Simanim 53-54 Yishtabach

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #29: Simanim 53-54, Part 1

Pages 160-170


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon




            There are six se'ifim about Yishtabach in the Shulchan Arukh.  However, right in the middle the Shulchan Arukh inserted twenty-three se'ifim regarding the shatz (the sheliach tzibbur, or cantor).  We will discuss Yishtabach first (the three se'ifim of siman 53 and the three of siman 54) and then address ourselves next week to the shatz.


            Yishtabach is apparently mentioned already in the Gemara (as discussed previously in the section on Barukh She-amar).  In Pesachim (117b-118a), R. Yochanan refers to the berakha "Nishmat kol chai."  It is likely that at first this berakha was recited in its complete form on Shabbatot and other special occasions (e.g. Seder night), and with the passage of time was said on weekdays as well - in a shortened version, from Yishtabach and on (Tzelota De-avraham p.152).  Yishtabach itself is mentioned explicitly for the first time in the name of the Yerushalmi, cited in the Hagahot Maimoniot (Hilkhot Tefilla, chap. 7) and in the Manhig, but not found in our Yerushalmi: "One who speaks between Yishtabach and Yotzer Or is guilty of a transgression."  The berakha appears as well in the siddurim of the Ge'onim, etc.


            At first glance, this berakha resembles Barukh She-amar in that they both have an introduction followed by a berakha.  But in fact this is not so.  Barukh She-amar does indeed have an introduction and afterward a berakha (which begins and ends with "barukh").  Yishtabach, however, does not have an introduction.  The berakha itself begins with the word "Yishtabach"; since as a "berakha ha-semukha le-chaverta" it is juxtaposed to Barukh She-amar - the intervening psalms not being considered an interruption - it need not start with "barukh" (Avudraham).  The words "Barukh ata Hashem, e-l melekh ... " mark the closing of the berakha.


            Accordingly, one may not be lenient about interruptions in Yishtabach, unlike the beginning of Barukh She-amar.  (We wrote above that there one may answer to any amen according to the Mishna Berura, while according to the Igrot Moshe it is to be treated like an interruption in Keriat Shema and its berakhot.)


            Yishtabach contains fifteen expressions of praise - so write the Da'at Zekeinim Me-ba'alei Ha-tosafot (Pekudei 1:1) and the Avudraham: song and praise, lauding and hymns, power and dominion, triumph, greatness and strength, praise and splendor, holiness and sovereignty, blessings and thanksgivings.  These correspond to the fifteen "Songs of Ascents" (Tehillim 120-134); the fifteen steps in the Temple (between the women's section and that of Yisrael) upon which the Levi'im stood during their song; the fifteen mentions of "hodu" in the Great Hallel (Tehillim 136); the fifteen expressions of praise in "Emet ve-yatziv"; and the fifteen kindnesses of God in the Pesach Haggada.  (Some of these parallels are found in the Avudraham and some in the siddurim of Rabbeinu Shlomo of Worms and of Chasisdei Ashkenaz.)  In the siddur Avodat Yisrael in the name of the Shla we find a parallel drawn to the fifteen words of Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing) - as He blesses us with fifteen, so do we bless Him with fifteen.  [The Zohar (Teruma), incidentally, has only thirteen - it omits the last two.] 


            The Shla therefore believes that one should recite all fifteen of the expressions of praise in one breath.  In contrast, the Chida and the Gra (cited in the Chayei Adam) maintain that they should not be said in one breath, because one must say them with a pleasant tone as if offering praise before a king.  See the ruling of the Mishna Berura, 53:1.



            Pesukei De-zimra begin with a berakha - Barukh She-amar - and end with a berakha - Yishtabach.  This fact has several ramifications:


1) Yishtabach is juxtaposed to Barukh She-amar (as discussed above) and hence does not start with "barukh" - Rif (Berakhot, fifth chapter), Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla, seventh chapter), Rosh (Berakhot, fifth chapter), Shulchan Arukh (44:1).


2) Yishtabach should not be said on its own.  What if one mistakenly skipped Barukh She-amar, remembering only when he already finished Pesukei De-zimra - may he now say Yishtabach?  From the Beit Yosef (beginning of siman 53) it appears that one may never say Yishtabach without Barukh She-amar.  This seems to be the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh (53:2) and of the Kaf Ha-chayim (53:4).   However, the Peri Megadim permits one to conclude Pesukei De-zimra with Yishtabach be-di'avad (after the fact) even if he did not start with Barukh She-amar.  And so too rules the Tzelota De-Avraham (p. 156): although these berakhot were formulated as "semukhot," this does not, be-di'avad, hinder one from saying Yishtabach alone.  See the Biur Halakha (53:2, s.v. Ein lomar Yishtabach), who accepts this ruling.


