Yes, it's a little tongue-in-cheek, but it occurred to me while reading the question on stealing a parents tuition by skipping, and I think that there is a real benefit in the question.

Is it Gezel Sheinah, stealing sleep, to wake up a student asleep in class? In other words, what are the guidelines for when we are not concerned about waking someone up? What are some primary sources which discuss Gezel Sheinah?

http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2009/12/gezel-sheinah-and-divrei-yechezkel.html http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/12/kol-koreh-against-gezel-sheina.html


5 Answers 5


In O"C (63:5) the Shulchan Aruch rules that one must wake up a sleeping person in time for him to recite the Krias Shma. Plainly, one may wake up another if the sleeper is about to lose the opportunity to fulfill a positive obligation, and not worry about Gezel Shinah.

In the OP's case, it might be argued that the sleeper can fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah at a different time of the day, and prefers to sleep now, therefore no net loss of mitzvos will result. However, sleeping during class runs into various other problems such as bizayon torah (dvar hashem biza), bizayon of the rebbi (kavod chachamim), chilul hashem, disturbing others from their learning, setting an example causing others to sin, among other problems. So it still would appear that gezel shinah is not a problem.

A story is told (I think it originates with Rabbi Schwab) how in Radin once, the moon came out of the clouds and enabled the Jews to recite Kiddush Levana. Someone asked the Chafetz Chaim whether he should go and wake up others who had already gone to sleep. The Chafetz Chaim was incredulous that the question was even asked: "Are you normal? Or course not! It's Gezel Shinah!" (Presumably this wasn't the last opportunity that month to say Kiddush Levana.)


It would seem to me that this can be answered with another question.In a day school, by allowing the child to continue sleeping aren't you stealing from the child's parents who are paying the tuition.

  • I mentioned this question in mine, but even if we assume that sleeping in class is stealing from one's parents, that doesn't make it clear to me that one can wake them up if it is gezel sheinah. We have the idea that someone isn't allowed to/expected to commit a minor transgression to save someone else from a major one. Does that idea apply here, I don't know. We first have to figure out whether it constitutes a transgression of gezel sheinah.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Apr 23, 2010 at 7:04

The Rambam says in Laws of Talmud Torah, Chapter 4, Law 5

"However, if it appears to the teacher that they are not applying themselves to the words of Torah and are lax about them, and, therefore, do not understand, he is obligated to display anger towards them and shame them with his words, to sharpen their powers of concentration. In this context, our Sages said: "Cast fear into the students.">

The Rambam also says in Hilchot Rotzeach and Shimirat Hanefesh Chapter 5, Law 6:

Similarly, when a teacher strikes a student or an emissary of the court strikes a litigant who refuses to appear in courtand accidentally kills him, he is not liable for exile. This concept is derived from Deuteronomy 19:5, which mentions the punishment of exile for a person who unintentionally kills a colleague while "chopping wood" - i.e., a permitted act. Thus, this punishment is not imposed when a father strikes a son, a teacher strikes a student, or an emissary of the court strikes a litigant, for they unintentionally killed while performing a mitzvah.

It would seem from the Rambam that a Rebbe has license to motivate the student with even means such as embarrassment or even striking the student. If the student is being lax in his studies and sleeping I think it is a fair deduction that if a Rebbe could actually embarrass or strike them that he could gently wake them up and encourage them to learn. Perhaps in todays world methods of striking and embarrassment may be looked down upon. In fact a Rebbe would probably lose their job. However, in a strict Halachik sense, which the questioner poses the question, I don't see why Gezel Shina would be worse than the above mentioned methods.
I vaguely recall a Law that they can tear the garment of Cohen to educate him if he is being lax or negligent. I don't remember the source for this, so I mention it in passing. However, this would be another support that Gezzel Mamon would not be a problem to educate. I would think that would apply to Gezzel Shinah.

I remember my teacher causing whiplash whenever a classmate would put their head down to sleep. It is a new day and age now...

  • 2
    About the kohen - you may be thinking of the Levi'im guarding the Beis Hamikdash, where if one of them was caught sleeping on the job, the official would beat him with a stick, and optionally could also burn his clothes (Mishnah, Middos 1:2).
    – Alex
    Jun 3, 2011 at 16:46
  • hmmm..could be. Thanks I will take a look at that. That Mishnah would seem to prove the point as well. If you could burn their clothes, I would assume you can wake up a student.
    – RCW
    Jun 3, 2011 at 23:22

when you wake up a child, if he is sleeping in class, it actually helps him benefit more olam haba. to keep him up more: instead of telling him "oh i will tell your parents blah blah blah..." ask him to wash his face to keep him up and advise him more sleep!

  • #1 Davening b'zmano may benifit one more in Olam haBa, but the Divrei Yechezkel was still makpid not to wake them up. Remember, we are not necessarily speaking about a katan.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Apr 20, 2010 at 3:51
  • mrt is referring to sleeping in class, which is how you titled your question. The Divrei Yechezkel was referring to someone sleeping in bed. In the classroom there can also be the factor of how a sleeping student can ruin the environment for active learning or distract the other students.
    – Yahu
    Apr 21, 2010 at 17:01
  • 1
    I understand that the cases are not exactly analogous but mrt focused on the reward for fulfilling a mitzvah aspect which is analogous. The rest of your comment is a new approach.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Apr 25, 2010 at 15:08

Well, there is a Halacha that a person should not sleep on his stomach or back and about that the Teshuvas Salmas Chaim says You can wake him I would Imagine here would be the Same.

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