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I had a very odd dream last night. It was a lucid dream, meaning I realized it was a dream. There are supposedly ways to induce this, but in my case it was an accident. I have no idea why it happened.

I decided in the dream that I wanted to learn.

Then I wasn't sure if I could. First of all, I had slept (obviously) and would have needed to wash my hands before learning. Even if I washed my hands in the dream, that wouldn't help since I couldn't wash my real hands without waking up. Second, I didn't know if I would have had to say Birchot Hatorah in the dream, since sleeping interrupts them.

I asked a Rav in the dream. I don't remember what he said, and at that point I woke up. I realized then that asking him was a completely useless thing to do, since he only existed in my imagination and couldn't have known anything that I didn't know. Plus if I wasn't allowed to learn, I also wasn't allowed to ask him.

Would I have been allowed to learn in the dream? More generally, are there any other halachot that are specifically relevant inside a lucid dream? (They can't apply in a regular dream, since if you don't know it's a dream you can't know to apply them.)

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    You might enjoy these two seforim in relation to your questions. seforimcenter.com/… – Yaacov Deane Oct 23 '17 at 15:24
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    Here is the second volume: seforimcenter.com/… – Yaacov Deane Oct 23 '17 at 15:24
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    Don't quote me on this, but I believe that asking a practical Halacha Shaila is permitted prior to washing hands if that's the only way to do so. – Salmononius2 Oct 23 '17 at 16:14
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    Is there halacha in dreams? If witnessed warn you against killing another, and you do, is the Beis Din in your dream obligated to kill you? What does that even mean. – robev Oct 25 '17 at 3:40
  • @robev right, but in this case (and there could be others), the only action involved is thought, which persists both inside and outside the dream. – Heshy Oct 25 '17 at 10:01
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I can't imagine, IOW I don't know of any, halachos that directly apply, in an instructive manner, to a sleeping person. Halachah governs a conscious person. For this reason R. Emden rules (Resp. vol. 2 §97:3) that a sleeping person does not get reward or punishment for actions executed in his sleep. R. Chizkiyah Medini (Sdei Chemed here) presents a lengthy treatment of a sleeper's actions regarding their halachic bearings.

OTOH, SC (ibid.) presents an alternative position that while a sleeper is not completely exempt from all laws (e.g. a sleeping kohen in a room with a corpse must be woken/removed from the room) any actions done by the sleeper are considered accidental or inadvertent.

The relevant, classic authorities are cited in SC's essay.

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  • But in this case I was (kind of) conscious. The question wasn't about reward and punishment, it was about what should I have done. – Heshy Oct 23 '17 at 15:27
  • @Heshy My answer was for your general question. Re. your specific q. - why would you not be able to learn? Any halacha that may remotely apply to a sleeper is contingent on a second party taking action (removing a kohen sleeping near a corpse; waking up a sleeper outside of a Sukkah on Sukkos; waking up a sleeper wearing tefilin, etc.). How can somebody else know what you're doing in your sleep? Across the board, the sleeper himself cannot be obligated to be aware of what he's doing in his sleep (learning Torah in his sleep after touching areas that would require hand-washing). – Oliver Oct 23 '17 at 15:42
  • Right of course if you aren't aware of what you're doing there's nothing to talk about. In this case I WAS aware of what I was doing. – Heshy Oct 23 '17 at 15:50
  • @Heshy perhaps, but you were nevertheless in a sleeping state and not in control of your actions. Had you been, wouldn't you have forcibly woken yourself up and go wash your hands? – Oliver Oct 23 '17 at 16:01
  • @Oliver the definition of a lucid dream is a person is in control of their actions, and yes could wake up. The goal is to stay in the dream. Regardless, I feel like the discussion if a person is responsible for their actions while sleeping is only relevant to the question insofar that the question is only valid if one is responsible. Thus this doesn't answer the OPs question (Rav Asher Weiss proves from many sources that one is obligated in mitzvos while sleeping). Although I don't see why someone would have to follow halacha in a dream. – robev Oct 25 '17 at 3:38
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Concerning the issue of having to wash your hands,the Halacha is that if the cost of your search of water will be your passing over the time to daven one should skip the hand washing.This is found in the Mechaber Siman 92' s'eef 4'.

Now in our scenario if he were to get up and wash his hands he would have gotten out of his dream and lost this learning opportunity.For he will not anymore the inspiration or at least not to the same extent upon waking up.

Therefor the correct thing would be to grab the opportunity and learn with out the prior washing

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  • There is no evidence from there. Praying is obligatory. Learning is optional. One can just learn later, or settle for exempting himself with the recitation of the shma. – mevaqesh Oct 31 '17 at 19:40
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I once heard in the name of first Rebbe of the Ger Hasidic dynasty (if I remember correctly) that from the account of king Solomon's dream (Kings 1, 3) it appears that a person is expected to act reasonable in his dreams.

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  • Was he talking about a lucid dream? If he was talking about a non-lucid dream in which one does not know that he is dreaming, the that does not seem to be what the OP was talking about; then it goes without saying that one should behave properly in the event that he does not know he is dreaming. – mevaqesh Oct 24 '17 at 19:41
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R. Chaim Volozhiner quotes the Gra who said that it is nice to learn (from an angel) in your sleep, but it is not the main thing:

וגדולה מזו הוא היה אומר, כי אף מה שהנשמה משגת השגות נפלאות ונוראות בשינה ע"י עליית נשמה בשעשוע העליון במתיבתין עלאין, אינו נחשב אצלו כ"כ לעיקר גדול, והעיקר מה שהאדם משיג בזה העולם ע"י עמל ויגיעה כאשר הוא בוחר בטוב ומפנה עצמו לד"ת, בזה עושה נ"ר ליוצרו ית"ש, וזה כל האדם בעסק תורתו ית"ש, אבל מה שהנשמה משגת בשינה שהוא בלא יגיעה ובלא בחירה ורצון, הוא רק קיבול שכר לבד שהקב"ה מטעים בזה העולם מעין עוה"ב.

R. Chaim Volozhiner goes on to say that the Gra received such heavenly Torah knowledge every night. This is the same Vilna Gaon who did not sleep while he was in jail over Sukkos to avoid sleeping outside of a sukkah (see Tosefes Maaseh Rav no. 62). Clearly, there is no problem associated with receiving Torah knowledge in your sleep.

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I can't answer this question from a halachic perspective, but I can attempt to answer the scientific question: "Is a person conscious during lucid dreaming, and thus possibly responsible for their actions." Lucid dreaming has been scientifically recognized since the late 1970s to early 1980s as a type of dream state in which the dreamer is conscious. Prior to this, there are anecdotal records of lucid dream states going back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Since the early 1980s, countless studies have studied the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, and the conscious state of lucid dreamers has been clinically verified in multiple lab settings using a number of different techniques. While the ultimate question of whether a person is responsible for their actions during a lucid dream should be presented to a qualified posek, I would advise someone addressing the question to the posek to include the scientific evidence demonstrating that lucid dreaming is a relatively conscious state of mind.

Sources:

Fenigstein, A., Scheier, M. F., & Buss, A. H. (1975). Public and private self-consciousness: Assessment and theory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43(4), 522–527. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0076760

La Berge, S. P., Nagel, L. E., Dement, W. C., & Zarcone, V. P. (1981). Lucid Dreaming Verified by Volitional Communication during Rem Sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 52(3), 727–732. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1981.52.3.727

Voss, U., Holzmann, R., Tuin, I., & Hobson, A. J. (2009). Lucid dreaming: A state of consciousness with features of both waking and non-lucid dreaming. Sleep (New York, N.Y.), 32(9), 1191-1200. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/32.9.1191

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  • What does this add to the question which already presumes that lucid dreams are conscious? – DonielF Aug 14 at 22:33
  • Not all commentators in this discussion assumed that lucid dreams are a conscious state of mind. I am responding to those comments in this discussion that (e.g. @Oliver) that questioned the scientific support for lucid dreaming as a conscious state of mind. This post also provides sources to scientific literature about the scientific support for lucid dreaming. – The Wondering Jew Aug 14 at 22:45

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