What is Kollel Chatzos?
Every night at a little past midnight—at 12:45—close to 100 young talmidei chachamim in Brooklyn, Monsey, Monroe and Meron leave home to learn at our kollel throughout the night.
What differentiates Kollel Chatzos from other organizations of the same name?
We are the only Kollel in Eretz Yisroel with regular, young kollel members learning the standard range of Torah. Walk into any of our locations at 3am and you'll think you stepped in to a normal, vibrant day kollel. In America we are the only Kollel Chatzos and the only kollel learning throughout the night. And we are continuing to grow globally.
Describe a night in Kollel Chatzos.
The members are picked up from home and Kollel begins promptly at 12:45 with Maariv. Then they settle in to learn. Some chazer what they learned during the day, some learn b'chavrusa. Others participate in Dirshu; Maggidei Shiur prepare, and there is a Dayan who reviews shailos and learns Shulchan Oruch. Many say tikun chatzos. Each member has a list of names specific to their kollel to keep in mind while they learn. At some point he takes out the paper and recites the names, often with tears. We keep lists relatively small and these exemplary talmidei chachamim develop a strong spiritual connection to the names they daven for; if a name is taken off the list, they notice. They learn until daybreak and daven Shacharis at netz. There is something very special about a davening that comes after an entire night of being immersed in Torah. The members then head home to eat breakfast and help with the family and sleep for a couple of hours. By 10am they are back at their regular day kollel.
So they learn day and night?
Yes. They get home from day kollel, eat dinner and help with the kids, go to sleep at about 8:30 pm for four hours and then wake up and head to Kollel Chatzos for the night. It is an intense way of life, but the kollel members who commit to it can't imagine anything else. In fact, there's a huge waiting list in each city.
What type of person signs up for Kollel Chatzos?
Yungeleit ages 25-30; deeply committed to learning Torah; they must be learning during the day as well. When someone applies we meet with him and ask: What is your plan for learning and what is your plan for your home life? When will you sleep? They must be able to sleep for four hours before they come to kollel. When someone is accepted, he is committed for one zman. For most kollel members, there definitely is an adjustment period, but then it becomes a way of life.
What about the wives?
The application actually requires the wife's signature stating that she agrees and supports this decision, just like for Hatzolah members. Some wives even add that it is a zechus and an honor. During the year we plan support groups for the women. Before Pesach we offer bonus coupons, and before Shavuos we deliver a package filled with dairy items and a beautiful letter thanking the wives.
How did the Kollel get started?
When Rabbi Hoffman, founder of Kollel Chatzos, was a bochur learning in the Mir he was zoche to get to know a tremendous talmid chacham and mechaber seforim who shared with him that it is a life-changing experience to learn the Zohar. Rabbi Hoffman went to Meron for Lag b'Omer and bought himself a small set of Zohar and found it very inspiring. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai states over and over that chatzos halaila is such a special time to learn, so he decided to try. He davened Maariv in the first minyan in yeshiva, went to sleep and woke up at 12 am. He had the key to a Bais Medrash in Meah Shearim, so he let himself in and learned, alone, the whole night. Then he got married and settled in Upstate New York with a regular day kollel schedule, but really missed the chatzos halaila learning and always talked about it with others. About a year and a half later, his wife urged him to use their chasunah savings to open a kollel. He visited various Gedolim for haskama and put a small ad in the classifieds. Two weeks later, Kollel Chatzos was established with 14 people.
How did one small kollel grow into five locations and a world-renowned source for the zechusim of limud Torah?
The kollel first started after Pesach and by the summer, it was running out of money. Rabbi Hoffman happened to mention the kollel to a new father, who reached into his wallet and gave Rabbi Hoffman $30, saying, "I can't stay up the whole night before the bris to learn. Please have the kollel learn in zechus of my baby." Rabbi Hoffman realized that this was a potential way to help support the kollel while providing new fathers an avenue to have shmira and a zechus for their baby. We started advertising and more people signed up for the zechus of having the kollel learn throughout the night. It grew from there.
When people partner with Kollel Chatzos, where does the money go?
Exclusively to the kollel members and administrative costs to help administer and raise funds for the kollelim. Without the money raised, we would not be able to pay the kollel members, and their families would literally not have bread on their tables, as our kollel is their sole source of food and livelihood. The more money raised, the more we can support each kollel member and the more locations we can open.
What is Kollel Chatzos' vision for the future?
A kollel chatzos in every city with enough money to include as many kollel members as possible. And ultimately, that each kollel chatzos should be a full day kollel as well.
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