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Simanim 51-52 Pesukei Dezimra

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #26:Simanim 51-52 (Part 1)

Pages 156-160


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon






            In order to understand the laws relating to Pesukei De-zimra which are dealt with in simanim 51 and 52, we will first examine the origins and development of this section of our morning prayers.


            An allusion to Pesukei De-zimra can be found in Shabbat 118b:


"Said R. Yose, 'May my lot be with those who complete Hallel daily.'  Indeed?  Did not the master say, 'One who recites Hallel daily is considered a reviler and a blasphemer'?  Rather, what he [R. Yose] said relates to Pesukei De-zimra."


            This gemara appears to indicate that it is praiseworthy to say Pesukei De-zimra every day (as opposed to Hallel which Rashi explains is meant only for special occasions, such that one who says it at an inappropriate time looks like he is merely singing and clowning around).  It must be noted, however, that this custom was not a widespread one, and apparently was an enhancement of the mitzva (hiddur mitzva) rather than an obligation (as it says, "May my lot be with ...").


            It is possible, though, to say the opposite: that Pesukei De-zimra are in fact obligatory.  There are a number of matters regarding which R. Yose declares, "May my lot be with ..."  For example, consider the statement "May my lot be with those who eat three meals on Shabbat."  Eating three meals on Shabbat is a true requirement and is considered as such by the Shulchan Arukh.  It is therefore possible to say that R. Yose merely selected halakhot which were treated negligently by the community at large and expressed the wish that his lot be among those who were not lax in those matters.  Thus, it is impossible to deduce that these halakhot are not merely enhancements.  [An additional explanation can be advanced, as we will see below.]




            One reason (which is perhaps represents a source) can be found in Berakhot 32a:


"Expounded R. Shlomai: One should always formulate praise of God, and then pray.  From where do we know this?  From Moshe, as it is written, 'And I besought God at that time' (Devarim 3:23), and it is [then] written, 'Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand ...' and it is written after that, 'Let me go over and see the good land ...'"


            Here we see that one should say words of praise and glorification before submitting his requests, and this apparently is the point of the Pesukei De-zimra which are said as an introduction to tefilla.


            With this understanding arises a difficulty: where is the praise before Shemoneh Esrei in Ma'ariv?  And why in Mincha is there only Ashrei?


            The fact is that the statement of the Gemara is fulfilled in every Shemoneh Esrei, for the Gemara itself (34a) goes on to compare the first three berakhot to a servant offering praise to his master.  It is possible to see Pesukei De-zimra as an broadening of the Gemara's principle (and this how it seems the Bach views it).  Thus, this concept exists in all the tefillot and is present in an expanded form in Shacharit with which we begin the day.


            A further reason for the recital of Pesukei De-zimra can be found in the Tur (siman 93) who cites the Tosafot (Berakhot 31a s.v. Rabbanan):


"And it was taught in a Beraita: 'One must not stand up to pray from the midst of laughter or lightheadedness or vain matters ... but rather from the midst of happiness.'  And therefore it became customary to say Ashrei and Pesukei De-zimra before prayer in order to be able to stand up to pray from the midst of the happiness which arises from the mitzva of dealing with words of Torah."


            As opposed to the first-mentioned reason which saw Pesukei De-zimra as an integral part of tefilla (tefilla being composed of both praise and supplication), this second explanation regards them as a preparation for prayer, one which brings a person to a state of "the happiness which arises from a mitzva."




            Pesukei De-zimra begin with the berakha of Barukh She-amar and end with Yishtabach. 


            The mishna in Pesachim (117b) teaches regarding the Seder: "When they have poured him the third cup, he makes the berakha on his food; the fourth, he finishes the Hallel and says birkat ha-shir."  The Gemara brings two opinions regarding the identity of this "birkat ha-shir": "R. Yehuda said, 'Yehallelukha Hashem Elokeinu,' and R. Yochanan said, 'Nishmat kol chai.'"


            "Yehallellukha" is the berakha found at the end of Hallel which finishes with "melekh mehullal ba-tishbachot" (the King who is lauded with praises).  "Nishmat" is actually part of Yishtabach, though due to time considerations we normally shorten it to just the paragraph beginning "Yishtabach" (except on Shabbatot and holidays).


            In any case, the berakha of Barukh She-amar is not referred to explicitly anywhere in the Gemara.  The Peri Chadash (R. Chizkiya DiSilva) notes this fact in wonderment (OC 51): "And I am amazed, for after the Talmud was sealed and canonized, how could the Ge'onim, may their memory be blessed,  have instituted a brand-new berakha?"


            However, many disagree with the Peri Chadash and locate early sources for Barukh She-amar.  The Mordekhai (at the end of Pesakhim in his "Seder Bi-ketzara")indicates that it was enacted by Anshei Kenesset Ha-gedola – the men of the Great Assembly.  The Shiltei Gibborim (Berakhot, fifth chapter) cites it in the name of the Yerushalmi, as does the Avudraham; it does not, however, appear in our version of Yerushalmi.  Similarly, the Taz citing the Tola'at Yaakov in the name of the Or Zaru'a writes, "This piece of praise was formulated by Anshei Kenesset Ha-gedola from a note which descended from heaven ..."


            To be sure, though the berakha in its entirety does not appear in the gemara, portions of it do feature in various places:

1) The mishna in Ta'anit (2:4) lists "Barukh ... merachem al ha-aretz" (Blessed is He who has mercy on the earth) as one of the berakhot recited on fast days declared due to lack of rain.

