Year of the Squirrel

Sleep, not hibernate.

What happens if you extract a little blood from a hibernating ground squirrel, preserve it till the summer and inject it into another squirrel? That active little mammal with his bushy tail will instantly go into hibernation.

We don’t clearly understand if cold weather sets off the chemical changes in squirrel blood that signals hibernation time. We do know that hibernation helps animals endure the winter because hibernating bodies require only a tiny percentage of the energy needed when awake. Hibernation is a state in which animals’ body metabolism and heart rate slow down so dramatically that they can easily last the winter on their accumulated fat. However, their brain activity remains pretty much the same as when they’re awake. 

We humans don’t hibernate but we do sleep. When we sleep our metabolism hardly changes and our energy needs drop by only about 5%. However, our brain activity vastly changes from our waking brain wave patterns. I think one could say that hibernation chiefly affects the body while sleep also affects the brain.

 In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sleep is exactly the same as the word for year.

ש-נ-ה

Do not love sleep lest you become impoverished…
(Proverbs 20:13)*
And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years
(Genesis 5:3)*

That Hebrew word also has two other meanings; ‘repeat’ and ‘change.’

Amasa was not vigilant about the sword in Yoav’s hand and he struck him with it into his fifth rib and he spilled his innards onto the ground; did not repeat (the blow) and he (Amasa) died.
(II Samuel 20:10)*

I will not desecrate my covenant and I will not change the utterance of my lips.
(Psalms 89:35)*

How strange is that? Repeat means doing the same thing again, while change means doing something different. What message is God giving us through the way His language links these two opposite concepts along with year and sleep?

The potential trap for us is allowing each day or year to be nothing but a repetition of the one before. Animals hibernate to cope with the wintery problems of the present and in the spring they awake to continue exactly what they were doing in the fall. They endlessly repeat past years’ activities.

We have a choice. We can be animal-like and do the same. We can view sleep as nothing more than a human version of hibernation with the focus on the biological component. We can see a new year as simply a calendar fact. New Year’s Eve partying can serve as an attempt to camouflage the dreary passage of time and the gloomy likelihood that the coming year will repeat the mistakes of the one fading away. 

Alternatively, we can see how different we are from animals and that every single day we are blessed with the ability to start anew and bring about refreshing changes that improve our lives. We can awake each morning with a smile on our faces, a prayer on our lips, and hope and happiness in our hearts as we embrace the day. Each sleep can herald new resolutions of change, growth, and improvement just as each new yearly cycle should so the same.

Each evening, we can set an agenda to make the next day somewhat better than the one before. Instead of treating the night of December 31st as another meaningless party, we can contemplate ways to change in the coming year. Quiet thought will quickly produce a list of important changes that will make our next year better than the last one.

We can pick from two contrasting equations.

Sleep = year = repeat
or
Sleep = year = change.

Since we are not animals, the choice is ours to make. Personally, Susan and I are working our way through our journal, Chart Your Course. To add motivation and excitement, we plan to share weekly videos with our approach to each of the 52 steps. We would like to invite all our We Happy Warriors members to participate and strengthen each other in a year of growth. 

References in our recommended Hebrew-English Bible:
*Proverbs 20:13 – p. 2006, line 14, 5th word from the right: ש-נ-ה
*Genesis 5:3 – p. 12, line 18, 5th word from the right: ש-נ-ה
*II Samuel 20:10 – p. 994, 3rd line from the bottom, 2nd word from the left: ש-נ-ה
*Psalms 89:35: p. 1906, line 17, 3rd word from the left:  :  א     א-ש-נ-ה = I will


What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments on this Ask the Rabbi and Susan article.
We Happy Warrior members comment HERE.

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Get Your New Year Started Off Right

This is a season of renewal and change. If you aren’t satisfied with areas of your life right now, the New Year is a great time to begin new habits and make changes. We have two great resources that will help you in your journey.

Chart Your Course: 52 Weekly Journaling Challenges with Rabbi Daniel
and Susan Lapin

$14.95On Sale for $11.95
These 52 Weekly Journaling Challenges from Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin provide consistent, step-by-step actions guiding you to building an improved life.

Soul Construction: Shape Your Character Using 8 Steps from the Timeless Jewish Practice of Mussar By Ruchi Koval
$16.95 – On Sale for $13.50
Ruchi Koval provides a roadmap for all, guiding readers through eight practical and powerful steps to a better version of themselves.

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