It’s a story that happens all too often: a dispute over snoring escalates into physical violence. In this case, the events occurred in Home of Grace, a shelter in Walton Beach, Florida, where snoring incited one man to brandish a knife at the snorer, and a later dispute over a soda led to a broom thrown like a spear, impaling the leg of the snorer.
But what makes this dispute especially noteworthy is that a rabbi used it as the occasion to ask the question: does a snorer have obligation to seek treatment under the Jewish code known as halacha?
“Theft of Sleep”
Rabbi Yair Hoffman starts his analysis by pointing out that there is, in Jewish law, a term known as “theft of sleep,” “gezel sheinah,” in which doing something that either wakes someone up or prevents them from going to sleep is considered an immoral act.
He then goes on to ask whether this is really considered a form of theft that could be considered criminal and whether it requires potential punishment. Some scholars of the law note that although the act is considered immoral, it may not be considered a literal theft and therefore might not have the same penalties as more traditional forms of theft.
Ultimately, the conclusion is that although there is no money or objects being stolen, snoring can be considered an act of theft under halacha.
An “obligation” to Get Treatment
Rabbi Hoffman poses the question, “Is there an obligation on the part of one who snores to seek a remedy for that condition?” Although he never really gets around to explicitly answering this particular question, the implication is clear: snoring is morally wrong when it prevents other people from sleeping, and if it is possible to remedy snoring, we have a moral obligation to get snoring treatment.
Although most of us don’t explicitly follow halacha, this Jewish moral code is foundational for Christian, Islamic, and other moral codes, and the implication that snoring is a moral violation cannot simply be ignored.