They didn't see Moses and they didn't talk to God, but seven Jewish students from the University had a "Burning Bush Adventure" yesterday. And although the group didn't hike up Mount Sinai, they did climb a 75-foot-high cliff face at a state park near Philadelphia. Howard Cohen -- a third-year rabbinical student who runs "Burning Bush Adventures" -- guided the group through their spiritual and physical ascent. Through "Burning Bush Adventures," Cohen teaches the basics of mountaineering and woodsmanship while providing unique outdoor experiences with a Jewish flavor. Cohen said he got the idea for "Burning Bush Adventures" while working as a counselor for troubled youths on the Outward Bound program. "So many times I would see these kids have intense spiritual experiences on Outward Bound, but they didn't have any religious context to put their experiences into because Outward Bound is a secular program," Cohen said. "When you go into the woods and have an intense outdoor experience, you can't help but connect into the cosmos," Cohen added. "You start thinking about mortality, trust and faith in a whole different way." The concept of mortality was made very clear to College freshman Neil Weinstein yesterday as he leaned back over the cliff with only a couple of thin ropes connecting him to safety. After another step back, Weinstein was over the edge -- rappelling for the first time in his life. "The first few steps were quite an act of faith," Weinstein said after his heart-pounding descent yesterday. "On that first step you have no idea what you're getting into." Hillel Director Jeremy Brochin, who accompanied the group, said that his successful attempt at rock climbing reassured him of his inner strengths and gave him faith in his ability to overcome challenges by tackling them one at a time. "The climbing was great," Brochin said. "You look up there and say to yourself, 'This is impossible,' and you just do it step by step. It's incredible -- pretty soon you're up there." Others were not so successful in their climbs but said the experience forced them to confront their physical and emotional limits. "When I was having problems [continuing the climb] at one point, I was asking myself if I had the strength to do it or if I just didn't want to do it," College senior Pam Sosne said. "And when I gave up I wondered what that meant." But Cohen reassured climbers like Sosne that it's more important to give the climb your best effort than to reach the top. "A lot of people get real top-of-the-climb oriented, and if they don't make it they view it as failure," Cohen said. "Getting to the top is not really the objective. It's the process of getting there -- the process of encountering your own mortality." As the picture-perfect autumn day came to an end, Cohen gathered the group at the top of the cliff, where they looked out over the forested valley and the Toheakan Creek rushing towards the Delaware River hundreds of feet below. ""When you're out there on that rock, you're not thinking about your studies or your problems, you're just thinking about the rock," Cohen told the group. "It's sacred time."Comments powered by Disqus
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