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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Learning Torah at Night

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

At the end of the list of events that took place on Tu B’Av the Gemara (Taanis 31a) declares: Now that the nights are getting longer, people must learn more Torah at night. One who learns Torah at night will have increased longevity and one who does not learn Torah at night will have the tragic opposite results.

The Gemara in Avodah Zara (3b) elaborates on this concept: Resh Lakish says one who studies Torah at night is blessed with a “thread of kindness,” meaning that he will find favor in the eyes of others, during the day.

The Rambam (Talmud Torah 3: 13) says that although the Mitzvah is to learn Torah both day and night, the bulk of ones wisdom is acquired at night. He then proceeds t quote the Gemara in Avoda Zara above.

And to top it all off, the Gemara in Eruvin (65b) says that night was created solely for Torah study.

What is so special about nocturnal Torah study?

I once heard a beautiful thought to explain this. (I think it was repeated in the name of Rav Aharon Kotler but cannot place it right now). What one does during the day is what they are obligated to do. They work, take care of their families and communities. Night time is synonymous with rest and relaxation, and doing what we choose to do. It is when we naturally revert to our default positions.

If someone is so involved and enthralled with learning Torah to the point that their default position is to sit down and study Torah, then Hashem says I will give you a special bracha in that Torah learning. You will be able to acquire the most wisdom during that session, and you will have a special chein throughout the day.

This concept is brought l’halacha in the Shulchan Oruch (OC 238:1). The Mishna Berura explains that one should be careful that even in the summer months they learn Torah for at least a few minutes after nightfall.

For Part 2 of this article please click here.

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