14 – Pesukei d’Zimrah

01 – The Reason for Its Recital

The appropriate sequence of prayer is to begin by praising Hashem and only afterwards to approach Him with our requests. We learn this from Moshe Rabbeinu who commenced his prayer with words of praise, saying (Deuteronomy 3:24), “Hashem, God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand. What force is there in heaven or earth that can perform deeds and mighty acts as You do?” Only afterwards did Moshe plead, “Please let me cross [the Jordan] so that I may see the good land…” Based on this, Rav Simlai interprets, “A person should always praise Hashem first and afterwards pray” (Berachot 32a). This is the order of the berachot in the Amidah. The first three berachot open with words of praise and only later continue to the berachot detailing our requests. Even in the rest of the prayer service it is proper to begin in this fashion; therefore the Chachamim established the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah, words of praise and exaltation of Hashem. The Chachamim instituted opening Pesukei d’Zimrah with Birkat Baruch She’amar and ending it with Birkat Yishtabach.

During the time of the Tanna’im, the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah was considered to be an extra pious act praised by the Chachamim. As time went on, however, the minhag spread until it became an obligatory custom, and now all of Israel commence their prayers with Pesukei d’Zimrah.[1]

By reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah, a person reflects upon the magnitude of the Creator, and thus when he subsequently prays, he knows before Whom he stands. Otherwise, he might come to request his needs like idol worshipers, whose whole aim is to achieve personal success in their lowly matters, and who are not interested at all in devoting themselves to Hashem, the Source of Life. However, a person who purifies his heart by meditating on the greatness of Hashem knows how to pray. Even when requesting health and livelihood, he does so in order to devote himself to Hashem’s Torah and to rectify the world under the Almighty’s sovereignty. In this spirit, his prayers will be accepted (see Olat Ra’aya part 1, p.14).

The name “Pesukei d’Zimrah” means “verses of songs of praise.” Additionally, it derives from the phrase “zemirat hakerem” (the pruning of a vineyard). Just like one who prunes his vineyard cuts off the extra branches in order to increase the growth of the vines and thus produce better fruit in the future – by saying Pesukei d’Zimrah we destroy our flawed thoughts and negative feelings, so that our prayers will ascend upward and be accepted. This process of mental and emotional purification inspires us to joyous song; therefore these passages are called “Pesukei d’Zimrah.”[2]


[1].Berachot 4b states, “Whoever recites Tehillah L’David (Ashrei) three times daily is promised life in the World to Come,” and Shabbat 118b adds, “Rabbi Yossi says, ‘May my portion be among those who complete the Hallel (meaning Pesukei d’Zimrah) every day.’” From these words it can be inferred that the Chachamim did not institute the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah; rather, it is an extra pious act that all of Israel practiced, and consequently became an obligatory custom. As the Rasag writes in his siddur (Mekitzei Nirdamim publishers, p. 32), “Our nation has volunteered to recite a number of Psalms praising HaKadosh Baruch Hu – with two berachot before and after them…” Additionally, in the words of the Rambam (Tefillah 7:12), “The Chachamim praise a person who recites songs from Psalms each and every day, from Tehillah L’David until the end of the book. It is already customary to recite verses [of Scripture] before and after them, and a berachah was instituted for recital before the Psalms … and a berachah after them.” The wording of these berachot is first mentioned in Seder Rav Amram Gaon, and some conclude that these berachot were instituted during the period of the Geonim. (There are even poskim who maintain that, halachically, Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach are less important than the rest of the berachot, as brought by the Bei’ur Halachah 51:2 s.v. “Im”). However, Tola’at Yaakov writes in the name of Or Zarua that Anshei Knesset HaGedolah instituted the wording of Baruch She’amar from a note that fell from Heaven. Many Acharonim write this, too, as brought by the Mishnah Berurah 51:1. The Mishkenot Yaakov writes that the berachot were composed during the period of the Tanna’im and therefore it is forbidden to skip them. Some maintain that Rabbi Yishmael instituted them, as written in Sefer Likutei Maharich (see Makor HaTefillot p. 13). Although Rabbi Simlai learns (in Berachot 32a) from Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayer that a person must begin praying with words of praise, Rashi in Avodah Zara 7b interprets this to mean that we must begin the Shemoneh Esrei with three initial berachot of praise. So writes the Rambam chapter 1, halachot 2 and 4. If so, there is no biblical basis for Pesukei d’Zimrah, rather its recital is an extra pious act.

