Shavuot: Supplementary Questions

1. Shavuot Customs

Flowers and greenery:
It is customary to decorate the synagogue with flowers and greenery for Shavuot, "because the Torah was given on a green mountain."

Another explanation is that Moshe was born on the 7th of Adar and hidden by his mother from Pharaoh's slaves for three months, after which she placed him in a basket and hid him in the rushes. This occured on the 7th of Sivan. In commemoration of the miracle of Moshe being saved, it has become traditional to decorate the synagogue with greenery.

In Oriental communities, there is also a custom of serving children who have not yet learned to read with honey delicacies in the form of Hebrew letters, so that "he will sense the sweetness of the Torah."

2. The Location of Mount Sinai

  • Jewish tradition retains no details of the accurate geographical location of Mt. Sinai, as opposed to that of the Mt Moriah. According to the description in the Tanach, Mt Sinai is to be found in the Sinai peninsula, but outside Eretz Yisrael. In all probability, the difference is connected to the designation ofMt. Moriah as a holy mountain, for the future the Temple, while there was not to be a custom of pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai*.

The absence of any definite tradition in this respect has led to claims that any of 16 mountains in the region are Sinai; one being that is not even in the Sinai, but in the Arabian peninsula. The most widespread Christian tradition attributes Mt. Sinai to Mt. Jebl Mussa in the southern Sinai. Jebl Mussa stands 2285 meters above sea level.

  • There is a relatedTalmudic story, centered on the fact that Mt. Sinai was known not to have been very high:
    All the mountains of the world began to quarrel over the prestige of becoming the place where the Almighty would descend to give the Torah to the people of Israel. The Creator, however, chose a modest, lower mountain - Sinai -, as the Book of Isaiah relates, "I shall be present over the high and over the lowly." [57,15]

From the Torah description of the events, many western scholars developed a theory that Mt. Sinai was volcanic and that a volcanic explosion took place at the time. One even published a lengthy tome
entitled, "Mt. Sinai - the Volcano" [Beck, 1878]. He retracted this theory, however, after a journey to the Sinai peninsula, upon finding that there are no volcanoes in the region, whatsoever.

  • Another unknown mountain location is the resting place of Moshe Rabbeinu, our Leader Moses - for the express purpose of preventing pilgrimage to that location that might resemble worship.





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19 Mar 2007 / 29 Adar 5767 0