Considering the pretty obvious excitement, written in the Torah itself, that B'nai Yisra'el had about receiving the Torah, it seems contradictory that they would be sleeping on the day the Torah was given. We read about all the warnings not to touch the mountain, and the declaration of "Everything G-d tells us we will do." There is even another midrash that says that the Jews requested the message directly from G-d even though it was suggested that Moshe deliver the words to them, at first. It was only after they heard the voice that they were scared and requested Moshe to be the one to convey it to them.

So, from all this, how does the Midrash infer that they were sleeping and had to be awakened for the giving of the Torah?


2 Answers 2


It derives it from a Posuk in Shir HaShirim:

עַד שֶׁהַמֶּלֶךְ בִּמְסִבּוֹ נִרְדִּי נָתַן רֵיחוֹ

While the king was still at his table, my spikenard gave forth its fragrance.

Medresh Rabbah Shir HaShirim 55-56 elaborates that the implication is that when Hashem appeared, the Jews did something negative. One interpreation of the negativity is that they were sleeping. The Medrash specifically associates that with Exodus 19:16-17, which says that there was thunder and lighting in the morning - to wake them up, and Moshe got them out - that is he roused them.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the intention here is that they thought this was a preparation for Mattan Torah - which is why there was a miracle that the insects didn't bite and let them sleep. They thought they had to prepare by being more spiritual by escaping the physical world through sleep. [Although I haven't seen this anywhere, the fact that it was a good night to sleep, and that the insects were staying away shows the world to be more spiritually elevated - the world is in a state where it is a good time to sleep and escape the limitations of the physical.]

But in fact this was a mistake (ultimately undesirable) because the point of giving the Torah is that the world should be made holy, not that we should escape the world.

  • Very nice - I'm going to share this at one of my Yom Tov meals if I remember. May 28, 2014 at 23:24

The source is Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 41, which you can see here:

Rabbi Hanina said: In the third month the day is double the night, and the Israelites slept through two hours of the day, as sleep on the feast of Shavuot is pleasant, as the night is short. And Moses went forth and came to the camp of the Israelites, and he aroused them from their sleep, saying to them: "Get up! God desires to give you the Torah! Already the groom wishes to meet the bride and enter the marriage canopy (chuppah). The hour has come for giving you Torah!"

It seems that the agagdata is based on the fact that it happens to be that Shavuot-time has a very short night.

However, the message of a sleeping bride on her wedding day is a poignant one for many reasons. Maybe they really weren't ready... Or they weren't suitably excited... Or they didn't comprehend what was about to happen...

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