However, it is implied from the Rif (Berachot 23a), Rosh (Berachot, chapter 5, 4-6) and Tur that Pesukei d’Zimrah were instituted in order to start the prayer service with words of praise. The Bach, Orach Chaim 51 explains that the Chachamim instituted berachot for Pesukei d’Zimrah based on Rabbi Simlai’s extrapolation from the verses. He reasons that although they did not obligate the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah, if there was no certain teaching from the Torah that this was the order of prayer, they would not have instituted the recital of berachot for them.

See note 9 further in this chapter which states that according to Rav Natrunai and the Rashba, if one did not recite Pesukei d’Zimrah before the Amidah, he may not recite them after it, for their whole purpose is to prepare a person for prayer. However, according to Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah and the Rosh, one may make them up after the Amidah, including the berachot. It must be explained in their opinion, that even though they were instituted before the Amidah, nevertheless, b’dieved, they still possess value even after the Amidah, for their main purpose is to praise Hashem and not necessarily to serve as preparation for prayer.

 

[2]. See Ein Ayah Berachot 32a, s.v. “Rabbi Simlai extrapolates.” The Abudraham writes that Pesukei d’Zimrah are “like defenders of prayer.” In Menorat HaMaor it is explained that the name Pesukei d’Zimrah comes from the words “zemirat hakerem,” meaning the pruning of a vineyard. The Tur, Orach Chaim 93, based on the Gemara writes, “One must not approach prayer…unless it is out of happiness,” and therefore it was customary to recite Pesukei d’Zimrah, “In order to approach prayer out of the happiness surrounding the mitzvah of being engaged in Torah.”

02 – What Are Pesukei d’Zimrah?

The main part of Pesukei d’Zimrah is the last six chapters in the book of Psalms, the most significant being the first, “Tehillah L’David” (Psalm 145). One who recites it three times daily is ensured a place in the World to Come, both because the praises in that Psalm are organized according to the order of the alef-bet, and because it mentions the important verse, “Pote’ach et Yadecha…,” “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living being” (Berachot 4b). It is customary to recite the verse “Ashrei” before it, therefore the Psalm is generally referred to as Ashrei.

Afterwards, we say the five Psalms which start and end with the word “Halleluyah,” about which Rabbi Yossi says, “May my portion be among those who complete the Hallel every day” (Shabbat 118b).

During the era of the Savora’im (after the Amora’im), the recital of “Hodu” (Chronicles I 16:8-36) was instituted, which is the song and praise that King David recited as he returned the Ark of God from the captivity of the Philistines to the tent of the Tabernacle. Later, in the Temple, half of this praise would be recited while offering the morning Tamid and the other half when bringing the Tamid of the afternoon (Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim 50). According to Nusach Ashkenaz, Hodu is said after Baruch She’amar so that all the songs of praise and exaltation are included within the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah (Tur, Orach Chaim 51). According to Nusach Sephard, Hodu is said before Baruch She’amar because it is a continuation of the recital of the Tamid offering (Eshkol, Kolbo).

The Savora’im also instituted (Masechet Sofrim 17:11) the recital of a compilation of verses before Ashrei that start with Yehi Chevod. These verses possess a strengthening of one’s faith in Hashem and in the redemption of Israel. The Ari explains the deeper, mystical meanings of this Psalms’ enigmatic words (Kaf HaChaim 51:13).

