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Sleep: Spiritual Detox

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 11:37 am

 Looking for a good detox regimen?

Did you know that our bodies have a natural detoxing system that they utilize each night while we sleep? As we sleep, our inner cleaning squad goes to work and removes all toxins that have accumulated in our brain throughout the day.

Kabbalah teaches that everything in the physical world is a mirror reflection of a spiritual truth and reality in the Higher Worlds. So yes, you guessed it. While your body works to rid itself of harmful toxins as you sleep, the soul is undergoing a spiritual detox up above as well.

Why specifically while we sleep? Because, that is when it is free!

Let’s use death as a comparison. After all, our sages tell us that sleep is 1/60th of death. (I know..death is not exactly what you want to be thinking about on a Wednesday afternoon, but just for explanatory purposes here).

When someone passes away, the soul is liberated from the limitations of the body and the physical world that housed it. As a result, its faith and love for G-d become that much stronger. Its relationships with others become that much deeper.  It lives in a purely G-dly reality.  A reality where there is no strife, no tension, no conflict. All is pure and good. 

BUT…

To do so, it must first undergo an intense cleansing process. It needs to be purified from the effects of any unholy speech, thoughts, and actions that it endured while alive in a physical world.

Sleep is a microcosm of this process. 

When we sleep, the soul is no longer limited by the constraints of a body. It doesn’t have to eat and sleep and wash the dishes.  It isn’t thinking about politics or sports. Its power to think isn’t slowed down by the conscious human mind, it’s power of vision not regulated by the physicality of the human eyes. This lack of consciousness allows part of the soul to ascend higher and reach places that it cannot go during the day, while awake.

And then, with this newfound spiritual energy, we hopefully awake in the morning refreshed, and energized with renewed vigor to maximize the potential of the new day that awaits us, a day laden with golden opportunities to fulfill our mission here on Earth: connecting to G-d through Torah study and Mitzvot.

It is for this reason that we say the words “Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati” (Thanking G-d for restoring our soul to us) in the Modeh Ani prayer each morning upon awakening. There was a part of our soul that departed from our body during sleep, ascended to new spiritual heights Above, and has now been returned to us by the grace of the Living and Merciful G-d.

BUT…

That happens best when we first do our part before sleep to cleanse ourselves of any “spiritual toxins” that lie in our conscious minds.  That is why the Shema said before retiring to bed for the night is a very auspicious time for self reflection. Many holy and righteous individuals would spend hours performing a Cheshbon nefesh – a detailed accounting of all the speech, thoughts, and actions in which they had engaged during the day. Anything that was negative and unholy, they worked to release through a heartfelt resolve to improve in the coming day. They cleansed themselves of this negative energy thereby opening their “spiritual pores” to receive the new G-dly light that they looked forward to receiving while they slept.

And now friends: I have a most amazing prayer recommendation to prep you for this nightly spiritual “soul detox”. I highly recommend adding it to your Shema routine before bed. (This prayer is said before the Shema.) But warning: It can be a tough one. Ready to hear why? In this prayer, we cleanse ourselves of any hurt feelings, grudges, or resentments we may be feeling towards another. In other words, we practice Forgiveness. Easier said than done, I know. And let me tell you, there have been many nights I have had to really sit and think, do a little meditation, and some inner work before saying this prayer. But boy was it worthwhile! With forgiveness in my heart, I was able to then turn to G-d in this prayer and ask Him to forgive me. To cleanse me of the mistakes, intentional and unintentional, that I may have done that day. I fell asleep in peace knowing that my soul was prepared to detox above as I slept below .

“OK”, I hear you say: “Forgiveness for minor offenses is hard, but doable. It often brings us closer to those we love. Like a rope that is cut and then bound together by a knot. The knot now connects the two pieces of rope in an even stronger way than before it was cut.”

“But then there are the bigger offenses that we may have been subject to. What about the terribly hurtful things that someone may have done to us? What about the person who never even asked for forgiveness?”  What forgiveness looks like in such situations is a difficult and sensitive topic to discuss.  And beyond the scope of a Whatsapp post. I deem it better discussed in person and so I am saving that for an upcoming Shabbat Womens Prayer Circle discussionšŸ˜Š ) Stay tuned..:)

 For now though..here is the prayer preceded by a brief meditation. I would love to hear your thoughts after implementing this prayer into your nightly bedtime routine.

It’s probably one of the toughest and most sensitive subjects to discuss. And beyond the scope of a Whatsapp post. But to explain briefly..

( VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER HERE: I am not discussing evil acts here like theft, terrorism, abuse, and the like G-d forbid. These are cruel and evil acts that we have a responsibility to stop and punish as harshly as necessary, to ensure that we and our loved ones remain safe and secure. Rather, I am referring here to hurtful actions like family members who do not talk to one another, someone spreading rumors about you, and other very hurtful acts. This differentiation is very important to the discussion below so that its lesson is not taken out of context.)

What makes the Forgiveness conversation so tough is that it touches upon some deep but difficult ideas. Because Forgiveness is about recognizing that our soul is on a journey. And that part of that journey, as long as we are in Exile, will include encountering hardships along the way; hardships which were ordained by G-d to happen to us. NOTHING happens due to bad luck or coincidence. There is purpose and yes, a good purpose to it all. But we don’t always merit to see and understand what that purpose is. Which makes it SO SO SO difficult at times. But it is this foundational Jewish belief that lies at the premise of FORGIVENESS.

If everything that happens to us is ordained by G-d and is a part of our soul’s unique journey, then what is meant to happen to us will happen regardless. What is left to be determined is how this will play out. G-d has many agent He can work through. So the hurtful incident was meant to happen The person that chose to hurt you in this way chose

Joseph is my Forgiveness Role Model. Talk about family drama… His brothers sold him into slavery, separating him from his father for 22 long painful years!!!!! And yet, what does Joseph say upon revealing himself to his brothers?!?                         He recognizes that this was ordained from G-d to happen to him. He recognizes that these painful events were meant to happen to him for some Greater Reason- they were somehow a part of his soul’s journey.

But here is the big “But”: G-d could have made Joseph undergo this hardship in many different ways. Our sages tell us that G-d has many agents that He works through. The fact that Josephs brothers chose to do this was absolutely wrong and for this they had to undergo much suffering and hard inner work to repair their relationship with HaShem and Joseph.

However, as far as Joseph was concerned, forgiveness meant ridding HIMSELF of the hurt and toxic emotions. Joseph’s forgiveness did not lessen the severity and magnitude of his brother’s sins. It did not make their actions right or OK. What it did do however: Cleanse him of the anger, resentment, and victimhood that threatened to engulf and paralyze him.

Sometimes we feel, like Joseph, that we have been sold into slavery by another. We feel shackled and chained by the terrible words and actions of others. In these instances, forgiveness is freeing yourself from this emotional prison. Recognizing that for some Greater Reason unknown to us, we were meant to endure this pain. And we leave our oppressor to deal with the consequences of their horrible actions; chains, that in truth, they shackled around themselves.

It is hard. It is painful. It takes a tremendous amount of faith in G-d. It is incredibly liberating.

Here is the prayer below in Hebrew, English, and transliteration.

Would love to hear your thoughts….

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