Among the many festivals assigned to the final days of December and the first days of January, one of the newest and, perhaps, the most logical, is the anonymous designation of January 3rd as the “Festival of Sleep.” Coming after two weeks of days off, holiday parties, long lines and altered schedules, most people could use some extra sleep.
It is obvious that sleep is a necessity for one’s body, as it is the time during which one physically recharges. And yet, the Talmud refers to sleep as being one-sixtieth* of death (Brachot 57b). The Jewish concept of death is that it is the ultimate separation of the soul from the body. When the body ceases to function, the soul continues on to the next world. During sleep, the ability to control one’s body is lessened and part of the soul has the ability to enter, for a short time, the spiritual realm. This is one of the reasons for the morning prayer Modeh Ani (I thank You for restoring my soul) that is recited immediately upon waking.
It is interesting to note that Shabbat is referred to as being like one-sixtieth* of the world to come (Brachot 57b).
Shabbat is known as Yom Menucha, the day of rest. For many, Shabbat is an opportunity to catch up on the sleep missed during the busy work week. Without question, sleep – a Shabbat nap – is considered part of oneg Shabbat, the pleasures of Shabbat. Yet, as much as rest and relaxation are part of oneg Shabbat, rabbis throughout the ages have urged people not to forget that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,” meaning that while one is encouraged to rest and rejuvenate on Shabbat, one should also spend time studying Torah, praying or simply connecting to the holiness of the day.
*Talmudic language for a minimal amount.