What Is Jewish About A Ropes Course?


By Mike Tintner, Pearlstone Adventure Educator

I sit on the edge of the platform looking down it feels like a mile to the ground. Am I really supposed to jump? My team is looking at me, walking me through the process of belaying in (securing a climber with a rope), tweezeling out (maintaining safety while unlocking safety ropes), and jumping down (from over 30 feet in the air). I know the steps, I have been trained and still, I feel butterflies in my stomach.

Throughout the training for the high ropes adventure course, a song keeps coming to mind. Gesher Tzar Maod; the whole entire world is a very narrow bridge. At times I traverse elements singing the words, “The main thing is to recall is to have no fear at all!” in my head.

Life gives every person a unique set of obstacles and challenges they must overcome if they wish to thrive. Jewish practice also presents challenges. On Sukkot, Jewish people are challenged to leave their homes and dwell outdoors. On Shabbat we are challenged to rest. On Yom Kippur, to pray and celebrate on an empty stomach. And finally, on Pesach, we are tasked with not eating leavened bread.

The beauty of the natural world is that every being has its own set of unique challenges and obstacles to overcome. The bison stick together as a herd to overcome the predators that wish to eat them; the trees must survive fire; and the river must change direction based on the landscape it flows over. These challenges don’t just create friction in nature; in fact, they create balance.

The moving of bison as a herd turns the soil they walk over. Forest fires (like the prescribed burns Pearlstone recently conducted) allow new seedlings room to grow and promotes healthy forests. The winding river slows and distributes water.

For so many humans working 9-5, balance means work and family or school and personal life. High ropes courses allow a chance to redefine how we look at balance. Every step you take on the swinging elements feels different while high in the air. The gear supports you in case you fall or want to hold on, but if you dare, you can let go and allow yourself to walk forward trusting in yourself that you have balance.

In an ideal world, all spiritual practices would be viewed like a ropes course: a challenge by choice. Challenge by choice means you are encouraged to push you comfort boundary in an effort to grow, yet peer pressure is not given nor is punishment feared. At Pearlstone’s High Ropes Adventure Course, participants will become familiar with challenge by choice as they’re encouraged to overcome physical obstacles such as height, and difficult balance to push their limits and have fun.

As I looked at the ground below me, the forest surrounding me and my friends nearby, I knew this challenge of trusting my gear was one I could overcome. So, I pushed off and let out a big “weeeeeeee” as I descended all the way to the ground. I am grateful that Judaism, the natural world and working at Pearlstone all have provided me with challenges that I have the opportunity to overcome as I thrive while living a balanced life.

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