Icthumbnail.jpgeland Volcano Spews Ash

3322 Yrs Ago Mount Sinai

Erupted in Goodness & Kindness

Why from 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.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the sport of mountain-climbing was born in 1760, when a young Genevese scientist, Horace-Benedict de Saussure, offered prize money for the first person or persons to reach the summit of Mount Blanc, Europe's tallest peak at 15,777 feet.

I suspect that it's been going on for much longer than that. Something tells me that for as long as there have been humans and mountains, humans have been climbing mountains. Not just for some "useful" purpose, but also for sport, for the challenge it poses, for no other reason—as one famous mountaineer put it—than "because it is there." Or rather, because we are here, down below, and we want to be someplace higher than here.

Consider the case of Moses. Granted, Mount Sinai was no Everest. Remember, however, that Moses was 80 years old at the time. Remember, also, that he was doing it on behalf of 600,000 people (600,000 Jews, that is, which means that he had to contend with 600,000 opinions on which route to take, what equipment to use, etc.; indeed, Moses had to build a fence around the mountain to hold them back from having a go at it themselves).

Now, you might say that Moses' climb wasn't just for the challenge, but for a specific purpose: to receive the Torah. Yet G‑d was coming down from the heavens—an infinite number of light years away. He certainly could have descended another few thousand feet, instead of making an octogenarian sage climb a mountainside. As, indeed, He could have programmed the Torah right into our brains, together with all the other stuff we're born knowing, instead of chiseling it into two stone tablets for us to study and decipher.

But G‑d was telling us: Yes, you are so far down below, and I am so high up, that you'll never get here on your own. The only way that there can be anything eternal, infinite or true in your lives is if I come down to you. But if I came all the way down, whatever I might give you will be meaningless to you — as meaningless to you as your own existence which, because you were born into it and did not struggle to achieve it, you are oblivious to it.

So, says G‑d, I am going to make these mountains. Mountains that will try your skills, that will consume every iota of your energy and determination. Mountains so high, that they will require a super-human effort on your part to attain their peaks.

And when you reach the summit, I'll be there waiting for you.