There are so many concerns in the world today; so many ways to focus on our emotional, physical and spiritual health. The world is bracing for more coronavirus outbreaks; for who will get it and who won’t; for where we should travel and where we shouldn’t; for how we should be washing our hands and turning door handles. Israel is counting ballots and discussing coalitions while America is knee-deep in primaries and never-ending political discussions.
Every day for the last 60, I’ve enjoyed an escape from the swirl of current day chaos. I’ve carved out 45 minutes (give or take a few) to listen to Michelle Cohen Farber’s Daf Yomi shiur. This is my first foray into Gemara learning and I’m really enjoying some of the connections I’m making.
Last week, the Daf Yomi learning was filled with the discussion of dreams and the topic made me smile from beginning to end – thinking about one of my sons.
We have an interesting history in our house with dreams. Many years ago, we had the pleasure of spending one luxurious Shabbat at the King David Hotel. It was amazing except for one thing – Moshe Dayan. While admiring pictures on the walls of all of the famous people who have stayed at or visited the King David, my four-year-old was overcome with fear seeing the hero, Moshe Dayan. Apparently (as we would later learn), he was freaked out by the eye patch; we didn’t realize the extent of his fear at the time, but it would soon become clear.
Because we didn’t sleep for months.
This poor child got up with night terrors for months, screaming about the eye patch. He just could not get over his fear of it or his sense of terror.
And we, his dad and very pregnant mom, were exhausted and frustrated and so sad for our little guy. But as parents have done through the ages, we begged him to go to sleep; we sat in his room; we cried a little (if I recall); and we had many sleepless nights.
Eventually, my husband said, “I’m taking him to the Rav.”
I said, “What? What can the Rav do for him that we haven’t tried?”
My husband said, “I don’t know, but I can’t take it anymore, and it’s worth a try.”
So, we booked an appointment with our neighborhood Rav and we took our son over one evening. We explained the issue and then sat back and watched the Rav work in a way that has stayed with us for 14 years.
Gently leaning down to our son’s level, the Rav started to talk to him about things that we cover. He showed him the tablecloth that was on their dining room table. And our son got the idea. He started brainstorming things that are covered from challah covers that hide the delicious bread to blinds which keep out the sun and more. They talked for a long time about the benefit of having things covered and about why things are covered.
Then, he offered our son a mantra. He said that anytime that the bad dreams came back, he should say to himself, “Halom Tov Rayiti. Halom Tov Rayiti” (I saw a good dream. I saw a good dream) and that he should repeat this as many times as he needed until he was able to fall back asleep.
We went home.
And it worked.
We were in utter disbelief when he slept through the night, and the next one, and so on. We would hear him whispering Halom Tov Rayiti to himself for months…it was a miracle worker; well, for everyone but his six-year-old brother and roommate. One night, we heard our four-year-old saying his sweet mantra and then we heard our six-year-old yell: “Would you SHUT UP already!” Apparently not everyone loved this solution.
But since then, we’ve used this mantra anytime that our other kids have needed it. Our nine-year-old and his far-too-active imagination uses this pattern every single night. We say Halom Tov Rayiti together five times, then Shema, and then offer him a few ideas for good dreams.
Little did we know that our Rav’s advice 14 years ago would stay with us for so long or influence our children’s sleep patterns so miraculously. And little did we know, at the time, before we had studied Gemara, how grounded his advice was in an historical context or that people have been discussing and debating these issues for generations.
We were blessed to find a path that worked for our son so long ago, and that has continued to work for our other children.
If only we could a similar mantra to sooth the frayed nerves of people around the world with our health and political situations.