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Tzava'at Harivash 16

Tzava'at Harivash 16

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It is necessary to make it known that one should regularly [rise] at midnight. 1

At the very least be scrupulous to recite the [morning]-prayer before sunrise, both in summer and winter. That is, most of the prayer, up to the reading of the Shema, should be said before sunrise. 2 The difference between before sunrise and after sunrise is as great as the distance from east to west; for prior [to sunrise] one can still negate [all judgments]. 3 This is indicated in [the verse], “[The sun is] like a groom coming forth from his bridal chamber, rejoicing like a warrior.. and nothing is hidden from chamato (its heat)” (Psalms 19:6-7); do not read chamota (its heat) but cheimato (his wrath). This means that once the sun has already risen over the earth there is no more hiding from the judgments which come from the angels of wrath. Thus do not regard this matter lightly, for it is of great import. The Baal Shem, may his memory be for blessing, was very particular with this, to the point that when he did not have a quorum he would pray on his own.

Footnotes
1.
The night is a propitious time for Torah-study (see Chagigah 12b; Tamid 32b; et passim). This applies especially to midnight which is an especially auspicious time of Divine grace and favor (Yevamot 72a). Thus “Bless God, all you servants of God who stand in the House of God in the nights” (Psalms 134:1); these (“who stand.. in the nights”) are the true servants of God, worthy to bless Him (see Menachot 110a, and Zohar I:136a). King David, therefore, never allowed a midnight to pass asleep, as he said (Psalms 119:62) “At midnight I arise to give thanks..” (Berachot 3b)
With the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem), midnight became the time that God Himself mourns that catastrophe and the subsequent exile of Israel (Berachot, ibid.). Thus it became a special time for Israel, too, to mourn and lament its exile and to pray for the redemption (Rosh on Berachot, ad loc.; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sect. 1). This is known as tikun chatzot, the midnight vigil with a special order of prayers followed by the study of Torah in general, and selected passages from Talmud and Zohar in particular.
The mystics are very emphatic on the practice of study and prayer at night, and it is a recurring theme in our text as well (see below, sect. 26-28 and 83).
2.
This is the ideal time for the morning-prayer (Berachot 29b), and “vatikin-those who are strong (in piety, i.e., those who love the performance of the commandments) would complete (the reading of the Shema) with sunrise” (ibid. 9b).
3.
That part of the day is an especially auspicious time, as stated in Mechilta and Zohar.
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