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Orthodox Jewish men walk to Jerusalem's Old City through Damascus gate on their way to Shachris.

Is it proper to stay up all night Shavuos if you won’t be able to
daven properly in the morning or function properly during the day?


Rabbi Marc D. Angel

To determine whether or not one should stay up all night on Shavuot, one needs to consider a cost/benefit ratio.

What is the “cost” of staying up all night? Most people can’t maintain serious concentration on Torah learning when they are exhausted. Most can’t pray with due kavanah after remaining awake all night. Staying up all night may result in poor Torah learning, poor praying, and a wasted first day of Shavuot.

What is the benefit of staying up all night? Many people find it spiritually uplifting to join with others in Torah study on Shavuot night. Many feel added adrenaline that not only gets them through the night with reasonable alertness, but enables them to pray in the morning with happiness and proper attention.

Each person has to make his/her own cost/benefit analysis. For some, staying up all night is too draining, too uninspiring, too mind-numbing. For others, staying up all night is a heroic effort to study and pray even if very tired.

The custom seems to date only from the Middle Ages and the practice was popularized by the kabbalists of 16th century Tsefat. With the passage of time, it took root in various communities. Some study a special “tikkun” with readings from the Zohar and biblical texts. Others study Talmud, Aggadot, Halachot and other rabbinic texts.

For those who feel they can stay up all night and still pray with kavanah in the morning, kol hakavod. For those who prefer to get a good night’s sleep, daven properly in the morning and enjoy the rest of the day, kol hakavod also.

Think carefully about the cost/benefit ratio that best applies to yourself. Whatever you choose, may it be for blessing. Moadim leSimcha.

– Rabbi Marc D. Angel is director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.

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Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

From a classic halachic perspective, the answer is obvious. Davening is either a Torah or Rabbinic obligation (a mitzvah), whereas staying up to learn Torah on Shavuot night is a nice custom (minhag). An obligation always supersedes a custom. If one who stays up all night will not be able to daven with kavanah then it would be imprudent to forego something mandatory for something discretionary.

That being said, it is inspiring to prepare for the re-enactment of the majestic moment of Kabbalat Hatorah by studying the Torah we love and embrace, and not just – as the familiar explanation for the custom has it – to counter the laxity of the generation that received the Torah who allegedly overslept that morning. Immersing ourselves in a night of intensive and joyous Torah learning while depriving ourselves of sleep in an angelic fashion demonstrates our renewed commitment to the covenant.

Thus, the custom should not be blithely dismissed – but nor should it be embraced by those whose religious obligations on Shavuot will thereby be impaired. We must calculate the rewards of fulfilling this custom against the potential diminution of our real obligations and decide for ourselves accordingly. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, calculated that he would lose twenty minutes from his daily learning (which, in any event, began at 2:00 a.m.) if he stayed up Shavuot night, so he went to sleep at his regular time. Certainly, we can strive to learn from his example – not that “I will sleep on Shavuot night like Rav Elyashiv did,” but “I will endeavor to increase my daily dose of Talmud Torah to the maximum of my potential like Rav Elyashiv did.”

That would be a true and most meaningful Kabbalat Hatorah.

– Rav Steven Pruzansky is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, N.J., and author of the new “Road to Redemption,” now available at

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Rabbi Zev Leff

Since the minhag of Klal Yisrael has been to stay up all Shavuos night and learn Torah in preparation for our yearly reacceptance of the Torah, it is definitely proper to fulfill the minhag. However, if one’s davening Shavuos morning will be affected adversely by this or he will not be able to learn properly for the next few days or his simchas yom tov will be intensely compromised, then it is possible that in these cases the minhag does not apply. In fact, I knew a great rosh yeshiva who did not stay up all night for the reasons above.

Rabbi Zev Leff is rav of Moshav Matisyahu and a popular lecturer and educator.

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