Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Jewish Law and the Snooze Button

As the world celebrates “Procrastination Week” this week, Jewish Treats, of course, has been putting off writing about this topic.

While executing tasks in a timely manner and keeping to a disciplined timeline are the hallmarks of successful people, Judaism does recognize some elements of procrastination. Case in point: the opening words of Rabbi Joseph Karo’s “Shulchan Aruch,” the Code of Jewish Law.

Yitgaber ka’ari la’amod baboker la’avodat bore’oh, shey’hei hu m’orer hashachar,” [upon waking] one should strengthen oneself like a lion to rise in the morning to serve one’s Creator (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 1:1).

Why did Rabbi Joseph Karo begin his legal treatise with these words? Is this a legal point or a strategy for rising in the morning?

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, also known as the Chafetz Chaim, notes on these words in his Mishnah Brurah commentary to the Shulchan Aruch: “If one’s evil inclination urges one during the winter months to remain in bed due to the bitter cold; or if one’s evil inclination urges one during the summer months to want to remain in bed since the sun rises much earlier in the summer months, one needs to strengthen oneself from these seductive suggestions and wake up. One should explain to oneself that if they were needed for service of the king, they would surely awaken and arrive at work on time. This logic should work so much more so regarding the King, sovereign of all sovereigns.”

However, Rabbi Moses Isserlis, the Ashkanazic contemporary of Rabbi Karo, whose comments are contained in most versions of Shulchan Aruch, added to Rabbi Karo’s comment: “immediately upon rising in the morning, one should get up with alacrity (zerizut) to serve one’s God.” The aforementioned Rabbi Kagan comments here on the word “alacrity” in his Mishnah Brurah (subsection 8): “Not necessarily alacrity, since one should not wake up too suddenly, for this can harm the body as is stated in the Talmud Gittin 70a: “there are five actions that bring one closer to death than to life and they are… if he slept and stood up immediately…”

It sure sounds like the Mishnah Brurah would probably agree to the use of a snooze button on an alarm clock, within reason, to slowly ease one out of bed in the morning.

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