By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
It is customary to recite chapter 27 of Tehillim, “L’david Hashem Ori”, twice daily from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Shemini Atzeret. While all congregations recite it during Shacharit, some recite it for the second time at Mincha, while others do so at Ma’ariv. According to the Siddur “Tzlota D’avraham” every congregation can choose for themselves whether to recite “L’david” for a second time at Mincha or at Ma’ariv as there is no single authoritative source legislating the issue. The Chida actually recommends reciting it after all three of the daily prayers, though common custom is not like this view. In contrast, it is interesting to note that the Vilna Gaon did not recite L’david at all as part of his Elul routine.
The custom of reciting L’david throughout Elul originates in the Midrash which teaches that this chapter of Tehillim specifically refers to the High Holiday season. For example, the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, “Yishi” to Yom Kippur, and “Ki Yitzpeneni B’sukko” to Sukkot. It is also noted that the Psalm contains thirteen references to God’s name which is said to protect us from any evil decrees when we are judged over the High Holiday season. These thirteen references to God are also said to correspond to the “Thirteen Attributes” which are recited as part of the Selichot in Elul and Tishrei.
Although there are a number of customs and themes which characterize the month of Elul, it might just be that it is the repeated recitation of “L’david” which encapsulates them all. For example, the commentators note that “L’david” emphasizes the natural desire of every Jewish soul,Â which is to further and deepen its relationship with God, a concept referred to as deveikut. Elul is the ideal time to work on one’s relationship with God, as Elul is the month in which “the king is in the field” for all to approach him. It is also noted that the last line of “L’david” contains the word “lulay” which consists of the same letters as the word “Elul” which further alludes to the connection between this chapter of Tehillim and the month of Elul.
As mentioned, we are taught that reciting “L’david” throughout Elul has the power to eliminate any evil decrees which might have been or will be decreed upon a person during this period of judgment. In fact, “L’david” is said to be so effective and powerful for so many different yeshuot (salvations), that some authorities suggest reciting it every day of the year! A small number of Chassidic communities do not recite “L’david” in Elul, citing the fact that it is not mentioned in the works of the Arizal or even in Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, the custom of reciting “L’david” twice daily in Elul is virtually universal today.
**************************** Mishna Berura 581:1; Mateh Ephraim 581:6.  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  Vayikra Rabba 21.  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  Seder Tefilla Mikol Hashana  Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 581:5.  See the Malbim commentary on this Psalm.  Rosh Hashana 18b; Likutei Torah, Re’eh 32b.  Ziv Haminhagim.  Piskei Teshuvot 581:1.  Chida , cited in Piskei Teshuvot 581 note 72
It’s unclear to me whether the concept of â€œthe king is in the fieldâ€ applies to all of Elul or only during the 10 days of Teshuvah.
I have only found Chabad sources which apply the concept for the entire Elul.
Minhag Ashkenaz is not say it at all. The Gra was simply continuing the tradition, as he did in many other respects (e.g. only saying Shomer Yisrael in Tachanun on fast days, not saying Mizmor Shir Hanukat Habayit before Pesukei Dezimra). In addition, the Gra objected to adding any Tehillim to the service apart from Shir Shel Yom.
R. Dr. Shnayer Leiman gave an excellent shiur on this topic, available at http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/736949/Dr._Shnayer_Leiman/Reciting_L'Dovid_Hashem_Ori,_A_Secret_History. He notes that although the custom is recorded in the sefer Hemdat Yamim, which many consider to be Sabbatean in origin, the source for the custom is an actually an early 18th century work by a German kabbalist. The Midrash is probably just an ex post facto explanation for the custom.
Kol hamosif gorea.
if a congregation says l’dovid at maariv and shacharit, should they say it for the 1st time at maariv of 2nd day rosh chodesh or should they wait till the next morning when we blow the shofar?
It is independant of the shofar, so yes, it does start the night before. Most congregations start both L’david and shofar on the 2nd day Rosh Chodesh.
“Nevertheless, the custom of reciting â€œLâ€™davidâ€ twice daily in Elul is virtually universal today.”
