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Seeking the Lost Mountain of Sinai?

Seeking the Lost Mountain of Sinai?

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Have you ever wondered about the whereabouts of the Sinaitic revelation? Has it ever struck you as funny that the exact location of Mt. Sinai remains speculative? How is it, I often ponder, that the location of the mountain upon which G‑d descended to reveal Himself to our ancestors, the mountain upon which our holy Torah—the blueprint of creation and the manual of life—was given, the mountain that was home to the greatest miracles and witnessed the most monumental divine revelations that are so fundamental to the very core of our belief system, the mountain at whose foot we became the chosen nation, remains unconfirmed?!

Has it ever struck you as funny that the exact location of Mt. Sinai remains speculative?

Don’t we all distinctly recall our first day of school, or the exact place we were when we got the good news that we were accepted to the college of our choice? Don’t we all remember vividly the precise location where we proposed, or the hospital ward where our first child was born? How could we forget? Those places of great significance are deeply engraved and burned into our memories forever. And yet, somehow, we’ve lost touch with the place more important to our people than any other.

The more I ponder, the more I come to believe that no, we have not forgotten the location of Sinai; we simply never paid enough attention in the first place.

Contrast that with the Holy Temple. Its exact location is known; a portion of its structure still basks in the Jerusalem sun. Millions of people still stream to this special wall, the Western Wall.

Sinai

“G‑d descended onto Mt. Sinai” (Exodus 19:20).

The tremendous revelations at Mt. Sinai were divinely inspired: “G‑d descended . . .” In fact, every nuance of its story line was infused with the supernatural. The Jews saw the thunderbolts and heard the streaks of lightning. They saw that which is usually heard, and heard that which is usually seen. Every detail of its display transcended nature.

The Holy Temple

“Make for me a Temple, so that I may dwell amongst them” (ibid. 25:8).

What was missing in the revelation at Sinai that necessitated the building of a temple? Hadn’t G‑d just shown His people that He could dwell amongst them (and how!) without the benefit of a temple?

But there is a world of a difference between something that comes from above or outside of us, and something that emanates from within.

The Sinaitic revelation came from above, entirely devoid of our input. G‑d descended onto earth; we did not ascend to meet Him.

If G‑d is to really dwell amongst us, in a permanent manner, it is we who must make a temple

And the moment after G‑d departed the mountain, it reverted to its original mundane status. Simultaneously, the Jewish people went back to their natural state of being, subject once again to nature and its ways.

Hence the subsequent command for a temple.

The Temple was built through the hard efforts of the Jewish people; its gold, silver and other materials were donated with passion by the men, women and children of Israel. We gave of our hard-earned possessions, the outcome of our sweat and blood. Yes, we were the ones to build the Temple.

If G‑d is to really dwell amongst us, within us, in a permanent manner, it is we who must make a temple.

Perhaps this explains why the location of the Temple is known, whereas the whereabouts of Mt. Sinai remain a mystery.

Sinai never permeated the core of our consciousness. The Temple, on the other hand, was our project, our baby, and therefore it and its location will forever be engraved in our hearts and minds.

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson is the rabbi of Beit Baruch and executive director of Chabad of Belgravia, London, where he lives with his wife, Chana, and children.
Mendel was an editor at the Judaism Website—Chabad.org, and is also the author of the popular books Seeds of Wisdom and A Time to Heal.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous May 2, 2013

How far How far is Jerusalem from Mt. Sinai ? Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA May 2, 2013

Thanks Shoshana Your post meant a lot to me. Thanks! L'chaim! May Hashem bless you and your family. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem April 30, 2013

Mr Hamiton--an apology

I really want to apologize as I certainly didn't mean to say anything offending. Also I didn't mean to invalidate your Judaism or you, G-d forbid, or anything like that.

Actually, you are the one who said you are a ben Noach and if I understood you correctly in your post of April 23, you said that you choose this because , quote, "before Avraham's time people lived longer" , unquote.

So because I do care, I just suggested that you add the kavana of l'sheim shamayim because in that way a person reaps all of the rewards of those mitzvas. I just meant it as caring advice and nothing bad. It's the same thing we always tell our own children (and also ourselves), that whatever we do, we should have, or at least add, the proper kavanah (intention).

Being it seems that I am not expressing myself properly and am not saying the correct things, and I don't want to hurt anyone, I guess I'll just end this conversation and not participate in it anymore.

