July 18, 2024
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Nine Things to Remember When Saying Tehillim for a Person

(Credit: Chabad)

There is a fascinating Zohar (Parshas Vayishlach p. 179) which states: “Come and see, in these songs and praises that Dovid HaMelech recited—there are within them secrets and matters from above that are of the very mysteries of wisdom. And since they were all said in Ruach Hakodesh, for King David possessed Ruach Hakodesh and he recited the shira, therefore they were said with the very secrets of wisdom.” This is why these words are particularly effective.

One who recites Tehillim for a sick person fulfills the Torah mitzvah of “v’ahavta larayacha kamocha, love your neighbor as yourself” (Chashukei Chemed Brachos 12b citing numerous poskim).

When saying Tehillim for someone it is very important to attempt to reverse the “strict judgment” that has been placed upon him to “Divine mercy.” One way in which this can be done is to focus on our love for that individual. The Belzer Rebbe and the Chida have both stated the following interpretation of the pasuk regarding loving our fellow man: “V’ahavta la’rayacha kamocha, ani Hashem.” Kamocha in gematria is 86, which is equivalent to the name of Hashem that represents strict justice, Elokim. If one focuses on loving one’s fellow, specifically, this individual, then ani Hashem. The name that represents Divine mercy, the yud kay vov kay is invoked.

The Rambam (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 11:12) writes that it is forbidden to use words of Torah to effect a cure for someone. Therefore, one should have in mind that the person be healed by virtue of the supplications being recited on behalf of the sick person (Likutei Teshuvos v’Hanhagos p. 400, Rav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita). Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l advises that one focus on the limud of Torah in the Tehillim (Halichos Shlomo Tefillah, 8:22).

Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, zt”l (Ohr Yechezkel, Yirah uMussar p. 330) advises people when reciting Tehillim for a sick person in a tzibbur, one should also pray for their own growth in spirituality. [YH: as even the partial success of this part of the tefillah may further help the choleh, sick, as well].

When praying in front of the person it is preferable not to recite the person’s name (see Chasam Sofer Nedarim 40a) as it may bring some strict judgment upon that individual. When praying for the person not in his presence it is best to recite his name. This is perhaps why Moshe Rabbeinu, when davening for Miriam said the words, “refah na la, please heal her.” The name recited is that of the person ______ the child of ______ (the person’s mother). If the mother’s name is not known, one may recite the father’s name, and if that is not known the person’s own name is sufficient.

When in front of the person, one may recite Tehillim or pray in any language, but when not in front of him, one should pray in Hebrew only (SA, YD 335:5).

When davening or saying Tehillim, one should not affix honorary titles upon the person (Sefer Chassidim #800).

When reciting Tehillim for a particular individual in public, it is correct and proper to inform the tzibbur of the person’s name so that the tzibbur can focus on that person, and that person can receive the benefit of tefillah b’tzibbur. (Halichos Shlomo [Rav S.Z.A.], Tefillah 8:22).


The author can be reached at [email protected].

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