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“Sleep is a Religious Act” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

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.

Shabbat Shalom!

  • Join us at 6:00 p.m. for Qabbalat Shabbat with guest speaker Rabbi Na’ama Dafni Kellen of Or Chadash Congregation in Haifa, Israel who will join Rabbi Suzie Jacobson for a conversation about the relationship between Israeli and American Jews. All are welcome to join this service full of prayer and music. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathersonlineat 5:00 p.m.
  • Join us for Torah Study at 9:00 a.m. Guest teacher Rabbi Na’ama Dafni Kellen will lead an in-depth reading of this week’s Torah portion. We begin with a short, informal morning service and then move into an engaging, welcoming and inclusive Torah study for everyone and anyone. To join the conversation interactively online, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Thank Goodness it’s Shabbat gathers at 10:00 a.m. onsite, followed by bagels and challah. No registration necessary. Contact Heidi Smith Hyde with questions
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with lay-led Havdalah on Zoom.
  • Join Us for Our Second Annual Concert featuring Cantor Alicia Stillman with Cantor Emeritus Roy Einhorn and many special guests Sunday, December 4 at 4:00 p.m. Registration required. $36 suggested donation to the Friends Annual Fund.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher