Staying Awake All Night on Shavuot: Reexamining the Custom, by Rabbi 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

There is a widespread custom to remain awake all night on Shavuot immersed in Torah study.[1] The Arizal teaches that those who do so will live out all their allotted years and be saved from every trouble and woe.[2] Although the custom of staying awake all night on Shavuot is certainly commendable, it might just be that it is overemphasized. This is especially true considering that observing this custom often results in a laxity in other, more important duties.

Let us examine the custom in its original sources, as it appears in the Magen Avraham. It is stated in the Zohar that the chassidim harishonim would remain awake all night immersed in Torah and that it has become the custom of most scholars to do so. The reason for this custom is to remedy the behavior of the Jewish people, who were fast asleep as God was about to reveal the Torah at Mount Sinai, forcing God to awaken them.[3] We, therefore, remedy their behavior.

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