After that, during the time of the Geonim, it became customary to add more Psalms and verses to Pesukei d’Zimrah. They established saying “Mizmor L’Todah” (Psalm 100). Chazal say that in the future, all songs will be nullified with the exception of this one (Vayikra Rabbah 9:7). Therefore, it is proper to recite it with a melody. It is not said on Shabbatot and festivals; instead, “Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbat” (Psalm 92) is recited. According to the Ashkenazic minhag, Mizmor L’Todah is recited to correspond to the Todah (thanksgiving) offering which contained chametz (leavened bread). For that reason this Psalm is not recited on Erev Pesach, Chol HaMo’ed Pesach, and Erev Yom Kippur, since the Todah offering is not brought on those days because of the prohibition of chametz, or the obligation to fast. However, the Sephardim do recite it on those days because according to the Sephardic minhag, it does not correspond to the Todah offering; rather its fundamental purpose is to praise and express thanks (Beit Yosef and Rama 51:8).

The main parts of Pesukei d’Zimrah are taken from the songs of David, as we say in the wording of Baruch She’amar, “Through the songs of David, Your servant, we will extol You.” Nevertheless, in the period of the Geonim, there were those who had the custom to add verses from the Torah and from the book of Nehemiah, such as Vayevarech David (Chronicles I 29:10-13 and Nehemiah 9:6-11), and Az Yashir (Song at the Sea), that Moshe and the nation of Israel sang to Hashem (Exodus 15:1-18). By the end of the era of the Rishonim everyone became accustomed to saying them.[3]


[3]Regarding Tehillah L’David (Ashrei): Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah (23a) write that the essence of the institution to recite Pesukei d’Zimrah is for Tehillah L’David, based on the Gemara in Berachot 4b. The Rosh, chapter 5:6 writes, “In addition to that Psalm, the Chachamim instituted reciting [the remaining Psalms] until the end of the book of Psalms.”What was Rabbi Yossi referring to when he said (Shabbat 118b), “May my portion be among those who complete the Hallel, [meaning Pesukei d’Zimrah,] every day”? According to the Rif, Rosh, and Tur, he was referring to the last six Psalms, from Tehillah L’David until the end of the book of Psalms (Psalms 145-150). So it is written in Masechet Sofrim 17:11. However, Rashi interprets that Rabbi Yossi was discussing the two Psalms that start with “Halleluyah Hallelu” (Psalms 148 and 150). These opinions are brought by the Beit Yosef, end of section 50. Therefore, a distinction is made regarding the level of importance between the two Psalms that start with “Halleluyah Hallelu” and those that only begin with the word “Halleluyah.

In Masechet Sofrim 17:11 (which was redacted in Israel at the end of the period of the Savora’im), it is mentioned that Yehi Chevod, Hodu LaHashem, and the last six Psalms are recited. Later, in the time of the Geonim, it is recorded that we recite Mizmor L’Todah and the passages from Vayevarech David through Az Yashir (just as the Tur Orach Chaim 51 writes, that this is an enactment of the Geonim). Similarly, the Psalms that are added on Shabbat are mentioned in Seder Rav Amram Gaon. However, regarding Az Yashir, which is not one of the songs of David, the Rambam writes (Tefillah 7:13) that some are accustomed to saying it and others are not, each person according to his custom. Sefer HaManhig writes that it is not proper to skip the praise of the first redemption. The verses, “Baruch Hashem l’olam amen v’amen” etc. that are recited after the Halleluyot are originally mentioned by the Roke’ach (who was among the Rishonim of Ashkenaz). Abudraham (the Sephardi) presents a reason – because they are verses that conclude the book of Psalms. Mizmor L’Todah is mentioned in Orchot Chaim (one of the Rishonim). Three hundred years ago, Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit was added to the siddur. Before then, it was only recited on Chanukah. In the Mikdash, it was recited when bikurim (first fruits) were brought (Bikurim 3:4).

03 – Customs and Kavanah Regarding Their Recital

Pesukei d’Zimrah are to be recited in a relaxed manner and not hastily (Shulchan Aruch 51:8).

Baruch She’amar possesses a special virtue and alludes to sublime matters; therefore, it is customary to recite it while standing (Mishnah Berurah 51:1, Kaf HaChaim 1). According to the Ashkenazic minhag, one also stands while saying Yishtabach, which ends Pesukei d’Zimrah. However, according to the Sephardic minhag, one need not stand (Rama 51:7; Kaf HaChaim 42).

