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The Gift from the Desert

Everyone knows where the Giving of the Torah took place: At Mount Sinai, of course. But where is Mount Sinai? Nobody is exactly sure. Researchers and archeologists point to a number of different mountains as the Biblical Mount Sinai. In truth, however, it is not important for us to know where precisely the Torah was given.

The Torah itself emphasizes that Mount Sinai did not retain its sanctity after the Torah was given: “When the ram’s horn sounds long, they may ascend the mountain.”[1] When the thunder and lightning, the fire, the cloud and the fog dissipated, anybody could once again ascend the mountain. According to Jewish law, there is no special sanctity to Mount Sinai after the Giving of the Torah. This is in stark contrast to the Temple Mount, where it is of utmost importance to know the precise location of every detail so as to avoid entering into the holy parameters of the Mount – even today, when there is no Holy Temple on the site.

There are other places where memorials of the significant events that took place there were erected, such as the large stones that Joshua placed at the Gilgal. Not so Mount Sinai – there is nothing there. After the momentous event that took place at the Mount, the desert dust covered it once again and it returned to anonymity.

The desert is a desolate place. It doesn’t belong to settled lands –a location that is outside any place. This is where the Torah inherently belongs. It is a “gift from the desert.”[2]

Universal Torah

What this means is that Torah does not belong to a specific location. Location is an example of limits, of physical boundaries. The Torah, however, is above the borders of countries and political entities. It is above the limitations of this world. That is why it is revealed outside the lands settled by humans.

Doesn’t the Torah belong to the Land of Israel? Obviously, there is an inherent connection between the Torah and the Land of Israel. There is something about the Torah, however, that is beyond the borders of the Land of Israel. We received the Torah in the desert and then went to apply it in the Land of Israel. The Torah was given to the Nation of Israel, but there is something in it that belongs to every person in the world as in the words of the sages, “If the Torah had been given in the Land of Israel, they would say to the nations of the world, ‘you have no part in it.’ Therefore it was given in the desert, a desolate place, in order to say, ‘Whoever wants to receive it may come and receive it!”[3]

Non-Localized Particles

As the Torah does not belong to a specific place, we too, to a certain extent must transcend limitations to acquire its deepest meaning. To merit receiving the Torah, we must go out into the desert. We need to live with a free soul and a mentality that is not bound to a particular location. True, I live and conduct myself in a particular place – that is my personal mission and this is how life should generally be lived. I feel at home, however, in every place in the world. My fellow Jews throughout the world are my brothers and every human being at all ends of the earth concerns me. There is no place without Torah.

A scientific concept provides a deeper understanding of this idea. Modern physics has discovered the “non-localized phenomenon,” which designates a situation in which two particles, at two ends of the universe, act in perfect coordination with each other. What this means is that they are communicating at a speed greater than the speed of light, which is the maximum speed at which information can pass. On the one hand, each particle is in a specific place. Simultaneously, however, it is connected with another location altogether in the universe. This phenomenon (discovered but not fully understood by scientists) is a wondrous scientific allegory for the Torah, which is above nature. Actually, each of us is a non-local particle. We stand at Mount Sinai, outside any borders, and receive the Torah from God.


[1] Exodus 19:13.

[2] Numbers 21:19.

[3] Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael Yitro 1.

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