The Talmud1 addresses an apparent contradiction in the Torah portion of Eikev.

Here is how Moses describes his experience atop Mount Sinai in one verse: “When I went up the mountain to receive the stone Tablets . . . I sat on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.” 2

Yet, a few verses later he says: “I stood on the mountain . . .” 3

Was he sitting or standing? The Talmud offers a number of solutions. One of them—offered by Rava—is that he did both: For the easier (literally softer) portions Moses stood, and for the harder ones, he sat. 4

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson sees deep meaning to the Talmud’s association of sitting with difficulties and challenges and standing with easier, softer experiences.

Abraham is classically associated with the divine attribute of chessed (often translated as kindness), from which goodness and ease flows. Abraham's chessed was exemplified by his prodigious love of G‑d, his charity, his campaigning on behalf of the condemned, and his lifelong effort to enlighten his fellow man. As the paradigm of chessed, it is therefore most appropriate that we read a number of times in the Torah about him standing or rising: “And Abraham arose early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.” 5

Abraham’s son, Isaac, on the other hand, is associated with gevurah. Isaac's gevurah was expressed through his great awe of G‑d, in his exacting self-discipline and moral restraint.

The difficulties we encounter flow from the divine attribute of gevurah (often translated as strength or severity), associated with harsh judgment. It is thus appropriate that we find in Psalms, “G‑d sat to [bring] the flood.6” After all, the flood was a result of G‑d’s severe judgment. Another example of this association the verse in which we read, “And Moses sat to judge the people.”7

Taking it a step further, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak sees this truth expressed in the numerical value of the very Hebrew words used by the Talmud and how they reflect Isaac, who is associated with gevurah.

The key terms are:

Hebrew Word English Translation Numerical Value
ישב Sat 312
עמד Stood 114
קשה Hard 405
רכה Soft 225

The difference between the values of “sat” and “stood” is 198 (312-114=198). This number is the value of צחק, which means “laughter” and is used in the verse describing the origin of Isaac’s name.8 Since Isaac is associated with gevurah, when he is adding to “standing,” which is associated with chessed, one arrives at “sitting,” which is associated with gevurah.

How so?

The difference between the values of “hard” and “soft” is 180 (405-225=180), which is the number of years of Isaac’s life. As above, when Isaac (as represented by the years of his life) is added to the equation, the chessed is converted to gevurah.