Simanim 51-52 Pesukei Dezimra Part 2

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #27: Simanim 51-52, Part 2

Pages 156-160


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon





            The Gemara does not tell us the content of the entity known as Pesukei De-zimra.  For each psalm, we will examine its origin and its reason for inclusion in this collection.




            The Gemara (Berakhot 4b) emphasizes the importance of this psalm:


"Said R. Elazar in the name of R. Avina, 'Anyone who says "Tehilla le-David" three times daily is guaranteed to partake in the World-to-Come.'  What is the reason?  If you say because it is in alphabetical format, then we can recite 'Ashrei temimei derekh' (Tehillim 119) which follows the alphabet eight-fold [and is therefore preferable]; if rather because it contains the phrase 'You open Your hand [and satisfy the desire of every living thing,' then we can recite 'Hallel ha-gadol' which contains the phrase 'Who gives bread to all flesh!'  But rather because it has both."


            Here are some additional points relating to Ashrei:


1) R. Amram Gaon writes:  "And one should always focus his mind during Tehilla le-David, as R. Elazar says, 'Anyone who says ... is guaranteed to partake in the World-to-Come, since it has the alphabet and it has 'You open Your hand.'"  This presents us with an additional halakha - that one must concentrate on this psalm.  Rabbeinu Yona (Berakhot, fifth chapter) understands that in the Ge'onim's opinion, this special kavana should take place at the verse "You open Your hand,"-  "If he did not have kavana he must go back and say it again.  And it appears that even if he did not have kavana for the whole thing, as long as he had kavana for the verse 'You open Your hand' that will suffice for him, since the main point of the recital is on behalf of this very verse."  (To be sure, the actual words of R. Amram Gaon indicate that this special importance lies in the psalm as a whole - see Tzelota De-Avraham p. 188.)


2) If one goes back and repeats this verse, must he repeat all the succeeding verses as well?  The passage in the Gemara indicates that there is significance to the alphabetical format, and consequently it appears that he should repeat not only this verse but those that follow it.  This opinion is held by the Mishna Berura 51:16.  However, the Birkei Yosef (51:5) and others write that it is sufficient to recite this verse alone, and this ruling is found in the Tzitz Eliezer (XII, 8).  If one forgot for the entire duration of Pesukei De-zimra, he should concentrate on this verse in the Ashrei which follows Shemoneh Esrei (Yabi'a Omer vol. VI, 5:6; Ben Ish Chai Vayigash 12 - with the rationale being according to the statement of R. Sa'adia Gaon that the reason we say Ashrei three times is so one can have kavana for at least one of them).  The Mishna Berura (51:9) seems to say that after the tefilla, one should go back and repeat from "You open Your hand" until the end of the psalm.


            If one has already gone on to the succeeding psalms, may he say this verse between psalms, or is the order of Pesukei De-zimra something which cannot be tampered with?  See M.B. 51:16 who indicates that the order must indeed be maintained, and thus if one has arrived at other psalms and does not have time to go back, he should say it after the tefilla.  However, the Igrot Moshe (OC II, 16) believes that the order can be altered (be-di'avad), and thus one should say the verse at the point when he remembers it (this opinion is expressed as well in the Yabi'a Omer vol. VI, 5:6).


            For details of this halakha, see the Shulchan Arukh se'if 7, and the Mishna Berura there.


3)  We attach additional verses to Tehilla le-David at its beginning and end.  At its beginning, we insert two verses which begin with "Ashrei."  This addition is of early origin as shown by the Gemara (Berakhot 4a):


"Why does the letter 'nun' not feature in Ashrei?  Because it refers to the downfall of the enemies of         Israel [this, of course, is a euphemism for Israel], as it is       written, 'She has fallen ('nafla') and will not again            arise, the maiden of Israel' (Amos 5:2)." 


This indicates that already in Talmudic times this psalm was referred to as "Ashrei." 


            Tosafot (Berakhot 32a) explain the interpolation by means of another passage in Berakhot 32b which states that the early pietists would wait for an hour before praying.  This is learned from the verse "Ashrei yoshvei veitekha" - Happy are those who sit in Your house, "od yehallelukha sela" - ever will they praise You.  For this reason, the verse was attached to Ashrei as part of the introduction for tefilla. (Why to this psalm in particular?  See Tzelota De-Avraham pp. 185-186.)


            At its end, we append "And we will bless God from this time and forever, halleluya."  R. Amram Gaon writes that the reason is "in order to link halluya after halleluya, since in the whole section until 'All souls will praise God' we have the end of each paragraph and the beginning of each paragraph 'halleluya.'"  In other words, there is significance to joining all the halleluyas (Tzelota De-Avraham p. 186).


