Mountain High

In his old age, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch decided to visit the Alps. When asked why, he replied, "Because when I get up to Heaven, I want to have an answer when God asks me, "Nu, Shimshon, what did you think of My Alps?"

I thought of this story this week when hiking in the mountains. On Thursday, my family and I took the aerial tram in Palm Springs up Mount Jacinto. Along with our friends, the Weissman family, we then trekked through the snow to a spectacular overlook where we could see the entire valley stretched out below us as well as the mountains and trees surrounding us.

At that moment, we recited with our children the traditional blessing for when seeing a beautiful sight in nature: Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam shekacha lo b'olamo (Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe whose world contains such [beauty].) We also said the Shehechiyanu blessing (which thanks God for keeping us alive to reach this occasion) for seeing snow for the first time this year. Saying these blessings sanctified the moment and allowed us to acknowledge God's work in the awesome beauty.

In this week's Torah portion, Joseph reflects back on his trip down to Egypt. When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, he told them not to be wracked with guilt for selling him into slavery. Joseph explained that because of his journey to Egypt, he was able to provide sustenance to the starving Egyptians during the famine -- thereby saving many lives. He told his brothers: "it was not you who sent me here but God..." (Gen 45:8) Joseph recognized that his journey had a higher purpose. Though his trip started under the most horrific of circumstances, Joseph found God en route.

Joseph's words present us with a challenge. How can we discover God in our travels? Surely, our trips are much less arduous than what Joseph endured. If despite his struggles, Joseph was able to discover the divine, so can we.

This week is popular for travel -- whether for vacation or day trips. In our adventures, like Joseph and Shimshon, may we find God along the way.

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