As parents of a growing family, a good nights sleep is mostly a thing of dreams, pun intended. There is always a diaper that needs changing, a midnight drink for a parched throat, and of course the occasional illness that needs soothing.
It is rare that the interruptions come from above. Literally, above my head. The other night, As I was beginning to dive deep into my REM portion of my sleep when the smoke alarms around the house started up. It didn’t stay on for long, so after a brief check of the house I didn’t think much of it. When it started again about 20 minutes later, and stayed on long enough to frighten everyone into my bedroom for an impromptu overnight family sleep out at the foot of my bed, I decided it is time to take this more seriously.
However, again after an exhaustive search of the house, even the attic I decided I need to call the Fire Department. Could be carbon monoxide, who knows.
After their ceremonious arrival, and their deduction that it was a faulty unit, finally, 4:30 everyone was back asleep.
Everyone, except for me that its.
I’ll muscle through the day, and there is always to tomorrow night, being my mantra. Another day in the life of…
What is about sleep that so consumes us? The insomnia medicine market is a billion Dollar industry. Why? The human body was designed to get more sleep than just a couple hours a night, and consecutive hour/s not piecemeal.
So you think I am complaining? OK, maybe a bit, but there is a point at the end of this rant. Doing many (odd) hours awakings, and wondering if I will be able to function on fumes the morning after, got me thinking.
We are one week away from Shavuot, (June 9th and 10th to be exact) and we will have many wonderful services and parties, but there is a tradition that the night leading into Shavuot, June 8th in the evening, to stay up all night, and study Torah.
The reason? To “fix up” for the Jews who welcomed the Torah at Sinai by…. Wait for it… yup, SLEEPING!
So I don’t get it, you want to get ready for the greatest event of your life, they were going to experience Gd as humans never had prior, you’ve just spent the past 49 days counting down to this magic moment and when the big day comes, where are they? Sleeping?!
Now, I get it, when you are tired, you don’t function at your 100% optimum. I know, I’ve dropped a couple balls of my own in the past few days, but basic decency would suggest being present and awake when Gd is coming to meet with you. And even if you are bit wonky from tiredness, you still should get out of bed and show up?
Chassidism teaches that the Jews were preparing for Sinai in the way that they thought would be best. They figured, that when you are awake, your soul is stuck in your body, your body is an inherently selfish machine (always trying to do what’s best for it), and so they’d transcend their physical bodies by being asleep.
More than that, the soul, when the body sleeps, ascends to more heavenly spheres, hangs out in higher worlds, gets cleansed and polished while sleeping. So, in their perception, the best way to prepare for the giving of the Torah, was to be at their highest possible “personal self” and thus they were asleep.
And thus, we stay awake to correct their error. They may have been correct in theory, however, life exist in reality, not theory. In reality, you need to show up, even if it is not in your optimum state. You still need to be there.
And while we might be tired the next day, we are at least making sure that we there, present, and we showed up. Half the challenge for most things in life, is just showing up. Tired and all, warts and all, you gotta show up!
So, to our sleeping child, who finally went to sleep, but left us unable to do so, we thank you for keeping us awake, three nights in a row. We will get our revenge when you tell us that your kids kept you up all night. We are very patient ppl.
However, to the serious point, sleeping is important, kabbalah talks about the power of dreams that happen while you sleep as being the disjointed thoughts of your day getting expunged from your body. So sleep is necessary both biologically as well as spiritually. However, there is incredible value in being awake.
When you are awake, you do things. And this, is what makes us humans. Flawed humans are greater than perfect angels. Flawed and physical humans, do things and can break out of their personal limitation, angels, while perfect and flawless, are stuck in one spot.
That was the ultimate mistake of the Jews at Sinai, and that is what we flawed humans can fix. It is particularly in our physical reality, our vulnerability where Gd resides, and it is there that we are both human, and awesome!
So, whether it is a sleepless child, or a broken smoke alarm keeping us from our dream sleep, remember, that While sleep is the fuel to help us conquer another day of life, the goal is the awake hours where you do the real conquering.
Blog 33/52 Picture Raizel Schusterman