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Tehillim after Davening for the Matzav

with 4 comments

Over the last 6 years, I have lived in three different places where at some point or another we would say one or two chapters of Tehillim every morning (and sometimes evening as well) after davening. The reason ostensibly given for this is invariably “The Matzav” (“The Situation”), referring to the “situation” in Israel where Jews are under attack and our so-called leaders seek to give away land to those who wish to kill us.

Who could possibly be against saying Tehillim for the Matzav? Obviously, only someone who doesn’t care about their fellow Jews. Or so, I imagine, the logic goes.

The only thing is, I really don’t like it:

  • Why just add one or two perakim? If you feel that your Tehillim help, then why don’t we say all of the Tehillim for that day of the week or month?
  • Why not have a dvar Torah instead? Isn’t the schar (reward) of learning Torah larger than that of saying Tehillim, and thus, the positive influence it could have would be greater as well?
  • Aren’t the prayers that are included in the Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv dictated by ancient tradition? Who are we to go adding random chapters of Tehillim? Last time I checked, there is no place in the service for “insert random chapter of Tehillim here in case of need”. There are already sections of prayer that include Tehillim for different purposes. And if you would say “what can it hurt to say a perek of Tehillim for a good cause”, I respond that by that logic, what can it hurt to say two, or three, or eight? Why draw the line at one?
  • There are already sections of davening (specifically in the Amidah prayer) that were composed long ago with specific formulations for praying for the welfare of the Jewish people, of the Land of Israel, of the upcoming redemption? These prayers aren’t enough?
  • With a few exceptions, most people have trouble saying the entire prayer service, including all of the chapters of Tehillim already included in Pesukei d’Zimrah as well as at the end, with the proper kavanna (concentration). Perhaps we should focus on saying the current prayer service with more respect and kavanna rather than adding more to the end on our own initiative.
  • Tirchah de’Tzibbura (causing services to last longer than they need to)

Speaking for myself (maybe as a result of my reasoning above), I find it hard to muster anything like the proper concentration necessary to say the requisite chapter in the morning and evening (when I daven in the shul that says them). Yet it is bad form to not do so (see above).

Does anyone else agree with my reasoning? Or is this just indicative of a personal shortcoming on my part?

Written by Yaakov

October 10th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Israel,Observations

4 Responses to 'Tehillim after Davening for the Matzav'

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  1. Yaakov-

    I’m not sure that I totally agree with your opposition to this practice (if you don’t like it, you can leave shul when the regular tefillos end). However, I definitely agree with this statement:
    Why not have a dvar Torah instead? Isn’t the schar (reward) of learning Torah larger than that of saying Tehillim, and thus, the positive influence it could have would be greater as well?

    I have made this point to my wife many times: If people want to do some action/activity in the merit of some desired outcome (refulah shelayma for someone, the matzav, etc), then LEARN TORAH… a mishna, some chumash, a few halachos, etc.

    In fact, it maybe very problematic to recite tehillim! The Rambam states (sorry, but I can’t cite the exact source at the moment), that it is 100% osur to recite pasukim with the belief that doing so will heal someone. Therefore, when people recite tehillim for a refuah shelayma, it is imperative that they have in-mind that they are doing so in order to obtain zechus for that person and that zechus should help the ill person “earn” a full recovery. It is totally improper to think that they are reading tehillim and that doing so has some sort of direct impact on the health of the sick person.

    Stated otherwise: tehillim -> zechus -> refuah is correct. tehillim -> refuah is osur.

    There is a VERY fine line here, and I think that many people are on the wrong side of that line. I often get mass emails (or see signs in shul) asking people to “read tehillim for a refuah shelayma for plony bas plonis”. This is very worrisome.

    It is good to see you blogging regularly again.

    Ged (an old acquaintance and onetime seudah shelishit guest)

    Ged

    15 Oct 07 at 3:33

  2. Yaakov: There is a gain and a cost to saying tehillim. You have described the cost, which would be even higher if we were to recite 2/3/8 perakim. The real gain is not in the “positive influence”, but in the fact that doing something out of the ordinary reminds us of the situation and puts it on our consciousness. That is accomplished just as well with 1 perek as with 8.

    Ged: I agree, but remember also that reciting tehillim is one form of Torah study.

    Shlomo

    17 Oct 07 at 11:57

  3. Shlomo – so then why not, in the same amount of time it takes to say one chapter of tehillim responsively and acheinu, instead someone reads aloud one halacha from Shemirat haLashon, that the zechut of learning and practical application b’zchut of these halacha be in honor of acheinu kol beit yisrael, etc. Personally, I think that I would pay more attention to this than I would the same chapter of tehillim muttered over and over (since it is a different halacha every day), it is learning Torah, which is better than saying Tehillim, and because it can affect people’s behavior towards one another outside of the shul, something that Tehillim will not do as well. If you are going to take two minutes of people’s time, any way I see it, this would be better. Yet almost no one will do this.

    Yaakov

    17 Oct 07 at 12:02

  4. If they tried that, everyone would talk during the dvar halacha. Fewer people talk during tehillim, and you can’t hear those people anyway. Sorry for the cynicism.

    Shlomo

    17 Oct 07 at 12:11

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