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In many siddurim and benchers, I notice that Psalm 23 is included as part of zemirot and / or Kiddush on Shabbat. I don't think I've seen it as part of Friday night, but I have seen it at the beginning of the morning Kiddush as well as zemirot for Se'udah Shlishit. Nusach Sefard also includes this near the end of Ma'ariv for Lail Shabbat.

What is the reason or what theme is in Psalm 23 that was deemed important to include it in all of these items? Is there some theme that connects Psalm 23 with Shabbat?

  • "Mizmor L'Dovid" is included before Aleinu in the Chabad siddur, as well as before Kiddush Leil Shabbos. – ezra May 1 '18 at 13:39
  • @ezra Before Aleinu is general Nusach Sefard. Is before Kiddush unique to minhag Chaba"d? – DanF May 1 '18 at 13:44
  • I have definitely heard of a minhag to say it at all 3 meals, from Kabbalah IIRC, although wikipedia does not note it. – רבות מחשבות May 1 '18 at 14:02
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    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1042/5275 – DanF May 1 '18 at 15:38
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    The reason why it appears in the Chabad siddur is because it follows nusach Ari z”l. My comment was to clarify the 2 opening comments from you and DanF. – Yaacov Deane May 1 '18 at 19:09
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R. Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin addresses this question in Pri Tzadik, Terumah 11. He gives a number of different explanations, of which one of the less esoteric is:

ביום השבת שאנו שובתין מכל העבודות ומו"מ להכין צרכי פרנסה ומוציאין הוצאה על עונג שבת ... ועל כן תיכף בכניסת השבת אחר תפילת ערבית אנו אומרים כי אנו יודעים כי ה' רועי וממילא לא אחסר כלל. וכן אנחנו אומרים מזמור זה אחר סעודת ג' דשבת כדי להמשיך הקדושה הזו בלבבנו שנדע אף בימי המעשה שאנו משתדלין בעסק הפרנסה מכל מקום ה' הרועה שלנו והמפרנס ולא בכח מעשה ידנו ועל כן לא אחסר אף בחול

On shabbat we rest from all work and business for the purposes of earning a living, and we spend money on delighting in shabbat ... therefore, immediately at the start of shabbat after the ma'ariv service we say that we know that 'Hashem is my Shepherd' and therefore 'I will not lose out' at all. Similarly, we say this psalm after the third meal of shabbat, to extend this holiness in our hearts, so that we know that even during the working week, when we put in effort to earn a living, nevertheless Hashem is our Shepherd and the One Who Sustains, not through our own handiwork, and therefore 'I will not want' even during the week.

  • It's an interesting explanation. I have to admit, practically, it's a bit hard for an average person to think of G-d as a shepherd, perhaps. But, I get the idea. I guess that the concept is so important that it was deemed necessary to include it in every meal. – DanF May 1 '18 at 18:39
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The intention of chapter 23 from Tehillim in connection with Shabbat is the union of Masculine and Feminine (דכרא ונוקבא). This is explained in many Siddurim that include Kabbalistic explanations like for example Siddur Kol Yaacov by Rabbi Yaacov Koppel and Siddur Tefillah m’kol HaShanah by Rabbi Shabbtai of Rashkov.

This is expressed many ways, but one of the easiest to recognize is that there are 45 words preceding the phrase אך טוב וחסד. And 9 words follow the phrase. Thus, אך טוב וחסד, which according to the Ari z"l as discussed in both Sefer Etz Chaim and Sefer Pri Etz Chaim is intended to indicate G-d, is surrounded or enclothed so to speak by the group of 45 words and the group of 9 words.

The 45 words is a siman for masculine as in Adam (אדם which is gematria 45 and alludes to Similar to G-d, Domeh l'Elyon דומה לעליון) and the 9 words are a siman for the feminine because it alludes to the womb which is associated to the letter ט. This reference about ט is mentioned in the Bahir, chapter 124.