Do you mean “among Ashkenazim”? Not all Sephardim (or other Mizrahim) say it.
Could be. I dont know Sefardi customs too well. But my impression is that most Sefardim do say it.
By all means, please send me sources if you can.
“The custom of reciting Lâ€™david throughout Elul originates in the Midrash which teaches that this chapter of Tehillim specifically refers to the High Holiday season.”
originates? or is the source used to justify the custom. it would be useful if you provide the first time this minhag was recorded. unless you are stating that has been said since the time of the midrash was written – then provide some verification that it is true.
>he Chida actually recommends reciting it after all three of the daily prayers
Why did you not footnote this?
>â€œThe custom of reciting Lâ€™david throughout Elul originates in the Midrash which teaches that this chapter of Tehillim specifically refers to the High Holiday season.â€
It certainly does not originate in the Midrash. It was anchored in the Midrash by Mateh Efraim. I too recommend that you listen to Dr. Leiman’s lecture on “Reciting L’Dovid Hashem Ori: A Secret History.
>He notes that although the custom is recorded in the sefer Hemdat Yamim, which many consider to be Sabbatean in origin
Just to clarify, Dr. Leiman (who knows about such things) gives his opinion that Hemdat Yamim is not Sabbatian.
>For example, the word â€œOriâ€ refers to Rosh Hashana, â€œYishiâ€ to Yom Kippur, and â€œKi Yitzpeneni Bâ€™sukkoâ€ to Sukkot.
If you look up the Midrash, it does not say that â€œKi Yitzpeneni Bâ€™sukkoâ€ refers to Sukkot. That is added by the Mateh Efraim.
Ok.Ok.Ok.! I’m listening to the lecture as I write this!
“Itâ€™s unclear to me whether the concept of â€œthe king is in the fieldâ€ applies to all of Elul or only during the 10 days of Teshuvah.
I have only found Chabad sources which apply the concept for the entire Elul.
IIRC – Dirshu Hashem behimatzeo (beginning of haftoroh of taanis tzibbur) – Chazal say eilu asarah yomim shebein Rosh Hashonoh leyom Hakippurim. Sounds pretty similar to melech basodeh, no? So where did Lubavitch get idea to extend it to all of Ellul?
to mavin: the (supposedly leftist jewish) one that hit sharansky with a pie (at rutgers) in 2003 claimed it was kosher — was this kosher?
to a enkin: if you want to get into complications (mincha / maariv) why not get into before / after kaddish, before / after shofar, etc differences between congregations.
I echo some of the comments above.
“the custom of reciting â€œLâ€™davidâ€ twice daily in Elul is virtually universal today.”
When you have such significant dissent from it, such as 1) Minhag Ashkenaz (Yekkes), 2)GR”A and his followers, 3) certain Hassidic groups (Sanz IIRC, including Bobov, which is a major Hassidic grouping), more in Dr. Leiman talk, 4) at least some Sepharadim acc. to Nachum Lamm, 5) perhaps Yemenites too, and if you add some who only say it once a day (Telshe, in AM, e.g.)…, I think you are way overreaching when you say it is virtually universal to say it twice daily nowadays.
Ad mosai? Are we trying to homogenize all minhogim and quash all dissent? What is all this conformity? Is this the Walmartization of minhogim?
Re custom allegedly ‘originating’ in the midrash – as ruvie and Ricardo posted above, that is not correct. Way off. Anchored (as per Ricardo) or pinned (which I like better) on the midrash is more like it, in manner of ‘toleh beilan gadol’, pinning something to a venerated source to gain more prestige and respect for it.
The tactic can be effective, but is it proper, that is the question.
A similar case is when people attempt to pin the Hassidic upsherin custom on the midrash or Yalkut Shimoni (if not on the posuk itself) on the posuk in Devorim of ‘shalosh shonim yohiyeh lochem areilim’, with regard to the mitzvoh of orlah.
What it actually says there is an idea of having a youngster start learning at three. No mention of hair cutting or lack thereof. But that doesn’t bother many people who cite it as a source for upsherin. Deceptive if you ask me. Promoting a new custom by trying to make it seem ancient, from an ancient source.
