Ma'amad Har Sinai

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  1. Nothing is Nearer than Him

    Haftarot: Yitro

    Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein

    God’s exaltation is beyond all measure; how then can He act within the confines of the world He created? God's transcendence stands in contradiction to His involvement in our material world. Yeshayahu’s message is that wherever we find a description of God’s exaltation, we also find a description of His providence.

  2. Moshe's Leadership and the Transition of Generations

    Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein

    One of the central dilemmas in Avodat Hashem is the constant tension between abstraction and illustration. This lesson discusses the implications of this tension in the second half of the book of Bemidbar, in light of the Red Heifer.

  3. The Eighth Day and the Sin of Nadav and Avihu

    Prof. Jonathan Grossman

    What was the sin of Nadav and Avihu? This article offers an explanation related to the status and function of the kohanim, and the standing of non-kohanim in relation to the Divine Presence.

  4. "When you bring the nation out of Egypt, you will serve God upon this mountain"

    Sharón Rimón

    Parashat Yitro describes the main component of the change Bnei Yisrael are meant to undergo while travelling through the desert. Bnei Yisrael arrive at Sinai - the place they had originally set out for in order to worship God, where they will experience God's revelation and become God's nation.

  5. Remembering Sinai

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    The threefold repetition of Ma’amad Har Sinai in Moshe’s speech stresses the centrality and complexity of that event. One central message is that Moshe is the facilitator in the transfer of the Torah to the nation. Both the Ramban and the Kuzari place Ma’amad Har Sinai as a central theological pillar.

  6. Eliyahu in Horev (Part 3)

    The Double Revelation of God's Angel to Eliyahu (Part 2)

    Rabbi Elchanan Samet

    Eliyahu flees from his mission and from his nation. Against his will, Eliyahu’s legs carry him to the wilderness, to the exact spot where the historical foundations of the nation lie – Mount Horev. Mount Horev is meant to remind Eliyahu of Israel's merit before God, for having accepted His Torah at this mountain and having entered into a covenant with Him. Does Eliyahu accept this lesson?

  7. The Waters of Sinai

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman

    Why does the Torah repeat the requirement to distance the nation from the mountain? Is this the first arrival of Bnei Yisrael at Sinai, or had they been there before, in the story of Massa u-Meriva? Why does the Torah parallel God's revelation at Sinai with the nation's previous request for water?

  8. Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush

    Rabbi David Fohrman |

    In this video, Rabbi Fohrman connects the Ten Commandments to the story of Moses and the Burning Bush, arguing that the text is certainly meant to hark back - but why? Want to see more videos like this? Check out

  9. The Dedication of the Mikdash

    Rabbi Alex Israel

    The Dedication of the Mikdash, the dedication of the Mishkan and Matan Torah at Sinai, the three foundational national events of collective revelation are linked together. This chapter raise several issues rearding the Mikdash:

    • The Mikdash as a place of prayer and a  conduit for all prayer, from near or far 
    • Is the Mikdash a place for God or a place for man?
    • The place of the non-Jew in the Mikdash

    The dedication concludes with God's promise that his sanctity dwelling in the Mikdash is conditional on keeping the Mitzvot. 

  10. Yitro: Standing in Awe

    Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish

    תאריך פרסום: תשס"ו | | 45 minutes

    Parashat Beshallah and Yitro share a rare feature: for both parshiyyot, some have the custom to stand during one of the aliyyot during the Torah reading. These sections, Song at the Sea and the Giving of the Torah, are two of the most significant in Moshe’s career and in the development of the people of Israel. Examining these stories together presents a picture of the Israelites’ transition into a permanent relationship with God.

  11. How to Divide the Ten Commandments

    Rabbi Alex Israel

    The Ten Commandments are maybe the best-known of all Jewish laws. They are perceived widely as a universal code of ethics. Within Judaism, they are one of the most prominent symbols of the faith. This article investigates certain aspects of this group of laws, namely, their unusual format and their unique message of the two different ways of approaching God. 

  12. Encountering God

    Rabbi Alex Israel

  13. Shavuot and Matan Torah

    Rabbi Menachem Leibtag

    Why does the Torah purposely obscure the date of Matan Torah (and therefore the date of the holiday of Shavuot)? By answering this question we can gain a deeper understanding of our relationship with Torah and the covenant with God - the essence of our daily existence. 

