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Naps in Jewish Law

 

Is Napping Allowed?

Man was born to toil, the book of Job (5:7) tells us. In our busy lives we grab the precious opportunities to rest when they arise because they are so rare. What does Judaism say about adults spending otherwise productive time during the day taking naps? I would like to address here the general attitude in Jewish law to naps and a few cases in which naps affect practice.

The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 231:1), following the Talmud (Sukkah 26b), rules that napping for more than half an hour is forbidden and even that little sleep should only be undertaken if your intent is to gain strength so you can learn Torah and serve God better. This is quite a startling ruling. Is even an elderly or sick person really forbidden to take a long nap, absent an urgent health need?

The Mishnah Berurah (4:36) quotes the Machatzis Ha-Shekel who sensibly reframes the issue subjectively. It all depends on a person’s physical situation and intentions. Napping for pleasure is improper; the day is short and there is much work to do. Napping to regain strength so you can do that work is acceptable. Presumably, all would allow someone who has functioned for days on little sleep to take a nap in order to regain his abilities. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 231:3) points out that the Talmud seems to conclude that napping is permitted and therefore suggests, albeit inconclusively, that this subjective approach was the Shulchan Arukh‘s view.

Napping as a Mitzvah

There are days on which taking a nap is a mitzvah. Physical pleasures are a special Shabbos mitzvah (oneg Shabbos). The Tur (Orach Chaim 290) allows for naps on Shabbos when they serve as a pleasure. The Mishnah Berurah (4:36) quotes the Magen Avraham (4:15) who similarly permits napping on Shabbos.

We are obligated to drink wine during our Purim meal, reaching the point of being unable to distinguish between the blessedness of Mordechai and the cursedness of Haman. Does this mean we have to get very drunk? While some say yes, the Rema (Orach Chaim 695:2) follows the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Megillah 2:15) who holds that the obligation is to drink wine, become sleepy and take a nap. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc., no. 5) follows the Peri Megadim who endorses this view.

Neggel Vasser

In high school, we had an option during gym class to spend unsupervised time in the weight room. I immediately seized this option, which led to the inevitable question of what to do after waking from my nap. Jewish tradition requires, on waking up in the morning, that you wash your hands — pouring water from a utensil, three times on each hand. Authorities debate the reason for this practice: Is it due to the new day or because you wake up from sleep? The practical difference is whether you must wash after a nap. The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 4:15) is unsure and the Rema (ad loc.) advises to wash without reciting the accompanying blessing. Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 34) quotes the consensus that you must only wash after a nap that lasts at least half an hour.

Mealtime Naps

The blessings over food only last within that meal. After you stop eating, you must recite a new blessing before eating again. Passing sleep (sheinas arai) does not constitute a conscious digression from the meal and therefore is not an interruption. Lasting sleep (sheinas keva), however, requires a new blessing before continuing to eat (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 178:7). In this context, the definition of passing and permanent sleep hinges on intent to end the meal. Mishnah Berurah (ad loc., 48) defines sleep at the table, even for an hour, as passing and sleep in one’s bed as lasting.

Someone who falls asleep at the table may continue eating on awakening but someone who lies down in bed must start the meal anew. However, as the Mishnah Berurah points out from the Peri Megadim, when you sleep, even at the table, you cannot guard your hands so you must wash them again in order to eat bread, albeit without reciting a blessing.

Torah Blessings

Before studying Torah, you have to recite the appropriate blessings. In theory, someone who interrupts his Torah study must recite new blessings on continuing his study. However, since we always intend to return to our study or because our lives are infused with Torah, we need not repeat the blessings during breaks in the day. Rather, we recite them every morning and that suffices for the entire day.

The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 47:10) writes that sleep is also not a sufficient interruption to require repetition of the Torah blessings. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc., 23) explains that this only refers to what we have called passing sleep. Quoting the Tur, he states that someone who sleeps while sitting, resting his head on his arms, need not repeat the blessings. He implies that if you take a nap in a bed or a comfortable recliner, you must recite the blessings before learning Torah after waking. However, the Piskei Teshuvos (47:14), following the Eishel Avraham, states very strongly that the common custom follows the simple meaning of the Shulchan Arukh and you are not allowed to recite the blessings, even after a long nap on your bed.

 

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About the author

Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

23 Responses

  1. Dov F. says:

    Here’s a very interesting sleeping halacha involving the Chasam Sofer about whether or not taking a nap can substitute the six hour wait between meat and milk:

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20025&st=&pgnum=303

  2. Avinoam says:

    Dov F. –

    Fascinating indeed – especially the part on paskening based on ‘simanim m’shamayim’!

  3. Dov F. says:

    Yes, it’s intriguing.

