David’s Harp and Tikkun Chatzos – Sanhedrin 16

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The Mishna had stated: A voluntary war (if they are not waging war against the seven nations that were occupying Eretz Yisroel) requires a Court of seventy-one.

Rabbi Avahu said: It is written: And before Elozar the Kohen he shall stand [and Elozar shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before God; by His word shall they go out (to war) and by His word they shall come in from war, both he and all the children of Israel with him and all the congregation]. He refers to the king (Yehoshua); and all the children of Israel with him refers to the Kohen anointed for war; and all the congregation refers to the Sanhedrin.

The Gemora asks: But perhaps the verse is teaching us that it is the Sanhedrin (or king or the Kohen anointed for war) whom the Torah tells to inquire of the Urim ve’Tumim (but the Sanhedrin do not need to be consulted before going to war)!?

Rather, it may be derived from a verse cited by Rav Acha bar Bizna in the name of Rabbi Shimon Chasida: There was a harp hanging over David’s bed and when it reached midnight, the north wind would blow on the harp and it played by itself. At that point, David would get up and study Torah until the break of dawn. After the break of dawn, the Chachamim came to him and said: “Our master, the king! Your nation Israel requires sustenance.” David replied, “Go and sustain each other.” They said back to him, “A handful cannot satisfy a lion, nor can a pit be filled up with its own earth.” He said to them, “Then go out and stretch your hand against the enemy (for plunder).” They immediately took counsel with Achitofel (as to their battle strategy) and consulted the Sanhedrin (for permission and that they should pray for them) and questioned the Urim Ve’Tumim (if they would be successful or not).

Rav Yosef said: What is the verse that states this? It is written: And after Achitofel was Benayahu the son of Yehoyada and Evyasar; and the commander of the king’s army was Yoav. Achitofel is the adviser; Benayahu the son of Yehoyada refers to the Sanhedrin, and Evyasar refers to the Urim ve’Tumim.

The Gemora in Brochos (3b) asks: And did David actually know when midnight was? If Moshe didn’t know, is it possible that David knew? [Although it is possible that David had some type of clock, and we know that such things existed in those times as is evident by the Zohar in Lech Lecho, where he mentions a type of alarm clock, which functioned through water, nevertheless, the Zohar states that it was impossible to determine the precise moment of midnight through the use of those man-made items!?]

The Gemora answers: David knew when it was midnight, for he had a sign which notified him, as Rav Acha bar Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Chasida: There was a harp hanging over David’s bed and when it reached midnight, the north wind would blow on the harp and it played by itself. At that point, David would get up and study Torah until the break of dawn.

The Mefarshim ask: If so, why couldn’t Moshe make use of a harp as well?

The Satmar Rebbe answers based on the following Yonasan ben Uziel in Parshas Yisro: On the night that the Jewish people were about to leave Egypt, the clouds lifted them up and brought them to the place where the Beis Hamikdash would be built in order for them to offer the korban pesach.

The Gemora in Yevamos (72a) states that for all forty years that the Jewish people were in the Wilderness, the northern wind did not blow for them. One of the reasons cited was because the wind would cause the Clouds of Honor to scatter.

Accordingly, it can be explained that the night of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the northern wind could not blow, for if it would have, it would have scattered the Clouds of Honor, and they would not have been able to “fly” to Yerushalayim. It was for this reason that Moshe could not determine the precise time for midnight on that night through the usage of a harp, for the harp would begin to play when the northern wind blew on it, and that night, the northern wind did not blow at all.


Tikun Chatzos

The Gemora informs us of David Hamelech’s custom of waking at midnight and learning until dawn. Today this is known as Tikun Chatzos, for that time of night is a particularly auspicious time for learning and prayer, especially to lament the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash and to pray for its speedy rebuilding.

There is a dispute among the Poskim as to when exactly Chatzos is. Without going into a lengthy explanation of the various opinions, suffice to say that the Mor Uktzia, Shulchan Aruch Harav and the Mishnah Berurah all agree that Chatzos is always exactly at midnight, meaning the halfway point between tzeis hakochavim (when three stars are seen) and alos hashachar (dawn).

Although we see from this Gemora that David Hamelech learned after Chatzos, and this would imply that we should do so as well, in regard to Tikun Chatzos, there are Achronim that hold otherwise. While the Mishnah Berurah, Kaf Hachaim and others advocate that one should learn from Chatzos and on, the Arugas Habosem held that one should learn the first half of the night, rather than the second. Similarly the Chasam Sofer writes that most people that learn at night do so the first half of the night. The Seder Hayom explains why one should rather learn the first half of the night, for the simple reason that he might find it hard to get up in middle of the night to learn, and the night would pass without him learning.

Tikun Chatzos is a great mitzvah, but it cannot come at the expense of falling asleep during davening (Elya Rabbah). Similarly, a person who is by nature made of a weaker composition and needs his sleep, he need not arise for Tikun Chatzos.


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