Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Different Kind of Rosh Hashanah

After setting up our campsite, we spent about an hour just sitting and soaking up the reality that we had arrived at the most beautiful campsite in Yosemite. But at around 3 pm, I wanted to find out whether there was perchance any kind of “gathering” being set up anywhere in the park to welcome in the new year. We took the free valley shuttle bus from the campgrounds to the Visitor Center, but I totally stumped the ranger at the desk—she knew of no plans anywhere for Rosh Hashanah. I found myself to be disappointed—I had been so sure that someone would be doing something, somewhere, which would be known to the park administration. We decided we would simply have to do our own thing, for which purpose we had brought with us a shofar. Since the one mitzvah for RH is to hear the sound of the shofar, we had figured that we would fulfill that commandment, and find some other way to be appreciative to God for the gifts of life and the world we live in. Of course, in Yosemite, it is remarkably easy to do that!

So after watching a 23 minute film called “The Spirit of Yosemite”, we left the visitors center and went back to Mo. When it was getting dark, we took out our candles, our wine and grape juice (I’d specifically brought small bottles of both from home), and we made our brochot to welcome in the Yom Tov. After dinner, we decided to attend a ranger presentation called “Natural Parks in the Sky: Appreciating The Splendor of the Universe.” It seemed to us that the splendor of the universe was a good thing to appreciate in lieu of services at home.
The show was not bad—maybe not quite as good as one of Rabbi Miller’s high holiday sermons but with better slides, LOL! And then we walked back in the dark (the show was in an outdoor amphitheater in one of the other neighboring campgrounds) with our flashlights, looking at the stars. We had actually had reason the night before to note that the stars were simply incredible out here; we never see stars like that in New Jersey, for sure.

Yesterday morning we slept late, and were happy to get a call from Beth just as we were waking up. We ate breakfast and then set out to find a place to blow the shofar. I had given this much thought, because although I’d had the idea that Joey ought to be blowing it every morning throughout our trip, as per halachah (and to afford him some practice), it was obvious as soon as we started travelling that blowing a shofar in the close quarters of a campground, or even in a Flying J parking lot, might be more noise and disturbance than one would like to cause! We’d also talked about blowing it on top of a mountain—but of course, we are down in the valley; the mountains are about 5,000 feet above our heads!

So I decided we ought to head for El Capitan Meadow. El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world (3 times taller than the Empire State Building) and the meadow which stretches out at its foot is quite large. I thought that if we were in the center of the meadow, it would be a suitable spot, and one which was unlikely to disturb anyone else. So we took the shuttle bus again and wandered into the meadow. There were a few people around, but no one was really near us. We said the brocho, and then Joey blew all the different shofar calls for us. It was very cool!

El Capitan

After that, we simply wandered through the meadow, down to the river, and through the trees, slowly and appreciatively. That part of the park is simply lovely, and despite the fact that there are many visitors here, we were alone most of the time. We took so many photos that we actually used up the disk (it holds 128 photos, but we’d forgotten to download those from the day before.) We could see some mountain climbers on the face of El Capitan; even using my 10x zoom lens, they looked like ants.

Can you see the climbers in the center of the photo?
After wandering and taking photos for several hours, we went back to the shuttle stop, and took the bus to the Village Store. We needed “eggs, milk, and ice”. Well, we managed to buy a lot more groceries than that! The Yosemite Village Store has a little grocery which is probably one of the most amazing stores for its size. It had gourmet and specialty foods of every description, ethnic choices from Mexican to Thai (even kosher hot dogs!), wine (and wine glasses, God forbid you hadn’t brought any!), organic yummies, and lots of great ice cream! We had to skip the latter since we were at the mercy of the shuttle, but we bought a lot more than I should have allowed poor Joe to shlep back (of course he wouldn’t let me help), but I did buy something called a Starbucks Mud Pie, and enjoyed it as we left. Also outside the store as we left was a young buck, grazing along as if for the sheer pleasure in posing for photos.

Joe outdid himself creating burritos for dinner (or were they enchiladas? I’m not sure), and he went to bed early. But I sat up for a while reading my book…. And that was our Rosh Hashanah day. From the moment the sun went down and we could look at the stars, until the next sundown, the day typified the quote from Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” A really special Rosh Hashanah that we will remember for a very long time.

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