            [This reasoning is rather murky, since if so why do we add this verse in Mincha as well?  Of course, it is possible to say that once it was inserted in Shacharit the new version became standard for all tefillot.  But one may perhaps add another explanation.  From the Gemara we learn the importance of Ashrei; however, nowhere does the Gemara indicate that this is meant to be incluced in Pesukei De-zimra.  Furthermore, when the Gemara does speak of Pesukei De-zimra, it refers to them as "hallel" (praise), a word apparently derived from "halleluya."  But Ashrei does not contain any mention of "hallel" (though of course its content IS hallel).  It therefore appears to me that the verse "Va-anachnu ... halleluya" was added so that Ashrei would contain an explicit "hallel" (not only at its end but also at its beginning - "Ashrei yoshvei veitekha od YEHALLELUKHA sela").


            Hence, when one is forced to skip Pesukei De-zimra it is possible to say Ashrei alone (in addition to Barukh She-amar and Yishtabach) due to the special significance it bears - because of its alphabetical format and because of "You open Your hand," plus the fact that it constitutes a precis of all the "halleluya" psalms with its mention of hallel beginning and end.


            For this reason, too, Ashrei became a preface to Mincha, as an expansion of the principle of putting praise before supplication.  For Maariv, it is likely that the berakhot of praise within Shemoneh Esrei were considered sufficient because of the desire to prevent unnecessary bother to the congregation at this time (just as there is no repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei in Maariv), or alternatively it might be that the praise contained in the berakhot following Keriat Shema of Maariv serve this purpose.


            It is moreover likely that just as in Shacharit the praise before Shemoneh Esrei was expanded in the form of Pesukei De-zimra, so too was the praise afterwards (in line with the gemara in Berakhot 34a which prescribes, "For the first ones he should resemble a servant who is offering praise to his master, for the middle ones he should resemble a servant who is requesting a present from his master, for the last ones he should resemble a servant who has received a present from his master and is taking leave of him and departing").  This necessary epilogue (following Shemoneh Esrei) is well suited to Ashrei, which in addition to praise contains words of thanksgiving such as "All Your creations will thank You" and "And we will bless You."]




            The source of the "halleluya" psalms is found in the only gemara which deals explicitly with Pesukei De-zimra, Shabbat 118b:


"Said R. Yose bar Chalafta, 'May my lot be with those who complete Hallel each day.'"


            To what Hallel is he referring?  Rashi specifies, "Two psalms of praises, 'Hallelu et Hashem min ha-shamayim,' and 'Hallelu E-l be-kodsho' [in both of which there is an abundance of "halleluyas"]."  However, the Rif (Berakhot, fifth chapter) writes instead that it is the six psalms from "Tehilla le-David" until "kol ha-neshama tehallel Y-a."  This opinion is found in Masekhet Sofrim (end of chapter 17) and so writes the Rambam.


            Therefore, one who arrives late to the synagogue and has time to say more than Ashrei should say all the "halleluyas," for they represent the essence of Pesukei De-zimra.  If he lacks time for all of them, he should say the two psalms mentioned by Rashi ("min ha-shamayim," "E-l be-kodsho").  With even less time, he should say only "E-l be-kodsho" since it has a plethora of "halleluyas" (R. Natronai Gaon, cited in the Tur; R. Moshe Gaon, cited in the Siddur of R. Akiva Eiger). 


            [Even those who believe that there are six halleluya psalms which should be recited would admit that in such a case one will suffice.  And with this we can better understand R. Yose's words in the Gemara, "May my lot be with those who COMPLETE Hallel each day," i.e., that strictly speaking, only one psalm must be recited, but R. Yose wished to be included with those who enhance the mitzva and "complete the Hallel" by saying all the halleluyas.  This fits with the version of R. Yose's statement found in Masekhet Sofrim, "May my lot be with those who pray each day these six psalms."]


NOTE:  The words of the Shulchan Arukh may mislead; "E-l be-kodsho" is preferred to "min ha-shamayim."  Examine his entire statement carefully.


            If one has no time to spare, should he omit all the halleluyas?  The statement of R. Natronai Gaon mentioned above appears to indicate that one may not omit "hallelu E-l be-kodsho."  However, Rabbeinu Yona and the Rosh (Berakhot, fifth chapter) write in the name of R. Amram Gaon that it is permissible to skip all the halleluyas and say only Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach.  See the rulings of the Shulchan Arukh and the Rema in this matter.  Read siman 52 until the words "and if the congregation has already started 'Yotzer.'"


