Question & Answer With Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Tikkun Leil Shavuos Or Tehillim?
A Simple Jew asks:
While I understand that is the minhag to recite Tikkun leil Shavuos, I would personally prefer to complete the entire Sefer Tehillim instead because I feel that it helps me better connect to the Ribbono shel Olam. I ultimately want to do what Hashem wants me to do and am trying to discern how I should approach this awesome night. What advice could you give me regarding this question?
Rabbi Micha Golshevsky answers:
As you know Rebbe Nachman said that the main thing on Shavuos is not to sleep. Of course there are many levels to sleep. The Ramchal explains that the wicked are likened to being dead because their life is without the vitality afforded one who hopes to Hashem. Similar to one who is asleep, they don't really live in the full sense of the word. Rebbe Nachman and the Gra both explain that some people sleep their whole life away, rachmanah l'tzlan!
I have always felt that many people make a big mistake by forcing themselves to say the Tikkun when they feel no vitality in it and are much more prone to falling asleep. Of course, this is not always so. Some people merit to accept upon themselves the yoke of heaven, by forcing themselves to say the Tikkun even when this is difficult.The Sulam says that by overcoming the hardship and saying the Tikkun despite it, one accesses a big part of the light of Shavuos for this very reason. Yet if one feels this is a burdensome or he will fall asleep, he should at least consider doing something else. After all, the Tikkun is not a chiyuv just like most of what the Arizal prescribes is often not necessarily meant to be done in action. This is the view of the Gra and most of Chassidus. There are others who argue, most notably Sephardic poskim such as the Ben Ish Chai and the Kaf Hachaim.
Many tzaddikim would hear the sound of Matan Torah sometime during this most precious night. Although regular people don't often merit this level, we should do what we can to truly experience the joy that is such an integral part of kabbalas HaTorah. As the Chasam Sofer, zt"l, points out, one of the brochos we make on the Torah begins, v'ha'arev na.
I am certain that reciting Tehilim is as efficacious as learning Torah since Chazal say that Dovid Hamelech asked Hashem to accept one who recites Tehilim as if he were learning the hardest areas of Torah.
Although the Nefesh Hachaim points out that since we don't have any record of Hashem's answer to Dovid Hamelech, it is not clear that this prayer was accepted, very many sources argue. They reason that this request is recorded to teach that Hashem granted it.
In any event, in Breslov, some people would spend hours dancing while singing, "Ashreinu," (after completing the Tikkun.) I have always understood their reasoning to be as I wrote above: one needs to connect to the joy of Dveykus to Hashem, the Nosain HaTorah (as discussed in the Shelah HaKadosh and many other sources.)
Tehilim is actually exceedingly appropriate, since Shavuos is the Yahrtzeit of Dovid Hamelech Rav Nosson actually writes that one reason we read Rus on this night is to connect to the humility of Dovid Hamelech and through this merit to truly accept the Torah.
The Mekor Chaim (a student of Rav Chaim Vital) says clearly that one who learns Torah all night until the morning merits to rectify his nefesh and is afforded atonement for his sins. So we see clearly that even one who did not learn the tikkun is able to access the light this beautiful and holy chag.
If the best way for you to connect to Hashem on this wonderful night is to say the entire Tehilim, you should do so with connection and joy!