A great amount of emphasis is placed on the demarcation
boundaries that were set on Mount Sinai to ensure that none
of the people ascended the mountain to a higher point than
permitted. As part of their initial preparations, the Torah
warned the people (Shemos 19:12), "Guard yourself from
ascending the mountain or touching its edge."
As the time for Kabolas Hatorah drew nearer, Moshe was
again asked to go and warn the entire population that they
should, "surround the mountain and sanctify it."
By the time of the actual Kabolas Hatorah, Har Sinai
had four separate demarcation fences. The general public
stood at the foot of the mountain behind the lowest fence.
The Cohanim stood separately, further up. Aaron Hacohen stood
by himself even higher up, and Moshe Rabbenu stood at the
Each group was warned to stand in their allocated places and
not to climb higher. Each group had to "surround the
mountain" with a fence at their own level and thereby
"sanctify it." The Torah that they were about to receive was
Hashem's treasure, regarding which the Yidden were
instructed: "Asher Onochi metzave eschem hayom," to
view it as if there will be fresh Kabolas Hatorah
every single day.
Furthermore, the gemora in Shabbos tells us
that Hashem, to ensure that the Yidden accepted the Torah,
uprooted the mountain and placed it above their heads
— kegiggis — as if it were a barrel.
The Jewish Nation was previously praised for having
proclaimed Na'aseh Venishma, willingly accepting the
Torah. So why do they need to be pressured to accept it by
having a barrel threatening them overhead? What is the
connection between all these various details of Kabolas
Hatorah and what significance do they have to us?
The Chasam Sofer offers an interesting explanation as to why
the building of these fences was such an integral part of
Kabolas Hatorah and a prerequisite for it. Each
individual person, standing at Har Sinai, is commanded to
"surround the mountain and sanctify it."
How does one sanctify a mountain by surrounding it? The
Chasam Sofer points out that we can take the letters
Hei and Reish that make up the word Har
— mountain — and surround these two letters with
those that are adjacent to them in the Alef Beis
sequence. The letter Hei is surrounded by the
letters Daled and Vov, whilst the letter
Reish has the letters Kuf and Shin
adjacent to it. These four letters - - Kuf, Daled, Vov
and Shin — spell out the word Kodosh —
Thus, literally surrounding the letters of the word
har naturally produces the word kodosh, thereby
providing a literal explanation to this important requirement
to "surround the mountain in order to sanctify it." The
reason why the entire population had to surround the mountain
at Kabolas Hatorah was to produce this kedushoh
which is an essential requirement to receive the Holy
The Rokeach takes this theme one step further, and shows how
kedushoh is also literally an important prerequisite
for receiving and understanding the Torah. It is the four
letters that spell the word kedushoh, the letters
Kuf, Daled, Shin and Hei, that are followed in
the alphabetic progression of the Alef Beis with the
letters Reish, Hei, Tov and Vov — which
spell out the word Torah!
It is a remarkable fact that even by simply using the natural
sequence of the letters of the Alef Beis, we can
pictorially build up a `digital' picture of Kabolas
Hatorah. Surrounding the mountain, produces
kedushoh, which in turn progresses to the word
The parsha of Kedoshim is unique in that it was
said in the presence of the entire nation: "Dabeir el kol
adass Bnei Yisroel, Kedoshim tihiyu." Rashi, quoting from
the Toras Cohanim, explains this requirement by the
fact that "the majority of the essentials of the Torah
depends on it." As kedushoh is the pivotal point that
allowed us to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai and also an
essential requirement for its subsequent upkeep, what is this
kedushoh that is required, and how is it obtained?
The Ramban in his commentary to the Chumash points out
that kedushoh is obtained by practicing a degree of
self-restraint. For example, the Torah allows a person to eat
many things, but restricts him to kosher foods. But does that
permit a person to be a glutton, and to eat as much kosher
food as he wants?
Kedushoh is only obtained by exercising a measure of
self-restraint when partaking even of permissible foods. The
plate of cake might be your favorite, but kedushoh is
acquired by self-restraint. Enjoy some of it, but restrain
yourself and do not wipe the plate clean. Some might wait
entirely for Shabbos to eat it.
