Sleep is a funny concept. Why would G-d design a world whereby 6-8 hours of a day (if we’re lucky) are spent unconscious, unproductive, and perhaps slightly drooling? If Olam HaZeh is the world of action, then sleeps seems antithetical to the essence of our goal here.
There are probably many, profound Torah insights on the topic of sleep, delving into the elevated whereabouts of the soul during this time. But without getting too esoteric, sleep has a simple function – the opportunity to put the past behind us.
Can you imagine life being one long, continuous 876,000 hour day? Think about it. When we make a mistake, we’re able to say “Tomorrow is a new day. I’ll be better.” The you from yesterday stays with yesterday.
At the very core of the average day, Hashem endorses second chances. He puts us to sleep, detaching us from regretted misdeeds, letting us aspire to improvements with a clear conscience. And with G-d, we’re not confined to a single second chance. There are third and fourth and fifth chances…culminating in the epic chance we are given on Rosh Hashanah. Our job, then, is to latch onto this opportunity, to prepare for the big day as if our life depends on it – because it does.
It’s not that easy of course, since after all, there isn’t anything quite like the Rosh Hashanah experience in our physical realm. To be guilty and pardoned…as if it never happened at all? This opportunity is hard to relate to, which is why the sincere efforts of our communities are so inspiring.
Our emails are overflowing with Rosh Hashanah pledge cards and chessed notices. People are rallying to shiurim. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a yid in the heart of Jerusalem or the suburban outskirts of LA – opportunities for growth are at our fingertips.
Just a few weeks ago, over 30 people gathered for an Elul Yom Iyun learning event organized by Rabbi Nachi Klein, Rav of Young Israel of Northridge. It took place on a Sunday, and despite the catered lunch incentive, one might expect that our gorgeous L.A. weather and ongoing football season would take our interest elsewhere. But not so. It seems that the hidden message of the shofar is reverberating in our shuls, causing those “spiritually asleep to awaken…and remember our Creator,” (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva 3:4).
For the Northridge Community, a four-hour lecture series was a perfectly good way to spend a Sunday. With Rabbi Avi Stewart, Rabbi Yisrael Majeski, Rabbi Avraham Stulberger, and Rabbi Dovid Horowitz at the lead, the event delved into the essence of shofar, the power of forgiving, the opportunity of prayer, and overall how to come away this Rosh Hashanah with a strengthened relationship with Hashem. The turnout was inspiring – men, women, teens. Attendees came away uplifted, encouraged to evaluate their year, clarify their values, and formulate goals for the future.
It is important to note that as much as these individuals left with an inspiring message, they conveyed a powerful one as well. Their attendance testifies to the beauty of the Jewish people, their undying dedication to making spiritual strides. If we solely focused on introspecting into our failings, we would approach the King with less than half of the full picture. It is comforting, and crucial, to know that communities large and small are maintaining their dedication to growth and that spiritual sleep has not crept into our waking hours.
For although sleep has its function – as it introduces the promise of a new day – there is still much to do, and the clock is ticking. Every day is a fresh start, a clean slate, a second chance. May Hashem grant us all the strength and resolve to greet every day with as much enthusiasm as there is potential!