Chapter 119 in Tehillim

Chapter 119 in Tehillim

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Chapter 119 in Tehillim is a very unique chapter, having been compiled by David Hamelech according to the Hebrew alphabet. It is the longest chapter in Tehillim, and indeed in the entire Tanach, containing 176 verses. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet contains eight verses. For this reason, the Talmud[1] refers to it as “Tamanya Apei” which means the eight versed alphabet. The above Gemara in fact initially suggests that perhaps due to this one who says it should merit a portion in the world to come similar to the saying of Ashreiy, and that furthermore perhaps it should be said daily instead of Ashreiy. [In its conclusion, however, the Gemara rejects this notion saying that the verse of Poseaich Es Yadecha is the meritorious aspect in Ashreiy.]

Its content:[2]

Each verse contains matters dealing with either:

  1. Derech [refers to following the path of G-d in being merciful]
  2. Torah [refers to how the Mitzvos should be fulfilled]
  3. Eidus
  4. Pekudim [Mitzvos which serve as a testimony and remembrance]
  5. Mitzva [Mitzvos such as sending the impure outside of the camp and Hatras Nedarim]
  6. Amira and Dibbur
  7. Mishpat [Mitzvos between man and his fellow whose reasons are known]
  8. Tzedek
  9. Chukim [Mitzvos whose reasons are unknown]

Segula to recite:

Daily:[3] The chapter contains great lessons and requests from G-d and is therefore fit to be recited daily.

Weekly: In Tanya Admur writes that it proper for all those who partake in learning a Misechta for the annual Siyum Hashash are to complete each week the reading of Chapter 119.[4] This is not the widespread Chabad custom.[5] Nonetheless, some communities are accustomed to recite it on Shabbos after Mincha, and so was the custom of the Rebbe’s father.[6] Some say that this was likewise the Rebbe’s personal custom.[7]

Time of forgetfulness and inability to learn:[8] The Baal Shem Tov wrote to his student Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polnah that he should recite chapter 119 forwards and then backwards with great concentration to prevent Nefilas Hamochin [loss of ability to learn and comprehend].

By a grave: Some are accustomed to reciting Psalm 119 in accordance to the name of the deceased and the name of his mother, as well as the word Neshamah.[9] The documented Chabad custom, however, is to recite the Psalms printed in the Maaneh Lashon, which include 25, 34, 111, 112, 119 and from 120 until 150.[10]

Day of Yahrzeit:[11] Some are accustomed to say Tehillim 119 corresponding to the name of the deceased on the day of the Yahrzeit. [This is not necessarily the Chabad custom.[12]]


[1] Brachos 4b

[2] Radak 119

[3] Hakdama of 119 in Tehillim Ohalei Yosef Yitzchak

[4] Kuntrus Achron end p. 168a

[5] Toras Menachem 5752 1:432; Rebbe brought in Likkutei Biurim on Tanya ibid of Rabbi Yehoshua Korf p. 504; See Shulchan Menachem 2:108

[6] Rebbe in Toras Menachem ibid and Likkutei Sichos 29 p. 289 footnote 19

[7] Maaseh Melech p. 147

[8] Chachmei Yisrael Besht p. 10

[9] Darkei Chesed p. 275; See Siddur Beis Yaakov regarding a Yahrzeit; Nitei Gavriel 67:4 in name of Sefarim [see there that some also say Tehillim corresponding to the word Ben in 119]

[10] Darkei Chesed ibid, and so is printed in the Maaneh Lashon to be said when visiting the Kever; ; See however Nitei Gavriel 67 footnote 13 who writes the Chabad custom is like the previous Minhag [and so writes Seder Minhagei Yahrzeit Chabad based on this], to say Tehillim 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, 130 and that so was done by the Rebbe by the Matzeiva of the Rashag and the Rebbetzin; When the Rebbe was asked as to which Psalms to recite when erecting the Matzeiva, he directed the asker to ask Rabbanei Anash as to their custom. [See Igros Kodesh 4:173]

[11] Siddur Beis Yaakov Emek Habracha “Seder Limud Yahrzeit” page 406

[12] Omitted from the Rebbe’s letter of directives for the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe Raytaz; Omitted from Sefer Haminhagim; Written in Seder Yahrzeit of Heichal Menachem regarding visiting the Beis Hachaim [however, not as part of the Seder Yahrzeit]

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