A Note From Rabbi Ora Before Her Vacation

On July 19th, I’ll be packing my tent and hiking boots into my Subaru and driving west. First to Chicago, where I’ll be officiating the baby naming of Rabbi Shelley Goldman and Kieran Kiley’s newest family addition. Then on to Montana, to meet up with my friend Steve and spend two weeks exploring the mountains of Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

Thinking about my upcoming trip from a Jewish perspective, I started to notice just how many references to mountains appear in our liturgy. 

On Friday nights for Kabbalat Shabbat, we sometimes sing from Psalm 98, which speaks of how “the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing in joy.” On Shabbat morning, we often sing Esah einai el he’harim from Psalm 121: “I turn my eyes to the mountain; from where will my help come?” During the Hallel portion of the Passover seder, we sing Psalm 114, that depicts a world in which nature becomes topsy-turvy as “mountains skip like rams and hills like sheep.” And many Psalms begin with the opening Shir ha’maalot, indicating that the forthcoming psalm is a “song of ascents,” literally a “song of going-up.”

In the Psalms, mountains are a place to aspire to; mountains are a place to get lost in and to look for help from; and mountains are part of the magnificent natural landscape that dwarfs in comparison to God’s power, even as we feel tiny relative to the colossal peaks. But in our tradition, mountains also indicate the human capacity for transformation.

According to the Torah, we became the nation of Israel at the base of a mountain, and committed to an ongoing relationship with God there. To reconstruct that tradition, then, every mountain might be a site of potential revelation! At the very least, mountains are a reminder of the importance of stretching beyond ourselves

For me, the beauty of mountains is their steadiness and how they’re blanketed in beauty; mountains are a reminder of what John O’Donohue calls the importance of “slow time.”

What about for you? What do you see as the Jewish connection to mountains? Have you had a profound/spiritual experience on a mountain? Please feel free to share below.


  1. Judith Jacobs says

    What I love about mountains is that no matter where you are, be it Switzerland, Tibet, or here in the US, the feeling is the same. I particularly love it when there is a snow cover.

  2. Amy Rosenberg says

    There is something about mountains that remind me that there is something that’s bigger than I am. And that I can rest in it, too.

  3. Jeff Basch says

    Have a great time…

    God may be everywhere but it sure does feel like you are closer to god at the top of a mountain. I’m an engineer/scientist, so perhaps is it the lower atmospheric pressure that allows your inner spirit to come out of your body but I know, even I feel the ‘wonder’.

    Two suggestions from our trip out west:

    1) Head to Grand Teton NP if you get a chance while at Yellowstone and take a beautiful (but long) day hike up to Solitude Lake.

    2) Use Alltrails.com

    Here is a link that will help with both: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/wyoming/lake-solitude-trail

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