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Once a Potato Head

By Tzvi Fishman
7/16/2009, 12:00 AM

Realizing that readers were right in protesting my use of the expression "Potato Heads" to describe my detractors, I have deleted my original introduction to today's blog, in the spirit of promoting brotherly love, which is a more fitting response to nasty talkbacks during this period of the Three Weeks. As initial talkbacks suggested, the real Potato Head is me.

Mister Potato, Tzvi Fishman 

As I wrote, I take comfort in the hope that at least one Jew somewhere in cyberspace has learned something from even one of my blogs, and, in consequence, came closer to G-d. If that one anonymous Jewish soul, wherever he or she may be, is a holier and happier person now, it will have made all of the time I have spent on this blog, and the abuse that I have taken, worthwhile.

Getting back to Tikun Hatzot:

The “Shulchan Aruch” is the code of Jewish Law. It begins by discussing the practice of rising at night to offer lamentations to G-d, saying, “It is fitting for every G-d fearing person to feel grief and concern over the destruction of the Temple” (Orach Chaim, 1:1-3). The “Mishnah Berurah,” there, also praises the benefits of this practice in its explanation of the details of the prayers. The recital of Tikun Hatzot is not an absolute duty. Rather, as Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum explains, “It is not so much a duty as a labor of love for those who truly yearn to know G-d, and feel pain and anguish over His concealment, and over the stain on His glory as long as the Holy Temple is in ruins (“The Sweetest Hour,” pg. 8).        

The saintly, Rabbi Eliahu Lopian began rising regularly for Tikun Hatzot in his later years. When one of his students asked him why, Rabbi Lopian answered, “When I leave this world and come before the Heavenly Tribunal, they will ask me if I kept the Shulchan Aruch, and presumably I will say I did. They are sure to say, ‘Let’s check,’ and go through the Shulchan Aruch section by section, law by law. If they catch me on some detail after two hundred sections, I might be able to come up with an excuse. But what am I going to say if they catch me on the very first section?” (“The Sweetest Hour,” pg. 12).

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the "Baal HaTanya," writes: "The way to come to repentance is through Tikun Hatzot. Someone who is unable to do this every night should still be sure to do so, at the very least, once a week" (Igeret HaTeshuvah, 10). 

In the “Siddur of the Shelah HaKadosh” it is written:

“A person who gets up regularly for Tikun Hatzot is a tzaddik. A thread of mercy is stretched over him to save him from all accusers. He is considered a member of the Court of the King. His livelihood is assured. He is called G-d fearing, a lover of the King, a son of the Holy One. It is about him that King David says, ‘G-d is close to all who call upon him.’”

It is written in the holy Zohar:

“If the Jewish People were careful to get up for Tikun Hatzot, their enemies would be subdued and would not impose any decrees against them. All our suffering in this bitter exile is caused because of not getting up to study Torah and sing songs of praise after Hatzot,” (Zohar, Bereshit 77).

Mourning over the destruction.

If you say in all humbleness, “Who am I to pay over the destruction of Jerusalem?” the “Mesilat Yesharim” has already answered this contention:

“If one would say, ‘Who am I and what am I worth that I should pray for Jerusalem etc... Will the exiles be gathered in and will Salvation sprout because of my prayer?’ his answer awaits him. As we learned (Sanhedrin 37a) ‘Man was created individually so that each man should say: The world was created for my sake.' It is the Blessed One's pleasure that His sons desire and pray for this. And though their desire may not be fulfilled because the proper time has not yet arrived, or for some other reason, they will have done their part and the Holy One Blessed Be He rejoices in it (“Mesilat Yesharim,” Ch.19).

More on Tikun Hatzot to follow.