Laws and Customs of Shabou

Laws and Customs of Shabou'ot

This year Shabou'ot begins on Thursday night June 1, 2006.

By; Joseph Mosseri

From HSJE forum egyjews.

As the Holiday of Shabou'ot is less than one week away I thought I would share some laws and customs of this holiday with you.

1)Tiqoun Leil Shabou'ot (The all night reading)


3)Prayer upon opening the Heikhal

4)Festive meal (Meat vs. Dairy)

1)TIQOUN LEIL SHABOU'OT (The all night reading)

There is a custom in to stay up on the 1st night of Shabou'ot and be involved in Torah until dawn.

This custom seems to be based upon the Zohar (Perashat Emor 98a) which states that the original pious ones would not sleep this night, and they toiled in Torah.
The Zohar (introduction page 8a) also says that all those who adhere to the Tiqoun this night and rejoice with it are blessed by God.

The rabbis explain and give the reason for this custom based upon the midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:12) which states that when Bene Yisrael were to receive the Torah, they were all sleeping and God had to awaken them with noise and thunder. Therefore we stay up studying this night to make amends for our forefathers and to show how anxiously we anticipate receiving the Torah.

{For a slightly different twist on this see the commentary of Ibn Ezra on Shemot 19:11 and the explanation by Rabbi Haim Palacci in his Leb Haim volume 2, chapter 180)}.

This custom is only for men and not for women (see Sod Yesharim chapter 9 by Rabbi Yosef Haim).

The custom is to study and read the Tiqoun as printed in the Qerie Mo'ed and not to just stay up and read whatever you want.

The reading was established by the AR"I and we read the pesouqim from the beginning and end of each perashah as well as from the Nibiim and Ketoubim, etc... (See the HID"A in his Leb David chapter 31) In the following generation Rabbi Efraim Panssieri (a contemporary of Rabbi Haim Vital , student of the Ari) instituted the reading of the Idera Raba as well.

All of our Hakhamim in the last 400+ years followed this reading without budging from it. They could have studied gemara or posqim but chose to follow the reading as established and laid down by those who said to stay up and read.

If we are going to stay up and read we should follow what was instituted as the custom not just do our own thing.

If staying up all night is going to take away from your concentration of tefilat shahrit than you should not stay up.

The proper frame of mind, thought and concentration during prayers is much more important.
The custom to stay up and study torah is also very important, if you can do it.

Rabbi ShemTob Gaguine in his Keter ShemTob on Shabou'ot brings a very interesting incident that occurred with him when he was a dayan in Cairo (circa 1918) and he praises the London Sepharadim who read a little at the beginning of the night then go home to sleep and wake up refreshed for Tefilah.

Yes, even though this custom is not mentioned by HaRambam, the Yemenite communities have always followed it except that after they read from the selected portions of Tanakh they read from the beginning and ending of each tractate of mishnah.

Check the schedule but for Brooklyn and Deal this year allnight reading will probably begin at around 11pm with shahrit beginning around 4:15am.


There is an old custom of chanting the Azharot on both days of Shabou'ot.

There have been numerous Azharot written by poets going back to the time since the days of the Geonim until about 1500.

The most common ones today are :
Azharot by Ribbi Shelomo Ibn Gabirol (Malaga 1022---Valencia between
1053-1058) recited by most Sephardic/Eastern communities.
And Azharot by Ribbi Yisshaq bar Reouben ElBarceloni recited by the North African communities of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

These are wonderful poetic enumerations of all the missvot.
The custom is to chant them,
The positive commandments on the 1st day and the negative on the 2nd day.

On the 1st day prior to chanting the azharot of Ibn Gabirol an introduction by Ribbi David Ben El'azar Baqoudah (11-12 centuries) is sung in a different tune.

Most people gather at home to sing these Azharot with family and friends and at times they are discussed as well.

In our days the Rabbi of the synagogue or a learned individual will have a class explaining some of these missvot on both afternoons of Shabou'ot.

One of the best commentaries on both sets of famous Azharot was published in Livorno in 1841 by Rabbi Shaoul HaKohen of Jerba (1772-1848) it's entitled Netib Missvotekha and very worth while.

Rabbi David Bitton A"H published a spectacular volume on Ibn Gabirols Azharot (Missvot 'Aseh) in 1979.

Mahzor Shelom Yeroushalayim for Shabou'ot (New York 1994) did a wonderful job on the Azharot. See the separate introductions there. The Hebrew by Rabbi Shimon Hai Alouf and the English by Rabbi Ezra Labaton (pages 279-287).

It's a great starting point to help one study the missvot.

It's interesting to note that some Sephardic Posqim, most notably Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azoulai and in our day Hakham Obadiah Yosef have stated that since Ibn Gabirols Azharot do not follow the order of missvot as prescribed by HaRambam, one would be better off reading from HaRambams Sefer Hamissvot.

To that end the late Maimonidean scholar Hakham Yosef Qafah composed his own Azharot based upon HaRambam at the end of his edition of Sefer Hamissvot

Let's not lose this beautiful minhag. Encourage one another to get together at homes or synagogues to chant these poetic verses together.

On the same note the custom is also to read Megilat Rout, splitting it with a portion to be read each day.

Some also read Mishle on Shabou'ot either in its entirety like the North African communities or selected portions like in Aleppo,Syria.

Many have the custom to read Tehilim on the day of Shabou'ot as tradition states that as the day of King David's death. In Jerusalem the custom used to be to go to his burial site to read Tehilim there, I do not know if that is still observed.

Others have opted to read the entire book of Tehilim two to three times on the 2nd night of the holiday as a different all night Tiqoun reading.

3)Prayer upon opening the Heikhal

On each of the Shalosh Regalim as well as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipour a prayer (Ribono shel 'olam.....) is said before taking the Sifre Torah out of the Heikhal.

These prayers are all from the anonymous work Hemdat Yamim.

Rabbi Meir Mazouz, head of Yeshibat Kise Rahamim "Sefaradit" in Bene Beraq has pointed out something very important.

Towards the beginning of the Shabou'ot prayer there is a connotation to the infamous Shabetai Sebi. He proposes that two words be omitted to ensure no misguided thoughts.

The original version reads :
"veharem 'ateret sebi lissfirat tiferet 'am segoulatekha"
he says just say:
"veharem 'ateret tiferet 'am segoulatekha"

Why hasn't it been caught before?
Or has it?
Perhaps we are just not concentrating enough when we say this prayer.
In any case what he says makes a lot of sense.


4)Festive meal (Meat vs. Dairy)

My research tells me that the holiday meals should be Meat and not Dairy.

If you are interested in reading my writing on this piece please email me at and I'll send it out to you immediatly.

Joseph Mosseri
I am not a Rabbi or a Poseq.
I am just interested in discussing Halakhot & Minhagim, laws and customs.
I invite your insights, comments, criticisms, etc..
Please let me know if you would like me to forward the same to my list.
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Joseph Mosseri