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Shavuot Learn-a-thon

Shavuot Learn-a-thon

Awakening from our national slumber.


A few months ago, on March 6, 2008, the Jewish world was shocked to the core upon hearing the horrific news from Jerusalem. Eight young boys -- while studying Torah at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva -- had been murdered by a barbaric terrorist. Many of us sensed that this was not a random attack on Israelis, but was a specific attack on our two most precious possessions -- our children and our Torah.

Eleven more students were injured, while dozens more were direct eyewitnesses to the attack and suffered severe emotional trauma.

What kind of response is appropriate? Just as these boys were gunned down amidst Torah study, perhaps our best response is through Torah study.

The Concept

When I was growing up in western New York, we used to participate in an annual "Hunger March." It was a 20-mile walk, and we'd ask people to sponsor us a certain amount of money for each mile walked. The proceeds went to a local charity. We had a good time and it raised a lot of money.


This year, on the night of Shavuot (June 8, 2008), individuals, shuls and schools around the world are going to try something even better: a global "Learn-a-thon."The idea of a Learn-a-thon is simple: Individuals undertake to learn a number of hours of Torah on Shavuot night, while soliciting sponsorship from family and friends. All the funds raised will be distributed by to assist those affected in the Mercaz HaRav attack.


The idea of learning all night on Shavuot began among the kabbalists in Tzfat in the 16th century. The Shavuot night learning is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot – literally, "an act of spiritual repair on Shavuot night."

In fact, Torah study is a beautiful way to unite the Jewish people. All of us -- no matter what our affiliation, language or location -- learn the same Torah that was received by the Jewish people at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago. And anyone who has had the experience of sitting with a friend and learning Torah, knows the power and joy of working out a common understanding, while connecting to the word of the living God.

On Shavuot, we make a declaration of priority: Torah is worth staying up all night for.

Why All Night Torah?

The Midrash gives a historic basis for the custom to learn all night: On the morning that the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they overslept.

In a sense, we too are asleep. Rockets are raining down on Sderot; Iran is threatening Israel with nuclear weapons; Hezbollah is stockpiling missiles and controls Lebanon; students are being massacred at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. In the Diaspora, assimilation and apathy are causing untold thousands of Jews to fall away from our people.

Do we care? Are we numb? Are we doing anything to help? "Do not stand on your brother's blood," the Torah tells us.

And so, on the night of Shavuot, we rectify this tendency by studying the Torah, the Jewish national guidebook. By doing so, we demonstrate our resolve to wake up -- to wake up to situation in Israel and around the Jewish world today.

Waking up starts with the most basic questions: Where are we going? What are we doing?

We discover these answers through Torah study. As Rabbi Berel Wein writes:

The Jewish value system, embodied in the Ten Commandments, which Shavuot truly commemorates, is the key to successful Jewish survival in this land. It has always been so in our history and it remains so today…

Shavuot represents the Jewish value system. It looks to build a more just society, to raise the poor and to temper the rich, to teach the unlettered and humble the scholar, to exalt and save life, and to unite Jewish society while preserving the right to be individually different one from another. Shavuot is… reliving of Sinai and its value system, its lofty goals and long road.

This Shavuot is the perfect time for all Jews to wake up and restore our clear Jewish vision. All together, we will study the Torah, our most precious national possession. We will commemorate the memory of those eight holy yeshiva boys. And with our hourly sponsorship, we will help alleviate the financial burden on their families and on all those who suffered in this attack.

And God willing, we will achieve the spiritual repair, once again united as the Jewish people were at Sinai, "as one person with one heart."


For more info, visit



May 31, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, July 11, 2011 7:38 AM

Sympathy for all who suffer

We should also remember the suffering of innocent non-Jews especially at this time those in Burma and Darfur and yes, those in Gaza who are killed and wounded by accident in attempts to silence those who launch the rockets.

(4) Anonymous, July 11, 2011 7:37 AM

Another reason for all night Torah study, it personally reminds me of Dovid HaMelech who sat up all night learning on the night of his Petirah. With only one second ''looking away'', he was gone. That''s how fragile our own daily lives are, especially today. Torah is life.

(3) Roxanne, June 2, 2008 8:32 AM

The Boys

I would also like an update on how the yeshiva boys are doing. They have to live with this the rest of their lives! I have had them in my prayers.

(2) Anonymous, June 1, 2008 8:14 PM

a question

I teach at a girls'' yeshiva high school where we have been saying tehillim I have e-mailed onefamily and Mercaz trying to get info on the condition of the boys. Should my students still be davening for the boys? No one has answerd my e-mails. Would you be able to get the info for us. I do pray that everyone is " on the mend". I imagine that emotional healing is even harder than the physical. Thank you for all you are doing.Tizke l''mitzvot

(1) tova wald, June 1, 2008 10:40 AM

Thank you Rabbi Simmons for your outstanding article. Not long ago I submitted a prayer I think it''s appropriate for now and am resubmitting it. Perhaps it could be included among the Torah studying! I personally would like that very much!

A Prayer for our Time

We are standing before You, G-d of Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov as we once stood at the foot of Your holy mountain, Sinai. There, You revealed Yourself as we stood in awe and trepidation to receive our most precious gift of all, The Ten Commandments by the hand of Moshe Rabeinu, Your Chosen Prophet.

We entered into a holy covenant affirming that You are our One and True G-d forever, for all time and to keep Your Laws, as the earth trembled beneath our feet.

You have performed miracles in the past and present. No act is too difficult for You to accomplish. There are those who wish to weaken and dimmish us, to push us over the abyss. Their thoughts turn against us as they plot and scheme to achieve their purposes. Enter the portals of their minds to change their decisions for the good. Reveal to them that there is nothing greater in the universe than Love, Compassion and Understanding. Keep our leaders strong in their faith and true to our cause.

Bring out captive soldiers home to us so that our fears be allayed and we can rejoice in their presence amongst us once more


Chag Shavuot Sameach

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