And they stood under the mount R. Abdimi b. Hama b. Hasa said: This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like an cask, and said to them, 'If you accept the Torah, good; if not, here shall be your burial.' --- Shabbath 88A
My view is R. Abdimi was speaking literally, and meant the mountain had been picked up and used as a weapon to threaten the encamped people (picture a man holding a barrel from both ends over his head, as if he was about to throw it.)
As I told you yesterday, we have biblical verses which tell us God spoke from the mountain, and biblical verses which tell us He spoke from the heavens. Most midrashim try to have it both ways, and teach that either the heavens descended, or the mountain was lifted. The point, I believe, of R. Abdimi's teaching is to tell us why the mountain might have been lifted. Answer: To threaten the people.
If you're not Dag or Bray, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this interpretation of R. Abdimi .
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