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In a fascinating article , Elliot Horowitz credits the introduction of coffee for the spread of the custom of staying awake at night. In the 15th century, the drinking of coffee originated in Yemenite Sufi circles in order that they could stay awake for their nocturnal rituals, and by the end of the 16th century coffee had spread throughout the Muslim world. Horowitz points out that both coffee and the custom of tikkun hazot spread westward from Sefat to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. ( qoute source: http://ou.org/holidays/shavuot/the-all-nighter. )

When did the rationale based off of the medrash which says that klal yisroel woke up late for kabalas hatorah first appear?

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where is that midrash? or is it a gemarah? – user5519 Jun 2 '14 at 21:47
It's a nice theory, but we have textual evidence (not sure where, but google it) that Rav Yosef Cairo started the custom of staying up on Shavuot night. – Avram Levitt Jun 2 '14 at 22:02
please provide a source... and i was under the impression it was the shl"a hakadosh – Mefaresh Jun 2 '14 at 22:03
@AvramLevitt Rav Yosef Karo lived in the 16th century, so the theory is consistent with the Shelah's citation of the Shavuos night story with Rav Yosef Karo and et al from Zefat. Even if the custom spread after coffee became available, the origin of the minhag is from the midrash cited. There is no contradiction here. – Yoni Jun 2 '14 at 22:17
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Shulchan Aruch brings (תצ"ד, ג):

נוהגין הרבה להיות נעורים כל הלילה לעסוק בתורה

Quoting the Zohar (מ"א שם ד"ה איתא, בשם הזהר ח"א ח, א. ח"ג צח, רע"א. ח"י שם)

The Aruch HaShulchan (תצ"ד, ג) reinstates the connections to Mattan Torah and links it to a Zohar:

והחסידים הקדמונים היו נעורים כל הלילה כדאיתא בזוהר וגם עתה הרבה עושים כן... והכל זכר למתן תורה

In the introduction to the Zohar (ח ע"א), here is a hebrew translation, which makes reference to the 'marriage' of the Jewish people and Hashem at Har Sinai:

רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן הָיָה יוֹשֵׁב וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה בַּלַּיְלָה שֶׁהַכַּלָּה מִתְחַבֶּרֶת בְּבַעְלָהּ. שֶׁשָּׁנִינוּ, כָּל אוֹתָם הַחֲבֵרִים בְּנֵי הֵיכַל הַכַּלָּה, הִצְטָרְכוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ לַיְלָה שֶׁהַכַּלָּה עֲתִידָה לִהְיוֹת לַמָּחֳרָת בְּתוֹךְ הַחֻפָּה עִם בַּעְלָהּ לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה, וְלִשְׂמֹחַ עִמָּהּ בְּתִקּוּנֶיהָ שֶׁהִיא מִתְתַּקֶּנֶת לַעֲסֹק בַּתּוֹרָה, מִתּוֹרָה לִנְבִיאִים, וּמִנְּבִיאִים לִכְתוּבִים, וּבִדְרָשׁוֹת הַפְּסוּקִים וּבְסוֹדוֹת הַחָכְמָה, בִּגְלַל שֶׁאֵלּוּ הֵם תִּקּוּנֶיהָ וְתַכְשִׁיטֶיהָ, וְהִיא וְעַלְמוֹתֶיהָ נִכְנֶסֶת וְעוֹמֶדֶת עַל רָאשֵׁיהֶם וּמִתְתַּקֶּנֶת בָּהֶם, וּשְׂמֵחָה בָהֶם כָּל אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה, וְלַמָּחֳרָת לֹא נִכְנֶסֶת לַחֻפָּה אֶלָּא יַחַד אִתָּם. וְאֵלֶּה נִקְרָאִים בְּנֵי הַחֻפָּה. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּכְנֶסֶת לַחֻפָּה, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שׁוֹאֵל עֲלֵיהֶם וּמְבָרֵךְ אוֹתָם, וּמְעַטֵּר אוֹתָם בַּעֲטֶרֶת הַכַּלָּה. אַשְׁרֵי חֶלְקָם.

I found this quote from the Zohar but the Aruch HaShulchan may be referring to another source related more specifically to the giving of the Torah. Either way, it is a mishnaic source which puts this at around 2000 years ago.

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Interesting, but you haven't answered the question. These sources don't mention that the Jews went to sleep that night. – Zvi Jun 2 '14 at 22:34
Did anyone do it between the writing of the Zohar and, say, the 14th century? – Double AA Jun 6 '14 at 14:01

The Ta'amei Haminhagim (618) mentions this reason:

The reason that we are awake all night on the night of Shavuos and are busy with (learning) Torah is because the Bnei Yisrael slept all night and Hashem had to wake them, as we see in the Midrash. Therefore we need to fix this. (Magen Avraham OC:494)

Magen Avraham was written mid-17th Century

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