The 24 Ornaments Of A Bride And Tikkun Leil Shavuot

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Parshat Emor discusses the commandment to count the days between Pesach and Shavuot, however the Torah does not explicitly provide reasoning. The Zohar (III, 97b) comments when the Torah says to count sheva shabbatot temimot (seven complete [or pure] weeks) it is hinting that we are supposed to become tamim, pure. This period is designed to purify ourselves over these seven weeks in preparation for the great revelation at Sinai which took place on Shavuot. The Sages always describe the Sinai Revelation as a wedding between G-d and His people. In fact, the Zohar compares the counting of the seven weeks to a married woman’s period of niddah.

The Zohar goes on to describe the wedding, where G-d is the groom and the Jewish people are the bride, alluding to an ancient teaching that a bride should be adorned with 24 ornaments on her wedding day. This actually refers to the Garden of Eden, where G-d created Eve and adorned her with 24 ornaments before her marriage to Adam. The Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 18:1) brings Scriptural proof, citing Ezekiel (28:13), "You were in Eden, the garden of G-d; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby (odem), the topaz (pitdah), and the diamond (yahalom), the beryl (tarshish), the onyx (shoham), and the jasper (yashfe), the sapphire (sapir), the carbuncle (nofech), and the emerald (varkat or bareket), and gold (zahav); the workmanship of your settings and of your sockets was in you, in the day that you were created they were prepared."

If we count the precious stones and metals in the verse, we find only ten, not 24. However, one of the minor principles of Torah interpretation is when a general statement is introduced followed by a specific list, the general statement both includes the specific list, and additional verbiage. Since the verse begins with a general statement “every precious stone” and then lists 10 precious materials, we learn  there were a total of 20 precious materials. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish held that one should also add “every precious stone” as a special stone of its own, meaning there were 11 stones, and doubled, we have a total of 22. Plus, the verse goes on to speak of “your settings and your sockets,” bringing us to a total of 24 ornaments!

Alternatively, there is another Scriptural verse which brings us the 24 ornaments more simply and directly (though without mentioning Eden), explicitly listing the specifics of each piece of jewelry, according to Isaiah (3:17-23), explaining how the daughters of Zion were adorned with "…the anklets (achasim), and the ribbons (shvisim), and the crescents (saharonim); the pendants (netifot), and the bracelets (sheyrot), and the veils (ra’alot); the headdresses (pe’erim), and the armlets (tza’adot], and the sashes (kishurim), and the corselettes (batei hanefesh), and the amulets (lehashim); the rings (taba’ot), and the nose-rings (nizmei ha’af); the aprons (mahalatzot), and the shawls (ma’atafot), and the hair-coverings (mitpachot), and the girdles (charitim); and the robes (gilyonim), and the fine linen (sadinim), and the headscarves (tzenifot), and the mantles (redimim)…

A count of these brings us 21. In addition, the verse that follows speaks of perfume (bosem), a belt (chagorah], and hair curls [petigil], giving us a total of 24 ornaments. Rashi references these 24 ornaments in his commentary on Exodus 31:18, which says how God concluded speaking with Moses on Sinai using the term k’khalloto, which can also be read as “like His bride”.

Kabbalistically, these 24 ornaments have tremendous meaning. The sefirah of chesed, representing love and kindness, has three inner states, each made up of 24 parts. (The gematria of chesed [חסד] is 72, and dividing that number by three gives us 24.) This is why Eliyahu poured an extra three measures of water (water being chesed) on his altar when he went head-to-head with the idolatrous priests (Kings I 18). The altar which he built was made up of precious stones, too (Kings I 18:31-32), and then he had water poured from a jug, a kad (כד) (18:34) with a gematria of is, as one may expect, 24.

That word is the exact same used when the Torah introduces Rebecca: “And it came to pass, before [Eliezer] had finished speaking, that, behold, Rebecca came out… with her jug upon her shoulder.” (Genesis 24:15). Kabbalistically, Rebecca is the embodiment of chesed (Zohar I, 137a) and she graciously provided water for Eliezer and all his camels. Eliezer realizes that she is the perfect one for Isaac, and immediately proceeds to adorn her with all kinds of jewelry. After the marriage was arranged, Eliezer gave the soon-to-be bride even more jewelry, “And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebecca…”

If one looks carefully at these verses in Genesis 24 (not a coincidental number), and applies the classic rules of interpretation, they will find that Eliezer also brought for Rebecca 24 ornaments in preparation for her wedding! Rebecca went on to marry Isaac, and they had the purest love of all the forefathers and figures in the Torah. In fact, the first time that the Torah describes a husband loving his wife is with Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24:67). This is one reason why there was an old custom to adorn a Jewish bride with 24 ornaments. Alternatively, a husband may fulfil this special segulah by purchasing 24 adornments or pieces of jewelry for his wife—not necessarily all at once! (It is especially good to use white gold, since it is symbolic of chesed, while yellow gold is the opposite, gevurah.)


