Tikkun Chatzot

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin 

There exists a lesser known, rarely practiced, midnight ritual known as “Tikkun Chatzot” which focuses on mourning over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and beseeching God to rebuild it speedily.[1] This service consists of a compilation of psalms, dirges, and other readings concerning the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the current Exile. Among the reasons that midnight was chosen as the ideal time for the recitation of Tikkun Chatzot is because we are taught that every day at midnight God Himself moans and mourns over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.[2]  Similarly, the primary text dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem, Eicha, encourages us to mourn for Jerusalem during this time period each night.[3]

Tikkun Chatzot is truly intended to be recited while seated on the floor and barefoot. Some individuals even place ashes upon their forehead or wear sackcloth in order to emphasize the theme of mourning.[4] As participating in this ritual is quite strenuous, Tikkun Chatzot is not meant for everyone and is certainly not a pressing obligation.[5] In fact, some authorities suggest that it is better to omit Tikkun Chatzot rather than to recite it without the proper feelings and intent.[6] 

Nevertheless, in the event that an opportunity present itself to observe this ritual (i.e. one unexpectedly finds himself awake late at night), even a one time recitation brings with it tremendous merit.[7] Indeed, reciting even a single Psalm from the Tikkun Chatzot, a single verse, or even just pondering the destruction of Jerusalem in one’s mind at midnight is considered to have participated in this ritual.[8] The door of the room where one is reciting Tikkun Chatzot should remain open.[9] It is interesting to note that if one only has the ability to recite either Selichot or Tikkun Chatzot, it is Tikkun Chatzot which takes preference.[10]

A related custom within everyone’s reach is to recite the Psalm “Al Naharot Bavel” on weekdays at the conclusion of every meal.[11] This Psalm is not recited on Shabbat or holidays when acts of mourning would be inappropriate. There is a variant version of Tikkun Chatzot that is recited even on Shabbat and holidays however.[12] During the Shemitta year a shorter version of Tikkun Chatzot is recited in the Land of Israel. In the Diaspora no changes are made to the text.[13] Women are exempt from Tikkun Chatzot but may recite it if they so desire.[14]

[1] O.C. 1:2,3

[2] Berachot 3a

[3] Eicha 2:19

[4] Kaf Hachaim 1:18,19

[5] Pitchei Teshuva 1:10n82

[6] Minhag Yisrael Torah 1:2

[7] Siddur Harav

[8] Piskei Teshuvot 1:10

[9] Kaf Hachaim 1:19

[10] Kaf Hachaim 581:4

[11] Magen Avraham 1:5

[12] Siddur Harav, Kaf Hachaim 1:9

[13] Kaf Hachaim 1:12,20

[14] Kaf Hachaim 1:15

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com


  1. http://www.shechem.org/torah/benishhi/reshon/vayishlach.html

    See a ew interesting things here in the Ben Ish Hai Vayishlach:
    -the dispute how to calculate Hatzot (netz or when sun hits the earth-I heard that al pi kabbalah it is the later time that is most crucial for TH)
    -women were not accustomed to say TH in Bagdhad or yerushalayim
    -one should change one’s place from teh floor to their makom kavua before the Tikun Leah (the part that is recited on shabbat)

    Also, Rebbe Nahman says in “lower” generations, TH is even more important.

    There’s a beautiful story of a young Rav Kook who when as a chikld was asked why he was crying so much at TH, replied “Because I am a kohen”

    So much more on this important minhag- Yiyasher Kohakha for spreading awarenes.

  2. חסידים מספרים כי ר’ משה לייב מסאסוב היה מדקדק גדול בתיקון חצות. בכל לילה היה מתאבל על חורבן ירושלים, וחסידים היו נוהגים לומר כי הפסוק “קול דודי דופק” מוסב עליו, שכן בכל לילה היה קול השכינה דופק בקרבו ומעוררו לעבודת תיקון חצות.
    ר’ צבי הירש מזידיטשוב, ששמע על עבודתו הנפלאה של הרבי מסאסוב בחצות הלילה, החליט להסתתר בחדרו של הרבי כדי לראות מה מעשהו בשעת התיקון. בחצות הלילה ראה את הרבי לובש בגדי איכרים, יוצא לחצר המכוסה שלג, מעלה גזרי עצים מתך המרתף, קושר אותם בחבילה ומעמיסם על גבו.
    אחר-כך עזב את הבית, ורבי הירש הלך אחריו, בקור העז של ליל החורף, עד לקצה העיר. שם, לפני צריף רעוע, עמד רבי משה לייב מלכת ופרק את העצים מעל שכמו. רבי הירש התגנב אל החלון שמאחורי הבית וראה חדר דל ושומם, תנור כבוי, ועל המיטה שוכבת אישה ולוחצת אל לבה את עוללה שנולד, כנראה זה לא מכבר.
    והנה עמד הרבי בחדר. רבי הירש ראה אותו שהוא ניגש אל האישה, ושמע שהוא פונה אליה בלשון רגילה: “יש לי למכור חבילה של עצים ואין את נפשי לישא אותה הלאה, האם רוצה את לקנותה מידי בדמים מועטים?” האשה השיבה: “אין לי פרוטה בבית”. אבל הרבי לא הרפה ממנה: “אבוא בפעם אחרת לקבל את הכסף, קחי מידי את העצים”. טענה האישה: “מה אעשה בעצים, הרי איני יכולה לבקע אותם לגזרים, וגם גרזן אין לי”. אמר הרבי: “לזה אדאג אני”. יצא מפתח הבית הוציא גרזן, ובקע את העצים לגזרים קטנים.
    בשעה שבקע את העצים שמע רבי הירש שהוא אומר ‘תיקון רחל’, ולאזניו הגיעו המילים “התנערי מעפר קומי שבי ירושלים”. אחר-כך נשא הרבי את העצים והרכין עצמו כדי להיכנס בפתח הנמוך והסיק את התנור. ובשעה שהניח את גזרי העצים בתוך התנור, אמר בלחש את ‘תיקון לאה’, וסיים: “תקום תרחם ציון תבנה חומות ירושלים”. יצא מן החדר וחזר בפסיעות מהירות הביתה.

