January 29, 2009

Chatzos, Not Practical but Awesome, Personal Experience

Filed under: deep reflections — Reb Moshe @ 2:53 am

I have been observing more of a chatzos, learning at night lifestyle for over 10 years. It has great spiritual benefits but I must admit, it isn’t easy. Observing Chatzos properly means that you go to sleep early evening for a short nap and then arise and stay up the remainder of the night. This means you have to borrow sleep from the day which the Talmud allows for this purpose only. In practical life in Israel, most things are open during the morning and close by early afternoon. Some things reopen after 4pm but only for a couple of hours. If someone wanted to go to the dentist or make a stop in some type of Government establishment to handle regular living, these places are only open one time a week in the afternoons which I usually miss. Car mechanics close early afternoon and all repairmen come just in the mornings so I end up pushing them off. This means that to take care of material things, you have to often completely change up your schedule. It is also very difficult to have this lifestyle unless you are self-employed. To go around these problems, many people go to bed extremely early at night and wake up at 4am. But in truth, this doesn’t leave much time for Chatzos learning as it is light by 5am. Another way to go around this would be to remain wake a bit later into the night and retire around 2am. But this interferes many times with morning davening. The holiest time is the first 2 hours of midnight, so in a way, it is a good observance to just stay up. For most people, the most practical chatzos habit is to go right to sleep and just wake up very early. Then you could still go to work and do what you need. But like King David, he wouldn’t miss even a moment from Midnight till morning. Not to mention, the real tikkun is really to remain completely awake and intertwine night and morning by prayer at sunrise. Now observing Chatzos means less time with family and it wasn’t easy to explain to my 5 year old why it seems like I sleep all night and day since he assumes I am just sleeping as everyone he knows does. If you want to learn about chatzos, Sefer Kavanos Halev Chatzos will teach you of the benefits spiritually but I think I am the first to write about what it is really like practically here. I certainly think it is much easier to practice this in a quiet place like Tzfat but it was easier for me in America because everything is open till late afternoon and stores till 10pm. In Tzfat and Meron you always see a person here and there awake at night to study in Kollel. I’m constantly picking people up off the streets who are hitching in the middle of the night and I have decided to stop this practice for safety. The roads are empty so I am able to get to Meron with my heavy foot in 8minutes. It is quite nice to “own the night” so to speak. Surprisingly, even Meron has less then a minyon of people around on most late nights. About 5 people might leager to the mikvah and Ari kever but most of the time it is empty. There are some kollel’s, yeshivos that have about 5-8 people studying at night for pay. I found this impossible because my children have been quite ill over the years and waking up all night is their specialty. I can’t say I am holy enough to learn all night because I am busy with kiruv and the website videos half the night. Really my friends, we are talking countless hours of behind the scenes work. Doing web design work, soferous and paying bills also has to fit in somewhere but my work is inconsistent (owch) . But on those nights that I can, I try to do some special learning and avodas Hashem. I feel invigorated by a midnight mikvah. I don’t like praying anything but Naitz. To me it just isn’t the same to do otherwise. For me, I can’t change this avodah once I have done it for so long. To me, the nights are day and the connection to Hashem at this time is a must. Even on those down days, to shut my eyes while so much holiness is taking place in the Heavens during this time, just isn’t possible. Maybe it is the added air of Tzfat that keeps me awake. One thing is for sure, you loose about 1/3 of your friends because you almost never see them (not to mention my wife, lol). My dream goal in all honesty is to learn all night and then do the kiruv work during the afternoon but I have too much on my plate trying to make a living and do it all. Lately though, I am finding myself pulled towards this holiness even more and am finding myself in Meron most nights. I’m not sure this will last long though. Something holy doesn’t come without a fight from the other side. My other goal is to wear tefillin all afternoon (which would be all day while awake for me). Every time I have attempted this, at least for me the practice itself is quite easy (As a sofer I many times write with Tefillin on), but I have found everything falling apart around me and therefore I have had to stop it. This shows the holiness of this practice. In Tzfat, when people stop seeing you during the day time, they already know what your up too. It is not unusual for people here to take upon themselves this switch but usually most don’t last long due to its lonely lifestyle. This is why the Kollel’s don’t pay Chatzos learners the first month. In my life, I have never taken a Kollel check even when I was there full time. I never wanted my Torah study to be something I was paid for. There is nothing wrong with being paid to learn though, as the Rabbis have approved this for practical reasons. At this time, if I could find a place to pay me well enough for night time study, I would hop on board if the kids would start sleeping better. In Israel most Kollel Yeshivos pay about $400 for full day learning. My childrens education cost more then this alone. Education cost has gone up lately as well as to live in Israel. The American problem has hit us in various ways (thanks guys). So I have just opened up a bit to all of you and now you see why all my last videos are all in the night. I can’t wait for the summer when it gets darker later. If I am going to teach at night, I can’t exactly talk about material things or practical learning. The videos will start getting more spooky here, just you wait.


  1. Rebb Moshe, could you see a connection between the sleeplesness of your children and your lifestyle?
    Children want to ‘imitate’ you naturally, but they are too small to do so.

    Comment by Lucy — January 29, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  2. I asked my wife, she said I am making a racket walking around. Maybe we need thicker bedroom doors. It wasn’t till this month that my sons burn injuries stopped itching him in the nights. We do find that when one kid wakes up, the next seems to shortly after. Hmmm…
    One child always wakes up at 5am and then he is a bit loud. He doesn’t hear me as he is a deep sleeper. His problem is that he wakes up excited to greet the day and play. Most kids see its still dark and return to slumber. He is ready to go!

    Comment by Reb Moshe — January 30, 2009 @ 2:21 am

  3. I have been spending more time out of the house and I see this is not the main issue, my keeping them up somehow. At least for now as it appears the kids caught some strange parasite from school once again. I am going to increase my prayers for their health.

    Comment by Reb Moshe — February 2, 2009 @ 6:28 am

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