The Book of Psalms

Traditional & modern views of the Book of Psalms, and the role of Psalms in Jewish liturgy

Print this page Print this page

A Storehouse for Individual Use

In addition to their recital as part of the standard service, the Psalms have been recited by individuals whenever the mood took them. Some pious Jews would recite the whole book of Psalms each week, some even each day. "Saying Psalms" (Zoggen Tillim, in Yiddish), as it is called, is often practiced as a prayer for a sick person or when other calamities threaten.  In some communities there is a custom to recite on a Yahrzeit [the anniversary of a relative's death] verses of the eightfold alphabeti­cal acrostic, Psalm 119,the initial letters of which are those of the letters of the nameof the deceased. 

There are various chants in which the Psalms are recited, and the Hebrew Bible even has notes for cantillation [traditional chanting] of the Psalms but the musical system these represent is no longer known. The Lithuanian tradition has a particularly yearning and plaintive melody for "saying Psalms."

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.