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THE STONE AND THE BUSH / האבן והסנה

רפאל ישפה and RAPHAEL JOSPE
Cathedra: For the History of Eretz Israel and Its Yishuv / קתדרה: לתולדות ארץ ישראל ויישובה
חוברת‎ 48 (תמוז תשמ"ח / יוני 1988), pp. 3-8
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23401321
Page Count: 6
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THE STONE AND THE BUSH / האבן והסנה
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Abstract

Hebrew texts as early as the fourteenth century describe stones, purportedly from the biblical Mount Sinai, containing an image of the burning bush. According to these reports, the image of the bush remained whole, however often the stone was divided. This wondrous account was first found in Moses of Narbonne's commentary to Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, was repeated by Samuel ibn Seneh Ẓarẓa and others, and was recorded as recently as the nineteenth century in the travel book of Jacob Ha-Levi Saphir of Jerusalem. What kind of stone could these scholars and visitors to Sinai have seen? The solution appears to be the stone known in Hebrew as 'manganese flowers', namely, manganese dendrites (from the Greek dendron, tree). These are found in various areas, including Sinai, and are especially prevalent in the vicinity of Jebel Musa, traditionally identified with Mount Sinai. The manganese oxide crystallizes in a regular or geometric pattern, amazingly resembling vegetable forms, such as trees or branches. Since these deposits crystallize throughout the stone, when the stone is broken into pieces, the pattern is visible on each fragment.

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