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In my siddur, I noticed when reciting Psalm 91 (for example, Kriyas Shema shel Mitah, Pesukei Dezimra Shabbos morning, Maariv Motzei Shabbos), there are two unusual things indicated:

  • The last verse of the preceding Psalm is said first, Vihi Noam
  • The last verse of Psalm 91 is supposed to be repeated.

Why are these two things done? Is this custom universal?

  • It should be noted that in פסוקי דזמרא, the previous verse is said because the entire previous תהלה is said. – Joshua Pearl Oct 15 '17 at 19:34
  • Also, the מנהג אשכנז המובהק is to stop "Psalm 91" after the 9th verse when saying it על המיטה. I don't know why. – Joshua Pearl Oct 15 '17 at 19:36
  • Re: starting Psalm 91 at the last verse of Psalm 90: For what it's worth, the Koren [Hebrew] Tanakh starts the Seder, that includes Psalm 91 , with the last verse of Psalm 90. – Tamir Evan Mar 7 '18 at 14:24
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As others have already written, both Machzor Vitry and Tur Orach Chayim 295:1 mention the practice of repeating the last verse of Psalm 91, because it gives out a divine name. Some say that we repeat it in order to have 17 verses, just as Psalm 90 has, which corresponds to the value of טוב, good. But at Motzaei Shabbat and bedtime Shema, we start it with the last verse of Psalm 90. Magen Avraham is a bit more detailed, but I needed to consult MYLOR,* who suggested Machatzit hashekel, the work of the 18th century Czech rabbi from Kolin, Rav Shemuel Löw. There are two things in reality:

The last word of Psalm 91 contains 2 letter י:

:אֹ֣רֶךְ יָ֭מִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝אַרְאֵ֗הוּ בִּישֽׁוּעָתִֽי

We repeat it to have 4 letter י (see Magen Avraham), because in the full (מילוי) spelling of the four letter name, there are four letter י (see של"ה as well):

יו"ד ק"י וי"ו ק"י

The trick of Vihi noam is a bit more complex. We need to take again the full spelling of the four letter name, and sum it up letter by letter:

יו"ד = י' + י"ו + יו"ד = 10 + 16 + 20 = 46

ה"י = ה' + ה"י = 5 + 15 = 20

וי"ו = ו' + ו"י + וי"ו = 6 + 16 + 22 = 44

ה"י = ה' + ה"י = 5 + 15 = 20

This sums up to 46 + 20 + 44 + 20 = 130. Psalm 91 has only 112 words, so at the beginning we add the last verse of Psalm 90 that has 12 words, and we repeat the last verse of Psalm 91 that has 5 words. We count 1 for the whole psalm. This adds up to 12 + 112 + 5 + 1 = 130, which corresponds to the מילוי of the four letter name.

* my local orthodox rabbi

  • Who is the "some say" regarding 17? – robev Mar 7 '18 at 13:37
  • @robev It's here, but without sources: archive.org/stream/… – Kazi bácsi Mar 7 '18 at 14:04
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt You had a similar question, check if this answer helps! – Kazi bácsi Mar 7 '18 at 15:27
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Tur 295:1 notes the second part of the custom and gives a kabbalistic explanation:

ונוהגין לכפול פסוק אורך ימים אשביעהו שע"י כן נשלם השם היוצא ממנו

It is customary to repeat the verse...so that by doing so the Name (of God) that comes from it will be complete

(I don't know the calculation behind this idea, but perhaps it could potentially explain the first part of the custom as well.)

  • 1
    See my answer for the calculation – Kazi bácsi Mar 7 '18 at 12:31

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