  14. Ramban on Yitro: Hearing God's Voice at Har Sinai

    Rabbi Ezra Bick | 36 minutes

    We examine Ramban’s comments on verse 9, wherein God tells Moshe that He will come in the “thickness of cloud” so that the people will hear God speaking to Moshe and believe in Moshe forever. What was the purpose of God speaking to Moshe in front of Bnei Yisrael? Why was it insufficient for Moshe to receive all of the Torah without Bnei Yisrael present?  And why was some content experienced this way, and not all? Experiencing a shared prophetic experience adds a meaningful dimension to the acceptance of the Torah and to the appreciation of prophecy.

  15. The Chariot and the Journeys of God's Glory

    Dr. Tova Ganzel

    At the beginning of his book, Yehezkel describes how "the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God." Chapter 1, described by Chazal as the "ma'aseh merkava" is one of the most difficult chapters to understand in all of Tanakh.

    This Divine vision, which appears at the very outset of the book, holds the key to understanding one of the central prophetic messages of the book. The recollection of this vision accompanies Yehezkel's prophecy throughout the rest of the book. In these visions, God's glory is borne in a chariot, which indicates motion. The upshot of all these visions is that God's glory has departed from the Temple.

    Even in Yehezkel's pre-Destruction prophecies the glory of God has already departed from the Temple and the Divine Presence is no longer within the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, during the six first years of Yehezkel's prophecy – from the time he began to prophesy until the destruction of the Temple – there is no call to the nation as a whole to mend its ways and to repent. The fate of Jerusalem has already been sealed; the Temple is defiled and desecrated, and the city will not be purified until God has poured out His wrath in its midst.

    Where is God's glory is to be found during the years of the Destruction? Does God's glory wander with the people to Babylon, or does it remain in the Land of Israel, outside Jerusalem, waiting for the people to return?

    Yehezkel emphasizes that even though this is the first time that God's glory has departed – indeed the Temple lies in ruins – nevertheless the same Divine vision will return and once again dwell in the future Temple. The nation need not fear that the departure of God's glory from the Temple means the departure of His glory from the nation.

    God’s Presence in the Temple cannot be assumed to be unconditional; God will not allow His Presence to dwell there if the nation causes the Temple to be defiled. But even though the nation refuses to accept the message of the prophets and fails to repent, even after the destruction of the Temple, God will never abandon His people.

  16. Remembering Sinai (Audio)

    Rabbi Yair Kahn | 13 minutes

    The threefold repetition of Ma’amad Har Sinai in Moshe’s speech stresses the centrality and complexity of that event. One central message is that Moshe is the facilitator in the transfer of the Torah to the nation. Both the Ramban and the Kuzari place Ma’amad Har Sinai as a central theological pillar.

  17. Recalling the Revelation at Sinai

    Rabbi Elchanan Samet

    In Parshat Va'etchanan Moshe mentions Ma'amad Har Sinai in three different places, and in each case it is mentioned as a subject in its own right, rather than incidentally. This raises the question: why is the great revelation mentioned three separate times in our parsha, with a distance of only a few verses in between them? Why is the discussion of the revelation not concentrated in one place in Moshe's speech? What is the purpose of all this commemoration, and in what context is it mentioned? By dividing the book of Devarim into separate units and analyzing the structure of Parshat Va'etchanan, we can learn about the intended goal of the mentions of the revelation - to elevate Israel and strengthen their faith in the validity of the covenant between them and God. 

  18. Remembrance of the Revelation at Mount Sinai in Moshe's Speech

    Rabbi Dr. Tamir Granot

    According to Moshe's speech in Parshat Va'etchanan, the primary significance of Ma'amad Har Sinai is God's direct revelation to Israel. However, the description of Ma'amad Har Sinai in Sefer Shemot focuses on Israel's belief in Moshe as a true prophet. By closely examining the two instances of revelation, one can see that the purpose of the speech in Devarim was to establish the faith for all generations even when individuals and the community as a whole do not experience a revelation as had occurred during the exodus from Egypt or at Mount Sinai. From here it follows that faith in the book of Devarim rests on the foundations of prophecy, memory, and story, and not on unmediated experience.

  19. God's Voice Speaking from Amidst the Fire

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    תאריך פרסום: תשע"ו | | 12 minutes

    What is the meaning of the central role of fire and sound in the three descriptions of the Revelation at Sinai in Sefer Devarim?

  20. Inseparable Pair

    Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

  21. Understanding the Shofar

    Rabbi Yehuda Rock

  22. Vayikra 16-20: From Sanctuary to Sanctity

    Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish | Hour and 12 minutes

    The book of Vayikra is best known for its lengthy discussion of ritual matters involving the Sanctuary, including the laws of sacrifices and of impurity. However, the latter part of the book has little to say on these matters, focusing instead on the ramifications of the Torah's injunction to "be holy". In this lecture we will examine the ways in which Chapters 16-20 of Vayikra serve as a bridge between these two topics. The issues discussed and their arrangement, as well as the use of keywords, verbal echoes, and imagery, serve to highlight both the differences and the interaction between sanctity focused on the Sanctuary and sanctity focused on everyday life.  

