Printing the Tanya on Mt. Everest:
A chasid's trek to spread Chasidut
Meir Alfasi is a 30-year-old devoted chasid of Chabad who works as a professional
photographer and lives with his family in Rehovot, Israel.
He is also a world traveler, dedicated to bringing the light of chasidut
to any place on the globe where a Jew might be.
He explains that the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory, instructed
his followers to print the holy book known as "Tanya" in every
place in the world where there are Jews as a means of bringing its light
of holiness to them, and he has done his part to fulfill this mission
by bringing a portable printer with him to remote parts of the world -
from Kosovo to Sao Paulo to Gao, India, to Antartica to Katmandu.
His latest journey took him to the base of Mount Everest, the tallest
mountain in the world. Accompanied by his friend, Shmuel Levitin, an American
yeshiva student from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Meir trekked by foot through
the country of Nepal, beginning at the city of Lukla, before arriving
at Everest. Two Sherpa guides carried their scant provisions: some cans
of tuna, boxes of matzah, some clothes, their printer, and printing paper.
The entire journey by foot, back and forth, took 15 days.
"It was hard work," he recalls. "We sometimes walked 18
hours a day. I lost a lot of weight during the two weeks we were in Nepal.
The air is quite thin there. It is often laborious to breathe, which makes
you very tired. It made me really appreciate the blessing we recite every
morning thanking G-d for giving strength to the weary."
Meir relates that he sees his travels as a mission, and as means to meet
fellow Jewish travelers and introduce them to the teachings of the Torah.
He met numerous Jews near Everest, including some Israelis who expressed
delight upon seeing a clearly Jewish person in such a far-flung location.
"I usually was wearing my hat and jacket while walking," he
says, "so that people could recognize me as a Jew. Some of the Jews
I met told me they were very happy to see other Jews on the mountain,
and they were delighted to talk to us about Judaism."
He used the opportunity to teach a little Torah to the Jews he met. He
also relates that many of the non-Jewish hikers he met from around the
world expressed interest in his unusual attire, and he explained to them
that he had come to print a copy of a very old, very holy book that contained
great ethical lessons.
His efforts paid off when he reaches the upper Everest Base Camp, a two-hour
walk from the closest Sherpa village, where he achieved his goal.
"The Sherpas were able to run a wire to the base to provide us with
electricity and we printed right there at the camp. It was a beautiful
place. You could look up and just see the snow and the clear starts above
you as far as the eyes could see, and really feel Hashem's presence,"
he states wistfully.
When I asked him why he didn't try to climb to the summit, to bring the
Torah even higher, he replied, "I didn't want to die. I wasn't prepared
or trained to climb to the summit." He related that he did, in fact,
witness how some of the members of climbing expeditions that passed him
on their way to the mountain did not make it down the mountain alive and
their bodies were either carried down of brought down by helicopter.
Meir notes that the weekly Torah portion for the week that he arrived
at the base of Everest was, fittingly, Behar ("on the mountain").
Meir has many plans for future locations to print the Tanyas, revealing
that he is working on arranging to travel to Siberia and Mongola, and
possibly Tibet, sometime in the future.
[from an article by Gershon Hellman in Ami Magazine
(June 2016). Photo credit: //Shturim.org]