- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 9, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings as we make our way toward Shabbat.
Sleep is a religious act.
We pray in our evening service “may we lie down in peace and rise up to life renewed. “ The ancients understood what modern science confirmed. Something important happens during rest. Our bodies engage in important work, as do our minds and souls. Sometimes what can’t be figured out in the conscious hours finds a response while we sleep.
In our Torah portion this week, Jacob has left his home, fleeing actually, from the threat of death by his angry brother, Esau, whose blessing he has stolen. In a hurry, he rushes off only to stop for the night at a certain place to sleep.
This will prove to be a moment of profound transformation. He has left behind a childhood of subterfuge, of negotiation of a birthright and blessing that did not belong to him. He maneuvered and manipulated. And now, in this moment, with darkness descending, he sleeps only to dream. There is a ladder, a kind of pathway toward a different awareness reaching both toward heaven and earth. Angels ascend and descend but it is the image of God right beside him where he discovers that God would be with him.
He awakes with a newfound discovery of himself and the divine. He sees that which he could not perceive before. It brings him a sense of awe. Aviva Zornberg in her book, Genesis The Beginning of Desire points out that in this moment, “there is a profound intimation here about the dynamics of sleep, about loss of consciousness and the possible gifts of unconsciousness, about knowing and dreaming.” (page 190)
Sleep, in the Torah, provides insight to life.
Jacob will go forward from this moment. He will continue to struggle but he will carry with him a different kind of wisdom with which to encounter his challenges. After his dreaming, he recognizes holy opportunities are present for him.
May each of us lie down in peace on this Shabbat and rise up to life renewed. Sleep, like Shabbat, is a blessing.
I look forward to greeting you tonight at 6 p.m. as we welcome our dear colleague and friend, Rabbi Aaron Panken, our Burstein scholar in residence. Rabbi Panken is President of Hebrew Union College. He will also be leading Torah study on Saturday morning and an afternoon session that ends with Havdalah.
I truly welcome your comments, reflections and thoughts. Connect with me here.