The art of the Sabbath nap

Although the rest that constitutes Sabbath is actually intended to be a respite from the thirty-nine categories of prohibited activities, my family takes advantage of the day’s quiet, too. Among bouts of praying and of hosting guests for festive meals, we relax.

My children understand such unwinding as consisting of roaming our neighborhood, wandering around the rooms of our home or exploring the chambers of their friends’ residences. My husband actualizes his break from the ordinary by investing in learning time and in sleeping time. As for me, I try dutifully to retire on schedule Friday nights, and to stay awake until the hour of my study session Saturday afternoons. My peace is drawn from naps on the sofa. During the hours after our last evening guests leave, as well as during the hours between Sabbath lunch and my afternoon class, I doze.
There remains something remarkable about being able to flatten myself on the couch, the one directly under our window which overlooks Jerusalem, rather than having to expend energy to trudge to a proper bed. Perhaps on Friday nights I am compelled by the Holy City’s twinkling lights. Perhaps on Saturday afternoons I am inspired by the lavish paintings with which G-d colors Jerusalem’s sky. Perhaps at any hour I am eased by the personal heightening concomitant to the day. Regardless, on Sabbath, I embrace our settee.
There are at least three reasons why I allow myself weekly to experience such ease. First, "The Boss" told us that holy Sabbath is both good and necessary. Second, ritualized behavior helps me separate spiritual from mundane goings on. Third, I need the resultant nurturing.
While the Jewish people always partner with Ha Kodesh Baruch Hu, our marriage is most pronounced on Sabbath. During the Day of Rest, we reach for Hashem by pausing from commonplace activities. Calming ourselves enables us to renew our alliance with our Our Father.
Accordingly, when I cling to our livingroom divan, I telegraph that we Jews need to pay attention to and to live by G-d’s teachings. Six days a week I am a frenetic adult. On Sabbath, in contrast by slowing down, I demonstrate my heed of the commandments.
Another reason why I snooze on the sofa on Sabbath is because doing so reminds me to respect natural separations. Whereas on Friday nights, when my family sings “Adon Olam,” “Eternal Lord,” we hail angels to help us designate Sabbath’s holiness, and whereas at the end of that day when my family engages in Havdalah, we ceremonially mark Sabbath’s conclusion, there exist other, less prominent ways and means, such as nap time, for us to partition the consecrated from the ordinary.
Therefore, not only when my husband and I bless the children, not only when my family buys and prepares (before Sabbath) special foodstuffs, not only when we wear our nicest clothes and not only when we recite special prayers, take longer than average walks or make time to appreciate each other, but also when I luxuriate on our largest piece of livingroom furniture, does Sabbath get distinguished from the rest of the week. Sofa sleeping asserts Sabbath’s uniqueness.
Beyond marking Sabbath because G-d Told us to do so and because it is fitting to treat this day as different from all others, I have another reason for catnapping on the couch. I sleep there because that choice honors my needs.
My husband and my children are integral to, but separate entities from me. When I usher in the Sabbath Queen I simultaneously reinforce my kallah status. I am precious and deserve to be treated as such. Taking a snip here and there from Sabbath’s twenty-five hours to nod means reifying my worth.
No sooner would I cease to say extra Psalms on Sabbath, no sooner would I cease to pray with a minyon on Sabbath or no sooner would I stop priming myself to tribute Sabbath, than I would bilk myself of my time off. By relaxing in an extraordinary-for-me way on Sabbath, I remind myself and my loved ones that even if I were the cog around which my family spins, I too must be maintained.
In short, whether I nap on our longest upholstered seat because G-d Said Sabbath is for rest, because I want to mark Sabbath as distinct from weekdays, or because Sabbath can become an occasion for self-care, my Sabbath lie-downs lift me. Shut-eye in the livingroom best wakes my soul.