2) In Berakhot (56b) we find "Barukh omer ve-oseh gozer u-mekayem" (Blessed is He who speaks and performs, decrees and fulfills).

3) The phrase "Mi she-amar ve-haya ha-olam" (He who spoke and the world came into being) is used by Shimon ben Shetach in Sanhedrin (19a).

4) "Barukh oseh bereishit" – Blessed is He who maintains creation – is found in Berakhot (9a).


            The above debate has a number of ramifications, including the question of whether one may answer amen to someone else's berakha in the middle of Barukh She-amar or immediately following it.  There are a few points involved in a discussion of this issue:


1) Is Barukh She-amar an early or a late formulation (in other words, does it appear in the Gemara)?


2) Barukh She-amar differs from all other berakhot in that the others have the words "Barukh ata Hashem" at the beginning, while Barukh She-amar features them in the middle.  In light of this fact, it is reasonable to postulate that the opening of this berakha is not an integral part of it but rather prefatory in nature (Arukh Ha-shulkhan 51:3; Mishna Berura 51:2; Tzelota de-Avraham p. 162).  If this is true, one may be lenient regarding interruptions for amen and the like before reaching the words "Barukh ata Hashem."


3) Even those who do permit the saying of amen in the middle of Barukh She-amar would not be similarly lenient for other responses - such as "barukh hu u-varukh shemo," which does not appear in the Gemara but only in the Rosh.  Moreover, they would not permit the responding of amen to a Barukh She-amar which is heard from another, for since they assert that this berakha is of late origin (which is the basis of their leniency), the amen in response to this berakha is of lesser importance than an ordinary amen (thus writes the Mishna Berura 51:2 in the name of the Magen Avraham).  To be sure, the Igrot Moshe (OC IV:13) is astonished by this Magen Avraham and rules that Barukh She-amar is similar to any other long berakha in the sense that interruptions follow the same rules as those for Keriat Shema and its berakhot, and thus one may not answer amen in the middle.  Yabi'a Omer (vol. V, 7:5) and Yechaveh Da'at (vol. VI, 3) agree with the Igrot Moshe's conclusion.


4) Even according to those who are lenient regarding the answering of amen, one may certainly not do so in a manner which destroys the berakha, i.e., inserting it in the closing sentence of "Barukh ata Hashem melekh mehullal ba-tishbachot."


5) What type of berakha is Barukh She-amar?  It appears that it is not a birkat ha-mitzva, since it does not include the phrase "who has sanctified us with His mitzvot," but rather birkat ha-shevach, a berakha of praise.  If so, this would constitute a reason for leniency after the end of the berakha, before beginning the psalms of Pesukei De-zimra themselves (Yabi'a Omer vol. VI 5:3).  Yet another reason to permit the answering of amen after the berakha is the fact that amen itself is an expression of praise as are Pesukei De-zimra.


            See the rulings of the Shulchan Arukh and the Mishna Berura in these matters, 51:1-5.




            One may not speak in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra (i.e., after Barukh She-amar, regardless of whether one has already said some psalms before it).  There are, however, some issues requiring elucidation:


AMEN:  M.B. 51:8 permits answering amen to any berakha provided one finds himself at a logical place to interrupt, i.e., between sections.  The Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 14) writes in addition that one should not respond amen to the following sentences in kaddish:  "ve-yakarev meshichei," which is not mentioned in the Rambam's version of kaddish, "yehei shelama" and "oseh shalom."  (However, see (5) in the section above which may provide a basis for those who are lenient.)


BERIKH HU:  This should not be recited, since it is not mentioned in the Gemara (Igrot Moshe, OC II, 16; Tzitz Eliezer XI, 3).


BIRKOT HA-TORAH:  M.B. 51:10 rules that one should interrupt in order to recite birkot ha-Torah and the verses after them, since some authorities maintain that one may not recite Pesukei De-zimra prior to saying birkot ha-Torah.


KEDUSHA, BARKHU, MODIM:  The Mishna Berura (51:8) appears to indicate that it is permitted to respond to Kedusha, Barkhu and any "davar she-bikedusha," and also for Modim.  The Minchat Yitzchak permits the whole Modim to be said (this is not explicit in the Mishna Berura but can be inferred from his silence on the issue).  However, the Yabi'a Omer (VI, 40) allows only the words "Modim anachnu lakh" (We thank You) to be said.


THE RECITAL OF KADDISH:  The Shu"t Levushei Mordekhai (I, 112) writes that an orphan should not stop in the middle of Pesukei De-zimra in order to say kaddish.  However, the Elef Ha-magen (Sha'ar 4:8) and the Shu"t Maharshag (vol. I, 48) permit him to do so, since it is obligatory for him (though if he can recite kaddish afterwards, he should not interrupt).


BERIKH SHEMEIH (when the Sefer Torah is being removed from the ark): The Shu"t Peri Ha-sadeh (II, 112) says that on weekdays one should not interrupt for this, but on Shabbat one should.  His reason is that some authorities believe that Berikh Shemeih is not to be said at all on weekdays.  However, the Tzitz Eliezer (XI, 52) and the Yabi'a Omer (V, 8) write that even on Shabbat one should not interrupt Pesukei De-zimra in order to recite Berikh Shemeih.


            Must one interrupt Pesukei De-zimra in order to say amen?  The Tzitz Eliezer (XI, 3) writes that one is permitted but not required to answer amen in such an instance, particularly in a case when he hears kaddish or kedusha from a different congregation.  This ruling is found as well in Yabi'a Omer (vol. I, 5:7).



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)