Parshas Lech Lecho opens with HaKodosh Boruch
commanding Avrom: "Go out from your country"
12:1). Bereishis Rabbah (39:1) explains, "This can be
to someone who, while passing from one place to another, saw
burning. He said, `Can it be that this building has no
The building's owner looked out at him and said: `I am the
"Likewise, once Avrohom Ovinu said, `Can it be that this
world is without a ruler?' HaKodosh Boruch Hu looked
him and said, `The world belongs to Me.' "
"Hashem therefore instructed Avrohom Ovinu, `Go out from
your country . . .' so as to leave his land and his father's
and go and make His Divine Presence known throughout the
(following the Eitz Yosef).
The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avodas Kochovim
writes: "From the time [Avrohom] was weaned, although he was
young, he began meditating day and night. He wondered how it
that this world would continue endlessly without a leader.
it? It was impossible that it conducted itself without some
guiding it or telling it what to do. . . . He reflected until
the true way and understood the course of justice . . . At
old Avrohom realized that there is a Creator."
We see that Avrohom Ovinu a'h was stimulated to
the Creator's existence through wondering about how perfect
world is. He looked around him and saw that the world
a flawless, perpetual arrangement, and the self-evident
"Who is the building's owner?" We can infer from Chazal that
Avrohom's ability to ponder the world and his keen amazement
it is what made Avrohom great. Indeed, why is the creation's
uniformity not as obvious to us as it was to Avrohom
The following statement of astonishment about our not sensing
Hashem's miraculous rule of the world is generally considered
been uttered by the Alter of Kelm zt'l, a
R' Yisroel Salanter. Humans see a perfect world around them
creatures living in it and possessing just what they need for
existence. Everyone knows that nothing happens by itself, and
expects to attain something he lacks without doing something
it. Why does a person not ask who created this entire superb
Why are people not simply staggered when they see the world's
and intricate arrangement? Is it not a marvel that this order
with such regularity, that time and again it repeats itself?
because we are so accustomed to these amazing sights that we
ask any questions?
It is possible that the answer to the Alter's question is
men are totally engrossed in their daily routine and are
in life's vanities. Habit leads to indifference and taking
for granted. A person may be alive and functioning, while all
time his heart is fast asleep. His spirit is dozing and is in
of idiocy," as the Midrash defines it. Such a slumber
the worst there can be.
"Rav said that there are three types of slumber
a slumber of sleep, a slumber of prophecy, and a slumber of
. . . Rabbonon add a slumber of folly" (Bereishis
We will explain the different types of slumber by starting
with the lowest type.
The Ibn Ezra (Bereishis 2:21) explains that slumber is
more than sleeping (sheinoh) and sleeping is more than
(tenumoh). Yonoson Ben Uziel translates
a deep sleep. The least and the shortest discontinuance of
functioning is a light nap, deeper is sleeping, and
slumbering. The first category of tardeimoh is also a
of sleep -- an exceptionally deep sleep:
"Elokim caused a deep sleep (tardeimoh) to fall upon
the man, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs"
2:21). With this tardeimoh, HaKodosh Boruch Hu caused
Horishon to slumber while He created Chava. Odom was put to
so he would not feel pain when one of his ribs was being
so that he would not see Chava until her creation was
tardeimoh can be compared to a sort of medical
(See Rashi, the Ramban, and the Seforno, on this
The second type of tardeimoh is a "slumber of
"The sun was going down and a deep sleep fell upon Avrom, and
lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him"
This tardeimoh was cast on Avrohom Ovinu at the
bein habesorim (Bereishis ch. 15) "to subdue the
functions so that [Avrohom] could sense prophecy" (the
of the Maharazu on Bereishis Rabbah, ch. 17).
A tardeimoh of hibernation is the third type. Let us
this scenario: Shaul and Avner Ben Ner, the king's chief army
led three thousand soldiers in search of Dovid in the Zif
Nightfall forced them to discontinue their chase, and they
camp for the night. Meanwhile Dovid and Avishai secretly
"Behold Shaul lay sleeping within the barricade and his spear
was stuck in the ground at his head, and Avner and the people
round about him. Then said Avishai to Dovid, `Elokim has
your enemy into your hand this day; now therefore let me
through to the earth with the spear at one blow, and I will
to strike him a second time.' And Dovid said to Avishai,
him not . . ..' So Dovid took the spear and the jar of water
Shaul's head and they went away, and no man saw it or knew it
for they were all asleep, because a tardeimoh from
fallen upon them" (I Shmuel 26:7, 12).
This was a time when Shaul's camp should naturally have been
at the peak of caution. All of their senses should have been
They were in the midst of pursuing an opponent of the king
also exposed to danger from all of the desert wildlife. Even
noise should have made them jump to action. Instead we see
were all sound asleep, contrary to a person's inherent
protect himself. Although this was a most threatening
and his camp were paralyzed, totally immobilized. They were
forest animals hibernating during the winter, sleeping as if
The fourth type of tardeimoh is the most intense --
"a slumber of folly."
