Frenzied construction is underway in Beitar Illit, just south of Jerusalem, on a unique Yeshiva in which the school “day” begins just after midnight.
In fulfillment of age-old Biblical and Kabbalistic advice, over 60 Torah scholars from Beitar Illit, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem study Torah throughout the night in Kollel Chatzot. Though their Study Hall (Beit Medrash) is currently housed in a flimsy multi-caravan structure, work has started on a real building. After a temporary halt - not because of a construction freeze, but in order to find the necessary funds - the construction has resumed.
The students, in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and older, begin their schedule at 12:20 a.m. when minivans make the rounds to bring them to the Kollel. They begin with the recitation of Tikkun Chatzot - midnight prayers in memory of the destruction of the Holy Temple. Afterwards, they offer a prayer for the welfare of the night’s sponsor, and those who have signed a Yissachar-Zevulun contract (an official partnership between those who study and those who work; each side dedicates half of his earnings and merits to the other) offer an additional prayer for their partner's welfare.
“King David studied Torah at midnight,” the Kollel’s website explains, “because he understood that then, when light and darkness are intertwined, the Gates of Heaven are flung open to accept our prayers. [The Sages teach that] ‘Blessed is the portion of those who, at that special time, arise from their sleep to engage in Torah.’ It's an ‘et ratzon’ (an opportune moment), when G-d’s attribute of mercy rules the world.”
Kollel head Rabbi Yehoshua Meir Deutsch announced that construction on the new building began in October, and continued for weeks at a dizzying, 12-hour-a-day pace in which the outer walls and lower floor were completed.
The studies end in time for immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath) before morning prayers, which begin some 25 minutes before sunrise. Many local residents join the prayer services, which are followed by a 20-minute talk by Rabbi Deutsch aimed at strengthening the students’ dedication to Torah. On Tuesday nights, the entire Kollel travels to the Western Wall, where they spend 90 minutes mourning the destruction, praying for Israel and the Kollel’s supporters.