  3. From Avir Yaakov (Baba Sali’s Saba)

    We learn TH from David Hamel.

    TH is tzedaka for shekhina

    “Ein Tikun lapegam shel hashekhina kemo TH”

    Tikun Hatzot leads to eradicating lashon hara

  4. Moshe Shoshan

    On the rise of Tikkun Chatzot as popular practice see Eliot Horowitz’s classic article.



  5. Thanks for all the additional sources, guys!

    Ari Enkin

  6. The story of the chernobler rebbe is well known. He was once staying in a village and at night starting saying (crying) TC. The owner of the house heard him and asked him what the matter was. Had he not done enough for him, not given him enough kovod etc. He replied by explaining that we once had a beth hamikdosh and he was yearning for it. At the same time he tried to get this owner of the house also interested. He said he would ask his wife. She replied we have everything we need here a nice house nice parnoso why go to Israel. The rebbe said, but what about the goyim who make you trouble. Again he went to ask his wife, she replied yes youre right they do make us trouble, SEND THEM TO Israel.
    The moral of the story is one can only say TC if he really would prefer to be in Israel.

  7. Mordechai Tzion

    Regarding “Al Naharot Bavel”, it is written in Iturei Yerushalayim (Kislev 5769 – #26) that Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook would not recite “Al Naharot Bavel” but rather “Shir Ha-Maa’lot” at each meal, as a result of our return to our Land (although “Al Naharot Bavel” and when it is recited appears in Siddur Olat Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 1, p. 360 – A siddur with Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s commentary which Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda arranged).
    I also saw that Ha-Rav Yaakov Ariel – Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan – was once asked: on a day on which Tachanun is not recited, should “Shir Ha-Maalot” (which is recited on festive days) or “Al Naharot Bavel” be recited? He answered: Many have the custom in Eretz Yisrael to recited “Shir Ha-Maa’lot” every day.

  8. 1 I would have added sif 4 -better to say ledd with more kavana.
    2 what halachic category does raui fit into? hiw does it compare to other c categories (eg hishtadel to daven with a minyan)
    3 interesing note by the M”A about saying al naharoit bavel-wonder how frequent this is vs tikkun chatzot

  9. If one were to wake up and recite Tikkun Chatzot, what is the practice regarding negel vasser and Birkot haTorah?

  10. Lawrence Kaplan

    Moshe Shoshan: I also wanted to mention Elliot Horowitz’s article. You beat me to it!

    Tuvia: The story about R. Moshe Leib of Sassov is, of cours, the basis for Y.L. Peretz’s famous Yiddish story “If Not Higher.”

  11. I did TH as regularly as I could over a year of unemployment when I found plenty a sleepless night. Wearing sackcloth stuffed my sinuses, so I made a black ‘tallit’ instead with a rounded corner. If you’re in college and have erratic hours and can be up for hatzot or stay up for it (less ideal), it was not so hard, even the full TH.

  12. Stacey-

    This is a very good question! There are many different views as to which blessings should be recited when waking up for TC. To make it even more complicated — it may also depend whether one wakes up before halachic midnight or after, and how long one slept beforehand.

    Ari Enkin

  13. re other topics to discuss, how about something on shvus during bein hashmashos (friday eveninng) and practical considerations?

  14. Meir-

    Thanks for the input.

    Ill add it to the list, but I definately wont get to it until after Purim.

    Ari Enkin

  15. “Tikkun” means repair. OK, what is one trying to repair by saying TC, and how is one trying to repair it?

    P.S. The answer isn’t “the fact that the Temple was destroyed.” That’s just the outward manifestation. The repair must go deeper than that.

  16. Maybe the “tikkun” is to repair oneself – to make oneself sensitive that there is no Beis Hamikdash today.

    Ari Enkin

  17. Lawrence Kaplan

    IIRC, tikkun can also mean adorn. To adorn the Shekhinah who has fallen into captivity.

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