Every night, we make the Berachah of המפיל חבלי שנה על עיני, Who causes the binds of sleep to fall on my eyes (Berachos 60b; SA OC 239:1), and in the morning, we make the Berachah of מתיר אסורים, Who releases the bound, which refers to when one sits up after waking (Berachos ibid.; SA OC 46:1).

Why don’t we just say “He Who causes us to fall asleep” and “He Who allows us to sit up”? Why do we use such a metaphor instead of a more direct terminology? What benefit is there in describing sleep as being bound, rather than describing sleep as sleep?

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    my personal take (unsubstantiated, but comforting) is that matir asurim thanks hashem for allowing those who were imprisoned in diseased bodies to pass in their sleep, freeing their souls (k'shem shemevarech al hatov…) which is why we say it in the amida after rofeh cholim -- if they can't be healed, they can be released. – rosends Oct 7 '18 at 11:43
  • @rosends You mean in Gevuros where we say סומך נופלים ורופא חולים ומתיר אסורים. That’s an interesting idea. It doesn’t fully answer the question, but something to think about. – DonielF Oct 7 '18 at 16:54
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    Have you ever seen me in bed? It's imprisonment. – ezra Dec 6 '18 at 16:04
  • @ezra No, I haven’t seen you in bed. That would be creepy. :) I definitely agree that it’s an apt metaphor, but it doesn’t quite answer why we employ it. Are we just trying to be poetic, or is there something borne out by it that more direct language wouldn’t communicate? – DonielF Dec 12 '18 at 21:14

Divrey Yirmiyahu, Tefilah 7 (ד״ה ובפי׳):

When a person is asleep it’s as if he is tied up with ropes [חבלי שנה], because he can’t move his limbs whatsoever. That’s why we say מתיר אסורים in the morning.

During sleep all bodily strength and strength of the soul are tied up in that one cannot use them freely.

ובפי' המפיל חבלי שינה וכו' עיין באבודרהם ולדעתי פי' על כי האדם בעת השינה כאלו נאסר בחבלים אשר לא יוכל להתנועע באברים ולכן מברך בשחר ברוך מתיר אסורים כי בעת השינה גם כל כוחות גופו ונפשו נאסרים בלי כי יוכל להשתמש בהם כרצונו בדעה החפשית: (Sefaria link)

  • This isn’t any better than the other answer. Both explain the metaphor but don’t explain why it’s employed. – DonielF Dec 12 '18 at 21:16
  • Maybe you need some convincing. Firstly, this is better; it’s sourced. Second, this is exactly answering your question. He writes ‘פירוש’, meaning: Why is it written in this [strange] way? Well, because etc... However asking why it’s not written in another construction [which you made up(?)] could perhaps go on ad infinitum. Unless I miss understand your entire question, in which case, please edit for clarification. Tnx – Dr. Shmuel Dec 13 '18 at 4:51
  • 1. Sources don’t help if it doesn’t answer the question. The other one has sources as well, anyway. 2. I can absolutely ask why it doesn’t do it some other way if I can provide a good reason why it should have. The Berachos are written with metaphors: the “binds of sleep.” Why aren’t they written more directly, “Who causes me to fall asleep,” or “Who allows us to sit up”? The only fallacy I see in asking “why does it do x instead of y” is if there’s no benefit to y over x, but here there is - we don’t usually use poetic license in Berachos. – DonielF Dec 13 '18 at 8:35
  • I still don’t understand. Isn’t the poetic license to tell you exactly what is going on I.e. sleep is likened to being tied up? – Dr. Shmuel Dec 13 '18 at 8:39
  • Right, sleep is likened to being tied up. Why don’t we just talk about sleep instead of drawing comparisons? – DonielF Dec 13 '18 at 8:39

I heard from Rav Asher Druk שליט"א that the Berachah of מתיר אסורים refers to one's ability to move one's limbs.

Classically a prisoner is bound and immobilized, and so we thank Hashem every morning that all our limbs are in working order and move as expected.

Sitting up in bed is the first sign that everything is A-okay.

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    You misunderstand. I get what the metaphor refers to. I asked why we employ the metaphor instead of using more direct language. – DonielF Oct 7 '18 at 16:52
  • What Danny is emphasizing is correct. The change that we make the blessing on is that we lose the ability to exert our will upon the physical body. This is because the soul departs the physical body during sleep. The continuation of the blessing also emphasizes that the point of our souls departure from the physical body during sleep and return to it is via the pupil of the eyes. – Yaacov Deane Nov 6 '18 at 15:28

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