Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nap Time

The world is moving at a hectic pace. People seem to always be busy--running from meeting to social engagement until they finally fall thoroughly exhausted into their beds at night. Indeed, modern sociologists look with considerable displeasure at the “busy-ness” of our society. Many people, undoubtably, crave a nap on a regular basis.

While napping on Shabbat is most certainly encouraged as a form of oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of Shabbat), the ancient sages felt differently about to napping during a weekday. In Talmud Sukkah 26b, it is written:

"Rav said: It is forbidden for a person to sleep by day longer than a horse’s sleep. And how long is a horse’s sleep? Sixty respirations....Abaye would doze off for as long as it takes to travel from Pumbedita to Bei Kuvei. Rav Yosef said in reference to him (Proverbs 6:9): ‘How long will you recline, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?’”

Rather than sleeping through the night, as humans and many other mammals do, a horse rests for short intervals throughout the day. Thus, “How long is a horse’s sleep? Sixty respirations.” The commentators debate exactly how long is sixty respirations...and whether the respirations referred to are those of a human (about 3 1/3 minutes) or those of a horse (about ½ hour). The accepted opinion is ½ hour. For if one sleeps/dozes for longer than ½ hour, one must ritually wash one’s hands upon waking.

While the idea of a “power-nap” has become quite common in modern health manuals, the sages real worry was about wasting time. Since the most important activity in Jewish life is studying Torah, the extra time spent sleeping is regarded as time wasted from learning Torah.

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