My husband is one of the most incredible sleepers I have ever known. He really is. And sleeping well is a wonderful thing, unless of course you're the wife of an incredible sleeper and your husband keeps falling asleep and staying asleep on couches, chairs, and various other non-bed accouterments, as opposed to going to bed in the bedroom (as is the custom of most human beings). When we first got married, my husband explained to me that he loved taking a nap right before bedtime. But the idea of a pre-nap (as I call it) drove me crazy because as I tried explaining to him, if you're tired enough to take a nap at bedtime, you're tired enough to go to bed.
My husband persisted with the pre-nap for a while, which left me, a highly determined (read stubborn) wife, always stuck trying to wake him up and drag him to continue his night's slumber in a bed (where he'd be much more comfortable). Oh the various methods I employed to try to wake that man up. Clapping in his ears. Water. Pillow-pilfering. Injuring myself on a Cuisinart blade. (OK, that one wasn't on purpose). All to no avail.
During yet another failed attempt to move him off the couch one evening, I got bored and was curious to see if my husband, who's quite good with computations while awake, had the ability to crunch numbers while asleep. I started to feed him a series of complex numbers to add and multiply. In his deep sleep he quickly (and with as much confidence as an unconscious man could exude) spit out the answers. I was convinced that I had stumbled upon a great discovery, a supercomputer tucked away within the recesses his brain, if you will, and began to play the sleeping math game with him often. Then one day, out of curiosity, I decided to check his answers out with a calculator, and realized that they were complete and utter nonsense.
But there is one thing that my husband does in his sleep that astounds me each and every time he does it. Something much more impressive than the sleeping math trick could ever hope to be, even if he were to get the answers right. Being that I tend towards insomnia and am very light sleeper, if I hear noises in the night, I wake up. And my husband – like so many men out there – occasionally snores, particularly if he turns onto his back. So in the middle of one night when we first got married, I told him that he was snoring and asked him to roll over.
Now if one person points out something that another person is doing to bother him, the best that the corrector can hope for is an apology (and hopefully a change of behavior). But my husband did something far better than that. When I told him that he was snoring, instead of saying "sorry", he said "thank you" (and promptly turned over in his sleep). And he continues saying "thank you" each and every time I tell him that he's snoring, to this day.
You see, when we first got married, my husband asked me to correct him if he ever did anything wrong as he wanted me to help him become a better person. (I remember thinking at the time, "is this guy for real?" but he was.) The Torah discusses the relationship between the first husband and wife (Adam and Eve) and describes Eve as an ezer k'negdo – an opposing helpmate, meaning the wife is there to point out her husband's mistakes in order to help him grow. The Torah also tells us that we have a responsibility to all our fellow Jews to let them know when they are not behaving properly (this is called tochacha). But when I realized that the ability to hear and be receptive to criticism was so ingrained in my husband that he thanked me for correcting him, even in his sleep, I was completely blown away.
Although the wife is the official ezer k'negdo, it doesn't mean that she can't learn and grow from her husband as well. It will probably take me a while to get to the "saying thank you in my sleep" level, but my husband is a patient man and after all these years, he hasn't given up on me. I still haven't completely graduated past the "acknowledging that I did something wrong" level. But, hey, at least I acknowledged that I'm stubborn!