24 Ornaments Of The Jewish People

If a bride is adorned with 24 ornaments, and the Jewish people were G-d’s “bride” at Sinai on Shavuot, what were our 24 ornaments? They are the 24 books of the Tanach! The Ba’al HaTurim, Rabbi Yakov ben Asher (1269-1343) comments (Exodus 31:18) that similarly every Torah scholar is adorned with these 24 books. Henceforth, the Zohar states that one should stay awake throughout the night of Shavuot engrossed in study Torah, especially the 24 books of the Tanach (Zohar I, 8a; though in Zohar III, 98a there is an alternate suggestion to study the Oral Torah at night and the Tanach by daytime.) One spiritually adorns themself in preparation for the wedding (as well as adorning the Shechinah) by taking on this measure.

Today, per the Zohar's instruction, it has become the norm in synagogues and yeshivahs worldwide to stay up the night of Shavuot learning Torah. This practice, known as tikkun leil Shavuot was initially popularized by the kabbalists of Tzfat in the 16th century seen with an earliest reference from a letter of Rabbi Shlomo HaLevy Alkabetz (c. 1500-1576), most famous for composing Lecha Dodi. The rabbi was born to a Sephardic family in Thessaloniki, or Salonica (then in the Ottoman Empire, now the second largest city in Greece). In 1533, Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) settled in Salonica (he was born in Toledo, Spain before the Expulsion), and the two became close. One Shavuot night, they stayed up together studying Torah, per the Zohar, first learning Tanach, and then some Mishnah. Suddenly, the Shechinah filled Rabbi Karo and spoke! Such revelations would continue for most of his life, and are recorded in his work, Maggid Mesharim. On that Shavuot night, the Shechinah revealed many secrets and instructions including one for the pair to move to Eretz Yisrael. In 1535, the duo fulfilled this wish settlin in Tzfat, the center of Jewish mysticism. There they met the Ramak, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570), who later married the sister of Rabbi Alkabetz. At the age of twenty the Ramak heard a Heavenly voice instructing him to seek out Rabbi Alkabetz to learn kabbalah. The Ramak completed this task and soon became the preeminent kabbalist of Tzfat, to be later succeeded by the Arizal, Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572).

Meanwhile, Rabbi Karo went on to publish the Shulchan Aruch, still the central code of Jewish Law, but interestingly, did not write anything about a tikkun leil Shavuot, believing that it was a practice for Jewish mystics, not for the average Jew. Nonetheless, the custom spread very quickly, first in Tzfat, then nationwide. When the Shelah HaKadosh, Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1555-1630), who was born in Prague, moved to Israel in 1626 he wrote how all the Jews living in the Holy Land stayed up all night on Shavuot, and even wrote text to study at this time. In addition to portions from the 24 books of the Tanach, the Shelah added the first and last verse of every Mishnaic tractate, and the first and last verse of Sefer Yetzirah, along with the Zohar's passage from Parshat Emor, detailed earlier, and a recitation of the 613 mitzvot.

In the ensuing centuries, the custom spread further across the entire Jewish world. Various other tikkun texts have arisen. Today, it is normal for many synagogues not to follow any tikkun, but simply to have lectures on different topics by multiple speakers, or to learn whatever Torah text people wish, and this is appropriate as well. Having said that, the original Kabbalistic way—as suggested in the Zohar, practiced by the early Tzfat mystics, and affixed by the Arizal—is to study specific portions from the 24 books of the Tanach, together with its mystical commentaries. (This author published a version of Tikkun Leil Shavuot, with the proper text of study in both Hebrew and English, along with commentaries from the Zohar and Arizal that is available online.)


Rectifying Sinai And Purifying Our Souls

On a simple level, the word tikkun may refer to a “fixed” text of Torah, such as that which a ba’al kore uses to study the weekly parshah before reading it publicly. On a mystical level, tikkun refers to a spiritual rectification. When it comes to tikkun leil Shavuot, it is commonly taught that staying up all night in study is a spiritual rectification for what happened at Sinai over three millennia ago. At that time, the people had fallen asleep before G-d’s great revelation. Though some say they slept to have energy to witness the tremendous event, others state that they were wrong to fall asleep so casually the night before the biggest day of their lives. Would a bride sleep so soundly the night before her wedding? Therefore, when we stay up all night on Shavuot, we are spiritually rectifying the mistake of the Jewish people.

Delving deeper, we have an even greater tikkun on the night of Shavuot. The Talmud (Shabbat 146a) tells us, “When the serpent came upon Eve, it infused in her a spiritual contamination, zuhamah. When the bnei Yisrael stood at Mount Sinai, the zuhamah was removed.” Eve was the first to be decorated with 24 ornaments in the Garden of Eden, but then fell from grace and was spiritually contaminated. In a cosmic rectification, the Jewish people were “decorated” with the 24 books of Tanach on Shavuot, and that impurity was removed. Each year since, we have a tremendous opportunity to cleanse ourselves of our own spiritual impurities on this special night, by immersing ourselves in the purifying words of our holy books.

The above is adapted from Garments of Light, volume two.

Efraim Palvanov is a  life-long writer, researcher and educator who shares authentic Jewish wisdom intertwined with science, history, philosophy, and mysticism. Rabbi Palvanov has degrees in biology and education, and currently serves as the head of the science department at Bnei Akiva Schools of Toronto. Visit for more thoughts like these, and check out his YouTube channel @EfraimPalvanov.