Likewise, it is customary to stand for Vayevarech David until the words “Asher bacharta b’Avram,” out of respect for the Kingdom of Israel founded by King David.[4]

After learning that one of the two reasons for the recital of Ashrei (Psalm 145) is the mention of the verse, “Pote’ach et Yadecha,” (“You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living being”), we understand why this verse must be said with kavanah. If it is recited without kavanah, it must be repeated. Even if one already started reciting other passages, he must say that verse again with kavanah because it is the most important part of Pesukei d’Zimrah. Some say that since he did not have kavanah for that main verse, his recital of the rest of the Psalm is not considered valid either, and he must go back and repeat from “Pote’ach” until the end (Mishnah Berurah 52:16). However, according to most poskim, it is enough to go back and recite only the verse “Pote’ach” by itself (Shulchan Aruch 52:7).[5]


[4].According to the Sephardic minhag, “Hashem Melech Hashem Malach…” is recited twice before Baruch She’amar, and on Shabbat and Festivals it is said while standing. Beit Yosef 50 writes in the name of Shibolei HaLeket 76 that the reason is based on the Midrash which states that the angels said it while standing. However, on weekdays, since people did not have leisure time because of work, they were not accustomed to standing. Nowadays, it is customary to stand even on weekdays.

[5]. In Seder Rav Amram Gaon it is written in the name of Rav Natrunai Gaon that the main goal is to recite the psalm Tehillah L’David at least once a day, and the fact that the Chachamim write three times daily is so that people will not be negligent by not reciting it at all. Therefore, in his opinion, on Shabbat it is only recited twice. This is also the implication from the Rosh chapter 1, section 6, where he writes, “Whoever recites Tehillah L’David every day.” However, in the Gemara before us (Berachot 4b), the version reads, “Anyone who recites Tehillah L’David three times daily – is promised life in the World to Come.” So writes the Rambam, that it is recited three times on Shabbat as well. According to those who maintain that it is sufficient to recite it once a day, the Kaf HaChaim 51:33 writes not to repeat “Pote’ach” in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah since this is considered an interruption. Instead one should have kavanah while saying it in the Ashrei after the Amidah. However, according to the majority of poskim, one must make up its recital in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah wherever he realizes his lack of kavanah. This is because in addition to taking into consideration the poskim who maintain that it is necessary to recite it three times, the verse “Pote’ach” is the most important verse of Pesukei d’Zimrah (as Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah 23a write) and therefore it must be recited with kavanah specifically between the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah. That is what the Mishnah Berurah implies and what the Ben Ish Chai, Vayigash 12, Igrot Moshe 2:16, and Yabia Omer, part 6, 5:6 write as well. According to most poskim, only the verse “Pote’ach” must be repeated, as written in the Shulchan Aruch 51:7, Magen Avraham, Birkei Yosef 5, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 8, and Tzitz Eliezer 12:8. The Mishnah Berurah, based on the Levush and Chayei Adam, rules that one must recite from “Pote’ach” until the end of the Psalm.

04 – The Laws Concerning Interruptions in Pesukei d’Zimrah

Because Pesukei d’Zimrah are surrounded by berachotBaruch She’amar before and Yishtabach after them – they are considered one segment and interruptions in the middle of their recital are forbidden.

However, in cases of a great need, such as to prevent loss, it is permissible to interrupt by speaking (see Mishnah Berurah 51:7, where he writes that before and after the interruption one should say the verses “Baruch Hashem” that appear before Vayevarech David). Similarly, in order to prevent insulting someone, one is permitted to greet him (see further in this book 16:6; the law concerning an interruption between Yishtabach and Barchu is explained further in this book 16:2).

