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Korbanot and Pesukei De-zimra (1)

  • Rav David Brofsky


            In this shiur, we will examine two of the introductory sections of our daily prayers, Korbanot (Offerings) and Pesukei De-zimra (Verses of Praise).




After reciting the birkot ha-shachar, the morning blessings, and before the pesukei de-zimra, we read a number of passages which recount the korbanot offered in the Temple, the beit ha-mikdash.


The rabbis, in numerous places, discuss the importance of reciting the texts of the korbanot. For example, the gemara (Ta'anit 27b) relates that:


…Avraham asked, "Master of the Universe, what if the Jewish people will sin before you, will you do to them as you did to the Generation of the Dispersion or to the Generation of the Flood?

…He responded (Bereishit 15:9), "Take for me a three-year-old heifer and a three-year-old goat," etc.

[Avraham] said before Him, "Master of the Universe, that is fine while the beit ha-mikdash stands; when there is no beit ha-mikdash, what will be of them?"

He responded, "I have already instituted for them the order of korbanot.  When they read them before Me, I will count it as if they offered them before me, and I will forgive them for their sins."


Another gemara (Menachot 110a) teaches:


"One who involves one's self in the study of the chatat (sin-offering), it is as if he or she brought a chatat. One who involves one's self in the study of the asham (guilt-offering), it is as if he or she brought an asham…"


The Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav (48:1) even relates that "All of Israel is accustomed to reciting, and has already accepted upon itself to read each day, the passage of the tamid."  As described in Bamidbar 28:1-8, the tamid was the lamb offered every morning and every evening on the ma'arakha (pyre) on the Copper Altar.  Similarly, the Rema (48:1) records that we "say the paragraph of the tamid, and some say the order of the ma'arakha" (Abbayei's statement on Yoma 33a).


The Shulchan Arukh (1:6) rules that korbanot should be recited during the daytime.  The Mishna Berura (1:17) notes that the passages concerning the kiyor (basin) (Shemot 30:17-21) and the removal of the ashes (Vayikra 6:1-6) may be recited before dawn.  He adds that if one has no choice, one may even recite the rest of Korbanot before daybreak.


Women should also recite the Korbanot. We even noted last week that according to some, women are obligated in birkot Ha-torah precisely because of their duty to recite Korbanot!




Each morning, before reciting the blessings of keriat shema and shemoneh esrei, we say pesukei de-zimra, a collection of biblical passages which surround ashrei (Tehillim 84:5, 144:15-145:21, 115:18), introduced by the blessing of barukh she-amar and concluded by the blessing of yishtabach.


The commentators question the origin of pesukei de-zimra. On the one hand, the gemara (Shabbat 118b) cites Rabbi Yosei:


"May my portion be of those who recite the entire Hallel every day."

Is that correct? Did not the Master say that one who recites Hallel every day blasphemes and reproaches [the Divine Name]?

Indeed, we are referring to pesukei de-zimra [but the formal Hallel, Tehillim 113-118, should be recited only on special occasions].


This gemara seems to portray pesukei de-zimra, which has yet to be defined, as an act of piety, a middat chasidut, but not necessarily an obligation.


Elsewhere (Berakhot 4b), the Gemara praises those who recite ashrei three times daily.  However, this statement's relevance to pesukei de-zimra, as we shall see, is unclear.


Furthermore, the berakhot of barukh she-amar and yishtabach appear for the first time in the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon!  This, of course, led many to believe while there may have been an ancient custom to recite pesukei de-zimra, this practice was formalized only in the Geonic period (see Peri Chadash, O.C. 51).


In fact, Rav Se'adya Gaon writes, in his siddur, "Our nation volunteered to recite a number of psalms, praises to God, and before and after them two berakhot…" This may, in fact, be the Rambam's view as well, as he writes, "The Sages praised those who recite a number of psalms each day, from 'tehilla le-david' (Tehillim 145:1) until the end of the book [of Tehillim], and it has already become customary to say verses before and after them, and they established a berakha before… and after them" (Hilkhot Tefilla 7:12).


On the other hand, the Shiltei Ha-gibborim and the Abudraham claim that barukh she-amar appears in the Yerushalmi (although it does not appear in our version of the Yerushalmi).  The Rif (Berakhot 23a) and the Rosh (Berakhot 5:5) write that "the Rabbis established" pesukei de-zimra and their berakhot, and therefore one should not talk during them.  Some even cite a tradition (see Mishna Berura 51:1) that barukh she-amar and yishtabach were established by the members of the Keneset Ha-gedola, the Great Assembly founded by Ezra, upon receiving a note from the heavens.




