Sleeping Late On Shabbos: Yay or Nay?

By Rabbi Baruch Fried

“And Moshe said: Eat it today! For today is a Sabbath to Hashem. Today you will not find it in the field.” [Shemos 16:25] The Gemara in Shabbos [117 B] sources the obligation of eating the three Shabbos meals on the thrice repeated “today” in this verse. Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch [O”C 188] cites the Yerushalmi that not only is fasting for the entire Shabbos day prohibited, one may not even fast till Chatzos. Rema adds that even if one isdavening or learning he must not push off eating past Chatzos.

How late can you sleep?

A student recently asked me, if one wants to sleep past Chatzos on Shabbos, is it ok to begin their Shabbos seudah later? While this may seem to be a theoretical question due to Zmanei Krias Shema and Tefilla, for women and girls [teenage in particular] who aren’t obligated in time-bound mitzvos1the question can be highly relevant. Based on the above, I initially responded in the negative. For although while asleep you would be considered anonais2, you shouldn’t set yourself up for that and should have an alarm clock wake you earlier so you won’t be fasting past Chatzos. However in later conversation with Hagaon Rav Reuven Feinstein Shlita, a different picture emerged.

The reasons for eating before Chatzos

There seem to be two reasons given for the “Chatzos” factor. The Magen Avraham and Taz [ibid] cite a Gemara [Shabbos 10 B] that to eat breakfast after the sixth hour is “like throwing a rock into a thermos” i.e. though it now seems fuller, you haven’t gained anything practically. Similarly, if one tasted nothing until after Chatzos, even their subsequent eating will not have the desired effect. Accordingly, it would seem that the issue with fasting till Chatzos is not so much the fasting itself, rather the lack of subsequent oneg Shabbos when you do eat. Elsewhere, Magen Avraham himself [157:1] suggests the possibility that this “throwing a rock into a thermos” effect would be subjective to when you wake up and not based on actual Chatzos. In that case, sleeping past Chatzos would surely not pose any problem.

However to rely on that is problematic. Firstly, it seems that most Poskim don’t agree with M”A’s suggestion that the six hours are subjective3. Secondly, the Yerushalmi compares this Halacha to a similar Halacha in Hilchos Taanis [O”C 575:11] that fasting half of the day is to some extent like fasting the entire day, which implies that the obligation to eat before Chatzos is because of the general prohibition of fasting on Shabbos, and not because of the lack of Oneg in your subsequent eating. As far as fasting is concerned it seems obvious that it makes no difference whether one is awake or asleep4.

Two arguments to permit sleeping in

The Mishna Berura [ibid] does bring the Elyah Rabbah who permits davening and learning to extend beyond Chatzos based on the Mordechai inMaseches Shabbos, in opposition to the Rema cited above. While it would seem apparent that we cannot compare davening and learning to sleeping, certainly not when the whole opinion is up against that of the Rema, a deeper look reveals otherwise. The Rav Shulchan Aruch [288:1] quotes that opinion of the Mordechai as permitting davening and learning for those who enjoy davening and learning more than eating. In which case, we can suggest that even the Rema who does not allow it, may only be of that opinion for those who enjoy eating more. Since it is difficult to properly assess if we enjoy davening and learning more than eating, one should be sure to eat before Chatzos. Now that may be true for davening and learning, but as far as sleeping goes, it’s not too hard to assess whether sleeping in is more enjoyable than getting up to eat.

One could argue further that to get up before you “have to” is not just a choice between one enjoyment over another; rather it would be consideredtzaar [pain] to get out of bed. The Shulchan Aruch clearly rules [288:3] that one who is so accustomed to fasting that it pains him to eat, may fast the entire Shabbos. It would seem fair to assume that any pain would exempt you, even if not directly related to eating5. Consequently we can conclude that sleeping late on Shabbos is halachically permitted. As to whether or not it’s a good idea to spend your entire Shabbos morning in bed is beyond the scope of this article…

1 עסימן קו מב סקד, אגמ אוח חד סימן קא אות ב‘. ויותר שמעתי מהגרש קמנצקי שליטא שאף המחייבים לנשים בתפילה יל ששאני תפילת שבת, דכל חיובם הוא מדין בקשה, ובשבת ליכא בקשה, וצע.

2 כמבואר בתוסבמ מב. דה אמר שמואל

3 כן משמע מסתימת הרמא וכל הפוסקים כאן שלא הביאו דבריו לדינא.

4 ערשי תענית כה: דה שכן מצינו, ויל.

5 נראה ראילזה ממה שמתיר המחבר להתענות תענית חלום בשבת מפני שנפשו עגומה עליו וסובר לבטל הגזירה בתעניתו, דהתם נמי אין האכילה צער לו אלא שרוצה בתעניתו לכפרה.ואעפ שהתם מחייבין לו ליתב תענית לתעניתו, יש לחלק טובא דהתם הילשם תענית כמושכ המב שם סקיד.


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  1. Dreaming on Shabbas is probably not a big deal. I have slept a few times all day long. And the sleep was so good that I knew more Torah when I woke up. The dreams you have might give you an idea what you and your mind can be in a Torah world.