With best wishes.... Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 25, 2013

Re: Shoshana It does not sit well with me that you are not showing signs of accepting that there is more to me than the Noachide commands. I understand that your Torah tells you that you should tell me that I do not have Torah. Frankly, that makes me sad. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman says that even goys can be Kabbalah. I am aware of things such that if you are Jewish that you don't have to set me free if I am your slave, while Jewish slaves may not be kept forever. Understand that your Torah says that it is a good deed for you to feed me something that has died unto itself, which is not edible for you, and that I myself would not like to eat. What is the purpose of telling me I am Bnei Noach? Is it so that you can invalidate my circumcision, or so that you want to take away from Judaism? How are your posts motivated by love? Making someone a slave for life seems to have nothing to do with love when coupled with many humans. Cats may be pets for life, but not so for many humans. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem April 25, 2013

Ethics of the Fathers Ethics of the Fathers is also Torah, even though it's not the Chumash (The Five Books of Moses). The Five Books of Moses is the Written Torah, the Mishna is the Oral Torah.

Did you go into "World Perfect"? I think you'll like it.

It is real greatness that you are keeping the mitzvos of Bnei Noach. Just, add the intention (kavanah) that you are doing it because it is G-d's will, and He will bestow on you many blessings. By the way, Rav Yoel Schwartz has written a book on this subject and it should be available in any Jewish book store. Reply

Anonymous April 24, 2013

needle I think that finding the location of Mt/ Sinai is like looking for a needle in a haystack, except for one important difference, there is no needle. I have been to the Mt. Sinai that is a stone's throw from the St. Catherines Monestary. The Bedouins have built a nice resort there. So i climbed the steps of the ' Mt. Sinai '. I would never for a moment think that it was the real Mt. Sinai. It was a great experience whether it is Mt. Sinai or not. They have wide steps there. I don't think that it says anywhere that Moses walked up steps. The Saudis claim that Mt. Sinai is on their turf. It's fun that archaeologists argue over Mt. Sinai's whereabouts. What we do know, for us who are observant, is that G-d handed down the Torah from wherever Mt. Sinai is.

Mt. Nebo is an easier argument because it is in Jordan and does look over the River into Israel. One of these days someone is going to come up with possible locations of Moses remains. The Jordanians definitely have the upper hand. Reply

Jack Midland Park April 24, 2013

Mt. Sinai Many years ago, I was on a ship which traveled the entire length of the Red Sea.
Along the way, we were told that we are approaching Mt. Sinai. I put a long lens on my camera and photographed it. I still have that photo. The moutain peak is not different from many others I have seen. So who knows if this was it. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 24, 2013

Re: Shoshana There is more to Jews than Torah only Torah. That is why there is the Talmudic tractate Ethics of Our Fathers, where Jews are supposed to go up and above Torah obligations and Jewish culture. So, to do I also believe we should recommend following more than Noachide Laws to non-Jews, especially provided that G-d has endowed the non-Jews in particular with a heart and a mind to follow Gd. Following the 613 commandments, as best as possible, is a healthy practice for anyone, and I believe it is already this way as non-Jews possibly make up the bulk of the commentary on chabad.org Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 23, 2013

Re: Shoshana of Jerusalem - Though I Live As A Jew I Can't Be Sold On Jewishness Essentially, you say Bnei Noach is only expected to follow the Noah’s laws. I believe we should be open to Bnei Noach observing the 613 commandments, converted or not, because if you want global warming, just encourage the goys to be good goys.
I choose to be Bnei Noah, as people lived longer before Abraham’s time. I understand that there is blessings in Torah that I would miss out on if I only focused on the commandments given to Noah. On my own, I choose to observe the 613 commandments, when I can, because I feel that they are appropriate for me to observe, such that I get Hashem’s blessing.
I understand that you may feel as if you should try to invalidate parts of my observance typically only expected of Jews. According to the Orthodox, I am Bnei Noach, outside of Orthodoxy, however, my studies lead me to believe I am a Zerahite. Zerah was a son of the Edomite Reuel, a son of Judah, Simeon, Levi, and Kohath. So really, if you ask me if I am a Jew, my answer depends on context. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem April 23, 2013

Torah for all humankind Mr. Hamilton,

1 -You are right that the Torah is to reach out to all mankind and I would really suggest that you Google "World Perfect-The Jewish Impact on the World", which I think is exactly what you are referring to.

2 - All Jews are capable of keeping the Torah's commandments, otherwise G-d would not have given them to us. As far as 613 commandments are concerned, many of them are for the time when there was (and will be) the Holy Temple and we are unfortunately not able to keep them yet today. But for the ones that are left ,every Jew has the ability to observe them and would he but learn what it's all about, everyone would see that he/she is capable and would feel great happiness in observing them.

