The Order of the Verses in Malchuyos

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Sep 3, 2007
The Mishnah in Rosh HaShanah 32a states, “[In Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros], we start with verses from the Torah and finish with verses from Navi.” Indeed, as any cursory examination of the Mach’zor will reveal, we do indeed start with verses from the Torah, then recite verses from Kesuvim, and conclude with verses from Navi. The Ba’alei HaTosafos [loc cit, d.h. mas’chil b’Torah] are perplexed by the placement of verses from Kesuvim before verses from Navi, as Navi typically takes precedence over Kesuvim. They answer that this anomalous order is due to the fact that the verses found in Tehilim, Mishlei and Iyov were written chronologically before the verses in Navi.

The Rav, Zt”l, offered a different resolution to the problem raised by the Ba’alei HaTosafos. The Rav explained that fundamentals of our faith are elucidated in Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros. We deliberately cite verses in this context so as to firmly buttress these fundamentals. The verses of Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros convey (respectively) the timelessness and eternality of Hashem’s sovereignty, Hashem’s memory, and Hashem’s self-revelation (Gilui Shechina). The verses from the Torah deal with the past; those from Navi, with the future. Those from Kesuvim deal with the present, and that, said the Rav, is why they are sandwiched in-between the other verses.

Based on something else the Rav said, I thought perhaps that there was another way to address the problem raised by the Ba’alei HaTosafos. When the Rambam [Hilchos Shofar 3:8] describes the order of the verses for Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros, he does not adopt the phraseology of the Gemara; he instead refers to the verses from Kesuvim as verses from Tehilim. The Rav explained that, from the Rambam’s perspective, we specifically need verses from Tehilim because Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros are said qua Shira--and for Shira, one must employ the zemiros (songs of praise) composed by David HaMelech, our nation’s “pleasant singer of zemiros” (vide II Shmuel 23:1). The Rav’s approach to the Rambam is buttressed by the Rambam’s own words in Hilchos Tefila 7:12, where the Rambam emphasizes that zemiros must come from Tehilim. It is worth noting that we emphasize this in the introductory brachah, Baruch SheAmar, wherein we declare that we will praise Hashem “through the songs of [His] servant, David.” [Indeed, the non-Davidic origin of Shiras HaYam leads the Rambam to place it after Yishtabach, the concluding brachah of Pesukei D’Zimra.]

The Rav took note of the fact that we do not limit ourselves to merely three verses of Kesuvim in Shofaros; rather, we complete all of Tehilim 150. The Rav explained that by the time we reach Shofaros, we are so overwhelmingly inspired that Shira bursts forth spontaneously and without bounds. Furthermore, Shofaros declares Gilui Shechina, and that generates an obligation to say Shira.

The classification of the recitation of Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros as Shira is strongly indicated by the Gemara in Rosh HaShanah [loc cit]. The Gemara asks, “To what do these ten verses in Malchuyos correspond?,” and Rabbi Levi answers, “They correspond to the ten praises said by David in Tehilim [150].” This is also indicated in the piyyut recited by the Shaliach Tzibbur before Malchuyos, “Ochila LaKeil,” in which he says, “Ashira…Abiah Ranenos.”

Given the Gemara’s discussion about the relative primacy of “Shira B’Peh” and “Shira B’Keili” [Sukkah 50/b ff.], we can now better understand the impact of Tekios Al Seder HaBrachos. There are Midrashic/liturgical indications that Tekias Shofar can itself be a type of Shira. Tekios Al Seder HaBrachos is now revealed as the merger of the two forms of Shira; indeed, the Rambam places the Seder HaBrachos in Hilchos Shofar and not in Hilchos Tefila! [With this premise, the Rav defended Rashi from the Ramban’s criticism of his (Rashi’s) opinion that the Seder HaBrachos is MiD’Oraysa: it is MiD’Oraysa only when there are Tekios Al Seder HaBrachos, generating Shira.]

Based on the Rav’s teaching that Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros are said as Shira, and are not said due merely to their thematic pertinence, I think we can say that the verses from Tehilim take precedence over verses from Navi because verses from Tehilim are the prototypical praises; Tehilim is the most appropriate instrument of song. [The reason that they do not take precedence over the verses from the Torah is that nothing takes precedence over verses from Toras Moshe.]

According to this, we can offer a new answer to a question posed to the Noda B’Yehuda [Mahadura Tinyana, Orach Chaim #20]. The Noda B’Yehuda was asked why the verses of Navi come before the verses from Kesuvim in the prayer, “Av HaRachamim,” when Tosafos [loc cit] had explained why they should come after those verses. If we assume that the precedence of Kesuvim is limited to expressions of Shira, the ordering of verses in the text of Av HaRachamim—a litany of petitions, not praises—is more easily understood. n


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