When was the first Tikkun Leyl Shavuot in Jewish history?

Posted by Rabbi Goldie Milgram |

Did you know that receiving Torah through the altered state of consciousness known as sleep deprivation is a Shavuot spiritual practice? Known as a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, these are offered worldwide. A tikkun occurs when one learns with a lev tahor, a pure heart and holy, implementable, new awareness emerges. A tikkun is also implementation of justice and healing based upon awareness. The origins of Tikkun Leyl Shavuot are ascribed in the

Zohar to Hassidim Rishonim, "the original pious ones," who did not sleep but rather occupy themselves in learning Torah. "Shimon (bar Yochai) would sit and study Torah all night when the bride was about to be united with her husband." The bride can be viewed as Shechinah and the groom, God, at Sinai during the Exodus, and ever-again on this date until the advent of their concept of a messianic time. [Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar, Vol. 3, p. 1318] In other words, Shavuot is a cosmic wedding and holographically we are the "bride" or the Zohar would say, haveirim – contemporary comrades, so-committing through our presence as those helping under the huppah, and the marriage contract energetically binding us all on Shavuot is Torah. [haveirim was a Sephardic term for those selected to be in bar Yochai's circle]

24 four books were studied progressively in the tikkun leyl Shavuot described in the Zohar: The Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, the Writings (ketuvim) and then "midrashim of the verses and serets of wisdom" – metaphorically described as tachshitim, adornments, 24 jewels of the Bride.  Did things in the Zohar ever happen? We know not.  In 1533 though Yosef Karo, who compiled the Shulchan Arukh and Sholomo Halevi Alkabetz (author of Lecha Dodi and much more) and others acted out the Zohar's tikkun in Thessalonica, as described in Iggeret Alkabetz (epistle). "Know that we agreed, the Pious and I, his humble servant, with the companions, חבריםto abstain from sleep on the eve of Shavuot." They began with a mikveh, just as Torah had the Israelites bathe three days before the theophany at Sinai.

In Iggeret Alkabetz we learn the chanting at that Tikkun Leyl Shavuot was so amazing that a wall of fire encircled them, the angels fell silence and they heard an exceedingly pleasant voice speaking letters that were clearly enunciated. "We all fell upon our faces and none of us had any spirit left in him." This has been interpreted as the Shechinah - God's as Presence - speaking through the body of Yosef Karo.