3 - Non-Jews have to keep the Seven Noahide Laws, that G-d commanded to Noah and the entire world after the Great Flood. Reply

Anonymous April 23, 2013

location - Hamilto, Chanoch and Shoshana I can't figure out what location you three are saying Mt. Sinai is. That's the question. If you don't know where it is, the best three words are : " I don't know ". Reply

Anonymous Jeerusalem April 22, 2013

really funny Mr. Smith,

Your Jewish Canadian television personality must be a comedian because his comments are really a riot. True, Mt. Sinai was a small mountain but it was a mountain nevertheless, and not a mesa. Furthermore, neither Moses and certainly not G-d needed to worry about acoustics when addressing the Jewish people. Everything was miraculous. There were millions of people. 600,000 males between the ages of twenty to sixty, plus all those under 20 and above 60, plus an equal amount of women. No amount of acoustics could have helped. Also, " how far a mass of people could have moved in one day" is not taking into account the many miracles that occurred. For they had the Clouds of Glory above them and in front of them, smoothing away the rocks and the hills, and they were literally Divinely carried along. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 22, 2013

Re: Shoshana of Jerusalem I agree with your statement, and didn't mean to suggest otherwise. However, I do believe that Torah is too reach all of humankind, such that gentiles and Jews alike observe, such that many more than just those whom are known to be Jews will observe the 613 commandments in Torah. From Isaiah 65:23 I believe we can know that, for example, cats will stop eating blood torn from flesh, and that cats will be observant and no longer be predators, as all flesh is to eventually worship Gd. The 613 commandments are healthy practices for virtually anyone or even any creature provided that they are capable to observe commandments within reason. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem April 22, 2013

G-d does care To Mr.Hamilton and Mr. Chanoch, (Feb. 15, 2013)

G-d does care what religion a Jew is, and that is why He gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai, to teach us what to do and how to act. There is nothing to sort out. The Torah is the Manufacture's instruction book telling us how to operate His world. It is the blueprint of the world which He created, and it is very clear that we are required to follow it. And it says in the Torah all about loving each other and being good to each other and helping each other, on a level that no one could ever come to without the Torah. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 21, 2013

Re: Anonymous Australia If you look at the fossil record it is concurrent with the Bible, showing 2 major exoduses from Africa. The first exodus was by Abraham and his company. The second exodus was when the Israelites left slavery in Egypt. Reply

Anonymous Australia April 19, 2013

Mt Horeb I believe it is "Jabal Al Lawz" in Saudi Arabia. The current site in Sinai Peninsula just doesn't fit right. There have been some research done and the every indication points to it being in ARABIA. It is the same area Moses escaped to from Egypt and where he met and stayed with his wife. The land of MIDIAN! Where he saw the flaming bush. Where was Midia? nearly all maps show it is in Modern Saudi Arabia!
Jewish Historian Josephus points this out too!
In order for the mountain to be in its current site, Moses would have crossed the water (red sea) from Egyptian territory. Have a look at a map! That does not make sense. The Israelites LEFT Egypt, they were well out of that country before crossing! NOT STILL IN EGYPT!
Then Pharaoh learnt that they did not go by the "Way of The Philistine" a route out of Egypt but instead followed another route out "Way of the Wilderness"
He also learnt how they entrapped themselves by going down (in the peninsula). Then They crossed the red sea. Reply

Chanoch - Enoch Miami Beach February 15, 2013

For Craig Hamilton...Miracle's and Lightning
Personally Mr. Hamilton I applaud you for comments:
"I'm starting to believe that we are all in this together as a search for truth, and that Gd doesn't care if you aren't able to sort out what the best religion is, but rather He sees through us to ascertain the heart of our intentions."
As much as I like Archeology, the more important concept for all of us is to be good to each other and help and love each other for NO REASON AT ALL. (or for whatever reason you want.)
Let's meditate and pray on that.
Shalom, Chanoch Reply

Edith St. Louis, MO February 15, 2013

Mt. Sinai Thank you for all of the comments. I was recently with my grand-daughter to make her first visit to her Pediatric Dentist in North Bay, CA. I was taken by the dentist's middle name being Sinai...I consider the whole of this topic serendipity. Reply

Anonymous February 14, 2013

Hidden Recently R. Tzvi Freeman wrote an essay on the whereabouts of Hashem. At the very end of the story he asked his daughter where Hashem is. If i remember correctly she answers in a whisper, " He's hiding ! " I commented, " so simple.so profound." I wrote earlier about my experience at Mt. Sinai nearby St. Catherine's Monastery, July 27, 2012. I have fond memories of the experience. The unidentifiable location that you speak of makes sense. If Hashem is ' hiding ', then it is likely as you say, Mt. Sinai is also hidden from us. Hashem covered His tracks so to speak. Even though i was at ' Mt. Sinai ' i did look upon it as a tourist destination. Wherever you visit what seems like Mt. Sinai to you is just fine.. The experience you soak up, thinking about the events that did occur there is what counts in my humble opinion. Being transported back in time, just like Passover does is grand. Reply

Chanoch Miami February 12, 2013

Mt. Sinai location The folks from "ancient aliens" seemed to put their finger on it.. By using three citations from Exodus, they found the mountain, however, it is almost impossible to get to it because of Arab restrictions....also, the Church "defined" its position and dispite the fact that the physical description in Exodus does not match the description of visitors....Well, the rest is bad history Reply

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