3) What about the opposite case - if one said Barukh She-amar and part of Pesukei De-zimra, and then mistakenly began "Yotzer Or" with the congregation (e.g., if he responded to Barkhu and then accidentally continued with them from there), what should he do with regard to Yishtabach?  It appears that according to the Shulchan Arukh, Barukh She-amar without Yishtabach becomes retroactively a berakha le-vatala - a blessing in vain!  Therefore the Yabi'a Omer (vol. VI, 6) rules that he should say Yishtabach between the berakhot of Keriat Shema.  However, according to the ruling of the Biur Halakha, this does not invalidate Barukh She-amar (be-di'avad) and thus it appears that he should continue with his prayer, omitting Yishtabach.  This ruling is found in the Responsa Kinyan Torah (vol. V, 7),  in Yafeh La-lev (53:2), and more.


            [According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l's approach - one might conclude that he differs with the Biur Halakha here as well. - M.F.]


4) There must no interruption before Yishtabach, for it is the concluding berakha of Pesukei De-zimra.  Therefore, when one reaches Yishtabach he should say it immediately without waiting for the chazan.  A chazan who is waiting for a quorum of ten, though, should delay Yishtabach in order that the kaddish which follows be associated with Yishtabach; however, the congregation present should not wait.  See the Shulchan Arukh 53:3, and M.B. 53:9.


            How long should the chazan wait before saying Yishtabach?  We will see in siman 65:1 (which deals with Keriat Shema) that if one waits voluntarily, not due to a circumstance which forces him to do so (e.g. needing the bathroom), it is not considered a hefsek (forbidden interruption).  [An involuntary interruption is considered more severe, because for its duration the individual is rendered incapable of continuing with his prayer.]  This is so even if the break is long, and even if it is long enough for him to have recited the whole thing.  Likewise in our case, since he is stopping voluntarily, it is not considered a hefsek even if the pause is a long one.  To be sure, our case is not exactly analogous, for here even if a long interruption were imposed upon him involuntarily it would not be considered a hefsek.  This is because Pesukei De-zimra are de-rabbanan - rabbinically mandated - and it is therefore possible to rely upon the lenient opinion which holds that involuntary breaks too are not halakhically considered a hefsek.  See M.B. 53:10 who cites the Magen Avraham in 53:5.


            A chazan who did not wait but rather said Yishtabach before ten men arrived should, according to the Kolbo, say three verses in order for the following kaddish to have something to be associated with.  See M.B. 53:11 who rules this way (but see what he rules in 53:2 in the name of the Taz, which requires explanation).


5) At first glance one would say that there should be no prohibition of inserting an interruption after Yishtabach since it closes the unit of Pesukei De-zimra with its attendant berakhot.  However, the prohibition nevertheless exists, for Pesukei De-zimra were instituted as an introduction to tefilla.  The Rishonim write this in the name of the Yerushalmi (though it is not found in our Yerushalmi).  In the words of the Tur (siman 51): "One who speaks between Yishtabach and Yotzer Or is guilty of a transgression, and is sent back from the front during times of war [along with other sinners] because of it."


            With these points in mind we will now examine what one should do if he had a tallit and tefillin brought to him at various points during the course of Pesukei De-zimra:


1) In the middle of Pesukei De-zimra:  As we saw above (in the section on interruptions in Pesukei De-zimra), one may respond with amen (in a place where a logical break is possible – which can even be in mid-verse [M.B. 51:8]).  Accordingly, one may don tallit and tefillin with their berakhot, though it is preferable to do so between paragraphs – M.B. 53:5 and Biur Halakha s.v. Ein le-varekh.


2) After Pesukei De-zimra but before Yishtabach:  An individual should not pause at this point but should rather wait and follow the instructions detailed in (3) below.  A chazan, though, since it is disrespectful to the congregation to keep them waiting (Levush), and also in order to juxtapose kaddish to Yishtabach, should don them before Yishtabach – Rema 53:3.  This is important to know because it very frequently happens that the chazan begins from Yishtabach and then takes a communal tallit; in such a case he should make the berakha on it before Yishtabach (though in truth it is preferable that he think of it beforehand so he can don it in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra, at the very least).  Regarding the issue of a berakha on a communal tallit, see our discussion above in siman 14.


3) After Yishtabach but before kaddish:  Although, as we have seen above, one should not pause after Yishtabach without a reason, there is a debate among Rishonim if one may do so for the sake of a mitzva.  The Rif and the Rosh forbid it; the Tur, citing R. Amram Gaon, and the Kolbo permit it.  From the words of the Rema regarding this disagreement (cited in the Shulchan Arukh 54:3), it appears that he sides with the lenient opinion.  Accordingly, one may recite the berakhot on tallit and tefillin at this point (M.B. 54:11).  Furthermore, despite the fact that the Shulchan Arukh refrains from ruling in this siman, he expresses his lenient opinion regarding tallit and tefillin in 53:3.  (This, incidentally, demonstrates that the use of the words "Yesh mi she-omer" by the Shulchan Arukh in 54:3 does not mean to imply a differing opinion but rather an addition to the first-mentioned one.  This argument is found in Yabi'a Omer vol. II, 4, in contrast to the opinion of the Kaf Ha-chayim who believes that the Shulchan Arukh rules stringently.)  But see the Arukh Ha-shulchan (53:4) who writes that nowadays it is not customary to interrupt even for the sake of a mitzva - except for tallit and tefillin.


