Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why Sinai?

Musings from today...

As we draw closer to Shavuot, I've been thinking about (what else?) Mount Sinai.  And today I wondered:

why did G-d choose that mountain out of all possible locations?

The funny thing is that Jews don't care about the location of Mount Sinai--they had the Torah and that's all that mattered.  Why look back?  And, indeed, the real name of Mount Sinai is Horeb which means "desolate" and "all dried up".

Perhaps that's what was special about Sinai--it was the least special mountain.


The Ten Commandments by Solomon Goldman

pg. 103, " 'Desert of Sinai.'  Targum Jonathan, omitting Sinai:  'A Wild and desolate region which occupies the very center of the peninsula...a wilderness of shaggy rocks of porphyry and red granite, and of valleys for the most part bare of verdure...secluded from the world, in the wild and sublime amphi-theatre of rocks....Whatever may have been the scene of the events in Exodus I cannot imagine that any human being can pass that plain and not feel that he was entering a place above all others suited for the most august of the sights of the earth....(Stanley, Sinai, pp. 71 f., 75).  'There is nothing else like it in this or any other part of the peninsula; the long, wide plain sloping down to the mount, the noble amphitheatre of hills all round, and the bold precipices of the Ras Sufsafeh--the 'brow' of gebel Musa--overlooking and seen from every point in the plain below, the more imposing as it is by far the most conspicuous feature in a landscape where all is grand.  The Ras Sufsafeh has a grandeur peculiarly its own--a look of stately...grandeur, which has stamped it on our minds as by far the most remarkable mountain front in the Sinai Desert.  In gazing on that noble cliff and spacious plain at its base, it needs no effort or enthusiasm to recognize their peculiar fitness for the events described in Scripture as having attended the promulgation of the Law' (cf. Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, chap. vi)."

pg. 104, "Bent on homiletics rather than on geography and scenic beauty, the rabbis played on the similarity of the name Sinai to the root sna, 'hate.'  The mountain of Revelation was called Sinai, they said, because God's hatred of the heathen is due to their refusal to accept the Torah when it was offered to them; because the heathen hate the Jews out of sheer envy for having received the Torah; because from that hill hatred descends upon all who violate the Torah."

The Shavuot Anthology by Philip Goodman

pg. 30, "From the day when the heavens and the earth were created, the name of the mountain was Horeb.  When the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed unto Moses out of the thornbush, because of the word for the thornbush (seneh) it was called Sinai (Sinai), and that is Horeb.  And whence do we know that Israel accepted the Torah at Mount Horeb?  Because it is said, the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb (Deuteronomy 4.10).  Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 40,41."

pg. 31 "Man should always learn from the mind of his Creator; for behold, the Holy One, blessed be He, ignored all the mountains and heights and caused His Divine Presence to abide upon Mount Sinai, and ignored all the beautiful trees and caused His Divine Presence to abide in a bush [similarly, man should associate with the humble].  Sotah 5a."

pg. 32 "...the Holy One, blessed be He, considered all mountains and found no mountain on which the Torah should be given other than Sinai.  Leviticus Rabbah 13.2."

pg. 32 "The idol worshipers received their sentence from there, as it is said, those nations shall be utterly wasted--harov yeheravu (Isaiah 60.12), from Horeb they shall be destroyed (yeheravu).  Sinai--because hatred (sinah) descended to idolaters thence [as they hated Israel for accepting the Torah].  Exodus Rabbah 2.4"

pg. 32 "While what was its [real] name?  Its name was Horeb.  Now they disagree with R. Abbahu who said, Its name was Mount Sinai, and why was it called Mount Horeb?  Because desolation (hurvah) to idolaters descended thereon.  Shabbat 89a-b."

pg. 33 "Blessed by the Merciful One who gave a threefold Torah [Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa] to a threefold people [Israel, consisting of Priests, Levites, and Israelties] through a thirdborn [Moses, born after Miriam and Aaron] on the third day [of their abstinence from their wives] in the third month.  Shabbat 88a]

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