  23. Haste for Guests and at Sinai

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  24. The Legacy of Sinai

    Rabbi Yair Kahn |

    How does the Revelation at Sinai help us in our days? What aspect of the experience helps with faith? Why is it that God promises Moshe that through this event, Am Yisrael will believe in Moshe as prophet forever? In this shiur, we discuss two dialogues with Moshe that bracket the Ten Commandments, focusing on the account in Parashat Vaetchanan.


  25. Na'aseh Ve'nishma & Sefer Habrit: What Did We Know & When?

    Rabbi Moshe Shulman

    תאריך פרסום: תשעד | |

    Every year on Shavuot we talk about the significance of the fact that when Bnei Yisrael were offered the Torah, they said "Na'aseh venishma" - "we will do and we will listen." Why are we so enthralled by this, and are we really so enthralled by the acceptance of the Torah before even knowning what the Torah said?

     When did Bnei Yisrael make this declaration - before the Torah was given, afterward, or something else?  From where does the "gvura" of this declaration come from? And what does was the "Sefer haBrit" that came up in the Covenant of the Basins?


  26. Why Was Moshe's Leadership Necessary?

    Rabbi Meir Spiegelman

    What was the purpose of the Revelation at Sinai? Through a close analysis of the text we can understand the purpose of the Revelation - to confirm the truth of Moshe's prophecy before the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, when they would watch him actually meeting with God, and also to see whether the nation really wanted God to dwell amongst them. 

  27. Epilogue

    Rabbi Ezra Bick

    It seems as though the four commands that follow in the short section of the immediate epilogue to asseret hadibrot - idolatry, the earthen altar, the prohibition of cutting the stones of the stone altar, and the prohibition of stairs to ascend the altar - are introduced as somehow being engendered by "you have seen that I have spoken to you from the heaven." The question is - why? What is the connection between these verses and the experience of witnessing the revelation of Sinai?

    An exploration of these four commandments leads to a deeper understanding of their important addition to the experience of the Revelation at Sinai – highlighting both the opportunity and the responsibility brought about by the newly- formed relationship between God and the Jewish people. 

  28. The Covenant at Sinai

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman

    Why does the Torah embed the story of the "brit Sinai" within the story of the ascent of Moshe and the leadership? What is the thematic connection of the "brit" to the ascent of Moshe and the leadership onto the mountain and their respective visions and intimate interactions with God? The answer lies in some of the themes elucidated above. The Torah wishes to emphasize that the various forms and aspects of the spiritual quest - religious ecstasy, sacrifices, and ascending to God, on the one hand, and covenantal commitment to the word of God, on the other hand - constitute harmonious rather than conflicting categories. Each is somehow a necessary condition for and result of the other. The Torah knows of no conflict between law and spirituality, between celebrating the divine and seemingly dry legalism, between the encounter with God on a mountaintop and commitment to a code. The two categories fit neatly together in the text and in the experience of Bnei Yisrael. Together they comprise the rationale, purpose and culmination of the redemption from Egypt: a nation and its leaders serving God and celebrating His presence, fully and absolutely committed to His word.

  29. Doing and Hearing

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    One of the most famous phrases in the Torah makes its appearance in this week’s parsha. It has often been used to characterise Jewish faith as a whole. It consists of two words: na’aseh venishma, literally, “we will do and we will hear”. What does this mean and why does it matter?

    Through an examination of the text we learn about community and individuality, and the difference between na’aseh and nishma. We respond to God’s commands “with one voice”, yet we hear God’s presence in many ways- for though God is One, we are all different, and we encounter Him each in our own way.


    This article is part of the Covenant & Conversation series.

    To read more from Rabbi Sacks or to subscribe to his mailing list, please visit You can also follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

  30. Doing and Hearing (Audio)

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks | 9 minutes

    One of the most famous phrases in the Torah makes its appearance in this week’s parsha. It has often been used to characterise Jewish faith as a whole. It consists of two words: na’aseh venishma, literally, “we will do and we will hear”. What does this mean and why does it matter?

    Through an examination of the text we learn about community and individuality, and the difference between na’aseh and nishma. We respond to God’s commands “with one voice”, yet we hear God’s presence in many ways- for though God is One, we are all different, and we encounter Him each in our own way.

