My Yom Kippur experience at Mount Everest 

 

“Hike your hike!” I love this line and try to live it every time I get on a trail. 

So, when a friend asked if I’d like to join a group of people to hike to Everest Base Camp in 2017, “hike your hike” was my response of course!  

Then I found out that I’d be hiking over Yom Kippur. How could I do that? How could I leave my wife and kids and my mother because I wanted to “hike my hike” in Nepal?  We talked and shared emotions, worries and concerns.  

Then I recalled what I was taught while earning my masters degree in Jewish studies. Each Jewish holiday has a corresponding mitzvah that fulfills the responsibilities of the day: Telling the story of leaving Egypt for Passover, dwelling in a Succah for Succoth, etc.  

The mitzvah for Yom Kippur is hearing the sound of the shofar. Done. I decided to bring a shofar with me.  

The hike was going exceptionally well. A lot of ascents and descents on LONG days of hiking. Breathtaking views! Wonderful bonding with my daughter and fellow hikers. Learning the term namaste, greeting every person as they walked by.   

I was also meeting up with Israelis who were hiking the same trail, to and fro. At one point, I realized that I had an audience with these Israelis, and I shared with them that on Erev Yom Kippur I would be blasting my shofar. I told them they would be welcome to come and be near, to hear it for themselves.  

As the day grew near, my fellow travelers were ready to hear and learn more about Yom Kippur as I promised for after dinner (I did fast the following dayan interesting experience at +16,000 feet). We assembled in an open hallway where I shared some knowledge of this holy day. I then went outside and blew a round of tekea, shevarim, teruah and a final blast of tekea gedolah 

That I had breath at 17,000 feet was itself a curious reality. That the echo of the blasts lofted into the mountains surrounding me was magical. I still get shivers and goose bumps recalling these moments.  

The best was yet to come. We woke early to continue our trek and as we hiked, the Israelis found me and shared their amazement at hearing the shofar. They shared that they cried, they laughed and they remembered. For a few moments, they were home, hearing the sound of the shofar.  

There, in those moments, I knew that it was the right choiceto hike my hike even on Yom Kippur. I enabled someone else to fulfill the mitzvah of Yom Kippur thousands of miles away 

We were all home! 

This will be an extremely hard High Holiday season for us all. Blessings abound and curses as well. Hear the sound of the shofar, and let it guide you to a place of peace and serenity. Let it guide you home! 

Shana tova to us all! 

Moshe Katz is board chair for Milwaukee Jewish Federation.