The prayer Ashrei, which we recite three times a day, is an acrostic consisting of all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet except for nun (נ). Why is the nun omitted?

2 Answers 2


The g'mara in B'rachos (4B) explains that 'נ' represents downfall [of the nation] and is therefore encompassed in the positive context of the putative next pasuk, which states that "God supports all of the fallen".

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    My siddur has all the first letters of the pesukim in bold, and the "nun" of "סומך ה' לכל הנופלים" is also in bold.
    – jake
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:40
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    ...which needs more explanation. I mean, the letter resh represents rish'us, which is encompassed in the pasuk starting with shin, yet the resh pasuk is there. And (a weaker question) if nun is so bad to include, why include it in any alphabetic-acrostic mizmor instead of omitting it and referring to it obliquely as was done here?
    – msh210
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:43
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    @msh I think the answer to your question about Resh is that there is a difference between the nature of the two letters. I remember learning along the following lines vis a vis Nun: the best word one can probably think of for Nun is Nes, but even that has a negative basis, because it stands for Nofel and Somekh (one falls and [HaShem] supports), which means that HaShem is coming to help out in a bad situation. Resh, however, has many good words, including the one used in Ashrei, "Retzon", as in, "Retzon Yereav Ya'Aseh", as in the verse, or also as in the common phrase, "Retzon HaShem".
    – Seth J
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:52
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    Maharal in Hiddushei Aggados explains that the pesukim starting with these letters in Tehilah LeDovid are the pesukim that express the inherent meaning of those letters. The inherent meaning of Nun is a fall that it is impossible for one to get up from (on his own). Therefore Dovid HaMelech did not include it as a verse of its own. Where Maharal gets this idea from is still a mystery to me. If anyone has the new edition please glance in the footnotes and let me know if Rabbi hartman says anything else about this.
    – Yahu
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 1:59
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    Didn't know Rav Hartman did the other kisvei HaMahara"l as well. That's exciting.
    – WAF
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 3:38

See this post on On The Main Line about a nun verse in Ashrei from antiquity, and whether is was original:

As it turns out, at Qumran a Hebrew version of tehillim, Psalms, was found (11QPs-a) which contains a nun verse--in Hebrew--a version pretty close, but not identical, with the Septuagint verse. In fact, it read ne'eman adonay be-khol derakhav ve-hasid be-khol ma'asav, which is to say, the exact same as the tsade verse, tsadik adonay be-khol derakhav ve-hasid be-khol ma'asav, except for the first word. This version is close to the LXX, excepting that the LXX reads "holy" for hasid, "gracious," in the Qumran text--which, by the way, isn't a Psalm scroll per se, but appears to be a text for liturgical use.

Thus, it is clear that there was a Hebrew version of this psalm with a nun verse in antiquity.

The question is, is it original?

  • Why would someone arbitrarily take it out? Seems highly unlikely!
    – Yahu
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 1:56
  • Unless, the theory is that since it was so similar to the tsade verse, they felt it was redundant. But in that case, why take out the nun verse and leave in the tsade and not the opposite?
    – Yahu
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 4:38
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    Maybe because it is more common in T'hilim for chesed to be paired/paralleled with tz'daka than with ne'emanus. Not that I'm trying to argue for it, but it could make one lean toward the omission of one over the other.
    – WAF
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 18:23
  • What was the tzadi verse in the Qumram scroll? Or was it missing? Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 13:14
  • @Monica IIRC it was there just like regular.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 17:39

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