Shavuot - Complete joy

The joy of Matan Torah is expressed both in the study of Torah, and in a sumptuous meal. What to do if you live abroad and are in Israel for the holiday? Or if you are an Israeli living abroad?

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, | updated: 23:31

מצווה. הרב מלמד
מצווה. הרב מלמד
פלאש 90

The Complete Joy of Shavuot

The joy of Chag Shavuot holds a special virtue over the other holidays, for even in the opinion of those Torah scholars who are of the opinion that one is permitted to dedicate almost all of the holiday to Torah study and minimize eating and drinking, on Chag Shavuot, together with Torah study, one is obligated to partake in very significant festive meals since “it is the day in which the Torah was given” (Pesachim 68b).

From this halakha we learn an important principle: The Torah is intended to add blessing and joy in all aspects of life. The special virtue of the Torah is that it guides to the path of unifying faith, whose purpose is to continue blessing and life, both spirituality and materiality. Therefore, the joy of Shavuot must be expressed both in Torah study and in eating and drinking. May we merit to rejoice in Torah study and the joy of meals on Shavuot, and thus, continue the Torah’s blessings in all aspects of life throughout the entire year.

The Washing of Hands for Those Remaining Awake All Night

Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘nitilat yadayim‘ (washing of the hands) before morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. In practice, according to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing. According to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing.

Birkot Ha’Shachar for Those Remaining Awake All Night

Birkot Ha’Torah (Blessings over the Torah): The widely accepted minhag goes according to Rabbenu Tam, that even if one did not sleep at all during the previous day, since he is praying Shacharit (the Morning Prayers) of the new day, he must recite ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’.

Birkot Ha’Shachar (the Morning Blessings): Even those who remain awake all night recite ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’, because ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ were fixed as prayers of gratitude for the general good in the world, and not just the self-interests of each and every individual. Therefore, even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach ivrim’ (‘Who gives sight to the blind’), and one who did not sleep recites the blessing ‘zokayf ke’fufim’ (‘Who straightens the bent’).

Brachot “Elokei Neshamah” and “Ha’maavir sheina”: There are some poskim (halachic authorities) who hold that a person who did not sleep should not recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular, as individual thanks for the return of one’s soul, and the passing of sleep. Therefore, it is proper to hear them from someone who actually did sleep, and have ‘kavana’ to fulfill one’s obligation.

When there is no one to recite the blessings, according to the majority of poskim, one should recite the blessings himself, and this is the custom of all Sephardim, and some Ashkenazim. There are other Ashkenazim whose custom is to be ‘machmir‘ (stringent), and due to ‘safek‘ (doubt), recite the blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’. An Ashkenazi who does not know what his custom is, should act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.

In summary, according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, those who remain awake all night recite all ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’. The ‘mehadrin’ (those who embellish the mitzvot), when possible, fulfill the obligation of ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ and the blessings “Elokei Neshama” and “Ha’Ma’avir Sheina” by hearing them from someone who slept at night.

When to Recite Birkot Ha’Shachar

According to halakha, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ are recited close to the morning prayers. According to Kabbalah‘Birkot Ha’Shachar‘ are recited after ‘chatzot ha’layla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah‘ after ‘amud ha’shachar’ (dawn).

Eating and Drinking before Morning Prayers

During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one get over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is equal to, or larger, than a ‘beitza‘ (an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitation. From ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat anything or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand – should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘amud ha’shachar’ (someone who needs to drink coffee in order to have kavanah in prayer is permitted to drink coffee without sugar before tefillah). (This year on Chag Shavuot, ‘amud ha’shachar‘ is at 4:06 A.M. in Israel).

Second Day Yom Tov For those who live abroad, but are in Israel

Our Sages instituted that in Chutz La-Aretz, all the Chagim must be observed for two days; however the poskim differed about the halakha concerning a Jew who lives outside of Israel, but is visiting Israel. There are those who say that when he is in Israel, his status is that of one who lives in Israel, and should hold only one day of Yom Tov (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11), but according to most halakhic authorities, since his place of residence is in Chutz La-Aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ben Chutz La-Aretz, and this is the accepted practice (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; Mishna Berura 496:13).

Although according to the principle of the law, the halakha should have been lenient, since the second day of Yom Tov is of rabbinic ordinance and the rule is safek d’rabanan l’kula (a rabbinic ordinance with a doubt is ruled leniently), nevertheless, the accepted minhag is to be machmir, and since this is the minhag – the unique brachot for Yom Tov are even recited on the second day of Yom Tov.

However, it seems that when the visitor has a deep attachment to the country, and thus, there is a certain chance he will choose to immigrate to Israel, when he is in Israel, he should act according to the minhag of Eretz Yisrael.

Those Who Reside Outside of Israel but Have an Attachment to the Land

1) Someone who comes to Israel for a year of study, his long stay in Israel turns him into ben Eretz Yisrael (a resident) for the duration of his stay.

2) One who occasionally comes to visit Eretz Yisrael, if his visits accumulate to a year, he is considered somewhat of a resident, and from that point onward, if during the Chagim he is in Eretz Yisrael, he should keep only one day.

3) Someone who comes to visit Israel and intends to immigrate when possible, even if he visits for a short period of time, and it will be many years before he can realize his plan, while he is in Israel he should act as ben ha’aretz, and keep one day.

4) A visitor who has children or parents who immigrated to Israel is considered to have an affinity to the country, and during his stay in Israel, should keep one day.

5) One who purchased an apartment in the Land of Israel in order to live there during his visits, even though his visits have not yet accumulated to a year, while he is in Israel, he is considered a ben Eretz Yisrael in the merit of his apartment.

6) A ‘yored‘ (one who has left Israel on a permanent basis) who determined his home is abroad, even if he lived there for decades, since for a significant period he lived in Israel – as long as there is any chance of his returning to Israel, when he visits Israel, he should act like b’nei Eretz Yisrael.

However, when such people are abroad, since in practice they have not yet immigrated to Israel, they are considered to be foreign citizens in every aspect, and it is their obligation to observe second day of Yom Tov of the Diaspora (these laws are explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim’ 9: 8).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.





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