A Fanciful Journey – In Reverse
April 19, 2024
By Daniel Mink

Petra, in Jordan- the Nabatean’s trade route. Caverns and prayer nooks carved into the mountain faces. Long water troughs hollowed out of stone. An ancient settlement sustained by Ain Musa (Moses’ well). The journey North through the Jordanian desert was hot…very hot. Miriam’s well had dried up. Life, now, is all about quenching thirst. The Israelites are fahklempt, farblunged, fami’shed. They yell at Moses- they threaten him with death if he does not provide sustenance for them. Alright, alright, stop hockin’ mir a chinik, he says. You want water, God will provide water. Let me just talk to this rock over here…OK, maybe a little clop will persuade it. A Midrash explains that a little child needs to be hit occassionally by his Rebbe. Huh? (Which positive parenting Apikoros came up with that uncomfortable reasoning?) The explanation was that the child does not understand the necessity of learning, and therefore, must be spurred on in a manner he ‘understands’. Similarly, the first time water was needed from the rock, it was still ‘a little child’, so Moshe hit it!

2023- I was there. I stood at that rock. Our tour guide took us to the town of Wadi Musa, right next to a funky little hotel. There it was, Ain Musa, big as a VW Beetle, inside a dim room, next to an indoor stream. As I took a drink from my bottled water, I chuckled at the irony.

Let’s walk backwards, West, across Jordan, straight throught to the Negev Desert, just a bit above Eilat. “Then the Israelites set out from the desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until a cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran.”

1972- I was there. I was17, living and working with newly-discharged soldiers, in a ‘Nachal’ settlement, Moshav Faran, a transition to their future agricultural lives. One night, I guarded our small encampment (a couple hundred yards from the unfenced Jordanian border) with a full clip UZI submachine gun. Aaand…they took it back from me the next morning. Whew! Not too far from there is Har Yarkom, Jabal Ideid (the Mountain of Saffron), named for the color of the earth. On the basis that the Israelites traveled across the desert towards

Petra in a fairly straight line, a number of scholars have contemplated the possibility of this place being the biblical Mount Sinai. Umm-nah.

Let’s walk backwards, again, to the lower Sinai Peninsula. To Santa Katerina, the monastery at the confluence of three peaks; Mount Saint Catherine, Mount Serbal, and Mount Sinai. at the center of this monastery is a large bush, allegedly, THE bush-the burning bush.

1997- I was there. I wondered about the young Monk from Boston. What was he doing there? Running from the law? Needed some time away from family? Never did get my answer. My newly Bar Mitzvahed son and I were among the last visitors allowed to enter the inner chambers, and we stared, wide-eyed, at the mesh-fenced cubicles filled to the ceiling with skulls, tibias, fibulas, and humerus’s (and it wasn’t even funny) of hundreds of Monks who lived there (and apparently died, as well), over hundreds of years. Soon after we left, they closed those chambers to the public, forever. Was it something we said? At the summit of Mount Saint Catherine, there is a mosque, as well as a Greek Orthodox chapel, which encloses the rock considered to be the source of Moses’ tablets. At the summit, as well, is a cave where Moses waited to receive them (sort of G-d’s Green Room).

Bedouin tradition has made popular the notion that the Mountain of Moses, Mount Sinai, Har Sinai, Jabal Musa, Gabal Musa, Tooray Dsyny, Mons Sinai, Tur Sinin, Al Jabal (all names for the same peak in varied cultures, religions, and languages) is the site we are looking for. This natural formation lies at 28 degrees North Latitude, corresponding with Florida and Texas, which is why it is so hot.

1972- I was there. Taking a vacation trip with my host family’s Moshav. After pushing our ‘not-suited-for-desert-travel’ orange school bus through the sand numerous times (as it became mired repeatedly), night fell, and we finally arrived at our destination. We made camp for the night, blackness enveloping us. There is no light in the desert. None. Well, morning came, and as dawn broke over the horizon to the East, I exited my tent, looked up, and nearly toppled backwards…we were right at the base of Mount Sinai! For hours we climbed the 7500 foot high mountain, and hiked along its top ridge in silence. What was there to say?

Well, we’ve walked hundreds of miles together, and I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Happy Pesach, and Shabbat Shalom-


Daniel Mink is the President of Congregation Havurah.

A Fanciful Journey - In Reverse - Jewish Thought of the week 2022