In the Yeshiva we were taught that the reality of Mount Sinai was the anti-thesis of Darwinism. To give an example, here is a story told of the late Rabbi Ya’akov Kamenetsky:
Rabbi Ya’akov Kamenetsky (d.1986) was once traveling on a plane with his son and granddaughter. Next to him was the Secretary-General of the Israeli Trade Federation, who was amazed at the dedication of the son and granddaughter to the elderly Rabbi. He confided sadly to Rabbi Kamenetsky that he saw his grandchildren and his children only rarely.
The Rabbi explained to him that the difference in their relationships to their children and grandchildren could be traced to their differing views of Creation: “You… believe in the Darwinian view of life as a result of random, purposeless events… so as far as your descendants are concerned, you’re just one generation closer to the apes than they are.
We, however, do not believe that we are superior to our ancestors. Quite the contrary. For us, the central event in Jewish history was the Revelation at Sinai. The generations immediately after that Revelation lived in awe of their parents as people to whom G-d actually spoke. And their children in turn viewed them with veneration for having known those who heard G-d speak”.
For most people, feeling that their spiritual status is based on their chronological distance from the Mount Sinai Experience, is a bit abstract. One would need to be at a very high spiritual level to really “get it”.
It occurred to me that part of our difficulty in connecting to the Sinai Experience might be because nobody has ever been to Mount Sinai in person (unless you’ve been to a hospital of that name in Manhattan…). Millions of people visit the Kotel (Western Wall) every year. They stand in front of it, look up to its majestic height, pray and put a note between the cracks of the Wall. It’s real, sensory and tangible. One goes away from the Wall with a sense of awe, history, spirituality.
But Mount Sinai? How many people can claim that they’ve definitely stood at the foot of the mountain where God gave the Torah to the Jewish People on the festival of Shavuot 3000 ? How many even know where it is located?
In honor of Shavuot I decided to do a bit of research and give you some of the latest findings on the location of the biblical Mt. Sinai. “Mount Sinai Revisited”.
These are the 3 most popular locations:
Jabal Musa (Mount Moses – see Mapcarta) next to Mount Catherine, is located in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula. Both Christians and Muslims give credit to this theory and have built a Greek Orthodox chapel and a small mosque at the summit. Nothing Jewish there though.
Jebel al-Madhbah (Mountain of the Altar – see Mapcarta) is a mountain at Petra, in present-day Jordan. Its summit is covered in rock-excavated ceremonial structures reached by a rock staircase. The mountain is over a thousand meters high, but the rock staircase winds its way from the top down to the valley below; the valley in which Petra resides is known as the Wadi Musa, meaning valley of Moses. At the entrance to the Siq is the Ain Musa, meaning spring of Moses. No Jewish symbols at the spot.
Jabal al-Lawz (Mountain of Almonds – see Mapcarta) is a mountain located in northwest Saudi Arabia, near the Jordan border, above the Gulf of Aqaba at 2580 meters above sea level. Nothing Jewish there either.
You are welcome to visit the mountains at your leisure, though I would first check out the US Travel Alert to avoid getting into trouble…
Over the years there have been many theories about the location of the mountain where the Torah was given. Despite all the research, there has never been a place which has been accepted by Rabbinical authorities.
I guess this is for the same reason that the grave-site of Moses is unknown to us; to avoid it becoming a place of worship and Moses becoming a deity. Similarly, Mt. Sinai remains a mystery so that it won’t become a place of idol worship.
“You shall utterly destroy from all the places where the nations, that you shall possess, worshiped their gods, upon the lofty mountains and upon the hills, and under every lush tree” (Deuteronomy – Chapter 12)
In the end we’ll need to connect with Mt. Sinai Experience in a much subtler way and without a physical place for making a pilgrimage.
Here’s a cute clip from the Aish Hatorah website for a drop of inspiration on how to make the connection:
Chag Sameach !