Tikkun Chatzot

Tikkun Chatzot

Tikkun Chatzot (lit. Midnight Service) is a Jewish ritual of lamentation that is recited each midnight in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is an optional observance which is not universally observed. It is only recited in Orthodox Judaism. Over the past few years, there have been attempts to revive the custom of Tikkun Chatzot in various communities. The most successful of these has been the Kollel Chatzot yeshiva . Kollel Chatzotin Beitar Israel where about 50 scholars rise at midnight, recite tikkun chatzot and then learn all night and pray at dawn.

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 cancelled the customs of mourning on the Sabbath but declared that the Tikkun Chatzot should be said each and every day.

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 the hour of midnight, one sits on the ground, takes off his shoes, and reads from the prayer book.

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 may be recited (although many do not recite Tikkun Chatzos at all on such days).

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..."

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. Other Bible verses and short prayers are then said, followed by study of Mishnah, the last chapter of tractate Tamid. Many study Zohar after this.

In Kabbalah

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.

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