- Tikkun Chatzot
Tikkun Chatzot (lit. Midnight Repair) is a Jewish ritual of lamentation that is recited after midnight in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is a highly praiseworthy observance which is not universally observed. Over the past few years, there have been attempts to revive the custom of Tikkun Chatzot in various communities. By Sefardim and Chasidim it tends to be recited more.
Origin of the custom
The Talmudic sages wrote that every Jew should mourn the destruction of the Temple. The origin of the midnight time for prayer and study lies in Psalm 119:62, attributed to David: "At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee." It is said that David was satisfied with only "sixty breaths of sleep" (Sukk. 29b), and that he rose to pray and study Torah at midnight. The widespread custom was fixed as a binding Halakha.
At first, Mizrahi Jews would add dirges (kinnot) for the destruction only on the three sabbaths that are between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and Tisha B'Av, and not on weekdays. After discussions that questioned this practice of mourning specifically on the Sabbath, it was decided to discontinue the recitation of the kinnot on these days. Rabbi Isaac Luria canceled the customs of mourning on the Sabbath but declared that the Tikkun Chatzot should be said each and every day.
The Shulchan Aruch 1:3  states "It is fitting for every God fearing person to feel grief and concern over the destruction of the Temple. The Mishnah Berurah comments there "The Kabbalists have discussed at great lengths the importance of rising at midnight [to say the Tikkun Chatzot, learn Torah, and to talk to God] and how great this is."
The Poskim mention a custom to recite Tikkun Chatzot during the day time during these weeks between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and Tisha B'Av. This custom is observed in some communities.
The Tanya mentions that one should recite Tikkun Chatzos every night if one can. He then suggests that if one cannot do so every night, they should do so on Thursday Nights, as a preparation for the Sabbath.
The Tikkun Chatzot is an individual service; a minyan is not needed for performing it, although some have the custom to recite it with a minyan. At midnight, one sits on the ground or a low stool, takes off his shoes (non-leather shoes are permitted), and reads from the prayer book. Although the ideal time for Tikkun Chatzot is the hour following midnight, Tikkun Rachel may be said until a half (seasonal) hour before `alot hashachar/dawn, and Tikkun Leah until dawn. The Magen Avraham method (also held by Rabbi Nachman of Breslev) is that midnight is six clock hours after nightfall (appearance of 3 medium stars). The method held by Mishnah Berurah is twelve hours after noon (halfway between dawn and dusk).
Tikkun Chatzos is divided into two parts; Tikkun Rachel and Tikkun Leah, named for the two wives of the Patriarch Jacob. On days when Tachanun is not recited during daytime prayers, only Tikkun Leah is recited (although Sefardim do not recite Tikkun Chatzos at all on Shabbat and Yom Tov ).
According to Siddur Beis Yaakov, by Rabbi Yaakov Emden, Psalm 102, the "Prayer of the afflicted," is read before reciting Tikkun Rachel. Afterwards, one begins the actual service by reciting the Viddui confession including Ashamnu, and then one reads Psalm 137, "By the rivers of Babylon," and Psalm 79, "A song of Asaph." Afterwards, verses from the book of Lamentations are read, followed by the kinnot, with customs varying among the communities, the general custom being to recite five or six kinnos specifically composed for Tikkun Chatzos, some of which were composed by Rabbi Moshe Alshich. The Tikkun Rachel service is concluded with the reading of Isaiah 52:2, "Shake thyself from the dust..." A shorter version is usually printed in Sefardi siddurim that does not include the "Prayer of the afflicted," and has fewer kinnot.
Tikkun Leah consists of various Psalms, and is recited after Tikkun Rachel, or alone on days when tachanun is omitted. The Psalms of Tikkun Leah are Psalm 24, 42, 43, 20, 24, 67, 111, 51, and 126. Psalms 20 and 51 are omitted when Tikkun Rachel is not said. A short prayer concludes the Tikkun. It is praiseworthy to follow Tikkun Chatzot with learning Torah, in particular Patah Eliyahu or Mishnah. Some learn the last chapter of tractate Tamid. Many study Zohar.
According to the teachings of the Kabbalah, the Tikkun Chatzot is important for bringing closer the Redemption. The esoteric teaching holds that just as the Jewish people were exiled from their land, so was the Shechina ("divine presence") exiled as well.
- ^ Nulman, Macy (1993). "Tikkun Hatzot (תקון חצות)". The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer. Northvale, New Jersey: Jacob Aronson.
- ^ http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%97%D7%9F_%D7%A2%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%9A_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%97_%D7%97%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%90_%D7%92
- ^ Ben Ish Chai, Vayishlach 4
- ^ Ben Ish Chai, Vayishlach 7
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