Learning Torah at Night

Question

are you allowed to read or study Chumash at night? if not, what is the reason? what is the cutoff time based on? what about on Shabbat or Yom Tov?

, 13 years

Answers

  1. One should not recite verses from the Written Torah at night unless they are being learned together with a commentary. The Talmud relates that when Moshe ascended Mt. Sinai he was taught the Torah with God for forty days and forty nights. The Talmud asks how Moshe knew when it was day and when it was night in the spiritual spheres, the Talmud answers that during the day Moshe was taught the Written Torah and during the night the Oral Torah.

    Accordingly the Kabbalists say that day always symbolizes clarity, an ability to see and understand things clearly whereas night is a time of reduced clarity. The parallel is that the Written Torah has a certain “clarity” that is missing from the Oral Torah. In fact the Rambam, Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, writes that everyone should make sure to set aside time to learn the Oral Torah at night.

    Having said that, the Chida writes that Tehillim, which are part of the Written Torah, should not be recited at night but he adds that this is so only until midnight. The Chida explains that midnight represents the beginning of the end of the night and therefore it is permissible to recite verses of the Written Torah without commentaries. In times of need Tehillim can be recited even during the first part of the night.

    Even though some people have the custom to go through the week’s parsha on Friday night with the Aramaic Targum which is considered to be a commentary, the Kabbalists state that the reasons for not reading the Written Torah at night is not applicable on Shabbat, Shavuot and Hoshana Rabbah and there is no problem to do so.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team