Monday, May 31, 2010

I Stayed Up All Night Studying... Torah!




The first time I ever pulled an all-nighter was the night I got back from Italy back in January, when I didn't even get home from the airport until five in the morning.


The second time I pulled an all-nighter was the 6th of Sivan, 5770, my last Tuesday night of Nativ, for the culminating holiday of Shavuot.


Compared to Pesach and Sukkot, Shavuot is almost void of essential rituals or significant stories completely associated with it.  It also is a very short holiday, celebrated for two days in the Diaspora, and, thank God, one day in Israel, whereas Pesach is 7/8 days (respectively) and Sukkot and friends is 8/9 days.  Many Nativers, if they knew what Shavuot is, had never celebrated it to any meaningful extent.  The celebration that we took part in was a completely new concept for many, and even for mavens, the experience in Israel takes Shavuot to a totally different level than seen in most U.S. communities.


As we always do when we bring in a holy day in Judaism, we started with davening, which took place at Moreshet Yisrael, and dinner.  Because of the law proscribed in the Torah about Shavuot taking place seven complete weeks after the first counting of the Omer, we had to start Ma'ariv at dark and probably did not start dinner until close to nine.  We have the ancient custom as a people to eat dairy products on Shavuot; thus was our dinner, though I wish we could have had meat since I like that better.


From 10/10:30 onward, Tikkun Leil Shavuot would take place throughout the city in many different forms.  I will soon explain the two very different sessions I attended.  Rabbis, academics (professors, Ph.D holders), and lay leaders took the podium in synagogues, learning institutions, and cultural centers throughout Jerusalem, teaching in many different languages.  Topics ranged to anything one could imagine related to our religion.  The options were vast.  My goal was to, at the least, have one class in English and one in Hebrew.


Many Nativers, including myself, set out for the Shalom Hartman Institute in the German Colony, at around 10 p.m.  There, Rabbi Professor David Hartman spoke about "Whether God can Save the Halakha."  Many seats were open when he started at 10:30, but within twenty minutes the room was standing-only and out the door.  Interestingly, he handed out source packets but did not address the sources themselves; I do think the connection was very implied to his lecture.  He stated the problem that Haredim have monopolized halakha (and affirmed their being ridiculous, but that's a different story) and affirmed the need to study in-depth contemporary issues and to be open and flexible.  In his words, "if the halakha is wrong, it must be changed!"  That's the short gist of it.


We left right after Professor Hartman finished speaking – we being Jonny and Ariella – and we walked to the Old City for our second session.  The session we chose to attend is not your typical Torah study based on text.  Starting at the Tower of David, we (and Nadiv as well) took a tour in Hebrew of the Old City through the night.  It was advertised online as stories and midrashim, but we actually didn't get too much of that, which was kind of a bummer.  But it still gave us a good history of the city – the city to which we pray to ascend as a people every Shavuot (as well as Pesach and Sukkot).  We left a little early, since the tour started very late, and we need to return to Beit Nativ for Nativ-led Tikkun.


At 2 a.m., Nativ started its own Tikkun Leil Shavuot, with Nativers teaching two one-hour sessions.  I taught a session on Chesed (deeds of kindness) in the Book of Ruth – both times were small but intimate discussions.  In between, there was a cheescake and ice cream break.


After we completed the learning for the night, we walked together to the Old City to daven at Robinson's Arch, otherwise known as Kotel Masorti.  When we got to the Kotel plaza at around 4:30 a.m., one could see the myriad of people gathering to daven at the Kotel, except we went to Robinson's Arch along with other Conservative Jews (most of them American students for the year or immigrants) to have an egalitarian davening.  This was the only time I've seen Jews show up on time for davening and leave early, instead of the opposite.  Besides functioning on no sleep, some of the challenges of davening included the lack of seating, the cold, and it was an extra long tefillah once one accounts for the Book of Ruth and Akdamut.  Also, the setting is wider than it is long, so it's not entirely conducive.  Still, I davened and it was a worthwhile experience… once.


Most people left early, but those of us who stayed to the end returned and had breakfast, then went to sleep.  I woke up at 11:30 to head over to brunch at Singer's, but I wasn't extremely hungry so I didn't eat much.  People said I looked fairly miserable, but it's true, I was very tired.  When I got back, I napped a bit (not much), and the day was fairly uneventful from there.


I decided after this whole experience that the Jerusalem Shavuot is an amazing experience, but on the whole, staying up all night studying then davening isn't a great route to take every year.  You just end up not wanting to have too nice of a davening and the rest of the day gets wasted.  But this was a great way to end the year with a "bang."


Kol Tuv,



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