Raanana Community Kollel
Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
The Mishna Berura quotes the Zohar which teaches that the pious would remain awake on Shavuot night and engage in Torah study. In addition to the great reward of the study itself, this custom provides some degree of rectification for the sleep that overtook the Jewish people on the night preceding the giving of the Torah.
Not only does staying up all night present us with a physical challenge, it also provides us with many halachic ones as well. Many of the brachot that we recite in the morning after awakening from a night’s sleep are thrown into question when we have not slept the entire night. For example, immediately upon wakening every morning, we wash our hands and recite the bracha of “al netilat yadayim”. The main reason for this is that our hands have inadvertently become unclean while we sleep. Because our hands do not normally become unclean while we are awake and learning, the question arises as to whether or not we are obligated to wash our hands in the morning with a bracha. As a solution to this dilemma, the Poskim suggest that one make sure to use the bathroom before the morning hand washing to ensure that his hands are ritually unclean before he washes, thereby validating washing with a bracha.
Another question which arises on Shavuot concerns making a bracha on one’s tzitzit. The Mishna Berura writes that one who sleeps in his tzitzit all night should not make a new bracha in the morning. Therefore, men and boys who normally wear a talit during Shacharit should recite the bracha on the talit and by doing so exempt the tzitzit as well. One who does not wear a talit during davening should listen to the bracha of one who does thereby fulfilling the blessing through his friend’s recitation.
Although most of the morning brachot can be recited regardless of whether one slept the previous night or not, there are two brachot which cannot be recited as they allude directly to the activity of having awoken from a sleep. Thus, the bracha of “elokei neshama” and “hama’avir shainah” cannot be said since they praise Hashem for having restored one’s soul after sleep. In this case, the Poskim advise those who stay awake all night to listen to these brachot recited by one who has slept. It is therefore important for the gabbai of the minyan to appoint one who has slept to be the ba’al tefila to lead the congregation in the morning brachot.
Lastly, it is questionable whether or not one who remained awake the entire night is obligated to recite birkat hatorah in the morning. Most authorities maintain that the nature of this bracha is like that of any other blessing made over a mitzvah. ecause we have an obligation to study Torah at every waking moment, the poskim rule that only sleep would constitute an interruption sufficient to warrant a new bracha. According to this reasoning, one who stays awake all night, whether he studied Torah or not, would not need to make a new bracha. Nevertheless, some other authorities maintain that birkat hatorah is actually a blessing of thanksgiving, similar to the blessings which we recite every morning, regardless of whether we slept. As a result of this doubt, the poskim advise one who stayed awake all night to listen to the birkat hatorah of one who had slept. Interestingly, this debate only arises if one did not sleep during the previous day as well. However, one who took a nap on Erev Shavuot is allowed to recite birkat hatorah the following morning since he did indeed cause an interruption to yesterday’s bracha when he took his nap, and according to many opinions this alone would warrant a new bracha upon awakening.
Remember, there is no merit to staying up all night if one is not going to use his time wisely engaged in Torah study. It is far better for one to study partially into the night and to go to sleep when feeling tired, thereby ensuring that he will be refreshed for Shacharit and the remainder of the chag. May we all merit to receive the Torah with fresh enthusiasm and excitement.