I was once told by someone that saying migdol instead of magdil in bentching on Shabbos and yom tov is an error. That a siddur had the source in pesukim in short form on the side and people mistook it for say on Shabbos. Has anyone heard of this or have a source for it?

  • I have heard that as well, but no source.
    – avi
    Dec 7, 2011 at 14:59

4 Answers 4


This idea, that it's based on a mistaken expansion of 'בשב (meaning 'בשמואל ב) to mean בשבת, comes from R. Baruch Epstein's Mekor Baruch.

However, it is demonstrably untrue. The custom of alternating between מגדיל on weekdays and מגדיל on Shabbos is mentioned by Avudraham, who lived in the 14th century. (He doesn't mention the custom of doing so on Yom Tov or Rosh Chodesh - thanks DoubleAA.) The division of Shmuel into two books (along with the chapter numeration of Tanach, both of non-Jewish origin) didn't make it into Jewish life until the printing of Bomberg's Mikraos Gedolos in 1524-25.

  • That's awesome. Where does Avudraham say this?
    – Shimon bM
    May 7, 2013 at 14:15
  • Alex, Avudraham only mentions Shabbat, not Yom Tov or Rosh Chodesh. (He may have been speaking lav davka but no way to know.)
    – Double AA
    May 7, 2013 at 15:45
  • @ShimonbM Here hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=26840&st=&pgnum=173 (h/t jake for the link)
    – Double AA
    May 7, 2013 at 17:18
  • @Alex Can't the theory still work? If it said 'בש without the Bet couldn't it have been confused with בשבת? I see why this Avudraham shows that R Epstein's exact theory is untrue, but I don't see why it is not still a possiblity in this slightly modified way. Mar 31, 2021 at 17:10

I always learned that yes people mistook it saying Shmuel Bet (22:51) instead of Tehillim (18:51) (the pasuk appears twice, with this small change) and started saying it on Shabbat.

However I found this source which says that the study of Ketuvim was forbidden on Shabbat and therefore the Shmuel verse had to be recited instead of the Tehillim verse, and even though this ban has been lifted the tradition continues.

“The Rabbis forbade reading from Ketuvim1 on Shabbat in earlier times because of neglect of the study hall.” (Gemara Shabbat 115a) The complete source (it is a word document so I don't know that the link will work.

  • 2
    Odd reason, considering that birkas hamazon has several other verses from T'hilim (as, of course, do the Shabas prayers).
    – msh210
    Dec 7, 2011 at 15:40
  • I think because the ban was lifted we add those in, however, for whatever reason (possible the Shmuel being mistaken for Shabbat) this one stuck. Dec 7, 2011 at 15:45
  • 2
    @msh210 But the study of ketuvim isnt forbidden on rosh chodesh and other days we say mussaf. I am not so sure its forbidden on yom tov either.
    – user2709
    May 7, 2013 at 15:13
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    @shulem But the earliest source for this custom (Abudarham) only mentions Shabbat. Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh may be later additions to the custom.
    – Double AA
    May 7, 2013 at 15:42

I found a link here that quotes the following:

This passage includes the words magdil y'shuot malko. On Sabbaths, festivals, and Rosh Hodesh, the word magdil is changed to migdol. Various explanations for this have been given (O.H. 189 in M.A. 1). The verse in question comes from Psalm 18:51, where magdil is used. However, in 2 Samuel 22:51, where Psalm 18 is repeated, the word migdol is read, It has been suggested that the original text of the Grace had magdil, but that someone added the parenthetical phrase v-b-s-"b m-g-d-v-l indicating that the reading is migdol in 2 Samuel. This was later misread as an abbreviation for u'vshabat, and it was assumed that we are to say migdol on the Sabbath. Whatever the reason, this has become the established custom, and as usual in such cases, it is easier to reinterpret than to abolish.


For an extensive study of the Magdil-Migdol issue, see Rabbi Raymond Apple's article that appeared in the Jewish Bible Quarterly. It is reproduced at http://www.oztorah.com/2013/03/magdil-migdol-liturgical-responses-to-textual-variants/

  • 3
    Hi Harry and welcome to Mi Yodeya. Could you summarize what it says here? We're generally looking for more than just links in answers, though this would be great in a comment. (I can convert it to a comment if you like.) May 7, 2013 at 13:00
  • Abudarham provides a rather far-fetched explanation that Shabbat is melech gadol (“the great king”) of the week (as against the weekdays, which are only melech katan, a small or lesser king), indicated by the stronger vowels of migdol. It is possible that Abudarham read migdol as a contraction of the words melech gadol.
    – user2709
    May 7, 2013 at 19:17
  • @Monica Cellio,Not sure what he meant. But my own answer is this. magdil is a present verb, migdol is a noun. On weekdays it gets greater all the time so we use the present verb. On days we say mussaf it is translated mikdol a tower. It has already attained its greatness which it received from the weekdays.
    – user2709
    May 7, 2013 at 19:20
  • @shulem, is that in the linked material? (I haven't read it.) I asked the question in hopes of getting the answer improved, rather than starting a comment conversation. (Comments are meant to be more ephemeral; the "meat" of the site's content should be in the questions and answers.) May 7, 2013 at 19:24
  • @Monica Cellio, My first comment was in the linked material. The second was my own. Well the answerer didnt provide it so I did.
    – user2709
    May 7, 2013 at 19:33

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