Torah Musings: Waking Up is Hard to Do


Waking Up is Hard to Do

Sarah Pachter

I recently attended a class given by older rebbetzin who had raised six children, now grown. She described a scene from her younger years when her children spanned the ages of six months to 16 years old. Motzaei Shabbos, she would collapse into bed, dreading Sunday morning. There were few activities that would satisfy the various ages of her kids, and trying to get through a typical Sunday was overwhelming. When the birds let out their first chirp in the morning, she wished she could throw the covers back over her head and hide.

Hearing a renowned rebbetzin openly admit to these feelings was validating. In fact, as I read a version of this article to my husband, he asked, “Wait, are you talking about yourself here?”

We have all had days where we would rather stay under the covers. Some of us cannot confront the daily grind, while others are facing larger challenges. For simple and complicated time periods, here are some thought-provoking ideas to combat these hard-to-wake moments.

Our Unique Mission

One morning, I took my daughter to story time at the library, and the librarian thanked everyone for attending. He jovially told the crowd, “Give yourselves a round of applause! You got up, and you are dressed!”

We all laughed—and wondered if he was referring to the children or the parents—but how true!

Sometimes, simply waking up and getting out of the house is an accomplishment in itself! I have a student who suffers from debilitating depression, and there are days that she is still in bed at three in the afternoon.

How, then, can we achieve great things when the most simple of actions, waking, can be a challenge?

Rabbi Yaakov Cohen, an on-campus kiruv rabbi, was learning with with a college boy who was struggling to wake each morning. Despite various attempts, the boy could not find the emotional strength to get up and attend classes. Determined, Rabbi Cohen learned “Modeh Ani” with him, the prayer said upon awakening in the morning, which thanks G-d for returning our soul. He described that G-d believes in us and is rooting for us, as is explained by the term rabbah emunatecha, great is Your faith in us.

This seemed to give the young man the strength to wake the following morning, and he was able to attend his class.

Later that day, he called Rabbi Cohen, beaming through the telephone. “Rabbi! Today I witnessed a miracle! As I was about to walk to campus, I saw a young child, completely alone, walking straight towards a busy street. As he was about to walk into oncoming traffic, I scooped him up and brought him to safety back onto the sidewalk. Two minutes later, his babysitter caught up to us, and in tears, she thanked me.

“I realized that there was not a single other person walking around the sidewalk that day. Do you know what that means? If I had stayed in bed, no one would have been there to save this child’s life. Now I understand the truth of ‘Modeh Ani.’ Every day, Hashem gives us a gift of life because He believes we can accomplish something great that no one else can.”[1]

Marathon Goals

The best way to accomplish something great is by establishing goals that vary based on our circumstances.

Pahla Bowers, a fitness instructor who runs many marathons, described how she sets goals for her marathons. I initially assumed that meant she had three separate goals, such as a time goal, an energy goal, and an endurance goal. Yet, she actually created three different time goals.

She explained that depending on how the day starts, she creates tailored goals. For example, a marathon day where the weather is less than ideal, or she is exhausted, she sets a certain time goal. Then, on days where everything runs smoothly, and she has energy, her time goal is faster. Lastly, on days where the stars are aligned and she could not ask for better circumstances—good weather, great sleep, high energy—she has a third and even faster goal time in mind. This is what she calls her masterpiece marathon.[2]

This idea of varying goals can be applied to our everyday lives as well.

We can change our goals for the day based on our circumstances. We cannot and should not expect the same from ourselves when we are sick, overwhelmed, stressed out, or everything seems to go wrong the first five minutes of the day. Change your goals and expectations as needed, based on your conditions. This way, we can feel accomplished every day, regardless of how our day begins.

This Is Where I Am Supposed To Be

Years ago, a friend of mine shared a recording of a shiur by Shifra Rabinstein with me. Her words have stayed with me for over 15 years. Rebbetzin Rabinstein’s husband fell into a coma when she was four months pregnant with her third child. She gave birth to that child while her husband was still unconscious. She suffered the emotional pain of not sharing that momentous occasion with him, coupled with the physical and mental challenge of caring for four children, including a newborn, alone.

One night, she was awoken by her crying baby, who was inconsolable, even after being fed and changed. She tried rocking her baby to sleep, while crying in sorrow over the situation she faced.

Finally, the woman described:

I was so exhausted, I wanted to collapse. I was sad, and angry. I was feeling every emotion, but then it hit me.

This place, this situation, is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. This is where Hashem wants me to be.

So many times in life, we wonder, am I on the right path? Am I doing the will of Hashem? We may find ourselves in a situation that begs the question: What does Hashem want from me right now?

And I realized right then and there, as I was gently calming my baby, that this is exactly where Hashem wants me to be.

What greater joy than to know that you are doing the will of Hashem? That thought gave me strength to just get through one more night, and one more day. 

Most of us are not going through challenges as intense as this. But this concept of acceptance is crucial for our overall happiness and wellbeing.

There are many times in life where we are simply not in control. In these circumstances, it’s best to remind ourselves, This is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Here are some real-life examples:

  • You are waiting for your spouse to complete an errand, and it’s taking much longer than anticipated. Right now, this is where I am supposed to be.
  • You are waiting with your three-year-old at an after-school activity for your older child. The younger child is hysterically crying because she had an accident. After you remove her pants, you realize you don’t have a change of clothes with you. You want to join in her hysteria. Instead realize, this is where Hashem wants me right now.
  • You broke your foot, and your child’s wedding is the next week. As the pain shoots up your leg, think, this is where Hashem wants me.

It is precisely here, in this struggle, that I can grow. When we feel out of control, instead of succumbing to feelings of anger and resentment, think, What joy! Hashem is telling me what he wants from me.

If a woman whose husband was in a coma was able to reach levels of utmost happiness, despite her terrible circumstances, then surely we can, too, within our own challenges, large or small.

We can always choose to wake up and start a new day fresh. When we recognize our unique mission, set realistic goals, and realize Hashem has placed us right where he wants us to be, we can make any day a masterpiece marathon.


[1]Cohen, Rabbi Yaakov. Purim, The Secret to Happiness. [Video File] Retrived from URL:

[2] Bowers, Pahla. (2017, March 26 ). 10K (6.2 Miles) Indoor RUN [Video File]. Retrieved from URL: