Galut is a slumber and a dream. In sleep, there is a diminution of the bond between body and soul — indeed, the Talmud considers sleep to be “a sixtieth part of death.” (Talmud, Brachot 57b.) A person’s higher faculties–his reason, sight, hearing, etc.–are subdued and garbled, while his lower faculties are unaffected.
However, this is but a superficial description of the state of sleep; in essence, sleep preserves and enhances the fusion of body and soul. Thus, galut can be described as a time when G-d is “asleep”: galut is a time when the flow of divine energy into our world seems diminished and distorted. G-d seems remote and disaffected; the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper. But, like sleep, galut, despite its surface negativity, renews and intensifies the bond between creation and its divine soul.
As G-d “sleeps,” we experience galut as a nightmare, as a surreal collage of horrific impossibilities. Galut cannot be–it runs contrary to everything we know about G-d’s compassion, justice and special relationship with us, yet it persists, for centuries and millennia, in its painful illusion of reality. “When G-d shall return the exiles of Zion,” sings the psalmist, “we will be as dreamers.” (Psalms 126:1)
As dreamers whose dream dissipates to unreality upon their waking, we will then see the pain of galut retroactively divested of its reality; we will then understand that we–the real we–were never subject to galut’s horrors, no matter how vivid and tortuous an experience it was to our dreaming selves.
The only enduring aspect of the sleep of galut will be its benefits: the greater depth of a faith tested by trial and tribulation, and the spiritual profit of our dispersion to the ends of earth and our contact with the most far-flung of G-d’s creations.
Yanki Tauber is author of “The Inside Story,” “Beyond the Letter of the Law,” and editor of Chabad.org