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  • Kollel Chatzot YouTube

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory Said...

The song of Torah only emerges at night, which is a propitious time for mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamidkdash by reciting Tikun Chatzot, pouring out one’s heart in prayer, and asking for forgiveness.

A man can achieve a greater level of completeness at night than he can during the day, and in the holy books – in particular in the holy Zohar –extensive praise is lavished on anyone who has the merit to arise at midnight.  And in the Yerushalmi Talmud it is written: “If you see that people have abandoned the Torah, stand right up and fortify it and you shall receive reward on behalf of all of them.” Therefore, since there are very few who study late at night, the significance of them “receiving reward on behalf of everyone” is multiplied dozens of times over, and the reward received by those who learn and by those who support them is limitless. 

 

One of the most frequently discussed matters in the holy Zohar is the praiseworthiness of those who study the holy Torah at “midnight”. As King David, blessed be his memory, said, “At midnight, I rise to give thanks to You.” And in the holy books countless references are made to the praiseworthiness of studying at midnight, emphasizing that it is dozens of times more valuable than studying during the day. “There is no greater time of heavenly mercy than then, and it is the most desirable time to delve into the holy Torah.” (The Holy Alsheich, Eicha, chapter 2, verse 19).  [see: Reishit Chochma (Sha’ar HaKedusha) where a pure soul gathered everything that our sages of blessed memory said, and wrote that anyone who reads their words will surely become inspired and will desire with all his soul to arise at midnight.] Thus, we provide you with a small collection of the many words written in the holy books, praising those who arise at midnight to occupy themselves with the holy Torah:

 

 It is written in the holy Zohar (Vayikra 13): Regarding those who prepare to occupy themselves with Torah at midnight, all of their praise is accepted and desired before the King. And about them it is written: “Praise you servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord...” They are the ones who are called “servants of the Lord”, they are the ones who are worthy of blessing the King and whose blessing is a blessing. As it is written, “Lift your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord.” You, who merit the holy King being blessed by you, the blessing through you is a blessing.”

t is also written in the holy Zohar (ibid. 28): Rav Chezkiyahu said, anyone who occupies himself with Torah at that hour will certainly earn a permanent place in the Next World. They asked Rabbi Yossi, “What is the reason for that?” He said: I have learned that every midnight when the Holy One, blessed be He, awakes in Gan Eden, all the souls in Gan Eden will be offered to drink in abundance from that river called “Nahal Kedumim”, a river of delights with water that will flow for eternity.

 

Moreover, for one who arises to study Torah, it will be as if that river washes over his head and waters him among the saplings in Gan Eden. Hence he will have a permanent place in the World to Come. Rabbi Yossi said: “Whereas all the righteous souls in Gan Eden listen to him, and allot him a portion of that river tonic, he therefore has a permanent place in the World to Come.” 

t is also written in the holy Zohar (ibid. 28): Rav Chezkiyahu said, anyone who occupies himself with Torah at that hour will certainly earn a permanent place in the Next World. They asked Rabbi Yossi, “What is the reason for that?” He said: I have learned that every midnight when the Holy One, blessed be He, awakes in Gan Eden, all the souls in Gan Eden will be offered to drink in abundance from that river called “Nahal Kedumim”, a river of delights with water that will flow for eternity.

 

Moreover, for one who arises to study Torah, it will be as if that river washes over his head and waters him among the saplings in Gan Eden. Hence he will have a permanent place in the World to Come. Rabbi Yossi said: “Whereas all the righteous souls in Gan Eden listen to him, and allot him a portion of that river tonic, he therefore has a permanent place in the World to Come.” 

It is also written in the holy Zohar: And when morning comes, the Holy One, blessed be He draws a thread of mercy over him, and the Holy One, blessed be he, gives him gifts, and happy is his lot. And our teacher Rabbi Chaim Vital, ztz”l wrote (in Sha’arei Kedusha, part 2:7): When a man wakes up after midnight, he is included among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, of whom it is said (Yeshayahu 66:10): “rejoice with her a rejoicing, all who mourn over her”.

For at that moment the Holy One, blessed be He, also mourns, and roars like a lion. If he then also occupies himself with Torah, our rabbis of blessed memory said of him (Shir Hashirim Rabba, 5, 7): The song of Torah only emerges at night”.