Such practices are improper. Emes is the way.
R’ Moshe Tessone, who runs Sephardic community services at YU, spoke at YU’s Jerusalem campus a couple a weeks ago. I specifically asked him about L’David Hashem Ori (he was speaking of Sephardic Elul/Tishrei minhagim), and he said most don’t say it, some do. I highly doubt Baladi Yemenites would say it, as the Rambam certainly doesn’t mention it.
Received via e-mail:
Allow me to comment on Rabbi Enkinâ€™s post about Lâ€™David during the Elul season. Saying this chapter of Tehillim at this time is a relatively recent practice. I believe it was unknown on any large scale prior to the eighteenth century. It is therefore incorrect to trace it back to the Midrash. It is true that the Midrash applies the opening words of this chapter to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur according to one interpretation. However this does not imply that these verses were said during this season. After all the Midrashim apply many different verses from Tanach to Rosh Hashana. Does that mean that there was a Minhag at the time to recite them?
This contemporary Minhag is far from universal. Western Ashkenaz does not say it nor do the Sefardim. Some Chasidim notably Sanz also do not say it. Indeed there has been much scholarly discussion about the origin of this practice with evidence cited that it originated in Sabbatarian circles i.e. Sefer Chemdas Hayomim at the end of the seventeenth century and then spread into the Eastern European Ashkenaz world. It was for this reason that various Chasidic scholars did not endorse the practice. I believe they include Rabbi Chaim of Sanz and the Minchas Elozor of Munkatch.
The Midrash suggests â€œKi Yitzpeneni Bâ€™sukkoâ€ is a reference to Sukkot?
Really? Which Midrash?
The Midrash does refer to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur but not Sukkot – that leap comes later!
Open up the Midrashic Literature before you write – don’t just copy from some secondary source.
1. “rabbi chaim of sanz” — please say divrei chaim! otherwise, it sounds too archaic.
2. michas eluzur — not necessarily a proof — he was against anything, against anybody. (and my grandfather hosted him often whenever he came to my grandfather’s town, so i’m supposedly not biased.) by the way, it is said in his grandson’s muncacher shtible on 14th avenue. though i cant vouch for mincha, as i’m rarely there for that. and if the grandson went to telz, that may be relevant, but i’m pretty sure the siddur used there calls for mincha, too.
HaDarda”i is correct. Breurs does not recite it at all.
Instead of replying to every comment individually, allow me to summarize:
You are all right on the ball. Everyone of you (and this includes Litvak ;-). A HUGE yasher ko’ach. And the Leiman lecture was a serious education for me.
Thank you dear readers for bringing all this information and knowledge to my attention.
….but I have never been in a congregation that has not said L’david in Elul. Really. And I’ve been to MANY shuls (with the exception of Sefardi ones).
RE: “IIRC â€“ Dirshu Hashem behimatzeo (beginning of haftoroh of taanis tzibbur) â€“ Chazal say eilu asarah yomim shebein Rosh Hashonoh leyom Hakippurim. Sounds pretty similar to melech basodeh, no? So where did Lubavitch get idea to extend it to all of Ellul?”
Indeed, I think it is the “Alter Rebbe’s” chiddush.
RE: “if you want to get into complications (mincha / maariv) why not get into before / after kaddish, before / after shofar, etc differences between congregations.”
Good idea. I just might do that. Most notable – among those who say L’david at Mincha, only Chabad does so BEFORE Aleinu. I cant find any source or reason for this.
Has Dr. Leiman written any books, or is all of his material oral lectures?
It is my theory that the mincha/maariv split is based on whether these tefillot are davened together. The custom in Ashkenaz was to daven mincha and maariv early and back-to-back. Therefore, those communities which accepted the custom said it at the end of both (just like many only said Aleinu once, at the end of the maariv). Either way, the sun was still up when they said it. The Chassidim, however, davened maariv bizman, and anyway waited between mincha and maariv, so it made sense to add it between the two, while it was still day (at least according to RT).
