Where is Mount Sinai located?

Question: As a Noahide, I’m wondering if it is it known where the original Mount Sinai was located, where G-d spoke the Ten Commandments to the entire Israelite nation on the 6th of Sivan?

Answer

The Hebrew text of the Torah describes how Israelites proceeded to Mount Sinai after they passed through the Yam Suf (the “Sea of Reeds”, commonly referred to in English as the “Red Sea”). There are different opinions among the Sages about where and how the splitting of the sea occurred. This leads to differences of opinion about the location of Mount Sinai. The Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly indicated the opinion that he favored, in a map that was drawn according to his instructions.

Rambam’s opinion

In Rambam’s commentary on Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), mishnah 5:3, he explains the “ten miracles [that] were performed for our ancestors [the Israelites] in Egypt and ten at the Sea.” In his words, “The fifth [miracle at the sea] is that it split into [twelve] paths, one for each of the tribes, [in the shape of] semi-circles within semi-circles.” According to this opinion, the Yam Suf was not separating between Egypt and Mount Sinai. Rather, G-d led the Israelites along the shore of the Yam Suf, and they entered the sea and exited from it on the same side of the water. The only purpose of the semi-circular detour through the sea was so that the pursuing Egyptian army would be drowned there (and for the miraculous revelations which that entailed).

In modern geography, the Red Sea is the name given to the sea that is west of Saudi Arabia. At its northern tip, it has two extensions: the Gulf of Suez to the northwest (between Egypt and Sinai), and the Gulf of Aqaba to the northeast (between Sinai and Saudi Arabia). Some of the Sages had the opinion that the Yam Suf was at the northern edge of the Gulf of Suez. Some had the opinion that it was the part of the Mediterranean Sea that is located along the northern shore of Sinai (as the Rebbe specified for that map). Interestingly, in the map specified by the Rebbe and labeled in English, the water along the northern shore of Sinai is labeled as the “Red Sea”. It places the semi-circular splitting of the sea on the coast there, just to the east of the Nile River Delta.

The Rebbe and the map drawn by Michel Schwartz

A story is told by the artist Michel Schwartz who was commissioned to draw the illustrations for the book “Our People,” Volume 1. It was first published in 1946 under the oversight of the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe (before he became Rebbe). The Rebbe gave him instructions on how to draw the map of the “probable route of the Children of Israel from Rameses in Egypt to the Promised Land during their forty years’ wandering in the desert.” Michel’s story and the map he draw are included on a web page about his work: CLICK HERE

A large, clear picture of that map is published in the back of the book Our People: History of the Jews, Volume 1. The locations of several of the major landmarks from Goshen to Canaan are shown on this satellite view of the region as the Rebbe had specified:

Rebbe's map of Israelite's journey

Landmarks indicated on a satellite view, based on a map of the Israelite’s 40-year journey through the desert. It was drawn per the Rebbe’s instructions and published in “Our People,” Vol. 1.

This opinion about the location of Mount Sinai fits well with the tradition that it was a “small mountain”, with a flat area around it that was able to contain the Israelites’ encampment of at least 3 million people.

A landscape in the north of the Sinai desert.

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