As every word used in Torah is specific, when is the word Sinai vs Horeb used. What is the significance/meaning for when one vs the other is used? Could the gematria for each word provide some insight? Thank you in advance for any help with this question.

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    Hi Bayla and welcome to Mi Yodeya! You might be interested in our tour which will give you some insight into how this site works. Thank you for such an interesting question - and I wonder if it can be expanded to include all of the mountain’s other names as well.
    – DonielF
    Jul 30, 2018 at 1:12
  • Hi DonielF, thank you so much for your welcome. Yes, of course it could include the other names (I believe 8 in total). I saw an article on ohr.edu that had simple explanation from Mishnah of the meanings of the words (ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/167/Q1), but I am wondering about those 2 names specifically. What did Hashem want to teach us in his specific use of those 2 names? Thank you and Shavua Tov!
    – Bayla
    Jul 30, 2018 at 2:10
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    @Bayla I found the commentary from R. Abbahu; "Why Horeb and not Mt. Sinai? Because desolation (hurbah) to idolaters descended thereon. " Sorry I don't have a link but I found this two weeks ago while studying Parsha Devarim. Jul 30, 2018 at 17:15
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    I found the link, it was a previous question linked here judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/61477/… Jul 30, 2018 at 17:31
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    B A Malinowski, I saw this question and explanation. Just wondering if anyone is familiar enough to explain the specific places in Torah and why one vs the other is used in that particular place. Would those particular spots that they use the word Horev have any root/significance/spiritual implication to idol worship?? Anybody else have any insight please.
    – Bayla
    Jul 30, 2018 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


The Ramban in Shmos 19:1 says:

והיה ראוי ג''כ שיאמר ויסעו מרפידים ויחנו במדבר סיני, אבל כתב ויבאו מדבר סיני, לומר כי מיד שבאו אל מדבר סיני חנו במדבר בראותם ההר מנגד, ולא המתינו עד שיכנסו בו אל מקום טוב לחנות שם, אבל חנו במדבר או בחורב שהוא מקום חורב שממה לפני ההר. וזה טעם ויחנו במדבר ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר:‏

In brief: The entire area was known as Sinai with a luscious Mt. Sinai in its center, but around the mountain was a barren area named Horeb (which means destroyed).

For some reason, the Israelites decide to encamp in Horeb and not advance all the way to Mt. Sinai.

So to answer your question: They are not interchangeable; they refer to different places in the same area.


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