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How to Wake Up in the Morning

Rabbi Dovid Bendory, 20 Iyar 5766
Wall Street Shul

Listen to the audio. (12:11)


Birshut HaRav: I thought we would next learn together the halachot pertaining to before we come to Shul. As Jews we have halacha for everything, from the moment we wake up in them morning until we go to sleep at night. The section of the Shulchan Aruch that deals with our day to day activities opens the very first section with waking up in the morning and explains how one should wakeup and immediately begin to do mitzvot. The Mechaber begins: "One should be mighty like a lion to arise in the morning in service of his creator such that he should awaken the dawn." I'm being very literal in my translation. We will go step by step through the halacha. The Mishna Berura comments on "to serve his creator," "for man was created for the purpose of serving his creator as we have a pasuk that says, 'Everything that is called in my name and in my honor I have.' I'll start with the last part of the Mishna Berura first and then we'll work our way back. If you had appointment with the President, you would get up in the morning and prepare yourself. Leaving politics aside, just out of respect for the office of the President and out of respect for going to the place where you'll meet the President, you would wake up in the morning and you would prepare yourself to go see the President. You would wake up earlier than you need to in order to be sure you're going to be there on time. You would wash yourself up so that you would look nice. You would dress properly and you would be there early. You would not only be on time, but you would be awake, you would be ready, you would be eager to go to see the President.

The Mishna Berura takes analogy and says, "All the more so, there's no comparison to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and a person's job, a person's role in the world is to being HaKadosh Baruch Hu into this world to make Hashem's presence manifest. The Rambon says that the greatest miracle of creation is that Hashem was able to create a world in which he is so present and yet design the world in such a way that man is able to see the world as if Hashem isn't in it. It's one of the great paradoxes of creation. So our role is to make Hashem's presence manifest in the world and one way that we do this is by immediately waking up in the morning to fulfill that role, waking up eager to greet the King. We should arise like a lion, fiercely arise from our beds.

So what's this ferocity and ferociousness about? The Mishna Berura explains a bit. Now it's a little bit harder for us to relate to this in our air-conditioned and heated homes today, though nonetheless I think it does still have relevance to us. Says the Mishna Berura, "in the winter when you wake up the first thing that happens in the morning is that the Yetzer Hara says, 'Don't get out of bed, it's nice and comfortable here! It's nice and warm. What do you want to get out of bed for!? It's going to be freezing! Why do you want to put your feet on the cold floor!? Stay here. Stay in bed. Just another minute it's not gonna hurt you.'" Or in the summer like the Mishna Berura, "the Yetzer Hara says, 'What are you getting up so early for? You know, the sun rises so early in the summer you have a long day ahead of you. Stay here rest another minute; you didn't get enough sleep.'" So says the Mishna Berura, "You should jump up in the morning, immediately begin like a lion, fight fiercely against your Yetzer Hara. All your Yetzer Hara is trying to do is prevent you from getting to Shul on time."

So jump up like a lion, arise in the morning, begin your day properly. If you begin your day by defeating the Yetzer Hara first thing in the morning with that very first thought, no doubt that will give you an additional push to continue in your battle against your Yetzer Hara as the day proceeds.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz tells a great way to win this battle with the Yetzer Hara. When you wake up in the morning and your Yetzer Hara tells you, "It's cold," don't argue with him. Don't argue with him; instead jump out of bed, and after you've jumped out of bed then you argue with him. In other words, after you get out of bed and you face the fact that it's cold, then let him tell you it's cold and you should get back into bed and then you can start the argument. But if you start arguing with him while you're still lying in bed where it's nice and warm and comfortable you're finished. It's all over.

At any rate, the first half of this subsection is that one should arise fiercely like a lion in the morning in service of Hashem. The second half is from the Yerushalmi where it says that you should should "awaken the dawn." The Mishna Berura brings a secret mystical teaching that we should connect day and night by way of Torah and tefilla, whether in the morning or at night. That is, as the day transitions to night we should forge that transition with Torah and tefilla; and similarly in the morning as the night transitions to day or the night transitions to dawn we should forge that connection with Torah and tefilla.

The Mishna Berura brings down in the name of the Shla"h that immediately when you awaken in the morning and one do not intend to sleep further, you should wash your hands. You should wash even while still lying down, says the Shla"h, before even sitting up; and at any rate one should be sure not to walk daled amos (approximately six feet) without properly washing one's hands. One should be very careful in this matter says the Shla"h. The Zohar explains the deep punishment one will receive for violating this halacha. Why? Because when you wash negel vasser, what you're doing is removing a spirit of contamination that has come upon you from your sleep. This spirit of contamination has to do with the fact that while you're sleeping there is some part of your neshamah that leaves your body and goes up to Heavenand is protected by HaKadosh Baruch Hu during the night. Because that part of your neshamah leaves your body, there is some aspect of death that is associated with sleep, and when your neshamah returns therefore you have this ruach tuma upon you (a spirit of contamination). When you wash it off, you remove it.

There are two ways to understand this daled amot. One way to is to understand it as your domain. The other way to understand it is literally four amot, about six feet. So there are some who are lenient and say that since what this refers to is not to go out of your domain without washing, and since your domain includes your home, there's no need to be careful about not walking the literal six feet without washing. The Mishna Berura says, that one should not rely on this unless it is urgently needed to do so.

Finally, the Mishna Berura asks, "What if you get up and you don't have the water? Should you withhold from fulfilling mitzvot because the water isn't handy?" No; he says to wash your hands by any appropriate manner and then go on to learn Torah or fulfill whatever mitzvot you got up to do.