What is Tikkun Chatzos?
In the very first chapter of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:3) it states: It is proper for every God-fearing Jew to feel anguish over the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. Chatzos -- the halachic midnight -- is an eis ratzon, a time when the heavenly gates are flung open and Hashem heeds our prayers. Therefore special prayers mourning the Churban and begging for the redemption are recited at that auspicious hour.
But why should we still feel such anguish over the destruction of an edifice, especially one that existed more than two thousand years ago?
After the destruction of the First Temple, the Greek philosopher, Plato, saw Yirmiyahu the prophet weeping bitterly. Plato asked him why he was crying over the destruction of something as material as a mere building.
Instead of responding to his question, Yirmiyahu answered, "Ask me what is perplexing you."
Plato asked him several complex questions. Yermiyahu solved them all. Plato was dumbfounded, "I can't believe that a human being could be so wise!"
Yermiyahu pointed to the ruins and said, "I derived all my wisdom from that 'mere building.' And that is why I am crying." The Bais Hamikdash was much more than a structure. It was the source of all wisdom.
Although the gateway to heaven were sealed at the time of the Churban, the gateway of tears always remains open. With out tears, we can rebuild the Bais Hamikdash.
Tikkun Chatzos is a special prayer recited between Chatzos and morning, in which we mourn the Destruction and pray for the redemption. At Kollel Chatzos, Tikkun Chatzos is recited with great devotion.
Someone asked the Sfas Emes, "But what about someone who does not feel anguish over the Churban? What should he mourn for?" The Sfas Emes replied, "He should mourn over his own, personal Churban, that his soul is so distance from its source that it does not feel the pain of Galus-Exile."
In Likutey Moharan (ן תנינא סי' ק"א) Rebbe Nachman says that while reciting Tikkun Chatzos, one should pour out his heart in heartfelt prayer to his Creator, just like during hisbodedus. The main reason we recite Tikkun Chatzos is to rebuild our personal spiritual Churban and be victorious in our private war against our yetzer horah, and by doing so we are contributing to the construction of the third Bais Hamikdash, may it be rebuilt quickly, and in our days.
To see a PDF version of Tikkun Chatzos, press here.
To learn more about Tikkun Chatzos, read Rabbi Dovid Friedman's (a Kollel Chatzos scholar) warm and informative essay on Tikkun Chatzos.
"עַל כֵּן הַחִיּוּב מְאֹד עַל כָּל אָדָם לְהִתְאַמֵּץ בְּכָל יְכָלְתּוֹ וּבְכָל אֶפְשָׁרוּתוֹ לְקַיְּמָהּ כַּהֹגֶן, וּמִי שֶׁטָּרוּד מְאֹד בְּעִסְקֵי הָעוֹלָם וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לְקַיְּמָהּ, עַל כָּל פָּנִים יִרְאֶה לְהַחְזִיק אֵיזֶה תַּלְמִיד חָכָם שֶׁהוּא יְקַיְּמָהּ "וְיִהְיֶה לוֹ חֵלֶק בָּהּ," אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ שֶׁיָּכוֹל לְקַיְּמָהּ וּמַה טּוֹב חֶלְקוֹ וְנָעִים גּוֹרָלוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא עַיִן לֹא רָאֲתָה. "He who cannot rise at midnight should support one who does rise, and he will have a share in the learning.
"It is a great privilege to take part in the Torah learning of these Torah scholars who push sleep away from their eyes. It will be an eternal merit for you and your family. There is nothing that draws down Heavenly mercy more than toiling in the holy Torah during these hours."
HaRav Ya'akov Meir Schechter, shlita
Rosh Mesivta of the Yeshiva of Mekubalim