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Friday, May 22, 2009

Staying Up to Learn on Shavous Night

This post was written on the yahrtzeit of my grandfather Matisyahu ben Chaim Rafael and is dedicated to his memory. May his neshama have an aliyah

There is a widespread custom to stay up all night on Shavous and study Torah. There is an interesting history to this Minhag. The Medrash tells us that when the Torah was given, the Jewish Nation as a whole slept in, and had to be awoken by G-d to receive the Torah. In reparation, we stay up all night and study Torah. (Magen Avrohom).

The Arizal writes that one who does not sleep at all, and spends the entire night immersed in Torah study, is promised that he will live out the year without harm. Some are careful not to speak at all (aside from words of Torah) until after davening.

We are faced with an interesting dilemma when it comes to making the morning blessings.

Netilas Yadayim – there is a dispute as to why we make a blessing upon washing our hands in the morning:

Either because we have slept and therefore may have touched somewhere that would require washing before davening (Rosh),

Or because we are newly recreated beings upon awakening in the morning after sleep, and therefore say all the morning blessings, and the process that was instituted was to begin with washing our hands and making a blessing much as the Kohen would do in the Beis Hamikdash before beginning to go about his duties. (Rashba)

Practically we would need both reasons to require making a Bracha. Therefore if one is awake all night, the Rema rules that he should wash his hands without a Bracha. The Mishna Berura suggests that one relieves oneself immediately after Amud Hashachar, at which time he can make the blessing according to everybody, The Rosh because relieving oneself requires washing before davening, and the Rashba because he is a newly recreated person.

Elokai Neshamah and Hamavir Shaina – These are blessings that are said to thank Hashem for ‘waking us up’ something not apropos for one who hasn’t slept. The recommendation of the Poskim is to hear these two Brachos from someone who has slept. The minimum required amount of sleep is ’60 breaths’. There are various opinions as to what this means ranging from about three minutes to about three hours. The commonly accepted view seems to be ½ an hour.

Tzitzis – Someone who wore their tzitzis all night does not make a new Bracha in the morning. The proper thing to do is to either put on, or be yotze with someone who puts on, a Tallis Gadol, and make the appropriate blessing on that.

Birchas HaTorah – There is a dispute among the Poskim if Birchas HaTorah should be recited by one who was awake all night. The Mishna Berura rules that Safek Berachos Lehakel and they should not be recited, rather he suggests one try to be yotze with someone who had slept, or have in mind to absolve himself with Ahavah Rabba (or Olam).

The Mishna Berura quotes Rabbi Akiva Eiger that if one slept during the preceding day (in our case Erev Shavous) then according to all opinions he can say Birchas HaTorah.

There is a custom quoted by the Shelah to go to the Mikvah immediately after Alos HaShachar before Davening.

Regarding Maariv on the first night of Shavous, In order that Sefira should be Temimos or complete, we don’t start Maariv until after Tzeis Hakochavim (certain nightfall). For the same reason, some suggest that even women who usually light candles before Yom Tov begins, should wait to light until after that time. (Luach Eretz Yisroel).

Posted on 05/22 at 06:12 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at