Monday, December 04, 2006

The Mysterious Stones of Mount Sinai

There's an idea floating around the Orthodox world (and maybe even wider) that stones from Mount Sinai are unique and were branded by God with internal engravings of bush-like shapes in memory of the incident of the burning bush that allegedly took place there.

This site had (see update) explained the idea quite well:

"The Mysterious Rocks from Mount Sinai: No matter how you split a rock from Mount Sinai, you will see on all sides mysterious engravings of a bush. I've witnessed this personally and can testify that it's true. (this is a unique phenomena in the world) I once heard an explanation in the name of a Midrash: When G-d sent Moses to Egypt to report to the Jews about the redemption and then to come back to Mount Sinai, Moses asked G-d: 'how will I be sure which mountain to return to?' (since at first, G-d spoke to Moses only from Mount Sinai). G-d made a miracle and all the rocks from Mount Sinai became engraved with the 'burning bush'."

Then it follows with a series of images of broken stones that allegedly came from Mount Sinai, here are a couple if you're too lazy to go to the site yourself.


[Pictures removed from site.]


I don't know if that midrash is real or not, but it looks pretty impressive, eh?


Anyhow, I did some research and it turns out that that these types of mineral fomations are not uncommon at all. What happens is that usually some kind other mineral like iron oxide or manganese oxide sets into the cracks of the stones and gives this dendritic appearance.

"A crystal dendrite is a crystal that develops with a typical multi-branching tree-like form. Dendritic crystal growth is very common and illustrated by snowflake formation and frost patterns on a window. Dendritic crystallization forms a natural fractal pattern...

In paleontology, dendritic mineral crystal forms are often mistaken for fossils. These pseudofossils form as naturally occurring fissures in the rock are filled by percolating mineral solutions. They form when water rich inmanganese and iron flows along fractures and bedding planes between layers of limestone and other rock types, depositing dendritic crystals as the solution flows through."

-From Wikipedia


I found some pictures on the web and I wanted to post them here, but for whatever reason Blogger is giving me issues so I'll just link to them and let you check 'em out yourself.

Here, if you scroll down about a third of the way down the page you'll see three pictures with this caption written underneath: "[Dendritic (like tree branches): quartz with black manganese dioxide crystal inclusions, sandstone matrix with iron oxide dendritic crystals on surface, dendritic native copper crytals]."

Here too, if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll see another three pictures with this written underneath: "[Dendritic agates and a dendritic sandstone piece]."

And here's a good picture of a dendritic agate from North India.

Here's a good blog post written by a geologist on dendritic formations in general.


So, as they say on MythBusters, this myth is Busted!


Update: The webmaster of the above linked website has acknowledged the error (see comments) and has removed the page from his site.

32 comments:

B. Spinoza said...

I still believe

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me how inbred superstition is. After 3000 years of Torah that has toiled in eradicating superstition it is still mainstream.

Taking a Midrash literally is pure idiocy and falls under the rubric of "Dvar Hashem Bazah".

Jonathan said...

Interesting. It does not surprise me that people have interpreted these features in the rocks as a reflection of divine intervention. They are rather unusual and they do look like branching plants. Such things demand explanation but, millenia ago, absence of chemical analysis equipment and laboratory facilities for experimentation on crystal growth would have made this difficult. The noted similarity with plants is already a step in the right direction as regards interpretation of these structures since the branching crystal structures grow in the same way that plants grow.

Orthoprax said...

David,

"Taking a Midrash literally is pure idiocy and falls under the rubric of "Dvar Hashem Bazah"."

Do you know if it is, in fact, a real Midrash? Some of these things can pop up from nowhere.


Jonathan,

I suppose, but there are a couple questions. One is if this is actually an old midrash - and hence if we are actually dealing with ideas from millenia ago - I suspect not. Secondly, why did they think the rocks came from _the_ Mount Sinai? I thought the exact location was unknown.

Jonathan said...

Ah, ye of little faith... :-)

There is a website here which seems to indicate that it is possble to find such rocks while on a touristic walking tour of Mount Sinai. There is even a photo of a group of people in a quarry who are apparently looking at these structures with eye lenses that they are holding close to their faces.

Orthoprax said...

Jonathan,

Yes, I'm familiar with such tours. I even know there is a monastery by what some believe is _the_ Mount Sinai. I do not believe that any of this is acknowledged as reliable by Jewish authorities.

Some people think they've also successfully identified Mt. Ararat and the Garden of Eden. I remain skeptical.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

This is the first time I heard of this in my life. I would say I didn't believe you, if not for the site you linked to.

Orthoprax said...

Mississippi Fred,

I had heard this once before in real life but I didn't think of it until I came onto that site. It's not so well known but it is not an uncommon idea.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
i'm the webmaster of dafyomireview.com

thanks for shedding light on this matter. i had seen the rocks from a friend who got them from mt. sinai
he told me the so-called "midrash" and i didn't do enough research.

would have appreciated if u contacted me first before posting this to the world and embarassing me publicly..

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

I apologize if I embarrassed you, but I just have a track record of getting bad reactions when I tell people stuff like this.

Though since you have taken that page down I don't think it would be so out of place for you to put up a new page explaining the error and to keep superstition from spreading.