"For Hashem has poured out upon you the spirit of
and has closed your eyes, you prophets, and has covered your
you seers. And the vision of all this is become to you as the
of a sealed book, which men deliver to one that is learned,
`Please read this,' and he says, `I cannot, for it is
the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying,
read this,' and he says, `I am not learned.' And Hashem said,
this people draw near, and with their mouth and with their
honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their
towards Me is as a commandment of men learned by rote;
behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this
marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise men
perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be
According to the Metzudos Dovid, the novi is
a lack of desire to understand things that they could very
understood. Instead of trying to understand them, the people
trifling excuses, such as the matter being a "sealed book"
or the message being unclear. If they had really wanted, they
have opened the "sealed book" and read it, or requested the
novi to explain it to them. Their laziness and
were a result of HaKodosh Boruch Hu's "pouring upon
a feeling that confused them and made them feel as if they
the midst of a slumber. Hashem closed their eyes so that they
be unable even to see something that everyone saw, since
someone comes to be metamei himself Hashem opens the
him" (Shabbos 104a). Furthermore, Hashem decided to
a covering over a covering, a seal over a seal" (Rashi,
until the wisdom and understanding of the wise became
and even their wise behavior would not help them escape the
This is a stupor, a lack of sound reasoning, a total lack of
understanding, an insensitivity, a loss of discernment, an
to analyze what is happening. People are wide awake but
are fast asleep. They are as if spiritually dead; their
has ceased functioning. They are engulfed in the vanities of
with daily burdens ruling over them that determine how they
Men drown in an ocean of trivial matters and nonsense and do
in lifting themselves out, in picking up their heads, taking
breathing a little, thinking farther than the daily span of
How do we escape this endless routine? How
someone break his habits and rouse himself from his deep
does the heart of today's busy and overburdened man finally
to learn, to reflect about his environment the way Avrohom
to feel the creation's beauty, its wisdom and sophistication,
wonderful design? How does he awaken to take interest, to
and to ultimately discover the truth?
The answer is waiting in the commentaries of the
on the following pesukim:
"Only take heed to yourself and guard your soul diligently,
lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and
depart from your heart all the days of your life; but teach
sons, and your sons' sons -- the day that you stood before
Elokim at Choreiv, when Hashem said to me, `Gather Me the
together, and I will make them hear My words, that they may
to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth
they may teach their children.' And you came near and stood
the mountain and the mountain burned with fire to the heart
with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And Hashem spoke
out of the midst of the fire -- you heard the sound of the
but saw no form, only a voice" (Devorim 4:9-12).
"And these words which I command you this day, shall be in
your heart" (Devorim 6:6).
"This day Hashem your Elokim has commanded you to
do these statutes and judgments. You shall therefore keep and
with all your heart and with all your soul" (Devorim
"And Moshe and the Kohanim the Levites spoke to all Yisroel,
saying, `Take heed and hearken, O Yisroel, this day you have
the people of Hashem your Elokim. You shall therefore
to the voice of Hashem your Elokim and do His
and His statutes which I command you this day"
The Ramban writes that HaKodosh Boruch Hu distinctly
us to remember receiving the Torah and mitzvos on Mt. Sinai,
to forget even the minute details of that revelation: its
flaming torches, the mountain burning with fire to the heart
the darkness, clouds, Hashem speaking to us out from the
the fire, and our hearing a voice but not seeing any form. We
His honor and greatness, heard His voice, feared being
the enormous fire and dying if we continue to hear the voice
This was a prominent event, an awe-inspiring occurrence
unheard of in man's history. Nowhere on earth had anything
previously happened. Never before had a nation sensed
glory. These powerful impressions must be well preserved in a
personal, familial, and national memory, and should be
from one generation to the other forever. Hashem did this to
us that we must eternally fear Him. Forgetting the revelation
Sinai is a lo sa'aseh ("lest you forget") and letting
our future offspring know of it is an aseih ("teach
to your sons").
The reason we received the Torah from the Almighty in this
way and not from Moshe Rabbenu, is so that if a false prophet
some day deny the momentous event of our receiving the Torah
Sinai, everyone would know he lied. Fathers conveyed to their
that Hashem gave us the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and the sons
believed what their parents told them, since parents will not
to their children something not true, as the Ramban
4:9) writes: "[parents] do not testify falsely to their
The children in turn continue, in an unending chain, to
tradition to their own children as the solid truth.
"Only take heed to yourself and guard your soul diligently"
(Devorim 4:9). Rabbenu Bechaye comments that if you
and remove that wondrous milestone of kabolas HaTorah
your heart, it will cause you in the end to deny Hashem's
-- destruction for a person's body and nefesh.
He writes, "`This day' (Devorim 26:16) -- what
is the meaning of the phrase `this day'? Moshe Rabbenu
talking to am Yisroel forty years after our receiving
on Mt. Sinai! Chazal (Midrash Tanchuma Ki Sovo 3)
`every day the Torah should be as dear to you as if you today
it from Sinai,' and concerning the parsha of Shema
Chazal (Pesikta Zutresa, ibid.) write, `It should be
new for you, as if you had today received it on Mt.
