The timeless message of the suspended mountain

"The Holy One overturned the mountain above like a tub, and said:’If you accept the Torah-good, and if not- there will be your burial’."

Danny Ginsbourg‏ ,

Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
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An intriguing Gemara, relating to Matan Torah:(Shabbat 88.)’And Bnei Israel stood בתחתית ההר: under the Mountain’: Rabbi Abdimi bar Hama bar Hasa said:This teaches that that the Holy One, Blessed be He, overturned the mountain above כגיגית: like a tub, and said:’If you accept the Torah-excellent, and if not- there will be your burial’.

The Parshanim ask: Why, after Bnei Israel, as one man with one heart, had proclaimed: כל אשר דבר ה׳ נעשה ונשמע: All that Hashem says, we will do and we will hear’, did Hashem see the need for this ‘coercion’?

The Be’er Ba’Sadeh answers:’Precisely because Bnei Israel so readily accepted that ‘all that Hashem says, we will do and we will hear’, there was concern Above that they thought that this was a דבר קל: a ‘simple’ undertaking.

‘Therefore, Hashem saw the need to add an awareness that the Torah was ‘fire’, by giving it in an awesome display of sounds and lights, which, in turn, necessitated the suspension of the mountain over their heads, lest they resile when they saw the awesome and fearsome manner in which the Torah was given’.

The Maharal adds:’Hashem suspended the mountain over their heads, with the accompanying words of warning, to teach that the Torah was מוכרח: essential, and that there could be no existence without it.
‘True, they had freely accepted it, but they had to know that it was not dependent on their choice; as, has this been the case, they could also choose not to accept it- but the world could not exist without Torah.
‘This is why this Gemara is immediately preceded by another Gemara:’And it was the evening and the morning of THE sixth day’, why the ‘unnecessary THE’?-not said in respect of any other of the days of Creation-‘To teach that Hashem made a condition with Creation, that if Bnei israel accepted the Torah- good, but if not- the world would revert to תוהו ובוהו: nothingness’.

‘This earlier Gemara comes to explain why Hashem suspended the mountain, over the heads of Bnei Israel’.

Rav Elya Lopian, brings the exposition of the Maharal, and adds:’Of course Hashem demands of Bnei Israel that we perform the Torah, not out of fear of punishment lest we do so, but out of the realization that the Torah is our life, and that, without out, we are worse than even animals!’.

Rav Levi Yitzchak from Berdichev adds:’The generation that stood at Har Sinai, had merited to see open miracles, and, further, had been elevated and purified by their preparations on the mountain, and therefore freely accepted that ‘all that Hashem says, we will do and we will hear’.

‘However, the future generations would not merit these revelations, and would have to live in a world where Hashem’s presence is ‘concealed’, a world seemingly guided by ‘nature’.

‘For the sake of these generations, Hashem suspended the mountain over their heads, to instill in them, and, through them, in all future generations, the compulsion to keep Torah and Mirzvot’.

Rav Lopian expands on this objective, noting that:’The Torah was given for all generations, and not all times, not people are equal.

‘It is therefore essential that, beyond the natural recognition of the greatness of Hashem, there should also be a fear of Hashem, and of being punished should the Mitzvot be transgressed.

‘For this reason, whilst the generation that received the Torah, lovingly and freely accepted to perform the Mitzvot, it was essential, at this very time, to suspend the mountain, alluding to the second ‘arm’, mentioned’.

Rav Chaim Tzvi from Sigetz, adds the following beautiful idea, as to why, despite their willing acceptance, Hashem suspended the mountain over their heads.

‘He did so to reward them for their faithfulness, as by now commanding them to perform the Mitzvot, their performance was elevated from being אינו מצווה ועושה: ‘not commanded but done’, to the loftier level of being מצווה ועושה:’commanded and done’- to entitle them to greater reward from their Creator’.

A parting insight, from Rav Pinchas Friedman:’Our Sages teach that Hashem קידש: sanctified Bnei Israel at Har Sinai, like a groom is מקדש a bride.

‘Indeed, the Mateh Moshe notes that most of our nuptial customs are derived from מעמד הר סיני, when the suspended mountain was the חופה: the bridal canopy which the couple enter’.

Truly eternal lessons, and blessings, from the wondrous suspended mountain!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.



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