            An interruption at this point is preferable to those described in (4) and (5) below, provided that he is able to finish in time to respond "Amen yehei shemeih rabba" and to answer Barkhu.  If he fears that he will not be able to finish in time (in the middle of putting on tefillin it is of course prohibited to respond), he should follow the instructions in (5) (M.B. 54:12) unless he already heard kaddish and Barkhu, in which case he should follow (3).


4) After kaddish but before Barkhu:  The Or Zaru'a writes (Berakhot, fifth chapter) that this is a more serious interruption, as does the Rema (end of siman 54).  The Acharonim consider it the equivalent of "bein ha-perakim" - between the chapters - of Keriat Shema (Elia Rabba 54:5; Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 53:3; M.B. 54:13).  One may therefore don tallit and tefillin at this point but may recite only the berakha on the tefillin; one must wait with the berakha on the tallit until after Shemoneh Esrei.


5) After Barkhu but before Yotzer Or:  This is the most serious interruption of all (the Manhig; Rema end of siman 54) and is treated as "emtza ha-perek" - in the middle of a paragraph of Keriat Shema.  This is because the primary fulfillment of the chazan's call of Barkhu ("Bless!") is with Yotzer Or, which should follow immediately.  Once Barkhu is said, then, it is as if Yotzer Or has already been begun (M.B. 54:13).  Tallit and tefillin may be put on, but the berakha on the tallit should be said after tefilla, and the berakha on the tefillin between Yotzer Or and Ahava Rabba (which is "bein ha-perakim") - M.B. there.


            Still, if one did not intend to say Yotzer Or at this time (but instead is continuing with his recital of Pesukei De-zimra, even though he responded to the chazan's Barkhu), then he is not considered to be "be-emtza ha-perek" but rather at the point at which he finds himself in Pesukei De-zimra (M.B. 54:14).


            We may note parenthetically that the same applies to Ma'ariv as well, i.e., that Barkhu is considered the beginning of "Ha-ma'ariv Aravim" and it is therefore prohibited to speak after Barkhu (unless one is not joining that minyan), even to answer "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo" and the like (though amen in permitted) - M.B. 236:1 and Yabi'a Omer vol. II, 5.  This is a common pitfall.



            The following is a list in decreasing order of the preferred order of places to make an interruption (for an individual):

1. in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra;

2. after Yishtabach before kaddish (provided that he finish in time for "Amen yehei shemeih rabba" and Barkhu);

3. before Yishtabach, even if he has already completed the body of Pesukei De-zimra [and for all these he should put on his tallit and tefillin with a berakha];

4. after kaddish before Barkhu - and he should put on his tefillin with a berakha and his tallit without;

5. after Barkhu - when tallit and tefillin should both be put on without a berakha (and the berakha on the former being then recited after tefilla and the berakha on the latter between Yotzer Or and Ahava Rabba).


            A sheliach tzibbur, however, should opt for before Yishtabach over after Yishtabach.  If he did not, though, he may put them on after, like the individual described above (and he does not need to recite verses afterward since this is a very minor interruption - M.B. 44:12). 


            An individual who is in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra is not affected with respect to this issue by answering to Barkhu.



            It is theoretically permitted to interrupt between Yishtabach and Yotzer Or to learn Torah (e.g. when waiting for ten men, or for the chazzan to reach Yishtabach) - as with any other mitzva.  Nevertheless, it is preferable to avoid an actual interruption with speech and instead to learn by means of "hirhur" - thinking without verbalizing - which is permissible even within the berakhot of Keriat Shema, during the piyutim (liturgical poems; Rema 68:1).  So too rule the Arukh Ha-shulchan 53:4 and Yabi'a Omer vol. II, 4.  But even with this type of learning, it is important to bear in mind the words of the Rema with regard to the piyutim (siman 68) that one should beware of thereby leading the congregation to interruptions and speech.



1) Shir Ha-ma'alot Mi-ma'amakim:  The Magen Avraham (54:2, cited in M.B. 54:4) questions the custom of inserting Shir Ha-ma'alot during Aseret Yemei Teshuva - is it not a forbidden interruption?  But this difficulty is itself hard to comprehend, for it is permitted to interrupt for the sake of a mitzva, as the Arukh Ha-shulchan writes in 54:2.


2) We wrote above regarding omissions within Pesukei De-zimra that the Mishna Berura (52:1 and 6) believes that under no circumstances may one skip over Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach.  If his words there leave one in doubt about his opinion on the issue, here in the Biur Halakha (53:2 s.v. Ein lomar) he states it unequivocally.


(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)