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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Wake Up Call
Human beings spend at least a third of their lives asleep – babies and small children, even more than that. Why do we need to sleep so much? It seems like a waste of time, and dangerous to boot – after all, we are most vulnerable to predators while asleep.

It was long believed that the brain needs sleep in order to rest from its daytime exertion. However, brain wave studies have disproved this notion. The brain is just as active during sleep as it is while awake. There is, however, a profound shift in the type of activity that the brain engages in during sleep.

There are currently two main theories to explain why we need to sleep. One is that during sleep, the body, especially the brain, engages in essential “housekeeping” activities such as tissue repair, protein building and release of necessary hormones. Chemicals that accumulate in the brain during the day are cleared from the body at night during sleep. The other theory is that sleep plays a crucial role in brain growth and development. During sleep, the brain organizes and stores recently learned information, and creates new brain pathways.

In short, while we may be asleep, the brain is remarkably active at night fulfilling many important tasks.

The period of exile is likewise compared to a state of sleep, and Redemption to awakening, as the verse in Psalms states, “When G-d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers.” Chassidic teachings explain that exile is like a dream because opposite concepts can exist simultaneously. Just as in a dream one can envision an elephant passing through the head of a pin, in exile one can pray with genuine fear and love of G-d one moment, and then go about one’s day without a trace of spiritual awareness.

One might take this to mean that the state of exile has no true reality, and once we wake up we will banish the entire experience from memory. However, we now understand the crucial role of sleep in allowing us to function optimally during the day. During exile, while we might seem to be spiritually asleep, our souls are awake and actively working to bring about the ultimate state of Redemption, as the verse in Song of Songs states, “I am asleep but my heart is awake.”

When we finally awaken from the long exile, we will realize the importance of all our efforts in exile, and we will see how they brought us to where we are. The exile is a necessary stage that we must go through to come to the final Redemption. However, it is only a temporary stage. The time has come for us to wake up, arise and greet King Moshiach.


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