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He Shall Be Praised

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Many of us remember learning to write research papers in school. Critical to receiving a good grade was composing a proper concluding paragraph to serve as a summation. While the prayer service of Pesukei D’zimra (Chapters of Song) is not an essay, it does have a concluding paragraph known as Yishtabach. The prayer of Yishtabach lists all the possible ways that the Jewish people can praise God: 1) song, 2) praise, 3) lauding, 4) hymns, 5) power, 6) governance 7) triumph 8) greatness 9) strength, 10) glory, 11) splendor, 12) holiness, 13) sovereignty, 14) blessings and 15) thanksgivings. Not coincidentally, the number fifteen in Hebrew would be written as a yud and a hey,* which is one of the basic names of God.

Yishtabach concludes with a blessing that expresses not only the greatness of God, but celebrates God’s desire to be praised with songs – exactly what the Pesukei D’zimra have just accomplished.

Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach are attached to each other, like book ends. One who does not say Baruch She’amar, does not recite Yishtabach. Likewise, both prayers are recited while standing. 

Additionally, it is preferable that when reading the 15 expressions of praise, the core of Yishtabach, one should try to say all 15 expressions one breath (or at least without interruption). According to the mystical teachings of the Zohar, when a person is interrupted during the 15 expressions of praise, “a fire comes out from the wings of the angels and says that whoever interrupts the recitation of God’s praise should be taken from this world” (Zohar, Terumah 132).

*Because yud-hey spells a name of God, the number 15 is abbreviated instead in Hebrew as tet-vav.

Copyright © 2013 NJOP. All rights reserved.

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