Wednesday, May 30, 2012

a one night stand

After an all night tikun and vasikin davening on the first day of Shavuos, the very next day of Yom Tov things in most places return to normal, which usually means davening at 9:00 with most people coming around 9:15 and missing sof zman krias shema (9:10 or so in NY this past weekend).  I know minhag yisrael is to stay up as a tikun, but let's be honest: How many people are concentrating on anything at 3:00 AM other than whether there are any new snacks out and how much longer until shacharis?  Wouldn't it make more sense if instead of pushing for one all-nighter one would spread that dedication to Torah out a bit?  Instead of trying to cram five or six hours of weak learning into one night, wouldn't it be more beneficial to devote just half-hour a week every week for the next month or two to getting up earlier on Shabbos to make the zman or maybe have a little seder before davening when one can fully concentrate?  

Maybe it's me, but I don't get it: A guy can push himself to stay up all night round the clock, but the next shabbos he can't push himself to get up at 8:00 to learn a bit or daven b'zman?  What's that one night worth if in the overall scheme of life it doesn't produce any net change?
The reason why the all-nighter is so popular is because it's an event -- it's the thing to do, the place to be, it's the social happening.  It's where everyone is, so there must be something to it.   You don't want to hear the next morning that just after you left they brought out the ice cream sundaes or sushi platters (these days a little cake and watermelon just doesn't cut it).  Who cares if you are barely awake and can't concentrate on the shiur when just showing up (and eating) is 80% of the goal?

Am I being too cynical?

(After writing this post I found the following (link) written by Rav Sorotzkin, which echoes the point I am trying to make.   He too wonders why the inspiration of Shavuos night is so short lived.  He uses the analogy of mattan Torah to kiddushin and binyan mikdash to nesu'in to suggest that unless the inspiration of Shavuos night is internalized (it is built into one's psychological mishkan) it quickly evaporates.) 


  1. Not too cynical, just cynical enough.
    We read in the Shema how we got this law "today" and how we're supposed to treat it every day as something new and novel. Some of us just aren't good at that.
    BTW at three am someone told me I'd be leining at the Vsikin. That pressure has a wonderful ability to focus the mind.

  2. I like your blog but I think maybe too cynical on this one.

    The way I always understood, and heard this year I think from the MB is that even if we lose learning time from the staying up (unlikely if you actually make the calculation), we do it to show and instill ahavas ha'Torah. When I looked up from my gemara at 2 am, and saw parents learning with kids, Yeshiva bochrim learning, kollel avreichim learning, adults and adolescents alike, weak and strong learners all in front of gemaras, it was truly inspiring. There were definitely a chevra of people sitting around the cake and soda, but they were a minority, and probably well-intentioned.

  3. Chaim Markowitz9:52 AM

    to answer your question: yes

  4. Avi,

    Granted that there was much inspiration. My problem is that it is a short lived boost. Unless the inspiration is channeled into a regular turn for the better, it's value is very limited.

    See R' Sorotzkin's comments here, which make the same point, albeit without my cynicism, so even Chaim M. will be happy : )

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  5. Thank you for the mareh makom.