In this context, the phrase אך טוב וחסד alludes to what joins the masculine and feminine together. The end letters of אך טוב וחסד are 26 which is a siman for G-d’s name. (In fact, the Ari z"l also points out that the first letters of אך טוב וחסד together with the first letter from the first of the 9 words that are associated with the feminine are also the gematria of 26.)

That the womb, which is associated with the feminine, corresponds to the Makom Panoy (the empty space) that G-d created within His essence in order that the universe (something which on a certain level appears separate from G-d) could be created. And following the explanation in Siddur Kol Yaacov, one of the things we recall on Shabbat is the creation of the universe during the 7 days of Bereshit. That the Makom Panoy is filled with the flow from G-d. This is the words of Kiddush for Shabbat night.

And this points to an underlying theme of Shabbat, namely the 3 partners in marriage (see Kiddushin 30b), איש ואשה, husband and wife together with G-d. Without G-d, יה, all that remains is fire. (אש"י ואש"ה, איש ואשה)

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    Have to re-read this a few times. Kabbalistic ideas aren't pashut. – DanF May 1 '18 at 20:21
  • @DanF What you will find in a Kabbalistic siddur is much more involved. What I presented here is the cliff notes. It follows the idea brought in Kiddushin 30b. – Yaacov Deane May 1 '18 at 20:50
  • I wonder if the Siddur Im Dach has anything to say. Could someone with a copy check? – ezra May 2 '18 at 3:03
  • @ezra I never heard of that Siddur. Where do you find this? What's unique about it? – DanF May 2 '18 at 13:24
  • @DanF Siddur Tefillos MiKol HaShanah Al Pi Nusach HaAri Zal was a siddur printed by the Tzemach Tzedek. It's basically the Chabad siddur with accompanying interpretations and discourses from the Alter Rebbe. It's often called the "Siddur Im Dach". You can purchase a copy here from Kehot, but not really like you'd want to... I figured it might have something to say about it. – ezra May 2 '18 at 13:31
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Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dynov (1783-1841), in his בני יששכר Benai Yissachar, in the section on Minchat Shabbat, chapter 201, gives the following numerical symbolism to the connection between this mizmor and Shabbos.

The number of letters within mizmor 23 adds up to the equivalent sum of "ברכה" - (“Beracha” - Blessing). By reciting the Mizmor three times, (at the 3rd meal of Shabbos), we are invoking a “Beracha Meshuleshet” (a “tripled” blessing.)

Also know the number of words in the Mizmor is 57 which is the equivalent of "דגים" (“Dagim” - pl. for fish), a staple of the Shabbos menue).

It is also to symbolize our hopes that the abundant food from Shabbat will carry over into the weekdays. There is also hinted in this mizmor (pasuk. 2) " בנאות דשא ירביצני" (“B'Neos Desheh Yarbitzaini” - In grass meadows He Makes me lie down). The word ''ד' - 'ש' א' -— Dalet; Shin; Alef can be viewed as an acrostic representing דגים - שבת - אדם ( Dagim (fish); Shabbos, and Adam (man) ), drawing attention to how man should celebrate the Shabbos by eating particular special foods on Shabbos.


1. Translation from a sermon (PDF) by R' Yaakov Bieler.

  • For what it's worth, I was unable to find the citation from Pri Etz Chaim mentioned in Bnai Yissachar. The editions of Pri Etz Chaim that I have are not broken up into Gates and chapters. That sounds more like Sefer Etz Chaim. In both books from Chaim Vital, zt"l, when he discusses chapter 23 of Tehillim in connection with Shabbat davening and the meals, there is no mention of these gematriot brought by Bnei Yissachar or the subject of fish. And he says that Ari z"l says to say chap. 23 at each meal, not 3 times at the 3rd. That suggests most of this is chiddushim from Rabbi Shapiro of Dynov. – Yaacov Deane May 2 '18 at 19:33

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