 

And our rabbis of blessed memory said, (Avodah Zara, page 3, column 2): “One who occupies himself with Torah at night has a thread of mercy spread over him during the day”. And our rabbis of blessed memory said (Tamid, page 32, column 2): “One who studies Torah at night, the Shechina faces him.” And it is written (Eicha 2, 19): Rise, awaken in the night”. David Hamelech, may he rest in peace, didn’t merit life in this world and in the next, if not for that. As it is written (Tehillim 119:62): "At midnight, I rise to give thanks to You for Your just judgments." And throughout the entire book of Zohar, the praises for this mitzva appear countless times, and a man who learns at night is bestowed with Ruach Hakodesh, as it is state in Zohar Shemot (18, 2). 

 

In the book Chemdat Yamim (part 3) it is written:  It is a propitious time Above when the King of Kings of the world and the tzaddikim playfully sit with their crowns on their heads in the Upper Gan Eden, and their mercy is aroused, even more than at any other time. And that is the simple truth. And it is written in the book Sha’ar Hakavanot (evening sermons, sermon 4): The main thing is that he should invest all his efforts into learning Torah every night from midnight until dawn, and then go to prayer, and he should not stop to sleep at all... There is no limit to the reward he will receive, and there is nothing greater than it, and he will be among the tzaddikim who decree below, and their words are fulfilled Above!!! 

 

And it is written in the book “Shulchan Hatahor” (by Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac of Komarno, may his memory protect us, amen): One should be very careful to arise at midnight to study Torah and sing songs of thanks. Tradition has it that every Jew who has a healthy soul should wake up exactly at midnight. Rabbi Avraham Azulai, ztz”l (the grandfather of Maran the Chida) wrote in his book Ohr Hachama (parshat Shemot, page 119) that one who awakens at midnight becomes a partner with the Holy One, blessed be He. And those who make it a habit to wake every night at midnight are called by the holy Zohar the sons of the King’s chamber. For there is nothing more elevated than that, and the Torah’s song is only heard at night. 

 

And it is written in the book “Ma’avar Yavok” (43, end of 29): A very good remedy for killing the Evil Inclination is to arise at midnight and study Torah, because aside from the many ways a person is elevated by this, he merits to annihilate the Evil Inclination and overcome it. And that was hinted at by our rabbis of blessed memory, when they said, “When someone comes to kill you, arise and kill him first”. That is to say, if Satan comes to kill you, you have no way of killing him other than by “arising” – waking up – and that is the meaning of “arise and kill him first”. 

 

And in the book Rashit Chochma it is written (Sha’ar Hakedusha, chapter 7): One who awakens at midnight to study Torah coerces the Sitra Achra (side of impurity), and he atones for his sins. And he will surely receive a great amount of help in repenting. There is a very moving story that impresses upon us how important it is to study Torah after midnight before Hashem, blessed be He. The event occurred in the year 5657 (1896 – 1897) in the holy city of Jerusalem. The gaon Rabbi Nissim Lopez ztz”l lived in Aram Soba [Aleppo, Syria], and was one of the greatest scholars in that city. He practiced chassidut and prishut stringently, and every night woke up to serve Hashem at midnight. Rabbi Lopez become very knowledgeable in all facets of the Torah.

 

 The other scholars in Aram Soba held Rabbi Lopez in very high esteem, and said about him “Gedolei ma’aseh Nissim” – a play on words incorporating his name, meaning, “great miraculous deeds” – or, “Nissim’s deeds are great”. This was not only because he was great in Torah, but because of his pure conduct before his heavenly Father. Rabbi Nissim was on only child, and when his mother died, his father Rabbi Ezra went to the rabbinical court and bequeathed all of his worldly possessions to his son while he was still alive. Sometime later, Rabbi Nissim’s father decided to remarry, but nobody wanted to have anything to do with him because word got out that he had given all of his property to his only son. No woman wanted to marry him. 

When Rabbi Nissim realized that his father’s suffering was on his account, he immediately tore up the documents registering his father’s property into his name, saying, “I don’t want to cause my father, my teacher and rabbi, any pain in this world or the next just because of monetary gain. And ‘He who gives life will provide a livelihood’.” Immediately after that, Rabbi Nissim’s father found a notable and proper woman to marry, and Rabbi Nissim treated her with great respect.

