כ״ח באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״ד (March 30, 2014)

Sukka 55a-b: The Song of the Day

We traditionally close our daily morning prayers with one of the mizmorei Tehillim. This mizmor is taken from the daily Psalm sung when the morning sacrifice – the tamid shel shahar – was brought. Our Gemara quotes a baraita that describes how, in the Beit HaMikdash, a special mizmor was sung in connection with the musaf sacrifice on each day of Sukkot. It is interesting to note that only the mizmorim for hol ha-mo’ed – the intermediary days – are enumerated in the baraita, while the holidays themselves are not explained. Although it does not appear in our Gemara, Massekhet Soferim does offer Psalms for the holidays, as well; mizmor 76, which refers to God’s sukka (see verse 3) is mentioned as the mizmor sung on the first day, and mizmor 12, entitled lamenatze’ah al ha-sheminit was the Psalm of Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of the Sukkot celebrations.

There are a number of explanations given for the choice of particular mizmorim for each day of Sukkot. The Me’iri summarizes them as follows:

  • Day one (as referred to by the Gemara, but it is actually the second day of Sukkot): Mizmor 29, which includes “the voice of God over the waters” and is understood as referring to nisukh ha-mayim – the water libation.
  • Day two (third day): Mizmor 50, which mentions the obligation to fulfill the vows that were made to God (see verse 14), something that was traditionally taken care of while in Jerusalem for the holiday.
  • Day three and Day four (fourth and fifth days): Mizmor 94, whose focus is on God taking vengeance against the enemies of the Jewish people. During Second Temple times, when the Jews were subject to oppression by outside forces, this would have been an appropriate Psalm to say in prayer.
  • Day five (sixth day): Mizmor 81, whose closing passage discusses the generous produce yielded by the Land of Israel (see verse 17).
  • Day six (Hoshanah Rabbah – the seventh day): Mizmor 82, whose focus is on God sitting in judgment. This is appropriate, for the last day of hol ha-mo’ed Sukkot – Hoshanah Rabbah – is traditionally seen as a day of judgment for the year’s supply of water.

According to Rashi, aside from days three and four (when a single mizmor was split in half), the entire psalm was sung together with the musaf sacrifice. The Ritva argues that only a selection of the mizmor was chosen to accompany the korban.

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