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    I need a sleep – Vayyetzei

    Jacob sleeps, by José de Ribera, 1639

    Jacob needed a sleep. The day had been long and difficult. He couldn’t keep going any longer.

    However, when he woke up he felt uneasy. Because of his dream of the Divine angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven he realised that he had inadvertently chosen to lie down in a holy place.

    According to the Talmud, God Himself had ordained that that was where the young man should spend the night (Chullin 91b). Jacob himself did not know this and could only say, “Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16).

    The implication is that a holy spot is not the place to fall asleep. But why not? Don’t we see people having a doze in shule? How many people say they like sermons because it gives them a chance for a snooze?

    Rav Moshe Feinstein explains Jacob’s predicament like this. In a holy place one might think that the only way to serve God is by prayer and Torah study. Sleeping can hardly be considered a religious act.

    All very well, but human beings have physical as well as spiritual and intellectual needs, and sleeping is one of them.

    The question is why a person goes to sleep. Is it just to serve the body – or can it serve the soul too?

    If one has the determination to spend his or her life in the service of God, sleep can help to make it possible.

    It enables us to fulfil the opening requirement of the Code of Jewish Law, to strengthen ourselves like a lion to rise in the morning to the service of the Creator.

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