Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosi met in the village of Hanan. While they were sitting at the inn, a man came with a baggage-laden mule and entered the house. Rabbi Yehuda was then saying to Rabbi Yosi: We have learned that King David dozed like a horse and had little sleep. [R. Zeira said: until midnight, David would doze like a horse (never falling into a deep sleep; he would constantly arouse himself and engage in Torah); from midnight onwards, he would invigorate himself like a lion (and engage in Torah without dozing). (Berachot 3b)] If this is true, how did he wake up at midnight? The amount [of time that a horse sleeps at a stretch] is very brief, so he would have awakened before even a third of the night was over.

He replied: When night fell, he used to sit with the princes of his house to execute justice and study the Torah. He then slept until midnight, when he woke and rose to worship his Master with songs and hymns.

The man [with the mule] interrupted and asked: Is this what you think? This is the secret of the matter: King David is alive and exists forever and ever. King David was careful throughout his life not to taste death for sleep is a sixtieth part of death. King David, whose place [and source is malchut of Atzilut, that] is life, slept but [one less than] sixty breaths. For up to sixty breaths less one, it is living; from then on, man tastes death and the side of impurity reigns over him.

King David guarded himself from tasting death, lest the side of the impure spirit [of the kelipa] reigns over him. For sixty breaths less one are the Secret of Supernal Life, for they [the first sixty breaths] are the [aspect of] sixty supernal breaths, who are the secret that life depends on. From then downward, it is the secret of death.

Therefore King David would measure the night so as to remain alive, lest the foretaste of death reign over him. At midnight, David would stand [and connect to his domain [malchut of Atzilut]. For when midnight came and keter was aroused [in the secret of the arousal of Holiness above], David must not be found connected to another domain, the domain of death.

When midnight comes, and Supernal Holiness is aroused, but man is asleep in his bed and does not awaken to regard the glory of his Master [by engaging in Torah or worshiping Him with songs and hymns], he becomes attached to the secret of death and cleaves to the domain of the Other Side. King David therefore always woke at midnight, careful of the glory of his Master, alive before the Living One, and he would never sleep long enough to taste death. Thus, he dozed like the sixty breaths of a horse and incomplete.

Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosi came and kissed him. They asked him: What is your name? He replied: Hezekiah (lit. 'strengthened of G‑d'). They said to him: May you be strengthened and may your study of the Torah be augmented.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Why did the Ari and Chida include this?

"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise." So said Ben Franklin, time-honored wisdom of how to live a balanced life. Seems like he was inspired by King David, who only slept a tiny amount. We know that this is possible, as the Vilna Gaon slept only 2 hours daily. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe saw visitors around the clock. [He slept "fast".]

The Zohar praises those rising at midnight to praise G‑d and to learn until dawn. We are encouraged not to "sleep away our life." In the early morning hours, it is quiet, with little distractions. What a perfect time for communion! What a blissful opportunity for self-reflection! What an amazing period for uninterrupted study!

In our 24/7 world, for us to break our sleep for a bit for some solid connecting time is a great idea. Some can get up at exactly halachic midnight and then learn all night. Others just get up one hour earlier than normal. Whatever works, if done with a full heart desirous of service and attachment, G‑d will smile in favor.

What does the above mean to you, and why is it revealed to you now?


Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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