There are those who say that when one must relieve himself in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah, he should delay the recital of Asher Yatzar until after the prayer service so as not to interrupt Pesukei d’Zimrah. However, it is best to recite Asher Yatzar immediately after relieving oneself, for if he delays its recital until after praying, he might forget to say it altogether.[6]

If a person hears berachot or Kaddish in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah, he may not answer “Baruch Hu u’varuch Shemo,” although he is permitted to answer Amen. Saying Amen is allowed, but is not an obligation. Since he is engaged in the mitzvah of reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah, he is exempt from the mitzvah of responding to other matters of sanctity. If a person’s concentration during Pesukei d’Zimrah will be disturbed if he interrupts to answer Amen, it is best that he continues to recite Pesukei d’Zimrah with kavanah and refrain from answering Amen. However, if he hears the congregation saying Kedushah, he must stand with his legs together and join along, so that he will not stand out as one who does not participate in matters of sanctity with the congregation. Similarly, if they arrive at Modim d’Rabbanan or Barchu, he bows slightly and answers with them. If he is praying in a minyan in which the people are reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah and he hears Kedushah, Modim, or Barchu being recited in a different minyan, he is permitted to remain seated and say Pesukei d’Zimrah, since by continuing to pray in an orderly fashion he does not stand out as one who separates himself from the congregation.[7]

One who is reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah should not be called up to the Torah. He may only be called if he is a Kohen or a Levi and there are no other Kohanim or Levi’im present. Additionally, since he is in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah he may not interrupt his prayer to ask the gabbai (synagogue coordinator) to say a prayer on his behalf (Mishebeirach). However, in a situation in which the gabbai mistakenly calls a Yisrael who is still in the middle of reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah, he must go up out of respect for the Torah and the congregation (Mishnah Berurah 51:10).


[6]Mishnah Berurah 51:8 rules that one should recite the blessing immediately and so does the Aruch HaShulchan. Kaf HaChaim 51:28 writes that one should recite the blessing after Yishtabach, and according to the Eshel Avraham, one should recite the blessing after the Amidah. The Igrot Moshe 4:14 writes that it is preferable to say it after the Amidah. However, one who prefers to recite it immediately may do so. It is best that he recite the blessing immediately since there is concern that he might forget to recite the blessing altogether.

[7].Shut Tzitz Eliezer 11:3 and Halichot Shlomo 6:12 explain that all the laws of interruption concerning matters of sanctity in Pesukei d’Zimrah are optional, meaning there is no obligation to stop in order to respond. Therefore, if responding disturbs his kavanah, it is best that he does not answer. In any case, one should take care not to appear as separating himself from the congregation; therefore, he stands at Kedushah, stands and bows at Modim, and bows slightly at Barchu, and since he already interrupted to stand and bow, it seems best that he respond as well. However, if he is part of another minyan, he does not appear to be separating himself from the congregation and therefore it is not necessary for him to stand and he may continue praying as he is (see the laws of Keriat Shema 16:5 and note 4).

Since a person is not obligated to respond, there is no great need to discuss the laws of interruption at length, so we will briefly mention only a few. The Mishnah Berurah 51:8 and Bei’ur Halachah write that for responding Amen to berachot one may make an interruption even in the middle of a verse, provided that a theme of the verse has been concluded. However, for Kaddish, Kedushah, and Modim (these parts of prayer are recited in a minyan, and according to Minhag Ashkenaz, Amen after HaKel HaKadosh and Shome’a Tefillah as well), he may respond even in a place in which a theme has not yet ended. Many Acharonim do not mention this distinction at all and maintain that it is permissible to interrupt to answer Amen at any point in Pesukei d’Zimrah. One may respond to all the Amens in Kaddish until “D’Amiran B’Alma,” each according to his minhag. However, the law concerning the subsequent Amens is like that of “Baruch Hu u’varuch Shemo,” that we do not interrupt in order to respond in the middle of Pesukei d’Zimrah. Regarding Modim d’Rabbanan, the Mishnah Berurah 51:8 implies that one may answer and recite all of it, yet in Yabia Omer, part 6, 4, it is written that one only says the words “Modim anachnu Lach.” Regarding a person who hears thunder or sees lightning, according to the Chayei Adam 20:3 he is permitted to interrupt and recite a berachah on them, and so write most poskim, although there are some who disagree (Kaf HaChaim 51:23).

05 – What Parts May Be Omitted to Enable Praying in a Minyan?

