JOG Ask The Rabbi

Do we Have to Stay Up All Night on Shavuot?
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Tuesday 27th May 2014

Rabbi Meir Salasnik of Bushey & District United Synagogue answers the question of whether you have to stay up all night on Shavuot.

Ask the Rabbi Text:
I have been asked to speak about whether we have to stay up all night on Shavuot.
The short answer is we don’t, and every community wants at least one person not to stay up all night.
There is a rabbinic story that on the morning the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, Moses had to wake our ancestors up. A custom developed to stay up all night learning so as to be ready for Shavuot morning, the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah, demonstrating that while once we had to be woken to receive the Torah, now we are awake and ready.
There are books called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which compile the beginnings and endings of every book of the Tanach, the Bible, and of every tractate of Mishnah and a number of other important Jewish books, and many recite from these.
More common is chavrutot - learning in pairs – and shiurim – talks on religious topics. 
It is usual for the evening of learning to start around midnight and continue till dawn, after which the participants start the morning service.  It is at this moment that we look for someone who has slept for at least some of the night.  Some of the early morning blessings, including one that thanks G-d for waking us for the new day, can be said only by people who have been asleep during part of the night and so we need to hear these blessings from someone who slept.
Does one have to stay up all night learning? No. It is a wonderful custom. We concentrate on learning together with others. We connect to G-d, we connect to generations of people who learnt Torah, and we connect to each other.  However, it is a minhag – a custom and not a din - a law.  However, those who do not stay up at night should make Shavuot meaningful by learning at other times during the Yom Tov.
With wishes for a Chag Sameach for all of us.
Rabbi Meir Salasnik, Bushey United Synagogue