    To read more from Rabbi Sacks or to subscribe to his mailing list, please visit You can also follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

  31. Structure and Meaning in the Ten Commandments

    Rabbi Alex Israel | Hour and 11 minutes

    How many commandments are included in the Aseret Hadibrot? How can they be divided? An analysis of the structure of the Ten Commandments, as well as its comparison with Ancient Near East treaties allows us to gain deeper insights into the messages of the Ten Commandments and the meaning of a personal connection with God. 

  32. Master and Beloved

    Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

    On the one hand, the Torah is a book of commandments incumbent upon us, God's servants, to perform. Yet, on the other hand, there exists within this framework of commandments an emotional side, the experiential element in the service of God. Here it is possible to feel closeness to God, not as a master, but as a friend; not as a ruler, but as a groom and a beloved.

    Israel stood at a momentous event - thunder and lightning, the blasts of the shofar, the Almighty Himself speaking and commanding. With all this enveloping them, they must have felt uplifted to tremendous spiritual heights.

    But the greatness of Israel was that they knew how to be engrossed in the event, 'they would hear the command,' but they did not settle for hearing the voice alone. Israel also 'analyzed it' - using their intellect, they tried to understand and gain wisdom.

    It is this dialectic that forms the matrix of the relationship between the Jewish Nation and God, and between Israel and the Torah.


    Adapted from a Sicha given on Shavuot 5745 (1985) - summarized by Roni Kleinman, translated by Menachem Weinberg

  33. "Lest You Forget What You Have Seen"

    Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

    Beyond the power of the experience itself, the receiving of the Torah was also a crucial formative stage for the Jewish people, playing a central role in the very emergence of the Jewish people as a nation.  Moshe refers to the day of ma'amad Har Sinai as "Yom ha-kahal, the day of the assembly" (Devarim 9:10, 10:4, 18:16).  While this phrase could be taken to mean simply "a day on which the assembly was gathered together," it seems that in this context it means far more than that.  It was a day when the Jewish people grew into an assembly. 


    Based on a sicha by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein (Adapted by Rabbi Dov Karoll)

  34. Accepting the Torah – Then and Now

    Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

    In Parashat Yitro, in the preparations for receiving the Torah, we are told that Moshe came to the people and they all said, “All that God has said – we shall do” (19:8). In parashat Mishpatim, as they are about to enter into the covenant of the basins, we are told: “He took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people, and all the people said: All that God has spoken – we shall do and we shall obey” (24:7).

    We may ask what happened in between, and what brought about such a revolutionary change in such a short time that Bnei Yisrael were able to declare, “Na’aseh ve-nishma," rather than merely promising, “Na’aseh”? 

    What was added in Mishpatim, and what facilitated the transition from “na’aseh” to “na’aseh ve-nishma,” was threefold: first, the purely religious aspect of the revelation at Sinai, including its experiential and personal dimension; second – and no less important – the involvement in study and the deepening knowledge of Torah; and third, Torah experience and knowledge implemented on both the personal and societal levels.

    [Based on a Sicha by Harav Aharon Lichtenstein (summarized by Shaul Barth with Reuven Ziegler and translated by Kaeren Fish)]

  35. The Sound of Silence

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bamibar means, “In the desert.” What then is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God’s word?

    The desert is a place of silence. There is nothing visually to distract you, and there is no ambient noise to muffle sound. To be sure, when the Israelites received the Torah, there was thunder and lightening and the sound of a shofar. 

    The silence that counts, in Judaism, is thus a listening silence – and listening is the supreme religious art. Listening means making space for others to speak and be heard. 


    This article is part of the Covenant & Conversation series.

    To read more from Rabbi Sacks or to subscribe to his mailing list, please visit You can also follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

  36. When Were the 3 Days of Preparation for Matan Torah?

    Rabbi Yaakov Medan

    The date of the giving of the Torah is not stated explicitly in the Torah, and its connection with the festival of Shavuot requires some clarification.

  37. God's Descent unto Mt. Sinai

    Rabbi Avraham Shama

    Following the approach pioneered by Rav Mordechai Breuer, I would like two examine "shtei bechinot" (roughly meaning two aspects) in the Torah's description of God's descent on Mount Sinai (Shemot 19). If we examine the verses carefully, we will see that there are actually two accounts of this event, each containing different instructions to the Jewish People.

    The first account appears in verses 10-19 (the actual descent is described in verse 18); the second account is in verses 20-25 (the actual descent is described in verse 20). (It would help at this point to have a Tanakh open in front of you.) In the following shiur, I will try to distinguish between the two descriptions and their meanings, and then to try to explain the connection between the two descriptions.

