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Jewish songs taking their lyrics from tanach or davening have become pretty popular over the past 60 years. (See here for an answer saying that this is permissible.)

Many songs, however, will break up a pasuk - for example, removing or rearranging words. (Because D'veykus's Lakol Zman is missing two words, i had no idea the pasuk started לכל זמן, ועת לכל חפץ for several years, until i followed along in Kohelet one Sukkot. Also, Yontan Razel's Katonti has messed me up a couple times in Parshat Vayishlach.)

So, is it permissible / recommended against / totally assur to compose a song that breaks up the pasuk?

Does it matter where it's from - tanach vs. davening, or maybe the gemara?

  • See many niggunim for tehillim 29 – Noach MiFrankfurt Nov 28 '14 at 15:07
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    It's probably not ok to use Pesukim in a song at all. – Double AA Nov 28 '14 at 15:16
  • Similar is the song for "v'hi she'amda" – andrewmh20 Nov 30 '14 at 14:21
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    First explain how you get around "ולפי שאמר (תהלים קיט נד) : זמירות היו לי חקיך בבית מגורי, נענש לבא לידי כך" then we can tackle your question. (As @DoubleAA already said.) – Danny Schoemann Nov 30 '14 at 15:15
  • Follow-up question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/48900/5323 – MTL Dec 2 '14 at 17:25
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+50

Apart from the issue of making songs from pessukim referred to in the comments above, and in the Gemoro Sotah 35a

מפני מה נענש דוד מפני שקרא לדברי תורה זמירות שנאמר זמירות היו לי חוקיך בבית מגורי Why was Dovid punished (by the death of Uza) because he called the words of Torah "songs" as it says "Your statutes were to me as songs ….. " Tehillim 119 :54

there is an issue with breaking up a pasuk.

Extracted from chaburas.org

The  gemara in Ta'anit 27b and Megilla 22a say that any verse that Moshe did not define, we cannot define for ourselves (כל פסוקא דלא פסקיה משה אנן לא פסקינן)

While this concept of not breaking verses in half seems to have solid basis in the gemara, it is interesting that it is not cited in any context by Rambam, the Tur, or the Shulchan Aruch, and it is barely dealt with, if at all, by any of the major Rishonim.

There seem to be a number of possible exceptions:

(exception 1)

Magen Avraham (O.C. 422:8) deals with the issue of splitting up the possuk אָנָּא הֹ הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא אָנָּא הֹ הַצְלִיחָה נָּא Psalms 118 (25) into two when saying Hallel and answers (according to Tosefos) that although we agree to the principle of not defining possukim for ourselves, here it is different because the possuk is being said by two people. וכתבו התו׳ הא דמפסיקין פסוק "אנא...” לשנים והא קי״ל דאסור להפסיק באמצע הפסוק שאני הכא שב׳ בני אמרוהו

(exception 2)

Daniel Shperber, in Minhagei Yisrael volume 2, cites Rav Reuven Margoliyot, who suggests that while there is a problem with beginning a verse and stopping in the middle, it is permitted for one to begin a verse from the middle and recite it to its conclusion.

(Exception 3)

In an appendix in volume four of his work, Shperber cites Rav Avraham Nadav, who offers four possible exceptions to this rule. First, it does not apply to verses in ketuvim.

(exception 4)

Second, it does not apply to verses recited as prayers or supplications.

(exception 5)

Third, it does not apply if the phrase is only two words long (such as "Hashem melech"). …..

(exception 6)

Finally, Nadav claims that according to the responsa Rav Pe'alim, one may divide a verse by an 'etnachta,' loosely described as a cantillation comma, since an etnachta has similarities to the punctuation used at the end of a verse ('sof pasuk'; for example, both would render the word 'kesef' as 'kasef').

[I do not understand this.]

(exception 7) The Tzitz Eliezer (9:17:10) cites the Sfat Emet asks how the Hagadah used on Pesach can cite so many fragments of verses (most famously "avadim hayinu")? The Sfat Emet claims that it is not considered to be breaking a verse if the verse contains the words "le'emor" or "v'amarta" – "and you should say" or "so saying." Since the verse describes something tat one should say, one only has to say that part, and does not have to recite as well the command to say it. The Tzitz Eliezer gives a more technical answer, claiming that when the hagadah cites such verses, it is sure to alter a word or two so as to avoid this problem.

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