The Night Before They Overslept


God was ready and waiting. He was at Sinai ready to begin Revelation. People began to trickle toward the mountain, but there were no crowds gathering for the most momentous day in history. Where were the people? Why were they not waiting in lines for hours as they did for the iPad? They overslept. Moses had to run through the camp, much as the “Vekker,” or duly appointed ‘Waker’ did each morning in the Yeshiva dormitory; “Shtei uf! Shtei uf la’avoidas haBorei!” Wake up! Wake up for the service of the Creator!” It was bad enough to open my eyes and find my Rebbi standing over me an hour or two after morning prayers. I can’t even begin to imagine opening the door of my tent and finding Moses there pointing as his watch, “Nu! You’re late!” We try to repair those hours we kept God waiting by staying up all Shavuot night and studying Torah, but I’m still trying to figure out how could they all oversleep!

I usually do not sleep well the night before an important trip. My children have trouble falling asleep the night before a big test, especially their driving test to get a license. Few bar or bat mitzvah children sleep the night before their grand performance. I have even spent sleepless nights worried that I would not wake up in time for a flight only to doze off and then oversleep! My oversleeping did not indicate a lack of appreciation for the importance of the next morning.

I suspect that the reason everyone overslept on the morning of Revelation was that they were sleeping fitfully most of the night before: “What would it be like? Are we going to be standing outside all day in a huge crowd? Do I have to bring food for the kids? What if they misbehave? What shall I wear? How will my life change? I know I declared my intention to, “Na’aseh,” to do whatever God asks, but what will He ask? Moshe described how we will “Meet” God, what does that mean?”

A sleepless night is also an indication that the person understands that the next day will be different from anything he ever experienced. Did their oversleeping, especially after a sleepless night, not reflect their understanding of the importance of the next day? What was the big deal?

“And the entire people that was in the camp shuddered, Moses brought the people forth from the camp toward God.” Even after being unable to sleep the night before because of their nervous excitement, the people still did not wake up with a start and rush to find a cab to get to Sinai.  They shuddered. They were scared, too scared to rush to Sinai. They had been nervously waiting for three days, but when the actual moment arrived they were too scared to go to Revelation. The issue was not that they overslept! The issue was those first moments after Moshe banged on their doors to wake them. The question was, “What do you do when you realize that you have overslept an important appointment? Do you rush like a mad man or do you hesitate?

They hesitated. A part of them did not want to be there, although God, of Whom they were so frightened, was showing His love for them by arriving early and waiting. In those first moments after they woke with a start, they thought only of fear of God, not of His love for them.  We remain awake the entire night of Shavuot to show that we connect to God through love, without any fearful hesitation.
Shavuot is our opportunity to connect with God Who loves us, Who stands and waits for us, Who gave us a Torah of love, not fear. God waits on Shavuot with arms wide open to receive those willing to run into them with love and without hesitation.

I wish you a Shavuot filled with so much excitement for a Torah of love that you have to stay up the entire night surging with excitement.

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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