When a person arrives late to synagogue and notices that the congregation is about to finish reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah, it is better that he omit some parts of Pesukei d’Zimrah (most of Birkot HaShachar, Korbanot, and some other passages) in order to succeed in praying Shemoneh Esrei with the minyan, since the virtue of praying in a minyan is greater than the virtue of reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah. The whole idea behind the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah is to prepare for prayer, in order to facilitate its acceptance. However, the prayer of a person who prays with a minyan is certainly accepted and desirable (Berachot 8a).

Nonetheless, there are passages that may not be omitted, namely, Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach, so that the opportunity to recite them will not be missed. The berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah were instituted for the purpose of reciting praise before the Amidah and one who did not say them prior to it is not permitted to recite them afterwards. In order to recite the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah, one is obligated to recite at least one passage of praise; therefore it is best that he say the most important passage, which is Ashrei.

Similarly, one must be strict in reciting Birkat Elokai Neshamah and Birkot HaTorah before prayer, for if he does not, he will have lost the opportunity to say them (Mishnah Berurah 52:9; Bei’ur Halachah there). Likewise, before prayer one must wrap himself in a tallit and put on tefillin.

If one notices that he does not have time to say these berachot and Ashrei and still succeed in praying with the minyan, he should pray individually without omitting anything.

L’chatchilah, one should try to plan his omissions in such a way that he will succeed in praying with the congregation, meaning with ten people who are praying the silent Amidah. However, if he sees that he cannot say the berachot and Ashrei and still succeed in praying the silent Amidah with the congregation, he should try to pray with the chazan as he repeats the Amidah (Chazarat Hashatz), for even by doing that, he is considered one who is praying in a minyan according to most poskim.[8]

Whenever one must omit passages from Pesukei d’Zimrah in order to pray in a minyan, it is good to complete them after the prayer service.[9]


[8]A summary of this topic: Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, Rosh, and the Tur maintain that in order to pray in a minyan it is best to skip all of Pesukei d’Zimrah including its berachot. Even though after prayer he will not be able to recite the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah, it is preferable that he pray in a minyan, as the Chachamim established. The reason for this is that prayer of the many is certainly accepted, while the basis for the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah stems from a minhag that the nation of Israel practiced, and although berachot were instituted for them, they are not the essence of the prayer like BirkotKeriat Shema and the Amidah. This resembles the opinion of Rasag and Rambam brought in note 1. Even according to those who maintain that the reason behind the recital of Pesukei d’Zimrah lies in what we learn from Moshe’s prayer, as brought there by the Bach in his explanation of the Rif, Rosh, and Tur, nevertheless, it is not implied that their recital is an absolute obligation, rather that all of Israel were accustomed to say them and the custom is binding, but does not override prayer in a minyan. So rules the Shulchan Aruch 52:1, Rama, KitzurShulchan Aruch 14:7, as well as Rav Rakach’s Sha’arei Tefillah, based on 91 poskim.In contrast to that, many kabbalists write, based on the Zohar, that one must be very strict in preserving the order of the prayer service, for within it great secrets are hinted. Anyone who changes the order of the prayers overturns the channels of Divine influx which flow via prayer. Therefore, even a person who arrives late to synagogue must not skip any part of the Korbanot or Pesukei d’Zimrah. These words are brought as halachah in Kaf HaChaim 52:2, as well as Yaskil Avdi part 1, Orach Chaim 2:6. (See Shut Rav Pe’alim, part 2, Orach Chaim 4, who agrees that in times of need one may skip part of Pesukei d’Zimrah and Korbanot). However, the Chacham Tzvi, responsa 36, explains that the strict attitude of the Zohar not to change the order of the prayer refers to a person praying individually, but regarding one who has the opportunity to pray with a minyan, it is proper that he skip Pesukei d’Zimrah in order to pray with the congregation, because even according to Kabbalah, communal prayer is most valued and accepted. (So write the Chida in Kesher Shel Gudal 5:10 and the Mishnah Berurah 52:1.)

