I’m going to admit it: I didn’t stay up for Shavuos night in 2020. I figure it’s been long enough, so I’m finally willing to talk about it, despite shidduchim.
Yes, I’m aware that I’m technically a baal habayis, and that not all baalei batim stay up. But I never actually figured out what is the right age to stop. So I’ve been staying up pretty much every year since a couple of years before my bar mitzvah. That’s when most kids start, mother allowing.
All kids are excited to stay up. Even if it’s not Shavuos – kids want to stay up because they think the world is somehow a more fun place after they go to bed, and we don’t want them to see it, because if they do they might never go to sleep. Like there are parties every night. When in reality, the only party is, “Woo-hoo! The kids are asleep!” “Should we celebrate?” “No, I’m exhausted.”
So as a kid, you try staying up the first year, and the first thing you notice is that #1, you did not realize how hard it would be to stay up. No one told you about this part.
The other thing no one told you is that when you get to shul, there’s an entire buffet of food out in the hallway. Turns out there are parties!
“I knew it!”
You were led to believe it was just learning.
And now there’s one housewife out there who’s throwing down this magazine and yelling, “There are buffets?!”
They’re not good buffets. It’s more like a chosson’s tisch, where it’s cake that’s been sitting out since yesterday, and maybe some fruit, and if it’s a fancy place, there’s like one type of hot food. And it’s not like you were packing your husband a lunch. The buffet is to make your life easier. That’s not why we’re there. If that’s the choice, we prefer sleep.
And then there’s the question of what you learn, as a bochur. You come into Shavuos night with all these massive ambitions, but basically you spend the whole night on chazzerai chazara.
But then at some point you become an adult, and if you’re not someone whose profession it is to learn for most of the day, you probably don’t have five hours’ worth of learning to do on a Shavuos night. Are you going to start a new limud that you’re going to continue once a year? Spending half of each Shavuos nigh trying to remember where you’re holding?
So if you are able to learn, on most days, for let’s say an hour, does that mean you should stay up for one hour on Shavuos night? There are no vasikin minyanim at 1 a.m. I’ve checked.
So for a few years there, most of what’s keeping some of us up is peer pressure. In fact, there were a couple of years that I was considering not staying up, but then I thought, “Then what about next year?”
So for a couple of years there, I spent part of the night shiur-hopping. I’d look at schedules of all the shuls in the neighborhood and pick a few shiurim, and that’s how I found out that not every shul has the same food.
But the random-shiurim-starting-around-my-seat thing was particularly an issue, because I spent a lot of years learning in a local shtiebel, with “shtiebel” being defined as, “a shul that does not have a separate multi-function room.” And you can’t learn in the women’s section on the logic that there are no women, because that’s where everyone’s sleeping. That’s where everyone sleeps – the women’s section – probably because they miss their wives. Until one guy’s wife comes in for vasikin and kicks everyone out. It’s super embarrassing if her husband is one of those people.
But these days, I’m finally at a point where I don’t really rely on shiurim, because my kids are old enough to stay up. I’ve finally made it over that hump! To a different hump! They’re not old enough to have arranged chavrusos for themselves for the entire night. It’s basically me.
You definitely want the boys to start staying up with you at some point, if only to give your wife a break so she won’t complain as much about having to keep all the kids quiet during the day. Because we all know which kids are noisier.
Not that that’s the main reason. Your wife might complain that she has to take care of the kids while you sleep, but that’s just for show. Your wife knows how to take care of the kids, possibly even better than you do. Shavuos is a dream for her. She gets time to schmooze without having to worry that her husband is waiting, she gets to have her milchigs, and you buy her flowers! She has time to sit in the dining room and read her magazine and stare at the flowers, and say, “Oh, right – my husband! Someone go wake up Totty.”
Anyway, so what happened in 2020?
In 2020, there were no shuls open here – just outdoor minyanim. And I fully intended to stay up all night learning in my house. I even told the kids that if we did that, the hot food would be omelets.
But then my minyan voted to daven Shacharis at 8, the excuse being that they didn’t want to wake up the neighborhood with the 5 a.m. davening of 14 people mumbling into their masks. It’s not like we were blowing shofar.
And in case I was considering davening alone k’vasikin, I couldn’t, because I had to lain, as someone who had at some point taught his child to lain Parshas Yisro and had apparently been the only one in that arrangement who committed the parsha to his permanent memory.
So I was not going to stay up at night. Instead, I decided, I was going to stay up all day, which is just as difficult on a yom tov.
There are a lot of baalei batim who don’t stay up all night, so I’m assuming this is what they do.
So what did I do? I learned, I walked around the block a little bit, at some point I was nodding off, I had a lot of coffee, some cake, I had to fight to stay awake… It wasn’t easy. The first day after the seudah, my wife was like, “So are you going to come up for a nap?” And I said, “Nope! I’m going to stay up and learn!” And she supported my decision, like the true eishes chayil that she is. Not one bit of complaining.
The thing about staying up Shavuos day when your wife sleeps is that you may be staying up with an entirely different group of kids. The limudim aren’t as complicated, though. A lot of songs.
Anyway, the plan was to daven Mincha as early as possible so I could go back to bed. There was a 1:40 minyan.
No, I’m kidding. That got outvoted too. But a lot of the point of staying up all night is that you’re going to come to Shacharis on time without oversleeping in order to do teshuva for the B’nei Yisroel coming late to matan Torah, so I parlayed that into staying up all day and then I came to Mincha on time.
I had to find someone who’d slept all afternoon to say Ashrei for me.
I will say, though, that staying up at home is underrated, because there are couches. What you lack in chavrusos you make up for in couches.
On the downside, a buffet of food sitting out for five hours isn’t as much fun in the light of day. With food you bought yourself.
And I couldn’t even have coffee with milk all afternoon, because I had a fleishig day seudah like a yutz. By the time I could have milchigs, it was time for Maariv.
On the bright side, I did not have to keep moving my seat around all day because of new shiurim starting in various corners of the house.
That said, I did almost doze off a few times in the middle of the afternoon. The couches did not help.
And my boys stayed up with me! But they didn’t really learn the entire time. They played around a little, and I was like, “Why are they even up? They should be in bed.” But I didn’t fight them about it, because it was late in the afternoon.
I was going to stay up the entire second day too, but that was just too much. I’m not a bochur anymore. I was like, “I don’t know if it’s worth going to sleep all night just so I can stay up during the day. What’s the point, you know?” And I would have had to sleep the entire Motzaei Yom Tov.
Will I do this again so fast? I don’t know.
I definitely didn’t get everything done that that I’d wanted to, because my plans were way too ambitious, and it turns out that days are actually not that long. And also toward the end of the day when I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, I switched over to learning something a little bit easier. And there aren’t really so many shiurim to go to. All the rabbis are asleep.
And then I was tired, like, the entire night. After Maariv, all I wanted to do was have kiddush and cheesecake and go to sleep. I said, “Wake me up for the seudah at 12.” And my wife said, “Fat chance.”
What do these women want?