  38. Moshe and the Giving of the Torah

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    Immediately prior to the Asseret Ha-dibbrot (Ten Commandments), an enigmatic dialogue is recorded (19:21-25).  God orders Moshe to warn the nation not to attempt to catch a glimpse of God.  Moshe argues that this is unnecessary, since Mt. Sinai was already placed out of limits to Am Yisrael (the Jewish People).  Nevertheless, God overrules Moshe and insists that the nation be warned.  Moshe complies and warns the people.  Suddenly, directly following this warning, while Moshe is still among the people, Am Yisrael experience revelation.  Some obvious questions arise.  Why did God insist on repeating the warning to the people? What is so significant about this strange debate that it is recorded in the Torah? Is there any connection between this warning or debate and the mass revelation that followed?


  39. To Whom Did God Speak at Sinai?

    Rabbi Yaakov Medan

    The Torah is ambiguous about the question of whether the Revelation at Mount Sinai was only to Moshe – "Lo, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you and believe you forever" (Shemot 19:9) – or to the entire people – "For on the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai" (Shemot 19:11).

    Another question arises as well: Did the glory of God reach the foot of the mountain, down to the Israelite camp – "And Mount Sinai smoked in every part, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke of it ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly" (Shemot 19:18) – or did God's glory rest only on the top of the mountain – "And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the Lord called Moshe up to the top of the mount; and Moshe went up" (Shemot 19:20)? Furthermore, if all the people stood at the foot of the mountain, to where did the priests ascend after the sweeping warning not to go up the mountain or even touch its perimeter?


    Translated by David Strauss

  40. And All the People Saw the Sounds

    Rabbi Itamar Eldar

    What does the Torah mean by the paradoxical statement that “all the people saw the sounds” at Sinai? We shall explore the writings of the Sefat Emet, Degel Machane Ephraim, R Yosef Gikatilla and the Nazir to understand the interplay between seeing and hearing, objective and subjective, humility and infinity.


    Translated by David Strauss

  41. The Teshuva Revolution

    Part 1

    Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky

    The events of Shivat Tzion are cyclical. Although three different sets of events are recorded in our sefer, each mirrors the others. The similarity dramatizes the striking parallel between the events of the early chapters of Ezra, in which the Jews are restored to their homes and engage in a religious revival by rebuilding the altar, and Nehemya’s repopulation and inspiring Torah reading. The details differ and some sixty years separate the two events, but the fundamental challenges of Shivat Tzion remain the same.

    Whereas Ezra was highly esteemed as a scholar and role model, his political acumen was no match for that of Nehemya. Throughout the events which until this point had emphasized matters of security, Ezra stood outside the limelight. Now that things have settled down considerably and Nehemya is finally ready to turn to religious matters, Ezra once again steps forward and plays a prominent role alongside his colleague.

    As we make our way through the Torah reading ceremony, it becomes clear that Ezra’s ritual is intended to recreate the Hakhel ceremony. Hakhel is a septennial recreation of the Revelation at Sinai. Thus, the Torah reading ceremony is a transformative event of Shivat Tzion, and even of Jewish history. It is evident that there was mass ignorance on the part of the remnant in Judea. Had Ezra not ascended from Babylonia, it is not at all self-evident that the Judean community would have ever learned the basics and recommitted themselves to a Torah-based lifestyle. The comparison to Sinai is thus certainly not an exaggeration.

  42. Parashat Shemot - Sneh and Sinai

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman | 30 minutes

    We will talk about story story of the sneh (the Burning Bush)- the first encounter between God, Moshe, and Bnei Yisrael and the beginning of Moshe’s Divine mission. It is a story of theophany at the sneh, but also the story of the recruitment of Moshe. Why does God choose Moshe? What special aspect of his charater makes him the right person for this mission?

    Moshe is the first one to ask this question. Many commentators look to the past (Chapter 2 of Exodus, for example). In this shiur, we will pursue something  a bit different. We will look at God’s response toanswer why Moshe is the one, and we will look for the significance of the parallels between the story of the sneh and the story of Bnei Yisrael at Sinai.

    Sinai is an expansion- a macrocosm of the event at the sneh.

  43. No Touching!

    Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky

  44. Studies in Parashat Yitro

    Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin Nun

    God's first words to Moshe after the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai describe and explain the comprehensive and revolutionary change in God's governance of Israel – transition from miraculous governance to governance by way of words.

  45. Structure

    Rabbi Dr. Yoel Bin Nun

    At first glance, Parashat Mishpatim appears to be a jumble of laws. In this shiur, we will attempt to uncover its underlying structure.

  46. Seeing the Torah as a Ripe Fruit

    Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky