Sleep in the Tosefta III: Seder Moed

December 28, 2020 0 By admin

Continuing on in my study of sleep in the Tosefta brings us to Seder Moed, the order dealing with holidays and other special calendrical celebrations.


Sleeping on Straw
While people often don’t sleep on straw, one text discusses the implications relating to Shabbat when sleeping on straw (tShabbat 16:5):

הקש שישן עליו מערב שבת מנענעו בידו בשבת
לא ישן עליו מערב שבת לא ינענענו בשבת בידו[1]

The straw upon which one slept from prior to Shabbat – one can shake out on Shabbat.
If one had not slept upon straw from prior to Shabbat, one should not shake it out by hand on Shabbat.

Here, an exception is made for handling straw on Shabbat, which is not to be done, if one slept on it, perhaps to make it more presentable or otherwise straightened-out. Furthermore, perhaps this text is speaking about amidst one’s sleeping and getting it to be more comfortable to one’s sleeping preferences while still on Shabbat.


Preventing Falling Asleep So As Not to Miss Out
As Passover involves staying up later than normal for the Passover Seder, children who are not used to staying up so late are discussed in keeping them awake (tPisha 10:9):

ר’ לעזר בן פרטא היה פושט בו דברים
ר’ היה כופל בו דברים
ר’ לעזר אמ’ חוטפין מצה לתינוקות בשביל שלא ישנו
ר’ יהודה או’ אפי’ לא אכל אלא פרפרת אחת אפי’ לא טבל אלא חזרת אחת חוטפין מצה לתינוקות בשביל שלא ישנו[2]

Rabbi Eleazar, son of Parta would say only once [and not repeat the normally-repeated lines of divine praise].
Rabbi would repeat some lines [without deeming this to be adding to the Hallel].
Rabbi Eleazar said, “They toss unleavened bread to children so that they won’t fall asleep.”
Rabbi Yehudah says, “Even if one has eaten only one small savory, even if he has dipped only one piece of lettuce, they still toss unleavened bread to children, so that they won’t fall asleep.”[3]

Here, Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Yehudah suggest two different food-related tactics in order to keep the children awake during the Passover Seder, so they can continue to be involved in the festivities.


When fasting goes into effect
One text deals with when fasting begins (tTa’aniyot 1:6):

כל אילו שאמרו אוכלין ושותין משחשיכה מותרין במלאכה ברחיצה ובסיכה ובנעילת הסנדל בתשמיש המטה אוכלין ושותין עד שיאיר המזרח דברי ר’
ר”א בר”ש אומר עד קרות הגבר
ישן ועמד אסור מיד[4]

In all instances in which they have said, They eat and drink after it gets dark, and they are permitted to work, bathe, anoint, put on a sandal, and have sexual relations, “they continue to eat and drink until the east is lit up,” the words of Rabbi.
Rabbi Eleazar, son of Rabbi Shimon says, “Until the cock crows.”
[If] one fell asleep and then got up, he is prohibited forthwith [upon rising].[5]

It seems from this text that while two rabbis argue about the particular point in the transition from night to morning that daytime fasting rules are in effect, everyone agrees that if one had fallen asleep, then whenever one arises, they are not subject to this fine line of night into morning, and it seems as if they view it as sleeping seals off night as the transition to day.


Not Sleeping in Synagogues

Is it appropriate to sleep in a synagogue? One text finds it to be problematic (tTa’anit 2:18):

בתי כנסיות אין נוהגין בהן קלות ראש לא יכנס להן לא בחמה מפני החמה ובצינה מפני הצינה ובגשמים מפני הגשמים ואין אוכלין בהן ואין שותין בהן ואין ישנין בהן ואין מטיילין בהן ואין ניאותין בהן אבל קורין ושונין ודורשין בהן בהספד של רבים מספיד בהן
אמר רבי יהודה בד”א בישובן אבל בחורבנן מניחין אותן ומגדלין בהן העשבים מפני עגמת נפש[6]

One is not to record oneself with levity in synagogues, nor should one enter in them in the summer, because of the sun, nor in the winter on account of the cold, nor in the rainy season because of the rains, nor should one eat in them, nor should one drink in them, nor should one sleep in them, nor should one leisure in them, nor should benefit from them, but we do read Scripture, we teach oral teachings, expound within them, and we publicly eulogize in them.
Rabbi Yehudah says: “What are we talking about? When they are standing, but while lying in ruins, we place plants in them and grow them there, on account of grief.”

While synagogues remain standing, this text positions sleeping, as well as eating, drinking, and taking leisure in them, amongst other activities, to be something that is unfit for what they are meant to be used for. In other words, taking care of one’s own physical needs are inappropriate activities for synagogues, whereas studying, teaching, expounding, and eulogizing are appropriate activities for synagogues.


Whereas the texts we have encountered thus far vary, there are a few further texts that all deal with sleeping or not sleeping in a sukkah. As sleeping is an activity that is ideally to take place within a sukkah, the Tosefta deals with various parameters of this activity.

One issue that arises concerns rain; should one sleep in a sukkah while it rains? The answer is that one need not (tSukkah 2:4):

היה אוכל בסוכה וירדו עליו גשמים והלך ועמד לו אף על פי שפסקו גשמים אין מחייבין אותו לחזור עד שיגמור
היה ישן בסוכה וירדו עליו גשמים ועמד והלך לו אע”פ שפסקו גשמים אין מחייבין אותו לחזור עד שייעור[7]

Should one eat in the sukkah and rain falls, and one gets up and goes, even if the rain ceases, we do not oblige him to return until he finishes his meal.
Should one be sleeping in the sukkah and rain falls, and one gets up and goes, even if the rain ceases, we do not oblige him to return until he wakes up.

Not only is one not required to sleep in the rain, but even when the rain finishes, one need not wake up in the middle of one’s sleeping to return to the sukkah. This text takes into account the need to not worry about one’s sleeping and just sleep as one needs to.


We encounter three incidents involving sukkah-sleeping in the Tosefta, the first of which involves having a headache (tSukkah 2:2):

חולין ומשמשיהן פטורין מן הסוכה ולא חולה מסוכן אלא אפי’ חש בראשו אפילו חש בעינו
ואמר רשב”ג מעשה וחשתי בעיני בקיסרין והתיר לי רבי יוסי בר ר’ לישן אני ושמשי חוץ לסוכה[8]

The sick and their attendants are exempt from observance of the festival; and not only one who is dangerously ill, but even one who has a headache or a pain in his eyes.
Rabbi Shimon, son of Gamaliel said: “There was an incident that my eyes were hurting in Caesarea and Rabbi Yose allowed me and my attendant to sleep outside the sukkah.”

Here, one is exempt from sukkah-related activities if one is merely experiencing a headache, and not something more severe, which is illustrated by an incident that Rabban Shimon, son of Gamaliel, recounts when Rabbi Yose permitted him to sleep outside of the sukkah.


Here is another incident that occurred (tSukkah 2:3):

מעשה באנשי ירושלים שהיו משלשלין מטותיהן בחלונות שגבוהין עשרה טפחים ומסככין על גביהן וישנים תחתיהן[9]

There was an incident of the people of Jerusalem, who were lowering their beds through windows which were ten handbreadths high, and were sleeping under them.

It doesn’t seem as if this was a reliable way to sleep in one’s sukkah, even if Jerusalemites were practicing this way.


A third incident that occurred regarding sukkah-sleeping (tSukkah 1:7):

מסככין בנסרים דברי רבי יהודה
וחכמים אוסרין עד שיהא בינו לחבירו כמלואו
אמר רבי יהודה מעשה בשעת סכנה שהיינו זוקפין סולמות ומסככין על גביהן נסרים וישנים תחתיהן
אמרו לו אין שעת הסכנה ראיה אבל הכל מודים שאם יש בנסר ארבעה טפחים שיהא בינו לבין חבירו כמלואו[10]

“They can be covered with planed boards,” the words of Rabbi Yehudah.
Sages say: “They are prohibited unless there is sufficient space between them.”
Rabbi Yehudah says: “There was an incident at the time of danger, they set up ladders, covered them with boards, and slept under them.”
They said to him: “A time of danger is no proof.”
But all agree that even if the boards be four handbreadths wide there must be sufficient space between them.


Rabbi Yehudah reports that there was a time of danger wherein people were sleeping under ladders with boards on top of them, which he had argued elsewhere in similar such circumstances (tMegillah 2:4); while this may have been done, due to particular circumstances, the rabbis were not fond of this line of proof.[11]



In addition to a concern for parameters for sleeping in a sukkah and various exceptions, the rabbis of the Tosefta also see sleep as sealing off night as the transition to day, sleeping as an inappropriate activity in synagogues, providing leniency for moving straw if sleeping on it from Shabbat eve, and also as likely to happen when keeping children up late for the Passover seder.

It is also striking that none of the texts parallel any of the sleeping texts mentioned in the corresponding order of the Mishnah,[12] although mSukkah 1:8 and mSukkah 2:1 are similar to discussions in the Tosefta, and mPesahim 10:8 evinces a concern for adults snoozing or otherwise falling asleep at the Passover Seder. Aside from that, none of the discussions in Mishnah Eruvin nor Yoma are mentioned here in the Tosefta.



[1] Ed. Lieberman, 76.
[2] Ed. Lieberman, 197.
[3] Translation based off of Neusner, 165. (Thank you to Edie Yakutis for furnishing this translation.)
[4] Cf. Ed. Lieberman, 324.
[5] Translation based off of Neusner, 264. (Thank you to Edie Yakutis for furnishing this translation.)
[6] Cf. Ed. Lieberman, 353.
[7] Ed. Lieberman, 262.
[8] Cf. Ed. Lieberman, 260.
[9] Ed. Lieberman, 260-261.
[10] Ed. Lieberman, 257.
[11] The rabbis in the Tosefta are not satisfied with either of the instances of times of danger that were mentioned involving Rabbi Yehudah, nor were they with Rabbi Meir (tBerakhot 2:13) nor Rabbi (tMegillah 2:4 and tEruvin 5:18).
[12] For a discussion of those texts, see my “Sleep in the Mishnah I: Seder Moed”.