"Generations go by and man's heart is influenced by what
he sees with his eyes. What he sees he remembers and what is
from him he forgets. Since the miracles at Mt. Sinai did not
on forever, the Torah warned us that our emunah in
HaTorah should forever remain fixed in our hearts.
"It may be that the reason the posuk starts `this day'
and ends `with all your soul,' is to show us that a person
sacrifice himself for mitzvos at all times, just as when we
received the Torah. Just as he would have been willing to
himself for Hashem on that day, when he saw with his own eyes
miracles and the fire on the mountaintop, so should he always
to be moseir nefesh."
"Listen Yisroel" (Devorim 27:9). The Seforno explains
(ibid.) that this means that we should depict for
what happened when we received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, then
reflect about it, and then we will undoubtedly listen to what
has commanded us.
"That I command You today" (Devorim 6:6). Rashi
explains that you should not consider these things a king's
from a long time ago, something that was once sent to you in
something that people do not attach much importance to. The
should be like something new that everyone runs out to
The Sifrei (11:32 cited in Rashi, Devorim
explains the posuk "And it shall come to pass if you
diligently to My commandments which I command you this day"
meaning that "it should be as if new for you, as if you heard
it the same day."
From the commentary of Rabbenu Bechaye it is obvious that it
is insufficient merely to depict what we saw and heard on Mt.
It is necessary for each person to be prepared for mesiras
just like our forefathers, who were moseir nefesh to
the Torah and mitzvos.
"I have set Hashem always before me" (Tehillim
16:8) is a feeling that was felt by all of Klal
Hashem revealed Himself to us on Mt. Sinai. During that
occurrence we all sensed the power of His greatness, we
His honor and heard His voice.
When they were "ready by the third day" (Shemos
19:11) their clothing was washed, both men and animals were
to ascend the mountain or even touch its edges, the whole
on a level of nevu'ah and truly fitting for Hashem to
to them "face to face" (Devorim 5:4).
The Kuzari (Ma'amar 1:87) writes, ". . . during the
three days before receiving the Torah [bnei Yisroel]
with great signs, such as noises, lightning, and thunder, and
encompassing Mount Sinai. These fearfully shrill noises,
before, were intended to purify their bodies and shatter
There was a fire burning within the darkness, and owing to
and fright anything physical disintegrated.
"On the third day in the morning there was a clamor, thunder,
and a dense cloud on the mountain. The sound of the
was powerful and all nations were petrified. [Bnei
stood at the mountain's bottom ready to do what Moshe had
them. The mountain was dislodged from its place and was held
them like a barrel. There was complete silence: no bird cried
no ox lowed, and the whole mountain was consumed in flames
heart of heaven. The shofar's sound increased in
afterwards Hashem descended onto Mt. Sinai, to the mountain's
Hashem uttered all of the asoro dibros in one sound,
this sound was added Divine lettering engraved on the
six hundred thousand Jews saw this miraculous writing. They
all this, trembled, and stood far away. Mal'achei
and helped bring them back. [Bnei Yisroel] asked Moshe
to them alone instead of Hashem, lest they die."
Only such a genuinely stormy experience can fill one's whole
heart. Habit and petty things lose their importance and
their proper place. Man is left attentive, realistic, and
rouse himself and reflect on what is happening. He can take
in his surroundings, and examine things just as Avrohom Ovinu
Man can now reach the unavoidable conclusion and reveal the
The personal revelation to Avrohom Ovinu, and the revelation
to six hundred thousand of his children more than four
later, can happen to every Jew, whenever and wherever, since
is always a "building that is burning." Today too, if a
preserves the magnificent true vision of receiving the Torah
it happened today -- if he searches for the owner of the
-- He will immediately look out at him.
A Note About the Author
The above mussar vort perfectly suits its author: this
was the sum and substance of HaRav Alter Yitzchok Dershowitz
One of his most characteristic qualities was his ardent
constantly review what he had studied. Tirelessly,
and again, he would reexamine what he had studied. Torah
always new for him, just like the day it was given on Mt.
was as if he had studied this matter just now for the first
like a new command that had just arrived from the king. He
of enthusiasm to reopen the daf he had studied
Every time afresh.
When many were tired out, satisfied with what they knew, and
had decided to proceed, to study another topic, R' Alter
to start the same sugya again, to reopen the old
that was known to him so well, that he was acquainted with
was cherished by him. He would feel with his entire being the
and longing to study that page, as if it was an entirely new
He was always beginning again from the start: this was his
also his siyum, and in fact his very essence. He was a
made all of "Go out" -- "for your benefit and your
good," in your way, untiring, in the way that ascends to the
HaRav Alter Yitzchok Dershowitz zt'l, whose
on 27 Tishrei, was the founder of the beis midrash in
Brak which is now called Zecher Yitzchok in his memory.