Thursday, June 01, 2006

What I Plan To Learn Shavuot Night

It is a kabbalistic custom, mentioned in the Zohar, to stay up all Shavuot night learning.

I have other obligations, such as making sure the baby is put to sleep and taken care of the next day, so I do not know that I will spend the entire night doing so - I will probably turn in about 4 PM at the latest - but here is what I intend on learning:

I think the most appropriate thing to stay up all Shavuot night learning would be Shadal (Shmuel Dovid Luzzatto)'s Vikuach Al Chochmat HaKabbalah, in which he attacks kabbalah, the authenticity of the Zohar, and the kabbalistic practice of staying up learning all night on Hoshana Rabba, among other things as a violation of vesamachta beChagecha.

I've included the first two pages of the sefer, which contains this first attack. Note he writes as if in a conversation with someone attacking kabbalah and casts himself as the defender, but that is just a rhetorical device. Click on each of these two and zoom to full screen to see. I am not going to scan the rest of the sefer right now because I have more important things to do - get your own copy :)


Update: The fact that the benei yisrael slept Shavuot night at matan Torah, though, is found in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer perek 40:
ר' חנינא אומ' בחדש השלישי היום כפול בלילה וישנו ישראל עד שתי שעות ביום ששינת יום העצרת עריבה והלילה קצרה ויצא משה ובא למחנה ישראל והיה מעורר ישראל משינתם ואמ' להם עימדו משינתכם שהרי אלהיכם מבקש ליתן לכם את הא"רץ התורה כבר החתן מבקש להביא את הכלה להכניס לחופה כדי ליתן לכם את התורה
That this was a bad thing, and that we need to "fix" it, I don't see here. That seems to be the kabbalistic twist on this.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Where did you get וכוח על חכמת הקבלה? I'd love to get ahold of a copy.

joshwaxman said...

YU library - I copied it a few years back for Dr. Leiman's Intro to Biblical Studies II class in Revel. I know there are copies floating around though, because my father also has a copy somewhere.

Chaim B. said...

As to why we should stay up when sheinas atzeres areiva and it does not sound like a bad thing, see R' Tzadok haKohein (Pri Tzadik) who distinguishes between the experience of kabbalas hatorah pre-cheit haeigel without torah sheba'alpeh and afterwards. Sleep in tanach is often a prelude to nevuah (e.g. ya'akov's vision of the ladder after he sleeps). Our experience of Torah hs been transformed from prophetic to intellectual.

joshwaxman said...

Somehow I don't think Shadal would be convinced, though. ;)

The reason I mentioned the Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer description not being negative was to draw out the point that the custom seems to be purely Zoharic / kabbalistic.

joshwaxman said...

the sefer, btw, is called mechkarei hayahadut, and contains two works by Shadal. Here is the YULIS entry:

thanbo said...

It's online, in the Unsorted Seforim section at

joshwaxman said...

should be useful. I have a bunch of points I want to make based on Shadal, and this will save me much scanning. plus now others can access it.

Eliyahu said...
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Eliyahu said...
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Eliyahu said...

I remember reading that Pirkei D'Rabi Eliezer is not as early as the name suggests makinga poor source for tannaitic comparison.

joshwaxman said...

except that as far as I can recall, it is the *ONLY* source for oversleeping. In what case there is no need for Tannaitic comparison, as it is merely a case of Peh SheAsar being the Peh SheHittir.


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