Sleep in the Mishnah IV: Seder Nashim

October 7, 2019 0 By Rabbi Drew

In the tractates of the Mishnah we have previously considered (see Seder Moed, Seder Taharot, and Seder Kodashim), sleeping in the same bed with other people has not been much of a thing, aside from the two consecutive instances in mNiddah with three women sleeping in the same bed as each other in Seder Taharot. In Seder Nashim, however, most of the occurrences – three out of the five – do concern themselves with the propriety and appropriateness of sleeping with other people in the same bed.

Divorce Document Delivery
So let’s start with the two exceptions, the first of which is divorce document delivery, which is fascinating because even though one can deliver the divorce document to one’s wife while she is sleeping and have her read it once she wakes up, it is not considered to have achieved its effect until he declares it as the divorce document to her. Thus,  it seems to be that awakeness is comparable to awareness:

1 – Gittin 8.2

אמר לה כנסי שטר חוב זה, או שמצאתו מאחריו–קורא והרי הוא גיטה, אינו גט: עד שיאמר לה, הרי הוא גיטיך.
נתן בידה והיא ישנה–ניעורה, קורא והרי הוא גיטה–אינו גט: עד שיאמר לה, הרי הוא גיטיך.
הייתה עומדת ברשות הרבים, וזרקו לה–קרוב לה, מגורשת; קרוב לו, אינה מגורשת; מחצה למחצה, מגורשת ואינה מגורשת

If he said to her, “Take in this debt document”, or if she found it behind him and read it and it turned out to be her get, it is not a get, until he says to her, “Here is your get.”
If he put it into her hand while she was asleep and when she woke up she read it and found it was her get, it is not a get until he says to her, “Here is your get.”
If she was standing in the public domain and he threw it to her, if it lands near her she is divorced, but if it lands near him she is not divorced. If it lands midway, she is divorced and not divorced.

Swearing/Vowing Away Sleep
The second occurrence concerns swearing-off or vowing away sleep. However, no matter how much one would like to live their lives without sleep, this text picks up on the impossibility of such actions. Curiously, the rabbis place sleep in a similar category as walking and talking. While it is actually possible to avoid walking and even to avoid talking, it is also highly unlikely. On the other hand, sleep is literally impossible to live without. Even if one were to somehow remain awake for days, the need to sleep will eventually catch up to them. The rabbis here in the Mishnah find it to be highly problematic to say one will not sleep on account of the impossibility of that need:

2 – Nedarim 2.1

אלו מותרין: חולין שאוכל לך, כבשר חזיר, כעבודה זרה, כנבילות, כטריפות, כשקצים, כרמשים, כחלת אהרון וכתרומתו–מותר.
האומר לאשתו, הרי את עליי כאימא–פותחין לו פתח ממקום אחר, שלא יקל את ראשו לכך
. קונם שאיני ישן
, שאיני מדבר, שאיני מהלך, האומר לאישה, קונם שאיני משמשך–הרי זה ב”לא יחל, דברו” (במדבר ל,ג).
שבועה שאיני ישן, שאיני מדבר, שאיני מהלך–אסור.

And these [vows] are not binding: [One who says] “What I eat of yours shall be unconsecrated”; “As the flesh of the swine”; “As an object of idolatrous worship”; “As hides pierced at the heart”; “As carrion”; “As terefoth”; “As abominations”; “As creeping things”; “As Aaron’s dough”; “As his terumah”–[in all these cases the vow is] not binding.
If one says to his wife, “Behold! You are like my mother to me”, he must be given an opening on other grounds, in order that he should not act lightly in such matters.
[If one says,] Konam if I sleep”; “If I speak”; or “If I walk”; or if one says to his wife, “Konam if I cohabit with you,” he is liable to [the biblical prohibition] “he shall not break his word” (Numbers 30:3).
[If he says,] “I swear] an oath not to sleep”, or, “talk,” or, “walk,” he is forbidden [to do so].

Propriety/Appropriateness of Sleeping with Other People
The majority of instances of sleep in Seder Nashim, however, deal with the impropriety or appropriateness of sleeping with other people. This next text says that if you do not want to receive any benefit from your neighbor, the plain text of the Mishnah says you can still sleep in a bed with someone presumably according to this opinion it’s because one is not driving any benefit from one’s neighbor. However, Rabbi Yehudah says in the winter time, you actually do benefit because you provide warmth to each other, which is deriving benefit, but, in the summer months, there is no benefit to sharing warmth, and, in fact, there might be literally no benefit to sleeping in the same bed. It is also unclear why one would be sleeping in the same bed as one’s neighbor, which I don’t understand, but it’s still intriguing to consider what socioeconomic or material circumstances might be involved:

3 – Nedarim 4.4

המודר הניה מחברו–נכנס לבקרו עומד, אבל לא יושב; מרפאהו רפאות נפשות, אבל לא רפאות ממון; ורוחץ עימו באמבטי גדולה, אבל לא בקטנה.
וישן עימו במיטה.
רבי יהודה אומר, בימות החמה; אבל לא בימות הגשמים, מפני שהוא מהנהו.
ומסב עימו על המיטה, ואוכל עימו על השולחן; אבל לא מן התמחוי, אבל אוכל הוא מן התמחוי החוזר.
לא יאכל עימו מן האיבוס שלפני הפועלין.
לא יעשה עימו באומן, דברי רבי מאיר; וחכמים אומרין, עושה הוא ברחוק ממנו

If one is forbidden to benefit from his neighbor, and he pays him a visit [in sickness] he must stand, but not sit. He may afford him a cure of life, but not a cure of money. He may bathe together with him in a large bath, but not in a small one.
He may sleep in a bed with him.
Rabbi Yehudah said: “In summer, but not in winter, because he thereby benefits him.”
He may [nevertheless] recline with him on a couch. [He may] eat at the same table with him but not out of the same bowl; but he may eat with him out of a bowl which returns.
He may not eat with him out of the food trough put before laborers.
“He may not work with him on the same furrow,” the words of Rabbi Meir. But the Sages say: “He may work at a distance from him.”

This next text concerns itself with the propriety of a man even being in the same room as two women. While the anonymous part of this Mishnah says one woman may be alone with two men, but two women may not be alone with a man, Rabbi Shimon not only permits a man being in a room with two women, but, if his wife is with him, they may even sleep at the same inn, but, it would seem, not in the same bed (that would be too far to go). Another piece to this is the only time a man may sleep in the same bed as a woman who is not his wife is when it is either his mother or daughter, and even, it would seem, without clothing, however, once either he, as a child, reaches a certain age with regard to his mother, or his daughter reaches a certain age with regard to him, then they must wear clothing, but may still sleep in the same bed:

4 – Kiddushin 4.12

לא יתייחד איש אחד עם שתי נשים, אבל אישה אחת מתייחדת עם שני אנשים.
רבי שמעון אומר, אף איש אחד מתייחד עם שתי נשים; ובזמן שאשתו עימו–ישן עימהן בפונדקי, מפני שאשתו משמרתו.
מתייחד אדם עם אימו ועם בתו, וישן עימהם בקרוב בשר; הגדילו–זה ישן בכסותו, וזה ישן בכסותו

A man may not be alone with two women, but one woman may be alone with two men.
Rabbi Shimon says: “Even one man may be alone with two women, if his wife is with him, and he may sleep with them in an inn, because his wife watches him.”
A man may be alone with his mother and his daughter, and he may sleep with them in immediate bodily contact; but when they grow up, she must sleep in her garment and he in his.

The final Mishnah discussing sleep in Seder Nashim is a curious one, as the sages allow two single men to sleep under the same cover, while Rabbi Yehudah does not, although he may permit them to sleep under different covers in the same bed:

5 – Kiddushin 4.14

רבי יהודה אומר, לא ירעה רווק בהמה, ולא יישנו שני רווקים בטלית אחת; וחכמים מתירין.
כל שעסקו עם הנשים, לא יתייחד עם הנשים.

Rabbi Yehudah said: “An unmarried man must not tend cattle, nor may two unmarried men sleep together under the same cover.” But the sages permit it.
One whose business is with women must not be alone with women.

Taking this last Mishnah together with Nedarim 4.4, Rabbi Yehudah and the sages have differing approaches to men sleeping in the same bed: the sages seem to be fine with both the situation of one who has vowed not to benefit from his neighbor and yet sleep with him in the same bed, as well as allowing two single men to not only sleep in the same bed, but to share the same cover, while Rabbi Yehudah does not allow two single men to sleep under the same cover, but would allow them to sleep in the same bed, and would not permit someone who has vowed off any benefit from one’s neighbor to sleep with him in the same bed during the winter. Although the Mishnah does not discuss the propriety of women sleeping in the same bed or under the same cover (as long as they haven’t sworn off benefitting from each other), it would seem that even single Jewesses would be permitted to sleep even under the same cover.

In addition to comparing wakefulness to awareness with regards to receiving a get, as well as dealing with the impossibility of either swearing off or vowing away sleep, Seder Nashim discusses sleep largely in terms of social/physical boundaries of appropriateness of people, whether of the same gender or the opposite gender.