This self-restraint that limits our indulgence in worldly
pleasures is the essential requirement in order to attain
kedushoh that leads to our accepting the Torah. It is
applicable to all the mitzvos and therefore the fact that
"the majority of the Torah depends on kedushoh," is a
very appropriate statement. By exercising self-restraint on
permitted items, we build within ourselves a security fence
that will keep us away from the temptations of forbidden
foods. These fences act to safeguard and barricade us against
transgressing the actual Torah commandments.
These security fences have to be built by each individual
according to his personal likes and according to his
spiritual stature. The Chofetz Chaim, for example, never
partook of sweets and sugar candies. His measure of self-
restraint was so high that he was capable of doing this.
We, on the other hand, could not imagine a Simchas Torah
without sweets and candies. Our measure of self-restraint
would be to limit the number we eat each day. Self-restraint
can be practiced by every single person, each at his own
level, just like at Kabolas Hatorah itself where each
section of the population had its own fence to restrain
In order to accomplish this required measure of self-
restraint, one might simply decide to become a hermit and
live a life in seclusion. This is not what the Torah wants.
The parsha of Kedoshim was said to the entire
Jewish Nation, because we are meant to live and participate
in a social community and to mix with people. It is whilst
leading an integrated lifestyle that we have to exercise self-
restraint. The instructions for kedushoh were
therefore given to the entire community, when living a normal
The second chapter of Pirkei Ovos tells us the virtues
of each of the five talmidim of Rabban Yochonon Ben
Zakai. The mishnah then continues to assess them, so
as to determine which one was the greatest of the group. By
knowing this we can learn which of these virtues is the most
important one for us to emulate.
The first opinion states that Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos
would outweigh them all. However, Aba Shaul maintains that
all the sages, including Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos, would be
outweighed by the greatness of Rabbi Elozor Ben Aroch. His
virtue is described as ma'ayon hamisgabeir, an ever
strengthening spring, that would bubble over with new
explanations to the Torah.
The gemora in Shabbos (147:) tells us that
Rabbi Elozor Ben Aroch visited the spa situated in the
vicinity of Diumsis and enjoyed its spring waters. According
to his very high standard as the acknowledged godol
hador of his generation this enjoyment was considered an
overindulgence. As a result of this he forgot his learning to
such an extent that he even made mistakes in reading a
posuk in Chumash. The rabbonim had to daven
in order for him to regain his Torah knowledge.
Aba Shaul informs us that Rabbi Elozor Ben Aroch was
originally the greatest talmid chochom in his
generation, and that he outweighed all the others. However
after his degree of self-indulgence, he forgot his Torah
wisdom, as a result of which Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos
became the godol hador. The mishna is teaching
us that exercising self-restraint in worldly pleasures is an
essential ingredient of our understanding of Torah.
As the entire nation stood at Mount Sinai, they all looked
upwards towards the top of the mountain to participate and to
view the Revelation of Hashem at Kabolas Hatorah.
Above their heads they could also see the inverted
mountain as if it were a giggis, a barrel. A barrel
is a wooden vessel made to hold wine, that is made from
curved staves all held together by hoops that surround them.
Without the hoops, the walls of the barrel would fall apart
and the wine would spill out.
The hoops surround the barrel and have the same purpose as
the security fences that surrounded Har Sinai. The hoops
retain the wine inside the barrel in a way similar to the way
self-restraint secures our Torah knowledge. By practicing a
measure of self-restraint daily, we create new vessels that
will securely hold our fresh Kabolas Hatorah, every
single day of our lives.
Having stood at Har Sinai at Kabolas Hatorah, we all
had to exercise self-restraint and stand behind the allocated
security fence. After having received the Torah, we are able
to proudly proclaim: Torah Zivoh Lonu Moshe —
Moshe commanded us the Torah. The Rokeach points out that the
first Hebrew letters of these four words spells out the word
matzeles — to protect. It was the security fence
at Har Sinai that produces kedushoh and then Torah,
which then reciprocates to offer protection to those who
learn the Torah.
It is with this realization that we can appropriately
pronounce, Boruch shenosan Torah le'amo Yisroel
Bikedushoso — and thank Hashem for giving the
entire Jewish Nation the Torah through His kedushoh.
It is only through the sanctity of self-restraint that we are
able to secure the upkeep of the entire Torah and retain our