הלוכך תהא בנחת, ענג קרא לשבת, והשנה משובחת, כדת נפש משיבת. בכן נפשי לך ערגה, ולנוח בחיבת, כשושנים סוגה, בו ינוחו בן ובת.
“Your walk shall be calm, call Shabbos a delight, and sleep is praiseworthy as needed to refresh the soul. And so, my soul yearns for You, to rest in Your love. Fenced in like roses, so shall rest the son and daughter.” (Mah Yedidos, Shabbos Zemer)
Shabbos is a time when we are blessed with peace. Hashem gave us the gift of peace on this day, so that we should be able to recharge our minds and use this reprieve to become closer to Hashem. Hashem wants us to be especially calm on this day. The way we walk should be calmer, the way we talk should be more pleasant, and of course the manner in which we eat and even sleep should be in a restful, pleasant way.
There’s a story about the holy Ari. One Shabbos afternoon, he rested for an hour. One of his disciples was nearby and he saw the tzaddik moving his lips in his sleep. The disciple knew that his Rebbe wasn’t just talking randomly in his sleep, and he wanted to listen to what he was saying. But as he came closer, the Ari woke up. “Rebbe, what did you say in your sleep?” the disciple asked. The Ari replied: “I would gladly tell you what I dreamed, but it would take me seventy years to explain what I just spoke, because I was revealing secrets of the Torah while my soul visited the heavens in my sleep.”
Sleep is often called a robber, because it robs us of a third of our life-span. If not for the need to sleep, we would have been able to accomplish so much more. But the reality of life is that we cannot function without sleep. It is necessary to rest in order to be able to use our waking hours properly. How can we make the most out of the hours we spend sleeping?
Those who spend their days learning Torah often continue learning Torah in their sleep, because their brains continue thinking along the lines that they were busy with during the daytime. A righteous person, someone who loves Hashem and thinks of Torah and mitzvos all day, may well be able to dream about Torah and mitzvos in his sleep, thereby continuing to serve Hashem even while asleep. This is especially true on Shabbos, because on Shabbos we are blessed with a neshama yeseira (additional soul), which elevates us even more.
The holy tzaddik the Ari told his disciple that in one hour of sleep he was able to accomplish what would normally take seventy years of Torah learning! We see from this that sleeping on Shabbos can be a spiritual endeavor, but only if it is done properly, with refinement.
The ability to properly utilize our Shabbos rest is hinged upon our ability to use the entire Shabbos day as befits holy, upstanding people. If “your walk is calm” - we walk pleasantly to shul and greet the people we meet with a warm “Gut Shabbos!” - then we can arrive to the point in which “sleep is praiseworthy as needed to refresh the soul.” The Torah is the primary source of refreshment for the soul. By stating that our Shabbos sleep refreshes the soul, we are in effect saying that our sleep is on the level of Torah learning.
“And so, my soul yearns for You to rest in Your love.” Because we know that sleep can be utilized in such a way, we have a deep yearning to reach this point. This doesn’t happen by itself; a person must work hard out of a deep sense of yearning in order to achieve such elevation even during his sleep.
“Fenced in like roses, so shall rest the son and daughter.” The Jewish people are compared to roses. Roses are beautiful and fragrant, with numerous soft petals that join together to form a magnificent flower. But at the same time, the roses are surrounded by prickly thorns that prevent people from getting too close. So too with the Jewish people. Although we are beautiful in many ways, there are thorns among us as well, and we must be extremely careful not to prick anyone.
Hashem gave each person tremendous potential. Every person can achieve greatness and spread the glory of Hashem. We must be careful to use our talents and abilities properly to increase beauty without pricking anyone with our thorny side. When a person hurts someone’s feelings, he pricks him with his thorns instead of delighting him with his beauty. Does that mean that the rose is no longer beautiful? Of course not! The rose still retains its splendor, but it must be handled with care.
The same applies to every person. There is so much good in us, we should only know how to use it! Let us use the beauty of our souls according to the will of Hashem, being careful not to use our thorns. If we will do so, “our sons and daughters will rest.” We will be able to raise beautiful families and merit pious children. Children should never see the thorny side of their parents, as this can teach them bad middos and cause them to imitate such behavior. If the parents are careful to serve as proper role models for their children, the children will grow up to be beautiful, fragrant roses that bring honor to Hashem’s Name.