The Rishonim seem to debate whether pesukei de-zimra serves as a PREPARATION of some sorts for tefilla or as an INDEPENDENT OBLIGATION.


The Gemara (Berakhot 32a) cites a statement of Rabbi Simla'i:


A person should always first recount the praise of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and then pray.  Whence do we know this?  From Moshe; for it is written (Devarim 3:23-25): "And I beseeched the Lord at that time," and it goes on, "Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven and earth who can do according to Your works and according to Your mighty acts?" and afterwards is written, "Let me go over, please, and see the good land."


In other words, before approaching God with requests, one should begin by expressing one's praise for God. Whether this gemara is teaching us an etiquette of prayer, or whether the point is that we must internalize the presence of God before daring to make requests, Chazal view this as the proper way to pray.


While some (see Rashi, Avoda Zara 7b, and Rambam, Hilkhot Tefilla 1:4) believe this gemara is referring to the first three berakhot of the shemoneh esrei, others (see, for example, Shibbolei Ha-leket, "Inyan Ha-Tefilla," 7) believe that pesukei de-zimra is a fulfillment of Rabbi Simla'i's instructions.


Similarly, the mishna on Berakhot 30b also teaches,      


One should not stand up to say tefilla unless one is in a reverent state of mind. The pious men of old used to wait an hour before praying in order that they might concentrate their thoughts upon their Father in Heaven…


The gemara there further states that the rabbis acted in accordance with this mishna.


Tosafot (Berakhot 31a s.v. Rabbanan) explain: "Therefore, it is customary to recite pesukei de-zimra and Ashrei before tefilla."  According to Tosafot, the purpose of pesukei de-zimra is to enable one to focus his or her thoughts on one's prayers.


Clearly, these Rishonim associate pesukei de-zimra with tefilla, and it would follow that after one had already prayed, there would be no need to recite pesukei de-zimra (see Shibbolei Ha-leket, cited above)!


However, we may suggest another understanding of Pesukei De-zimra. The Gemara (Berakhot 4b) writes,


Whoever recites ashrei three times daily is sure to inherit the World to Come. 

What is the reason?  Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement?  Then let one recite, "Happy are they that are upright in the way" (Tehillim 119), which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement! Is it because it contains the verse, "You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing with favor"?  Then let him recite the Great Hallel (Tehillim 136), where it is written (v. 25): "Who gives food to all flesh"!

Rather, the reason is because it contains both.


The gemara encourages us to recite ashrei three times each day, as it contains both the alphabetical arrangement and a verse referring to divine sustenance.


We will return to the uniqueness of ashrei later.  However, we may suggest that pesukei de-zimra is an independent unit, or collection, of praises surrounding the recitation of Ashrei.  In fact, the Rambam, cited above, writes: "The Sages praised those who recite a number of psalms each day, from 'tehilla le-david' (Tehillim 145:1) until the end of the book [of Tehillim], and it has already become customary to say verses before and after them, and they established a berakha before… and after them" (Hilkhot Tefilla 7:12).  The Rambam strongly implies that pesukei de-zimra developed as an EXPANSION of the recitation of ASHREI, and is not necessarily, or exclusively, linked to the Tefilla.


It would follow, therefore, that if even if one has already recited the Shemoneh Esrei, he or she may (or should) STILL recite pesukei de-zimra!


The Tur (O.C. 52) cites a debate regarding this question.  On the one hand, he quotes his father, the Rosh, who insists that if one arrives late to the beit ha-keneset, and does not have time to say any of Pesukei De-zimra (a question we will deal with in a separate shiur), he should recite pesukei de-zimra, WITH the berakhot, AFTER tefilla, lest he miss tefilla be-tzibbur (among the community).  He also cites the opinion of Rav Natronai Gaon, who, upon responding to the same question, writes that "One should NOT say them after the tefilla at all."  The Acharonim discuss whether he merely prohibits saying the berakhot after tefilla or even just the verses of pesukei de-zimra (see the Beit Yosef, Bach and Perisha)!


The Shulchan Arukh (52:1) rules that one who has already recited shemoneh esrei should say pesukei de-zimra WITHOUT the berakhot of barukh she-amar and yishtabach.  The acharonim debate whether practically one SHOULD recite the missed sections of pesukei de-zimra.  (See Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, 14:7, and Chayei Adam, 195, who insist that one should recite the missed sections after tefilla, and the Arukh Ha-shulchan, 52:7, who adopts a literal reading of Rav Natronai Gaon, supported by the Bach and Perisha, ruling that one should NOT recite the missed sections). It seems that, minimally, one should recite ashrei, to fulfill the Gemara's principle of saying Ashrei three times daily.



Next week, we will continue our study of pesukei de-zimra.