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Devarim 11:29 says:

וְהָיָה, כִּי יְבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ--וְנָתַתָּה אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה עַל-הַר גְּרִזִים, וְאֶת-הַקְּלָלָה עַל-הַר עֵיבָל.

And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt set the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.

Why was Mt. Gerizim chosen for blessing and Mt. Ebal for curses? It seems like it could just have easily been the reverse. When telling us which mountains to use, the Torah doesn't give a reason why one mountain should be chosen for blessing, and the other one for curses. It would seem that there must be a reason why.

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I believe the reasons are found in Yehoshua, when the event actually takes places, but I'm not certain. I vaguely remember something about the right side and the left side. –  avi Sep 18 '11 at 7:31
    
I haven't looked them up, but see footnote 7 - theyeshiva.net/Article/View/99/… : See Shalah Parshas Reah and Or Hatorah Parshas Reah pp. 678-680 for an explanations of the names of these two mountains and their connection to blessing and curse. –  Menachem Sep 7 '12 at 21:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Ramban (to Deut. 11:29) suggests that Mt. Gerizim is to the south and Mt. Eival to the north (which indeed is geographically true - presumably he had the chance to verify this firsthand when he moved to the Land of Israel at the end of his life), and in biblical geography the north is often identified with evil (as in Jer. 1:14).

(Furthermore, throughout Tanach directions are given relative to the east, making south the right and north the left; and again, the right is seen as the side of goodness and the left as the opposite - see Eccles. 10:2.)

Another interesting possibility is that when you're standing in the valley between the two mountains, looking towards Mt. Gerizim puts you also facing Jerusalem, while looking towards Mt. Eival places your back towards Jerusalem. Perhaps, then, it was also meant as a veiled message that Hashem's blessings come when we make Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash the center of our aspirations, and the opposite when we abandon them, as sadly all six tribes standing on Mt. Eival - plus three of those on Gerizim - ended up doing?

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Is Ramban the source for the entire first paragraph, or just its first clause (until the parenthetical remark)? –  msh210 Sep 18 '11 at 20:40
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@msh210: everything outside of the parentheses in the first paragraph is from Ramban. The comment about him verifying that firsthand is my own assumption. –  Alex Sep 18 '11 at 22:12

Besides that Har Grizim is to the south and Har Eival to the north, Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsh says something to the effect that:

Har Grizim was located on the south side, next to Shechem. It had stunning landscaping, beautifully grown grass and many types of foods grew on it; it was full and prosperous with an abundance of flora. On the other hand, Har Aival was located adjacent to that, towards the northern side of Ephraim’s portion. It was empty and barren. Nothing grew on this mountain and it seemed to be void of any plant life. These two mountains, which stood side by side, presented the most striking visualization of beracha and klala. They are both being nourished by the same soil, the same water and the same wind. Yet, Har Aival was barren of all shrubbery while Har Grizim was full of lush vegetation, all the way up the mountain. We see that beracha and klala are not dependent on external appearances; they lie within a person’s heart. Brocha and Klala lie within a person’s craving and interest in the Ribono Shel Olam.

Indeed, based on an image in Wikipedia, we can see that Har Gerizim is lush with grass. And in contrast, Wikipedia says about Har Eival that it is composed primarily of limestone.

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just curious, do you have a link to the primary source, instead of just a blog post? –  Menachem Oct 10 '11 at 4:44

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