  4. The Dude says:

    Napping in the Navi:

    “It happened toward evening that David arose from his bed and strolled on the rood of the the king’s house. From atop the roof he saw a woman bathing…” (II Samuel 11:2)

    The picture is painted of a languid, lazy king napping till late in the day and wandering aimlessly around the roof of his palace while Israel is at war with Ammon. This introduces, of course, the David and Bat-Sheva story…

    Contrast this with statements found in the Talmud about David’s never sleeping more than 60 breaths, sleeping like a horse, ready to arise and serve Hashem…

  5. joel rich says:

    Napping to regain strength so you can do that work is acceptable
    =======================================
    i would have thought required or praiseworthy – each situation should be evaluated to maximize roi. people who think it’s cool or frum to go without sleep are looking at the wrong measure imho.
    KT

  6. Alter says:

    Years ago I was told that if one knows for sure that his hands haven’t touched any covered/”dirty” parts of his body while napping ( e. g., he was wearing gloves or sitting upright in a car), one needn’t wash his hands afterwards.

  7. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    The story of the Hasam Sofer (related in the Teshhuvah of R. Moshe Sternbuch) is not about a nap. The issue is someone ate meat late at night , went to sleep and slept for about five hours. Upon waking he wanted to have coffee with milk (before davening?), though six hours had not elapsed since he ate the meat.

  8. yehupitz says:

    It is known among the knowers of such things at Ner Israel that Rav Ruderman in fact would drink (coffee with) milk after less than six hours of sleep, in accordance with that view.

  9. joel rich says:

    R’ Dov F,
    What has fascinated me for a while ( although the GRA story I heard was that it was 2 times he tried and it was a fire) is that if an individual were to say he was not going to do something because a black cat passed in front of him, it’s nichush.

    KT

  10. Toronto Yid says:

    Regarding “simanim mehashamayim” wasn’t there another story of a widow who went to a Rav and asked about a chicken and he said “treif”. Then she (improperly) went to the town’s Rav and asked him and he said “kosher”. So the first Rav said that all must obey the Mara D’atra even though he disagreed with him, so he got invited to eat the chicken at the widow’s house. When he tried to eat the chicken, it fell off the table. He took this as a sign that although for everyone else the chicken was kosher, for him, because he paskened treif, he himself cannot eat it (like a neder?).

  11. Yeedle says:

    Joel Rich: “people who think it’s cool or frum to go without sleep are looking at the wrong measure imho.
    KT”

    Reminds me of the famous Taz in Even Haezer on שוא לכם משכימי קום.

  12. Rafael Araujo says:

    ZZZZ….ZZZZZ….ZZZZ….ZZZZZ…Oh, what…where am I? Oh, a post on napping. Looks inter….ZZZZZZZZZ…..ZZZZZZZ.

  13. Chaim says:

    I have heard from a very reliable source that Rb Elyashiv (May he be well) said naping for 3 hrs, such as a Shabbat nap, was good enough to drink milk.

  14. Dov F. says:

    Lawrence – True, that’s the way the story went, but it doesn’t seem like he would differentiate. Do you have reason to say otherwise?

    Chaim – That’s interesting, because R. Shternbuch does refer to אחד מגדולי הוראה בעיה”ק who paskened this way.

  15. Dov F. says:

    Joel – Very true. Yet even the Gemara distinguishes between nichush and “simana milsa.” What exactly the difference is, is a good question.

  16. shaul shapira says:

    Well, I’m happy to see that at least the dude in the picture has taken care to sleep on his left side.

  17. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Dov F: I think one might argue that a brief nap is different from a regular night’s sleep, even one of only five hours. Of course, there is always the question of where do you draw the line, but that’s an issue in +many situations. I am obviously not paskening here.

  18. The Dude says:

    The Ḥatam Sofer believed a posek received Divine assistance when answering a she’eilah. See his Shu”t, Yoreh De’ah, no. 94.

    Toronto Yid: This is somewhat similar to the story you mention.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    IIRC, one of the Zmiros for Leil Shabbos ( Mah Yedidus) has a verse that states “Vhashenah Mshubachas”.

  20. P. says:

    In the pre-modern era, when day was day, and night was night, with no blazing, powerful electric lighting, so there was perhaps more of an issue with ‘wasting’ valuable daylight hours napping. Nowadays, with electric lighting ubiquitous, the situation is different.

    Electric lighting has also contributed to sleep cycles getting mixed up, further complicating the situation.

  21. Rafael Araujo says:

    “In the pre-modern era, when day was day, and night was night, with no blazing, powerful electric lighting, so there was perhaps more of an issue with ‘wasting’ valuable daylight hours napping. Nowadays, with electric lighting ubiquitous, the situation is different.

    Electric lighting has also contributed to sleep cycles getting mixed up, further complicating the situation.”

    I wonder what napping rates are like in North Korea, where there is really no working lighting at night.

  22. Shlomo says:

    I wonder what napping rates are like in North Korea, where there is really no working lighting at night.

    If they don’t nap, there could be other reasons, like fear of punishment…

  23. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    toronto yid — the story (one version) is with the widow going to the gra, who prohibited; dissatisfied, she went to the rav of vilna (the gra never held a formal rabbinical position) who allowed the chicken, and ordered the gra to come to eat the chicken, which he did come …

    chaim — i’m sure the “askanim” of that rav in yerushalayim are preparing, at this minute, a denial …

    the gra wrote in “maase rav” that we should do birkat cohanim today, (and abolish cherem de’rabbenu gershon). no discussion of a fire, or police.

 
 

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