God Suspended Mount Sinai over the Jews

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

“The Holy One, blessed be He, suspended the mountain over them, and said, ‘If you accept the Torah, then it will be well with you, but if not, here will be your burial site’” (Mechilta DeRabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 19:17).

If this was a literal event, certainly, Moses would have mentioned this when he recounts Revelation at Sinai in Deuteronomy. Not only would Moses recall the “voice from amidst flames” that the Jews heard, but certainly he would have recalled the suspended mountain.

If it was true that God’s threat of dropping the mountain was the cause of the Jews’ acceptance of Torah, Moses would not need to offer the Jews a choice later on where he says “choose life” (Deut. 30:19) for they had already made a choice.

If God actually suspended the mountain over the heads of the Jews, does this not conflict with God's creation of human free will, that man chooses Torah without coercion? What then is the purpose of human intellect and free will, if God coerces man?

If the coercion of a mountain dropping on the Jew’s heads was actuality, why does the Torah not include this in the curses of the Jews abandon Torah? Instead of threatening Jews with diseases and exile, God should have threatened Jews with a mountain dropping on their heads.

Both Maimonides (intro to the Guide) and his son Abraham (intro to Ain Yaakov) teach that midrashim are not literal. 

Esther 9:27 states “They rose up and accepted” which the Rabbis say means that the Jews reaccepted the Torah, now out of love, in contrast to the coerced acceptance at Sinai. Seeing how Mordechai and Esther orchestrated an intelligent plan and achieved success through God’s intervention, the Jews marveled and rejoiced at the expression of two righteous and intelligent Jews who worked with God’s system of wisdom to achieve salvation. They were enthralled with God’s Torah, a system of wisdom, and a system of divine providence over those whom follow God's wisdom.

The Jews at Sinai could no longer deny God’s existence. They heard intelligence emanating from fire, the one element in which no biological organism can survive. Thus, the sound they heard was an intelligence not of this world. This phenomenon is what Moses related 8 times to the Jews 40 years after that event before his dearth. Moses highlighted the one element of Revelation at Sinai, the irrefutable proof of God and His will for mankind. It was so compelling, it was as if God held the mountain over their heads.