1. It Is Where G‑d Communicated the 10 Commandments
Mount Sinai is first mentioned by name in Exodus 19, where we read that the newly-emancipated People of Israel gathered around the mountain a month and a half after leaving Egypt. After three days of preparation, G‑d Himself descended upon the mountain and struck a deal with them: They would follow His ways, and He would care for them. At that time, the 10 Commandments were communicated as well.
Read: What Happened at Sinai?
2. The Tablets Were Hewn From Sinai
After the oral communication of the 10 Commandments, Moses ascended the mountain yet again and remained there for 40 days to learn from G‑d. At the end of this time, he was given two tablets of stone, etched with the 10 Commandments. Tragically, upon seeing that the people had begun to worship a golden calf in his absence, Moses smashed the tablets. After two more 40-day sessions on the mountain, Moses came down with a second set of tablets, with writing etched by G‑d onto stone that Moses had hewn from the mountain.
Read: What Did the Tablets Look Like?
3. The Entire Torah Was Communicated There
The entirety of the Torah, G‑d’s instruction for how His people are to live, was given to Moses at Sinai, down to the nitty-gritty agricultural laws and everything in between. In fact, oral traditions not recorded in the Torah are known as halachah le-Moshe mi-Sinai, “law [given] to Moses from Sinai.”
Read: Is It Really Torah, or Only From the Rabbis?
4. Moses Had Seen the Burning Bush There
Before Moses began the epic task of leading the people out of Egypt, he saw a thornbush that was burning but was not consumed by the fire. Speaking from “within” the bush, G‑d told him that he was to free the slaves and take them to “serve G‑d on this mountain.”1
Read: Moses and the Burning Bush
5. Its Rocks Are Etched With Thorns
The Hebrew word for “thornbush” is sneh, which is etymologically linked to Sinai. Indeed, Rabbi Moses of Narbonne (14th Century) attests:
“The stones found at Sinai have the image of the thornbush (sneh) on them. That is why it is called Sinai … This is a G‑dlly image. I have split the rock in half and found the image of the thornbush on either side. I broke one half into pieces, and the thorn was again found on the inside of both parts …”2
6. It Was a Humble Mountain
Linked to its association with the lowly thornbush, a beloved rabbinic tradition relates that when the time came for G‑d to reveal Himself upon a mountain, the various mountains began jostling for the position, each one claiming it was superior. Only Sinai, which was not remarkable in any way, remained silent. For this reason, humble Sinai was chosen, giving us the eternal lesson that humility is key to accepting G‑d and His wisdom.
Read: The Smallest of All the Mountains
7. It’s Also Called Horeb
At times Mount Sinai is also referred to as Mount Horeb. So which name is the real one? Rav Chisda ad Rabbah the son of Rav Huna taught that the real name was Horeb, and it was also called Sinai (related to sinah, “hatred”) because the events that happened there caused others to be jealous of the Chosen People. On the other hand Rabbi Abahu was of the opinion that Sinai was the actual name, and it was referred to as Horeb (related to chorvah, “destruction”) because the revelation at Sinai was the catalyst for the ultimate destruction of the idolaters.3
Read: Should Everyone Convert to Judaism?
8. Elijah Visited There
After the momentous events at Sinai, we read that G‑d issued the command: “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.Turn and journey…”4 From that moment on, the people never returned. However, we do read of a dramatic visit to the site by Elijah the Prophet, who was running from the evil Queen Jezebel. After Elijah tells G‑d about the people’s sorry spiritual state of affairs, G‑d showed him a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, followed by “a still small sound,” in which G‑d was found.5
G‑d’s message was that His eternal place is not in great noises and rumbling earthquakes. Rather, He can be found in our quiet, humble day-to-day actions. His message was clear: “You don’t belong here. Go back to the people and do your work!”
Read: Who Was Elijah the Prophet?
9. We Do Not Know Where It Is
Unlike the Temple Mount, which remains sacred even though the Holy Temple was destroyed, Mount Sinai did not retain its holiness. On the contrary, we find little importance attached to the location, to the point that it cannot even be pinpointed with relative certainty.
It has been suggested, in the spirit of the abovementioned story of Elijah, that there is good reason for this. We were never meant to remain at Sinai, artificially elevated by the shock of meeting G‑d. Rather, the purpose of Sinai is to take its dramatic spiritual energy jolt and focus it into our day-to-day lives here and now.
Read: Why Don’t The Rabbis Know Where Sinai Is?
Commentary to Guide to the Perplexed 1:65.
Talmud, Shabbat 89a.
I Kings 19.