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Why Do We Sleep?

Why Do We Sleep?

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Every day, many billions of man-hours are slept down the drain. If there are 6,000,000,000 human beings in the world, and each sleeps an average of 7.2 hours a night--well, you do the math. The bottom line is that slumbered time is probably our most wasted human resource.

Why do we spend 25% to 30% of our lives doing nothing? Why do we sleep?

Perhaps this seems a pointless question. Why sleep? Because our body demands it of us. Because that is how we are physiologically constructed--that we require so many hours of rest each day in order to function. But to the Jew, there are no pointless questions. If G‑d created us a certain way, there is a reason. If our active hours must always be preceded by what the Talmud calls the "minor death" of sleep, there is a lesson here, a truth that is fundamental to the nature of human achievement.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains: If we didn't sleep, there would be no tomorrow. Life would be a single, seamless today. Our every thought and deed would be an outgrowth of all our previous thoughts and deeds. There would be no new beginnings in our lives, for the very concept of a new beginning would be alien to us.

Sleep means that we have the capacity to not only improve but also transcend ourselves. To open a new chapter in life that is neither predicted nor enabled by what we did and were up until now. To free ourselves of yesterday's constraints and build a new, recreated self.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught that G‑d creates the world anew every millisecond of time. If we are His "partners in creation" (as the Talmud says we are), we should be able to do that too--at least once a day.

Wake up tomorrow--and start anew.

Based on the talks and writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson; rendered by Yanki Tauber.
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Anonymous toronto, canada January 18, 2011

Since we are partners in G-d's in creation, we should be able to start anew just as often as he wills every moment of our existence.

Why specifically the prolonged, unconscious state? Reply

Anthony Burman Cape Town, SA November 1, 2009

That is a nice answer but..it doesn't answer.( Nor does modern medicine easily answer the pain of life).
Sorry, the Question is still open. Reply

Yale glencoe, il October 8, 2009

Rhythms created by G-d for our survival exist in us, called "circadian". During these times hormones are increased, brain patterns slow down or change and bits and pieces of information are readjusted. The lack of sleep produces serious physiological changes.
Sleep is in every living thing as G-d created. So enjoy it as another gift and move on--it is a part of life nothing more or less. Reply

Anonymous cape town, south africa December 3, 2008

If you can't sleep, can the curse become a blessing?
Did Jaakov sleep while he served Laban? Reply

Herbert Schwarz, MD, FACS Santa Ana, CA October 25, 2008

The miracole of our "body" was created with the 7 hour required period to heal our broken parts, both spiritually and physiologically. Cells are replaced, damages are revitalized and our soul gets another opportunity to regroup. A brilliant product and gift we should cherish and take care of. Reply

chana August 7, 2007

modeh ani l'fanecha..... Reply

Eric S. Kingston August 5, 2007

Two points of thought:

1. The Rebbe said: "To a fool, that which cannot be explained cannot exist. The wise man knows that existence itself cannot be explained."

2. From the book Zhuangzi:
“Once upon a time,I, Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Then I awoke, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” Reply

pnina hobart , tasmania November 19, 2005

I just read the comment posted by Ken.
I connected with the last sentence about touching something spiritually.

This past Hoshanna Rabba night I had a dream in which I saw the Rebbe and received his blessing. How else could this have happened 'face-to-face' except in a dream?!

My sister told me of a saying in the Gemarra 'Ashre Mi she rou ponov ba halom.' Can anyone tell me the source where I can find this? Reply

pnina hobart, tasmania November 19, 2005

I read this article at 2am hoping to get some leads on getting a full night's sleep. Well, I didn't, but found it a meaningful way to fill in time. Next step is to turn off the computer and go back to bed. And perhaps skip my 'shabbos shluf' next week! Reply

ken sharon, ma October 30, 2005

I feel that there is something spiritual about sleep. It is a break from the constraints we feel in the physical world. In dreams, the bizarre can easily happen -- there are no limitations, no boundaries. And so much can happen in a dream in so little time. When we sleep, we seem to leave physicality behind and for brief moments touch something spiritually. Reply

nat Brooklyn, NY October 28, 2005

As to why so long sleep, some possible reasons:
1. So that we realize that even if we wasted a vast portion of life with spiritual sleep, we CAN still wake up to a new day and chapter in life.

2. It is a known fact that many Rabbis, actually average 2-3 hours of sleep per day. Maybe Hashem wanted to give us the oppurtunity to break our habits and be rewarded for it.

3. Our sages say that "sleep for the wicked, is good for them and good for the world".
Maybe god wanted to give some advantage to the good side, where great rabbis sleep less than 3 hours to bring light into the world, while the evil guys sleep.

Good Shabbos. (Mitzvah to sleep a little more on Shabbos!) Reply

jake riverhead, ny October 27, 2005

beautiful insight. however i am still scratching my head: why is it worth 'wasting' 30% (!) of a souls life span in this world - just for the sake of "beginning" oppurtunities? also- is that the reason why acccording to the jewish calender, the day begins at nightfall --implying the above thought? Reply

Jerome October 25, 2005

This is just one more outstanding reason why I love this site. Wonderful! Reply