The Maharal in his commentary on the Haggada (Gevurot Hashem) explains the significance that the Tannaim were relating the story of the Exodus until they were informed by a student that it was time for the morning recitation of the Shema. He says that it is to inform us how it was that they were able to stay up all night in spite of the biblical prohibition of mitzta'er (causing oneself to suffer) on Yom Tov, namely, that they became so engrossed in sippur yetziat mitzrayim, they simply lost track of time. This raises an obvious question regarding the recently* widespread custom of staying up all night, e.g. on Shavuot. Is there a discussion in contemporary (or earlier) halachic authorities about mitzta'er with regard to staying up all night (especially in reference to the contemporary custom on Shavuot)?

*The Aruch HaShulchan mentions a custom of pious individuals to stay up all night on Shavuot. This custom perhaps would have been less problematic since those individuals may have been qualified to gauge their own ability to stay up without halachically-significant discomfort.

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    It seems to me that Rabbis (capital R) have generally decided that you'll get more people to learn more Torah by advocating the night thing than advocating coming to a 6 hour round-robin of Shiurim in the afternoon, and that all other concerns were deemed secondary.
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2015 at 22:59
  • I am going to post an answer to the question as asked, as pointed out by @msh210. Is that what you are looking for? May 15, 2015 at 3:47
  • The 'night' thing was introduced because at matan torah they had to be woken up!
    – cham
    May 15, 2015 at 5:48
  • Nowadays many people stay awake till all hours of the night anyways, so maybe it's not that bad.
    – Scimonster
    May 15, 2015 at 7:22
  • @yEz It wasn't what I was looking for, but would be relevant too, inasmuch as it would presumably at least be condoning the practice and implicitly saying that mitztaer is not an issue. Though, obviously, not as good as an explicit addressing of the mitztaer b'yomtov issue.
    – Loewian
    May 15, 2015 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


In Tephichas BeDevash 24 by Rav Chiya Pontromili (a Sefardi Rav from the 19th century quoted here) writes:

ואף שנהגו ישראל להיות ערים בליל שבועות אפילו שחל בשבת, מכל מקום שונה ליל שבועות מליל שבת, משום שבליל שבועות יש בו סודות גדלים, שעל ידי נדידת השינה ולימוד התורה בעשרה הנעשה באותו הלילה, מתקנים תכשיטים לכלה, וכמה מעלות טובות מפורשות בזוהר הקדוש על ענין הלימוד כל הלילה בליל שבועות, וכבר נודע המעשה שאירע לרבינו הקדוש מרן הבית יוסף זיע"א. וכיון שנעשה תיקון גדול בשמים, כדאי להצטער צער מועט כדי להשיג המעלה הגדולה ההיא, ודמי למה שכתבו הפוסקים שמי שיש לו עונג על ידי הבכיה, מותר לו לבכות בשבת

Even though Jews have a custom to remain awake on the night of Shavuos even if it falls on Shabbos [sic], nevertheless the night of Shavuos is different than the night of Shabbos, because the night of Shavuos has big secrets ... And since it makes a great rectification in Heaven, it is worthwhile to have a small amount of pain to reach such a great level, and it is comparable to what it says in Poskim that someone who has pleasure from crying is allowed to cry on Shabbos.

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    +1 Great source. Of course it does raise the question how we can equate shabbos to yom tov since (I believe?) on yom tov the crying that's allowed on shabbos is actually forbidden becuase of the issur asseh of "v'samachta..." which prohibits even aveilus she'b'tzinah (which is allowed on shabbos; oneg shabbos is not as chamur as simchas yom tov).
    – Loewian
    May 17, 2015 at 18:18

The Magen Avrohom in O.C. Siman 494 s.v. איתא בזוהר brings down this custom from the Zohar, and writes that כבר נהגו רוב הלומדים לעשות כן, most people learning have accepted this custom. So the custom is sanctioned by the Zohar, dating it to either the Tannaic era or the 13th century, and the Magen Avrohom in the 17th century records that it was already commonly accepted in those days. This constitutes an implicit acceptance of it being OK to stay up despite the discomfort it may cause.

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    +1 for the earlier source(s). However, without any explicit mention of discomfort, you would still have to account for the possibility that these "chassidim rishonim" and "lomdim" are assumed to be self-evaluating that the tzaar is not halachically significant in their cases and/or perhaps are sleeping beforehand.
    – Loewian
    May 17, 2015 at 13:35
  • @loewian That was why I quoted the words of the M.A. - the fact that most people were doing it sounds like it was standard practice, and it seems (to me) a bit far-fetched to assume that it just happened to be that all of them had exceptional stamina. And that the M.A. wouldn't mention that point. May 17, 2015 at 17:32

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