Anonymous said...

dafyomireview webmaster responds:
you're right. it's a good idea to publicize the mistaken belief.

there are alot of false stories circulating out there. I once said a story to a friend and then heard it a few years later from someone else as if he knew for sure it was true.

zige zunt

webmaster of dafyomireview said...

the original pics can be viewed/downloaded at:
http://dafyomireview.com/advisor-images/_chorev/
(no funny pics)

Anonymous said...

orthoprax,
such naresheit...jeez, these people....no one knows where mt sinai is. the mountain now called sinai (with the monestery at its foot) is definitely not. there are many theories. one intriguing one is it mount karkon (led by archaeologist emanuel anati of italy) in the southern negev where intruiging rock art loaded with relevant symbols. at any rate these findings date to 1000 years before (the supposed) yetziat mitzraim which was supposed to have happened in 1250 BCE or so.
nyapikores.blogspot.com

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buy Cialis said...

man this is real? because if you are speak with the true, maybe you help me to advance in my own investigations about sacred objects, allegedly the presence of God leave a incredible energy, soo powerful that the only fact of be in presence of that energy can pulverize you, remember the covenant ark, what there in it?

birdylocks said...

I just saw one of these stones at someone's shabbat table who said looking at it strengthens his emunah. I think there is something beautiful in that. We loose something when we fail to be able to relate our individual and collective experiences to something higher and see transcendence in this world by degrading spiritual aspirations as simply "untrue."

Chayim B. Alevsky said...

I just came upon this site while actually looking for the stone with the image - that I heard came from Sinai etc.
I did not research whether or not there is a Midrash about this or where the source is from.
I'm very surprised at the notion that this cannot be true because there is a chemical/scientific explanation for the images etc. - and they may even be found elsewhere.
How is that even a trace of a hint of a contradiction to the belief?
G-d runs the world in a natural way - and IF this is true - then G-d arranged for the minerals to form as such.
I'm totally confused - and concerned that this fundamental understanding of how G-d runs the world - through nature - is being ignored - and leading seemingly sensible people to illogical conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Chayim,

The point is that there is in fact no correlation between these dendritic patterns and any particular historical event or particular place. The idea that God made these in commemoration of Sinai is merely a fabrication.

-Orthoprax

Chayim B. Alevsky said...

B"H
Once again.
No one can "prove" that these patterned stones were not made in commemoration of Sinai...
The point is there is no way to disprove a belief (as this one), so why try?
If you believe it - fine, if not, let those who believe enjoy their belief.

Anonymous said...

Chayim,

Sure, people can believe all sorts of silly things for no reason at all. But why are you defending irrationality?

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Servando Montalvo said...

I have a rock that I brought from Mount Sinai in 1999. I am not superstitious but the same way G-d provided the rainbow as a covenant and sign for Noah maybe those rocks are there to remind us. I am sorry to say I have not displayed my rock in a proper place and right now I am willing to sell it.

Anash Pupa said...

Hi,
To bust this myth it must be proven the following:

the dendritic shape of the Mt. Sinai stones are equal to other dendritic patterns in India and California. - the fact is: Only in the Mt. Sinai stone examples are the stones split to micro meters and still retain the dendritic form.

No other place on earth shares this phenomena!

I've seen stones from many different mountains, no one behaves as the Mt. Sinai stones.

Dr. Curtis Ward said...

It is not mandatory that these stones be a geographically or a radiation unique caused phenomenon. Since the omnipotent, omnipresent God fills all nature it is not impossible that he could have caused dendrite crystals formations by filling minute fissures in the rocks with mineral solutions such as iron or manganese.

The burst of great light from the bush or the quaking of the mountain could have produced fissures and the later rainstorms recorded in scripture could have filled them.

A rainbow is meteorological phenomenon that is caused by both reflection and refraction of light in water droplets but it is still it is still a miracle and a scriptural promise created by God.

Dr. Curtis Ward said...

It is not mandatory that these stones be a geographically or a radiation unique caused phenomenon. Since the omnipotent, omnipresent God fills all nature it is not impossible that he could have caused dendrite crystals formations by filling minute fissures in the rocks with mineral solutions such as iron or manganese.

The burst of great light from the bush or the quaking of the mountain could have produced fissures and the later rainstorms recorded in scripture could have filled them.

A rainbow is meteorological phenomenon that is caused by both reflection and refraction of light in water droplets but it is still it is still a miracle and a scriptural promise created by God.

Dr. Curtis Ward said...

Please check out my article at: http://curtisdward.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/the-true-biblical-mount-sinai-jebel-musa/

Dr. Curtis Ward said...

The Jewish Midrash says the rocks would be engraved as a sign. Other candidates which alleges to be Mount Sinai have no such sign engraved in their stones. It would stand to reason the midrash is saying, "Don’t search in India or any other ridiculous places in the world for Mount Sinai . . . look in the Sinai Peninsula and then look for the autograph God put on it. Local Beduins maintain no such autograph appears in any other mountain in the peninsula. No other mountain stones behave as Mount Sinai stones.

Usman Khan said...

Great!

Mr. Cosmos said...

I can't understand why othoprax can't understand the point made by Chayim alevsky which I am thankful for.
Just because I can explain 'scientifically' how your image can appear on the paper of a photograph does not mean that it is no longer your photograph. It is exactly the same simple logic.

chaim warshaw said...

I always wondered how the "bushes" were made; thank you for shedding light in this area.

chaim warshaw said...

I always wondered how the "bushes" were made; thank you for shedding light in this area.

Dominic John said...

Yes it is 100% true because I went to mount sinai and got that stone and when I got it from there the image of the brushes were light as I got it home and it gets it darker darker day by day,such a miracle. It is definitely engraved by GOD. It is such a wonder that the burning brushes are engraved on it!! So amazed by this!!