When Rabbi Nissim was twenty-six years old, he lost his eyesight. Despite that tragedy, he continued to learn Torah for the rest of his life with great enthusiasm and intensity, eventually authoring an important commentary on the Rambam. When he died, the gaon Chacham Yaakov bar Shaul Dweck Hacohen eulogized him, and praised him highly for being very knowledgeable in many facets of the Torah - Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Kabbala, Halacha, and Agada. He wrote several interpretations on the Shas and on Agada, and merited to arise every night at midnight...

After his death, Rabbi Nissim Lopez appeared in a dream to the gaon Rabbi Avraham Adas, ztz”l, and told him: After his burial, angels came and lifted him out of his grave and hurled him to the ground. He landed on the tips of his toes – and that was the extent of his “chibut hakever” [torments of the grave]. After that, he was accompanied to Gan Eden. And he merited that treatment because of his chassidut and exemplary character traits. 

Three years after Rabbi Lopez’s death, several scholars from Aram Soba established a Kollel Chatzot in Jerusalem, called “Shomrim L’Boker”, with the goal of waking up every night at midnight to study Torah until dawn. To that end, a man was assigned the task of waking up all the people at midnight, and a few sextons were appointed to oversee the learning, to ensure that everything was conducted in an orderly fashion. And indeed, a group began learning in the “Raban Yochanan Ben Zakai” synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the year 5657 (1896 – 1897).

In time, one of the sextons fell ill and was hospitalized. That night Rabbi Lopez appeared to the sick sexton in a dream, and said to him, “My friend, you must know that as a result of the great deed you performed to merit the masses, to wake them up at midnight to arise and learn Torah, you caused great joy and pleasure in Heaven. But why for the last three nights have you denied the heavens this entertainment? For the people have not arrived to study, as they were accustomed to.”

The sexton awoke from his sleep feeling happy, because the deeds of the “Shomrim Laboker” kollel were desired in Heaven. On the other hand, he was sorry for the lack of Torah study over the past three nights, but didn’t know how and why that had happened.

The sexton went to the home of the man appointed to wake up the students, with the intention of chastising him for shirking his duty. The man apologized and said that he, too, was sick and confined to bed. He explained that he had hired someone else to wake everyone up, but that man had apparently not fulfilled his role as promised.

Once the ill sexton knew the reason for the lax in study at the Kollel, he took it upon himself to make a monumental effort to fulfill the lofty mitzva of bringing merit to the masses, and from then on wake up the students at midnight himself.

When this story was publicized in Jerusalem, people said about it, “Tzaddikim are great in their deaths! Since Rabbi Nissim Lupez was completely devoted in his lifetime to the mitzva of waking at midnight, he merited that even after his death a messenger was sent from Heaven to bring merit to the masses, and encourage Torah study at midnight. (source: Laylot K’Yamim, page 125).

It is written in Likutei Moharan (part 1, page 149)

Midnight is most effective for accomplishing spiritual matters like a pidyon [redemption]. And this is alluded to in the verse: "I arise at midnight to thank You for the ordinances of Your righteousness" (Tehillim 119:62).  And in the introduction to Tikkunei Hazohar (page 17) it is explained that “ordinances” refers to judgment, and “righteousness” refers to mercy. That is to say, that when judgment governs mercy – then a person will be plagued with troubles and suffering, heaven forbid. And the advice and tikkun for this appears at the beginning of the verse: “I arise at midnight”. And thereby his judgments will be sweetened.

A suggestion is offered in the holy books for someone who can’t fulfill this holy custom, staying awake from midnight until morning: hire an avrech in his place, to fulfill this mitzva, and it will be as if he fulfilled it himself. As it is written: “For whoever is in the shade of wisdom is in the shade of money.” And when we had the merit, with divine intervention, to establish a kollel chatzot here in our city of Beit Shemesh, it is certainly befitting for every person to support the kollel, and it will be considered as though the donors themselves arose at midnight. If the world only knew the benefits earned by those who support a kollel chatzot, they would rush to support it with all their energy and all their money!!! Blessed is the man who merits taking part in maintaining this Torah, as it is one of the most praiseworthy forms of charity!