There are various customs surrounding the recitation of Rabbi Ishmael's 13 rules of hermeneutics before shacharit. In many shuls I have prayed in (not as much in Israel), this is recited before pesukei d'zimra. Many (most?) siddurim also include it.

There are other additions that are provided in siddurim to be recited before pesukei d'zimra. For example: korbanot/ketoret, the akeida, adon olam, yigdal, etc. The 13 rules of Rabbi Ishmael seem rather out of place since they relate to technical exegesis of text.

In contrast, pesukei d'zimra, together with the other texts I mentioned, seem more fitting in preparation for prayer: some relate directly to the service in the Bet HaMikdash, some evoke a feeling of closeness to Hashem and some are poetic liturgy with stirring imagery including the various tehillim - all aiming to prepare a person for tefillah.

When, and why, were the 13 rules of Rabbi Ishmael placed alongside the pre psukei d'zimra text?

  • The last paragraph of this post asks both "when" and "why". I wonder if it might make sense for the original poster to split the post into two separate posts, for various reasons. Commented May 28, 2023 at 7:36

2 Answers 2


As post-talmudic additions to the prayer services go, this one is pretty ancient.

R. Amram Gaon (9th century CE) wrote in his Seder that after reciting birkot hatorah and the priestly blessing, the custom is to recite Numbers 28:1-8, Mishnah Zevachim chapter 5, and the beraita of Rabbi Yishma'el.

As a reason, he cites the injunction of Rav Safra in Kiddusin 30a, that one ought to learn scripture, mishnah and talmud every day. The beraita of Rabbi Yishma'el (which forms the introduction to the midrash on Leviticus known as Sifra or Torat Kohanim) takes the place of talmud in this scheme. (R. Amram Gaon quotes Berachot 11b which implies that learning talmud and midrash are equivalent, at least in the context of the requirement for reciting birkot hatorah.)

Why was this particular piece of midrash chosen?

Tur Orach Chaim 50 explains that since Torat Kohanim is the midrash which explains the laws of korbanot, it makes sense to study its introduction in the context of our study of korbanot.


The Tur (Orach Chaim 50) says it was instituted alongside Eizehu Mekoman in order to fulfill the obligation to study mishna and talmud every day. The 13 Rules are a midrash, which is considered like talmud, and it's also apropos because they're taken from the start of Torat Kohanim, which discusses the laws of korbanot.

Additionally, it's explained in kabbalah that the 13 Rules relate to the 13 Attributes of Mercy, which would also be relevant to tefillah.

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