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Sunday, October 1, 2023 - 16 Tishrei 5784
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Sleep Studies

New discoveries in brain research demonstrate just how little we know about this amazing and mysterious organ. Most of our knowledge is of the brain in the awake state. We know practically nothing about the brain processes during sleep.

Surprising results of a study by Israeli researchers in the Weizmann Institute, led by Professor Noam Sobel, showed that the brain can absorb and process new information during sleep – and even retain it the next day. Subjects were exposed to both pleasant and unpleasant smells, followed by a tone. Soon they learned to associate the smell with its distinct tone, and would breathe more deeply when hearing the tone that followed the pleasant smell, and take shallow breaths after hearing the tone connected with the unpleasant smell. This behavior persisted the next morning while awake, although they had no conscious recollection of hearing the tone or smelling the scent.


The books of Tanach describe a type of prophecy called a “night vision.” It is similar to a dream, in which the brain enters a higher level of awareness. In this state the person becomes capable of absorbing spiritual levels he would never be able to perceive while awake. However, the person is still able to recall the revelation after awakening and transmit that information below – as a prophecy.

When a person goes to sleep, the soul partially leaves the body and goes exploring in other realms. For this reason we thank G-d every morning for restoring our soul and granting us another day of life.

Other scientific studies have demonstrated that during sleep, the brain forges new connections that are not used while awake. In fact, when the person regains consciousness these connections are dormant and not apparent at all. This parallels the rich, inner spiritual world that all of us possess, but which we may not be able to access. The Tanya, the fundamental work of Chassidic teachings, describes the soul that every Jew has, which is an “actual part of G-d.” However, for the most part our essential soul is hidden deep within and is not part of our conscious awareness. Instead our consciousness is dominated by egotism, a sense of our own reality rather than G-d’s. These two types of consciousness, the G-dly soul and the egotistic “animal” soul, are constantly doing battle within us. Only one of the two can dominate the body at any given time, while the other lays dormant.

Very soon, we will not need to fall into a sleep state to access our essential spiritual reality. With the true and complete Redemption, the two souls will work in harmony and all of the brain’s marvelous capacity will be put to full and productive use.


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