The Mishkenot Yaakov is of an intermediate opinion, that in order to pray in a minyan, it is best to skip all the Psalms in Pesukei d’Zimrah, Birkot HaShachar, and the Korbanot, on condition that he succeed in reciting the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah – Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach – for if they are not recited before the Amidah, he loses out on saying them, and they are important berachot which were instituted in the time of the Tanna’im. In order to say them, one must recite Ashrei between them. This is the opinion of the Mishnah Berurah 52:6, Bei’ur Halachah 53:2 s.v. “Ein,” and Chayei Adam 19:7. That is what Rav Mordechai Eliyahu writes in practice in his siddur, p. 76.

Although according to eminent Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch it is even preferable to skip the berachot in order to pray in a minyan, I have not mentioned their opinion above, since there is another uncertainty involved – is the Amidah with the chazan considered to be prayer in a minyan? According to the Pri Megadim Eshel Avraham, 52:1 praying with the chazan as he repeats the Amidah is not considered prayer in a minyan, and so it is implied from the Rama 109:2. By contrast, Eshel Avraham Butshatsh and many Acharonim maintain that it is indeed considered prayer in a minyan (see earlier in this book 2:3, and note 2). Therefore, if skipping everything will enable a person to pray the silent Amidah with the congregation, it is still better that he recite the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah and whatever sections he can and then pray with the chazan, for it is the opinion of most poskim that his prayer is considered to be in a minyan. However, if there remains so little time that in order to pray with the chazan he would have to skip all of Pesukei d’Zimrah including the berachot, it is best that he does not skip, from two standpoints: 1) According to the Mishkenot Yaakov and those who agree with him, a person must never skip the berachot of Pesukei d’Zimrah. 2) Some poskim maintain that this is not considered prayer in a minyan and if so, there is no reason to skip the berachot for the sake of a prayer that is doubtful as to whether it is considered to be in a minyan. That is what I have written above.

When two options stand before a person – not to skip any parts of the Korbanot or Pesukei d’Zimrah at all and to pray with the chazan as he repeats the Amidah, or to recite select parts of the service, meaning Birkot HaShachar, the verses of the Tamid and the Ketoret, Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, all the Halleluyot, and Yishtabach, and thereby succeed in praying the silent Amidah with the congregation – it seems, in my humble opinion, that it is preferable to skip certain parts and pray with the congregation, for everyone agrees that the silent Amidah is considered prayer in a minyan, and he already recited the essential sections, whose sources are in the Talmud. However, if, in order to pray with the congregation, he must skip more, then in that case it seems to me that it is preferable to pray with the chazan.

[9]. The Tur writes in the name of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah and the Rosh that a person who skipped all of Pesukei d’Zimrah including the berachot (according to his opinion) must make them up with the berachot after the prayer service. (Although we learned in note 1 that the Rosh maintains that Pesukei d’Zimrah were instituted as an introduction of praise for prayer, nevertheless according to him, b’dieved, there is value in saying them even after prayer, as implied from Rasag and Rambam there.) By contrast, the opinion of Rav Natrunai is not to recite them after prayer, and so writes the Rashba. The Beit Yosef interprets this to mean that only the berachot must not be recited after prayer, because their recital was instituted as preparation for prayer, but it is correct to go back and make up the verses themselves. That is how the Shulchan Aruch 52 rules. However, according to the Bach and the Perishah, Rav Natrunai’s words mean that one must not recite the verses either. Aruch HaShulchan 5 writes that the law is that shev v’al ta’aseh adif (sitting and not performing an action is preferable.) It is also the opinion of the Maharitz from Yemen not to recite Pesukei d’Zimrah in accordance to the prayer service. Most poskim write like the Shulchan Aruch, that it is correct to make up the verses after prayer.

06 – The Order of Preference Regarding Omissions

We learned in the previous halachah that one must always recite Birkat Elokai Neshamah and Birkot HaTorah before saying the Amidah, put on tallit and tefillin, say Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach, and continue onwards to Birkot Keriat Shema. Therefore, if one who is late for prayer can say those passages and still succeed in praying with the chazan, he should omit all the other parts of prayer in order to pray with the minyan, and after the prayer service make up what he missed. If he has more time before prayer, he must familiarize himself with the order of importance concerning the berachot and Psalms, so that he will know what to recite first. We will therefore outline the order of importance.