            [On the face of it, the lenient ruling - that one may say only Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach - is confusing, since these contain no "hallel" at all, and hallel is the essence of Pesukei De-zimra.  This question is raised in Tzelota De-Avraham p. 240, and he therefore rules against this opinion.  But according to what I wrote above, the difficulty is resolved, since for this very reason the last two verses (and perhaps the first one as well) were appended to Ashrei.]


            If one has no time whatsoever, should he skip all of Pesukei De-zimra and begin with Yotzer Or in order to arrive at Shemoneh Esrei together with the rest of the congregation?  According to Rabbeinu Yona (cited in the Tur) and the Rosh, for the sake of "tefilla be-tzibbur" - praying with a minyan - one may do so.  However, the Shu"t Mishkenot Yaakov writes that Barukh She-amar and Yishtabach are of ancient origin and as such one should not omit them, even at the cost of missing tefilla be-tzibbur.


            See the Shulchan Arukh who appears to rule like the first-mentioned opinion (and similarly in the Arukh Ha-shulchan 52:3,7) and, in contrast, M.B. 52:6 and 1 who agrees with the Mishkenot Yaakov.


            We will now examine the rest of Pesukei De-zimra and attempt to determine, based on their reason for inclusion, which of them take precedence when one has limited time.




            When King David brought the Holy Ark up to Jerusalem, he taught the psalm "Hodu la-Hashem kir'u vi-shemo" to Assaf and his brothers as a song of thanksgiving to God:  "On that day David first ordained to give thanks to God by the hand of Assaf and his brothers.  Give thanks to God, declare His name, make His acts known among the nations" (Divrei Hayamim I 16:7-36).


            Writes the Eshkol (Hilkhot Tefilla Ve-keriat Shema 5; cited in the Kolbo):


            "It was customary to begin, after 'Midrash R. Yishmael,' with 'Hodu la-Hashem kir'u vi-shemo.'  And the reason, according to the author of the Eshkol, is that during all the years that the Ark was in its tent (before the building of the Temple) David enacted that they should say before it this psalm, as we find in Sefer Yochsin, and spelled out in Seder Olam.  With the daily offering of the morning they would say from 'Hodu la-Hashem' until 'u-vinevi'ai al tarei'u,' and with the daily offering of the afternoon they would say from 'Shiru la-Hashem kol ha-aretz' until 've-hallel la-Hashem,' and since we mention the order of the korbanot we also recite the psalm."


            In other words, David instituted this psalm to be said with the daily offerings of morning and afternoon, the first half (vv. 8-22, which deals with the song of Israel to God) with the morning offering, and the second half (vv. 23-36, which deals with the song of the universe) with the afternoon offering.  We therefore join this psalm to our recital of korbanot (though we say it in its entirety in Shacharit). 


            In the continuation of Hodu, from the words "Romemu Hashem Elokeinu" until the end - "Ashira la-Hashem ki gamal alai" - we find verses taken from a variety of sources.


            Two points arise from this discussion:


1) Hodu, while not an integral part of Pesukei De-zimra (and thus certainly not as important as the halleluyas), nevertheless should be said because it was said daily in the Temple (and tefillot were instituted to correspond with the daily offerings).


2) The essential part of Hodu is until the verse "Ve-yomru kol ha-am amen ve-hallel la-Hashem" (vv. 8-36), with the rest being a collection of verses.


            This explains the ruling of the Rema that "if one has more time, he should say 'Hodu la-Hashem kir'u' until 'Ve-hu rachum.'"  (It appears, though, that one can actually stop two verses earlier, at "ve-hallel la-Hashem."  But perhaps this addition on the part of the Rema is an attempt to facilitate memorizing the list of permitted omissions - see the continuation of the Rema.)


            [As we will see, though, 'Va-yevarekh David' takes precedence over Hodu.]


            It is reasonable to posit that if one lacks the time to say all this, he should say until "Shiru la-Hashem kol ha-aretz," which is the part said in the morning in the Temple.


            In nusach Ashkenaz, Hodu is recited after Barukh She-amar, so that the berakha will refer to Hodu as well (as part of Pesukei De-zimra).  Nusach Sefarad places it before, because as we have seen, Hodu is intrinsically connected to the recital of korbanot and thus should be adjacent to them.  (This is found in Tzelota De-Avraham p. 158, who further states that even for one who ordinarily prays nusach Sefarad, Hodu is not considered an interruption, and therefore he is permitted to say Pesukei De-zimra in accordance with nusach Ashkenaz if he finds himself in a minyan which follows this version - though if he wishes, he may maintain his customary nusach.)




