Why a mountain?

Why, when after two-and-a-half-thousand years of gardens and floods, towers and exiles, rivers that ran with blood and seas that split, G‑d finally decided to reveal Himself to mankind—why did He gather His nation around a mountain?

G‑d gathered us at Sinai to teach, to impart wisdom and knowledge, to guide. The location He chose was certainly not random; rather it must likewise present lessons of its own.

There are many messages to man in a mount.

Four are the kingdoms that comprise our world: the inanimate, the vegetative, the animal and the human. Our Sages have referred to the towering mountains as the "vegetative within the inanimate kingdom." Earth that grows tall.

We do notice, however, that mountains also shrink. Buffeted by winds, rinsed by rainfalls, carved by rivers. Organizations exist to protect certain mountains, to prevent landslides and erosion. The prophet Elijah referred to a "strong and powerful wind, that erodes mountains."

Why does the wind attack mountains, yet largely ignores flat lands? The cause is the mountain itself. It simply and stubbornly gets in the way. The wind hits it with force, and must force its way around or over. As it does so, it carries little pieces of the mountain with it.

Minuscule mountains that accompany the clouds. Onwards they travel until the wind reaches another upright rocky formation, ideally poised to collect the particles. Thus does the "strong and powerful wind that erodes mountains" also fortify others. Whilst some mounts shrink, others grow.

One mountain's loss is another mountain's gain.

"All that the Holy One created in His world," say the Sages. "He also created in man."

Our mountain represents our feeling of self; of position and importance. We could opt for a negative mountain of arrogance and pride. Or we could have a holy mount, used for positive advancement.

We can raise ourselves as a mountain of haughtiness—a chunk of earth that rises in affront to decency, to society, to our Creator.

But that very haughtiness is what invites the forces that will temper it and remold it. When a person realizes he has allowed himself to hold his head and heart high over others, he is filled with a spirit of humility and resolve to improve. This feeling is a wind that lowers the arrogant peaks we have grown. Since such a change is positive, the mountain is not shrinking; rather it is growing smaller and progressively diminishing. The reduction of a negative trait is always a step forwards and upwards.

On the other side of the hill, our height may allow us to attain greater heights. We can use our importance, our respected position, power or fame to create changes for the betterment of others. Our mountain of influence can be utilized to guide others in a positive direction.

Our mountain may be impressive enough to gain entry to the hearts of those who would ignore the same message from a mere mound. Our importance and "altitude" then becomes a holy mountain, a place where G‑d can reveal Himself.