My question is: why on earth does the Mishna Berura say that it should be said after mincha? That was not the custom in Lita, where he lived.
As a side point, Hendon Adass Yisroel, in London, davens minhag Ashkenaz, but says it after mincha. I was told that while they are officially Yekkes, many of their customs are from eastern Germany (Leipzig region), which was close to Poland, so some of the Polish customs rubbed off. Perhaps this explains the Mishna Berura’s ruling – Radin was at the end of Lita and officially in Poland.
R’ Enkin: See leimanlibrary.com for a large selection of R’ Leiman’s writings. He also has a column in almost every issue of Tradition.
“many of their customs are from eastern Germany (Leipzig region), which was close to Poland”
This is also the source of the “official” United Synagogue nusach.
I see all of R’ Leiman’s Tradition pieces but his last are on his website. You can also check out his pieces on the Seforim Blog, indexed under his name.
Long live Rabbi Dr. Leiman!
Can we mass e-mail him to write for hirhurim? Seriously, every single one of his shiurim on YUTorah are mind-blowing.
BTW, I recently heard his classes about the Jewish origins of christianity and fasting on 8 Teves, but want some elaboration on the verasity of toldot yeshu- any ideas?
Yup. I was blown away as well.
>want some elaboration on the verasity of toldot yeshu- any ideas
Veracity? Do you mean “is it historically true”?
Anyone who feels it doesn’t belong in the fixed nusach can still say it for extra credit. Tehillim are worth saying in general.
I found this on line in the Mail-Jewish archive:
From: S. Leiman
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 11:14:49 -0400
Subject: Re: LeDavid Hashem Ori WeYishi
In response to Martin Stern.s query:
Although the claim is often made that the earliest mention of the custom of reciting Le-David Ha-Shem Ori between Rosh Hodesh Elul and the end of Sukkot appears in the Sabbatean work, Hemdat Yamim (Izmir, 1731-31), it is simply not true.
The first mention of the practice appears in R. Binyamin Beinush, Shem Tov Katan_ Sulzbach, 1706 (in the Berlin, 1740 edition: p. 9b). It appears a second time in R. Zechariah of Plungian.s _Sefer Zekhirah Hamburg, 1709 (in the Jerusalem, 1999 edition: p. 259). Neither of theseare Sabbatean works. See the full discussion in R. Tuvia Freund_Moadim Le-Simhah_, Jerusalem, 1998, vol. 1, pp. 63-79.
>the Sabbatean work, Hemdat Yamim (Izmir, 1731-31), it is simply not true.
That’s interesting. In his lecture he says that it’s really not Sabbatian. Seems he changed his mind between Sept 25, 2008 and August 2009, when that lecture seems to have been given (unless he simply meant that it’s thought by some to be Sabbatian).
In Shchunat Hatikvah one of the shuls (and they are all Edot Mizrach) says LDavid daily throughout the year at Shachrit. It may have been Olei Tripoli
The shiur my Dr. Leiman first mentioned by HaDarda”i and then by many others is available in written, adapted form. here – http://rabbifleischmann.blogspot.com/2010/08/recitingldovid-hashem-ohri-click-for.html
Correction – the first words of previous comment should read The shiur by Dr. Leiman, by not my.
Before I heard his shiur (and before I saw this post) I learned some background of this minhag from Nitei Gavriel It’s an amazing work that walks you through every Yom Tov, each in a full volume (or two). It is written in such a pleasant, user friendly way. It contains several of the points that Dr. Leiman cites and he attributes some of his information to this sefer which he calls a kind of contemporary Shulchan Aruch. Incidentally I had originally written up,the part of the shiur about republishing sefarim, but edited it out. It was a lively crowd. I wrote questions on Ellul, some of them on LeDovid (the answers are found in Nitei Gavriel) here – http://rabbifleischmann.blogspot.com/2010/08/haiku-contest-jokes-inyanei-deyomah.html
Regardless of the origins of the Minhag in question and the fact that it is supported by ” a” view in the Medrash, one can read the verses without any Midrashic input and find obvious references to the themes of the Yamim Noraim and Sukkos.