Why do we learn all night on Shavuot?

There is an ages old tradition of staying up all night to learn Torah and Jewish values the night of Shavuot – the holiday which commemorates the receiving of the Torah.  The most commonly shared reason for doing this is so that we can be up and excited to receive the Torah.  Well, I have to be honest – after staying up all night learning, I am so tired – I don’t want to even stay at services long enough to hear the Torah read, let alone to be excited for it.  However, every year I feel the compulsion to participate in the tikkun leil Shavuot (the all night learning for Shavuot).  What do we get from this experience, and better yet, why do we feel compelled to do it year after year?

A woman in my Rosh Chodesh group mentioned that she heard from a Rabbi recently, that Hashem gave us the Torah in the dessert, because that was exactly when we needed it.  While many people think that what we would have needed most to survive was food and water, Hashem knew that what we needed was Torah.  Torah is the food and water for our soul – so just as we need food and water for physical replenishment, we need Torah learning for spiritual rejuvenation.  So while it may seem difficult to learn all night, or even to make it to one learning session mid-week with other obligations at home – we must.  We have to learn Torah, just as we have to have food and water.

So this Shavuot, as we frantically prepare for meals and two days of chag in the middle of the week, let us all be guided by this thought.  Even if you cannot make it to a local learning session, take some time Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to do some learning. Take an extra moment talking to your children about Hashem and the Torah before they go to bed on Tuesday night.  Start yourself thinking about the meaning of receiving the Torah and what the experience was like for those who were at Sinai.  There are countless learning opportunities available to you, if you just reach out and create the time for them – just as you would create the time for dinner or a glass of water.

So step away from the cheesecake baking (yes, it is always cheesecakes for dessert on Shavuot – the eating of dairy is as much a part of the celebration as the learning these days), and think about what this holiday has to offer you for spiritual rejuvenation and how the Torah can better guide your life, even when other things seem to be more important.  Likely those are the times you need it the most.

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