Tikkun Leil Shavuot

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

There is an ancient Jewish custom to remain awake all night on Shavuot, immersed in Torah study.[1] It is explained that doing so serves to remedy the behavior of the Jewish people who were all fast asleep as God was about to reveal the Torah. Another reason for this custom is based on the teaching that the Torah is compared to a bride and the Jewish people, her groom. Staying awake all night immersed in Torah study symbolically parallels the bridal preparations for a wedding. The wedding, in this context, is the holiday of Shavuot which celebrates the receiving of the Torah.[2] One should remain awake at least until the crack of dawn, which was when the Torah was actually given. One whose concentration in the morning prayers would be adversely affected by staying up all night should not do so.[3]

Among the more popular texts for study on Shavuot night is the Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is a work which contains excerpts from all twenty-four books of the Tanach and all sixty-three tractates of the Mishna, as well as other rabbinical works. This arrangement is intended to afford all Jews a taste of the entire body of Torah literature on Shavuot. One who reads the Tikkun Leil Shavuot is considered to have studied both the entire Written and Oral Torah.[4] One who fears that one will not be able to complete the Tikkun during the allotted time on Shavuot night should start reading it earlier in the day.[5] So too, one who was unable to complete the Tikkun at night should do so during the day and even in the day(s) following Shavuot.[6] Interestingly enough, there are authorities who say that one should avoid studying Mishna on Shavuot night[7], while there are others who argue that one’s primary study should, in fact, be within the realm of the Oral Torah.[8]

There are a number of authorities who counsel against the custom of using Shavuot night exclusively for reading the Tikkun. According to this approach, Shavuot night should be used to study any Torah text or subject matter which one prefers.[9] Related to this is the opinion that the Tikkun was only created for the benefit of those who are incapable of independent Torah study. Other authorities strongly disagree and insist that everyone should recite the Tikkun on Shavuot night. It is also said to have been the custom of the Arizal to read the Tikkun on Shavuot night.[10] Yet other authorities suggest that one should first complete the Tikkun and then proceed to study other texts.[11]

Many people have the custom to daven shacharit at sunrise on Shavuot, though others first go to sleep for a few hours in order to be able to pray in a refreshed state.[12] Those who are unable to remain awake on Shavuot night should make the effort to remain awake until midnight, or at least until a later hour than usual.[13] It is also meritorious to simply wake up at dawn and daven shacharit at sunrise even if one must sleep most of the night beforehand.[14] One is encouraged to make an effort to speak only Hebrew on Shavuot night.[15] Some have the custom to remain awake on the second night of Shavuot in the Diaspora, as well,[16] though most people don’t.[17] According to kabbala, one should avoid marital relations on Shavuot night.[18]

1 Magen Avraham 494, Mishna Berura 494:1

2 Zohar;Emor 98

3 Magen Avraham 619:11

4 Minhag Yisrael Torah 494:3

5 Nitei Gavriel;Shavuot 14:10

6 Nitei Gavriel;Shavuot 16:8,9

7 Kaf Hachaim 494:9

8 Shulchan Aruch Harav 494:3

9 Chok Yaakov 494:1

10 Lev David 31

11 Piskei Teshuvot 494:3

12 Minhag Yisrael Torah 494:3

13 Nitei Gavriel;Shavuot 14, note 9

14 Nitei Gavriel;Shavuot 16:6

15 Minhag Yisrael Torah 494:3

16 Kaf Hachaim 494:10, Mateh Moshe 694

17 Mo’ed Kol Chai 8:24

18 Kaf Hachaim 696:13,14


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

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