            This was sung by the Levi'im already in the time of the first Temple (beraita cited in Shevuot 15).  From the gemara in Bava Batra (10b) and the Yerushalmi (Shevuot 1:8), it appears that Moshe Rabbeinu composed this psalm.  Its significance can be seen in the midrash (Vayikra Rabba 89:7):  "In future times all korbanot will be annulled, but not the korban toda; all tefillot will be annulled but not thanksgiving."


            Since this psalm was recited at the time of the offering of the korban toda, their halakhot are similar:


1) Mizmor le-toda is not said on Shabbatot and holidays because on those days no voluntary offerings were brought (Rokei'ach; Manhig; Tur; Rema).


2) It is not said on Pesach because the korban toda included ten loaves of chametz.  And it is similarly not said on erev Pesach, lest the loaves not be finished and need to be burned.


3) It is also not said on erev Yom Kippur.  This korban had a time span of a day and its night until midnight during which it could be eaten.  This could obviously not be fulfilled on erev Yom Kippur and therefore it was not offered then.


4) It is customary to recite it while standing (Kitzur Shulchan Arukh) and according to the Ari, while sitting (see the Sha'arei Teshuva 51:4).


            It would appear that due to its significance this psalm should not be omitted.  Yet, it is not listed in the Shulchan Arukh or the Mishna Berura among those psalms which are accorded high priority in case of lateness.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan (52:6), though, does rule that it should be included right after Ashrei and "E-l be-kodsho," before other psalms.  This is especially so, he writes, due to its shortness, "since there is no delay for it, since within a few moments one can say it."


            The Seder Avodat Yisrael (p. 61) provides a reason for saying this psalm on a daily basis: "Because not a day goes by that one does not have miracles performed for him; the beneficiary of miracles frequently does not recognize them, but still is required to give thanks."




            This is a collection of verses - as the Avudraham writes, "not a psalm but rather scattered verses from Tehillim."  The passage is first mentioned in Masekhet Sofrim (18:2), though it indicates there that it was said only on Pesach.  However, in the siddurim of the Ge'onim (Siddur R. Amram Gaon, Siddur R. Sa'adia Gaon) it appears in the daily service.


            In any case, since these are merely scattered verses , they are similar in importance to those found at the end of Hodu, and are not on the "preferred list" in case of lateness. (However, in the opinion of the Tzelota De-Avraham, p. 157, they are equivalent to the halleluya psalms because they are mentioned in early sources, etc.)


            Incidentally, in the middle of Yehi Khevod we come across "Hashem melekh, Hashem malakh, Hashem yimlokh le-olam va'ed."  This sentence appears nowhere in Tanakh and is actually composed of the beginnings of three verses:  "Hashem melekh olam va'ed" (Tehillim 10:16), "Hashem malakh gei'ut lavesh" (Tehillim 97:1), and "Hashem yimlokh le-olam va'ed" (Shemot 15:18).  The grafted form first appears in Masekhet Sofrim (14:8) and in Sefer Heikhalot.  It follows that while it is prohibited to answer amen in the middle of a verse in Pesukei De-zimra, it is permitted to do so between "Hashem melekh" and "Hashem malakh," etc., since they are not one verse.




            These verses first appear in the Rokei'ach (siman 320) and in the Avudraham (but not in the siddurim of the Ge'onim or in the Rambam).  Writes the Avudraham: "And because with these psalms sefer Tehillim is completed, it was instituted to say after them 'Barukh Hashem le-olam,' 'Barukh Hashem mi-tzion,' and 'Barukh Hashem Elokim Elokei Yisrael' [and the reason for this is] because these verses are found at the end of Tehillim, and therefore it was instituted to say them at the completion of Tehillim."


            Thus, since these verses are not mentioned in the early sources (excluding the Rokei'ach and the Avudraham), they are not high priority for the latecomer.  (To be sure, the Arukh Ha-shulchan has a different list from that of the majority of Acharonim.)


NOTE:  The first verse is the end of the third book of Tehillim.  The third verse (and the fourth which is attached to it) is the end of Book Two.  But the second verse is not the end of a book of Tehillim but rather the end of Psalm 135.  It is likely that this order was chosen so that there will be a berakha of a sort after the halleluya psalms (Tzelota De-Avraham p. 215).  This serves to explain the custom of the Maharam ben Barukh who, when forced to interrupt in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra, would say these verses and upon his return would repeat them (cited in M.B. 51:7).



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)