Photo Credit: Jewish Press

My first association with “hills” are the ones atop which I live, the hills of Gush Etzion in Judea. On my first trip to Israel at age 12, my mother’s cousin, equipped with a Tanach and a gun, accompanied us to Kever Rachel in Beit Lechem and then to Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut on our way to the mountains of Chevron. Something already touched me then; the clouds atop the hills, the winds across my face, the sun peeking between the eagle-shaped yeshiva, all contributed to a spiritual connection with Hashem, drawing me to return.

I’ve since appreciated the topographical, agricultural and religious significance of “hills” in Tanach all the more. Hills provide for a closer connection and dependence on Hashem as one cannot simply engineer to the aquafers for water but must pray to God for rain. The geographic border of the tribe of Binyamin, surrounded by hills, provides for the dwelling of the Shekhina (Devarim 33:12). These are the hills over which the “Dod” of Shir Hashirim skips and leaps on his way to meeting his beloved “Ra’aya”. These are the hills which merge the “blue” wines of the mountains with the “white” milk of the Judean desert. “As the hills surround Yerushalayim, so Hashem surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever” (Tehillim 125:2).

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Rabbanit Shani Taragin is educational director of Matan-Bellows Eshkolot Tanakh teachers’ programs and Mizrachi Olami Lapidot. Shani directs, leads tours, coordinates, and teaches Tanach, Talmud, Halacha and women’s health in numerous seminaries and adult education programs in Israel and worldwide. Shani lives with her family in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion-Israel.