idolatry. Since Elijah ascended to...

Seasons

Seasons

Seasons (Onot)

עונות

The blossoms and buds of spring, the hot sun and cool water of summer, the colors of autumn and the chill of winter: each season has its treasures to offer.

The seasons and cycles of the year point to larger seasons and cycles in our lives. The Bible (Tanach) and the wisdom of our Sages emphasize timeliness, “a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Learning to live with wisdom is also learning to value and honor the seasons of our lives, the seasons of our relationships.

Seasons have a new and urgent significance today. The Bible describes unseasonable weather, such as rain or drought out of season, as a sign of divine displeasure with human sin. For modern people such notions once seemed naive. Now, in this age of Climate Change, they have new relevance, as we yearn to preserve the natural seasonal rhythms of God’s earth.

עֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִיר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ׃

So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

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Springtime: Song of Songs in Nature

I made this slide show of my original photos for the launch of "Love at the Center" by Rabbi Shefa Gold. Click here to receive a weekly chant from the Biblical Song of Songs, and put Love at the center of your heart. The program took place after the Jewish New Year...

Autumn Gallery

Click on this image to activate a gallery of beautiful scenes from Autumn at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. They document the season from its early pastels and oranges to the golden peak, though an early snowfall and into bare branches.All photos by...

A Time to Every Purpose

A Time to Every Purpose

אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃ God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate between day and night; and they will...

Seasonal Scenes at Rockefeller State Park Preserve

I've entered the world of Four Seasons with my move to Westchester County, New York. Here are some photos I took at one of my favorite places, Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Return to the Gateway of Seasons.

Turn, Turn, Turn

What better way to hear "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" then this clip from 1966 featuring the composer Pete Seeger playing with Judy Collins (even as she gets stuck on the lyrics at one point, it only makes it more charming and nostalgic). The...

Living in the Season

Living in the Season

Seasons are very different in each of the places I have lived. In South Texas, a short spring quickly stretches into a long, hot, heavy summer, followed by a pleasant fall and mild winter. In both Israel and Northern California I experienced Mediterranean Climates...

Wings

Wings

Wings (K’nafayim)

כנפיים

We are surrounded by winged creatures, from butterflies and bees, to hummingbirds to hawks. All are amazing, but since time immemorial birds in particular have inspired human beings with a dream of flying and freedom. They have always been part of human culture, religion and mythology. Birds and their wings figure in Biblical literature, such as the dove as a symbol of peace and safety, or the eagle as one of power and support. The fact that birds’ wings can bear them into the heavens gives them an association with divinity. Wings can symbolize nurturance, shelter and protection, or in the case of a butterfly, the possibility of utter transformation. The ubiquitous nature of winged creatures is an ever-present reminder of transcendence in everyday life.

Soar into the Gateway of Wings, as we explore the symbolism of birds and flying creatures in Jewish tradition and in your life.

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A Guide’s Perspective: Encounters With Birds

A Guide’s Perspective: Encounters With Birds

When I get too wrapped up in my merely human concerns, all I need to do is to look outside my window or take a walk in the park to enter a different world, the world of birds that surround us everywhere.  (In fact, I hear them chirping as I write this post). Here...

Doves and Eagles: Two Paradigms of Biblical Spirituality

Doves and Eagles: Two Paradigms of Biblical Spirituality

Two of the most prominent birds in biblical tradition are very different in nature: the dove and the eagle. The gentle dove that dwells close to earth is an important symbol in Jewish and other ancient Near Easter religious traditions. After the Great Flood recorded...

Light as a Feather

Light as a Feather

I was in the car from the airport to my annual rabbinic conference in Colorado. Whenever I go to an event like this, I try to set an intention, a kavannah, to guide me during the experience. At the time, I was feeling a heavy preoccupation with career and personal...

Great Egret Takes Flight

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYJbaW2hmXI/?taken-by=wellsprings This is one of my favorite videos that I took of a bird: Great Egret taking flight across Swan Lake at Rockfeller State Park Preserve. Follow @wellsprings on Instragram for my nature photography and videos...

AGAMI (a poem)

AGAMI (a poem)

AGAMI by Steve Margolin Shlayma Zalman! Huh? Shlayma Zalman! I am here. Go to the bridge. An agami is there. An agami? At the bridge? Where Clear Creek runs, its west branch? The bridge where the agami is. It is downstream. An agami heron? You know, Agamia agami? Yes....

Winged Insects as Soul Symbols

Winged Insects as Soul Symbols

  Recently I got to see a "butterfly release" in the park. A woman and her daughter who grow a butterfly friendly garden, had raised Monarchs and were releasing them into their native habitat. From there, the butterflies would live for two weeks, but the third...