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There is a contemporary practice of splitting up Sefer T'hilim for on-the-spot recitation of the entire book by a room (real or virtual) full of people. What is the earliest documented source for this practice?

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Recitation of the entire book of Psalms to merit heavenly intervention goes back to Yaakov Avinu, according to Midrash Bereishit Rabba (68). Maharsha (Megilla 11a) writes that this is the source of the practice of Jews to turn to finishing the book of Psalms when beseeching G-d for salvation.

R. Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov (Igra dPirka 348) cites the verse "מי ימלל גבורות ה' ישמיע כל תהלתו" as support for reciting the entire book of Tehillim. The verse's language implies that causing others to say Tehillim is also included (the word yashmia means to cause to be heard). Hence the practice of organizing groups and dividing Tehillim so that the entire book of Tehillim is heard.

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    How could Ya'akov Avinu recite Psalms that were to be written by David Hamelech? – Isaac Moses Dec 17 '10 at 20:36
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    Some of them existed long before David - ch. 139, for example, was written by Adam Harishon (Rashi to Bava Basra 14b, s.v. על ידי אדם). Besides, if the Avos could keep the whole Torah before it was given (by deducing logically and through ruach hakodesh what was to be in it), then they could certainly do the same with Tehillim. There is in fact a Tosafos that says something to this effect, though I can't recall where. – Alex Dec 18 '10 at 20:19
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    Sefer Tehillim is a compilation of psalms. They weren't all written by David. The Midrash I cited in fact quotes various opinions as to which chapters were extant in the times of Yakov; I only quoted the final opinion that they were all already in existence. It is probable though that they weren't the exact language we use today as edited/authored by David. Rather, each of the 250 psalms covers an area within the realm of prayer, and the Avoth would compose their own prayers that captured the same idea. – Barry Dec 20 '10 at 20:08
  • @Barry I see that the מהרש"א there is dealing with the topic but I cannot find where he says this specifically. Could you point me in the right direction? – WAF Dec 27 '10 at 14:47
  • I apologize, I meant Maharsha in Megilla 11a. I'll edit the response. – Barry Dec 29 '10 at 21:27

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