First, one should recite all the remaining Birkot HaShachar. Even though b’dieved, it is possible to complete them after the prayer service, in any case, since it is an absolute obligation to say them, and because the Chachamim say (Berachot 60b) that the time to recite them l’chatchilah is when one wakes up from sleep, they should be said earlier than all the Psalms and the Korbanot.

When a person has more time, he should include additional Psalms according to the order of their importance. Although all the Psalms and verses are important, nevertheless, for the sake of prayer, there are Psalms that have more significance than others and those that have less, and we will list them in order of their virtue. Most valuable after Ashrei are the two Psalms that open with “Halleluyah Hallelu” (Psalms 148 and 150). According to Rashi (Shabbat 118b), they are the main part of Pesukei d’Zimrah, and Rabbi Yossi praises those who recite them every day.

Following them in virtue are all the Psalms which begin and end with “Halleluyah.” According to the Rif and Rosh, they are called Pesukei d’Zimrah in the Talmud (Shabbat 118b), and Rabbi Yossi praises those who recite them daily. Therefore, when there is more time, one must say all the Psalms from Ashrei straight through until after the words “Kol haneshamah tehallel Kah Halleluyah.

After them in virtue are the verses of the Tamid offering and the verses of the Ketoret, because the source for their recital is based on the Talmud (Ta’anit 27b), in which it is written that anyone who recites the passages of the sacrificial offerings, is considered as if he actually brought them as offerings.

Following them in importance is Vayevarech David (Mishnah Berurah 52:4). After that, there are varying opinions concerning which prayer should be recited first and the person praying can decide.

On Shabbat, Nishmat precedes all the Psalms that begin with “Halleluyah” because it is part of Yishtabach. Subsequently, the passages that are regularly recited every day precede the passages added especially for Shabbat, for precedence is always afforded to the more frequent mitzvah.[10]

Here is the place to add that even one who must pray individually, and shorten his prayer so that he will not be late to work, should shorten it according to the aforementioned instructions. For example, a teacher who wakes up late and must get to his students on time should shorten his prayer according to these guidelines (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, part 4, 91:2).


[10]Avnei Yashfeh 9:14 and Halichot Shlomo 6:7 discuss the precedence of Birkot HaShachar to the rest of the Pesukei d’Zimrah passages. Further, we shall add that the Al Netilat Yadayimberachah may not be recited after the Amidah either, but there is no need to write that above, since it is normally recited at home before drying one’s hands. The correct minhag is to recite Asher Yatzar and Elokai Neshamah immediately after that. Therefore, it is most important to remember to recite Birkot HaTorah before praying, but if one did not, he fulfills his obligation in Ahavat Olam, as explained earlier in this book, 10:2, and note 2.The Mishnah Berurah 52:5 writes, based on the Chayei Adam 19:6, that Nishmat is Birkat HaShir (the Blessing of the Song), and therefore precedes all the rest. Avnei Yashfeh 9:13 writes that if one does not have time to recite Nishmat, he must pray in order, for its virtue is exactly like Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach. However, he notes that the Beit Baruch expresses doubt concerning this. Indeed, a number of Acharonim write that any Psalm recited every day precedes Nishmat, for they are more frequently recited (as written in Yechaveh Da’at 5:5, in the note). Rav Mazuz writes in his Hagahot Ish Matzliach that Nishmat precedes all the Halleluyot, but is not like Yishtabach and Ashrei. That is the intermediate opinion and it is what I have written above.

See further in Avnei Yashfeh chapter 9, where he summarizes the order of precedence according to the Ashkenazic and Sephardic wordings. In addition, see Aruch HaShulchan who suggests a different order. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, in his siddur, p. 76 presents a different order, based on Rav Pe’alim. I have not discussed this at length here, because most people do not remember all the details. Additionally, since all the other Psalms that are recited became customary after the Talmud, it is unnecessary to be so strict regarding the order of their importance.