Shavuot

Ten Facts about the Book of Psalms-Tehilim

What is the meaning of the name of the Book of Psalms? How many people composed the hymns in the book? And what is the connection between the book of Psalms and Shavuot?

| 20.10.15 | 07:31
Ten Facts about the Book of Psalms-Tehilim

1. King David wrote the Book of Psalms, but he didn’t compose all the psalms: The Gemara relates that besides the psalms which King David wrote, there were also psalms which David heard by holy inspiration which were composed by ten other people: Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaf and the three sons of Korach.

2. The name of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew is Tehilim, the plural form of the word tehila, -glory or words of praise. Our sages called the book Tilim. Some Medieval Age Bible commentators, such as Ramban and Ibn Ezra, called the book Tehillot.

3. The Book of Psalms includes 150 chapters divided into five sections, and it is the longest book in the Bible.

4. The Book of Psalms includes the longest chapter in the Bible: Chapter 119, which includes essentially an 8-line psalm for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

5. The Book of Psalms is the first book of the third part of the Bible —Writings.

6. Out of the one hundred and fifty chapters in the Book of Psalms, one hundred mention explicitly who composed them: David, Assaf, the sons of Korach, etc. We do not know who composed the other fifty chapters.

7. The Levites sung the psalms in the Temple when the sacrifices were being offered. Their melodies were forgotten after the Destruction.

8. There are opinions that psalms should not be recited from sundown to midnight.

9. The Book of Psalms is the most well-known among the books of the Bible. Throughout the ages, Jews from all walks of life continually recited the Book of Psalms and knew it by heart — from famous scholars to the common people. The contents of the psalms also fit any time and any purpose, and were recited by a Jew when he needed a salvation — from ancient times to online Psalm groups today. The Talmud explains: "Everything that David said in his book, he said for himself and for the entire Jewish people, and for all exigencies."

10. On Shavuot, the anniversary of King David’s death, the custom is to recite many psalms. The connection between King David and Moses who brought down the Torah, is explained by our sages in the Midrash Shocher Tov: "David wrote five Books of Psalms to correspond to the Five Books of Moses. Moses was the best prophet, and David had the best kingdom, and whatever Moses did, David also did. One who studies Torah without fear of G-d is worth nothing. David came and taught fear of heaven in the Book of Psalms. Moses and David were called the "two good community leaders [parnessim]. Furthermore, David strengthened the Law of Moses in his days, for he legislated shifts [of priests] to fulfill the Torah’s commandments [in the Temple] and encouraged people to arise before dawn to study Torah and Psalms. David died on Shabbat, the same day that Moses died, because Moshe gave the Jews Five Books, and David, through his Book of Psalms, strengthened the Law of Moses."

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