[Avodah] Repeating during davening

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Mon Nov 29 18:16:07 PST 2021

I would like to learn more about the halachos of repeating words, phrases,
etc, during davening. I get mixed signals from different situations, and
I'm searching for some clarity.

At one extreme, I have been told many times over the decades that I am
wrong to double the refrain "Lecha Dodi" between the stanzas. (I am only
referring to situations where the tune being sung lends itself to repeating
that line. Some tunes don't.) These people don't seem to have a problem
with doubling it at the very beginning or the very end, but they are
emphatic that the line "Lecha Dodi" should be sung only once between the
intermediate stanzas, even if the tune is a slow and lengthy one. These
people would prefer to sing nonsense words like "la la la" or "ai ai ai"
than to use the words that were written specifically for that tefila. I
can't imagine what the problem might be, given that it isn't a pasuk of any
kind, and doesn't have Hashem's name.

At the other extreme, Tehillim 118 was written by David Hamelech and became
part of Hallel. At some point prior to the writing of the Mishna, some
adopted the practice of repeating certain parts of this Tehillim. This is
mentioned in the Mishna  on Sukkah 38a and is repeated in Gemara Pesachim
119a. They even mention some specific amoraim, and which pesukim they chose
to double. Those gemaras, and Shulchan Aruch 422:3, all say that each
community should maintain its practice of repeating or not repeating.

I am amazed! We have a mitzva here, which is preceded by a bracha, and
followed by a bracha, and we interrupt it with extra psukim which were not
required. Some might point out that "min b'mino aino chotzetz", so there's
no real hefsek, but that would also apply in many other cases of repeating
during the tefilah, wouldn't it?

I am even more surprised by how our current practice butchers pasuk 118:25.
- We say the first half (which contains Hashem's Name) twice, and then we
say the second half (which *also* contains Hashem's Name!) twice. Many
people (including myself, until someone pointed it out to me decades ago)
are not very familiar with Sefer Tehillim, and know this pasuk only from
their recital of Hallel, and are shocked to find that this is a single
broken-up pasuk, and *not* two very short, separate pesukim.

I *am* aware that Rashi (Sukkah 38a) analyzes the structure of Perek 118,
and shows how the first 20 pesukim are repetitious, while the last 9 are
not, and this is why those pesukim were doubled. However, this only
explains why they *wanted* to double those pesukim; it fails to explain why
they were *allowed* to double them. After all, isn't it obvious that Dovid
Hamelech *chose* to write the first 20 pesukim in one style and the last 9
in another style? Why are we dissatisfied with this?

Further: If some had the minhag to double the pesukim while others had the
minhag to read it straight through (as both the Mishna and Mechaber say),
then it seems clear to me that the original Takana to recite these perakim
as Hallel did *not* require any doubling at all. If so, then I have to
wonder about the first people, chronologically, who decided to start
doubling the pesukim. Was there any opposition from traditionalists? Did
anyone suggest that it is a hefsek? Did they have different standards for
"forbidden repetition" than we have?

Having discussed the refrain of Lecha Dodi and the doubled pesukim of
Hallel, I will now mention some other parts of davening where many shuls
repeat words, and offer my thoughts about them.

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, when the Sefer Torah is removed from the Aron
Kodesh, many shuls sing as follows: "Baruch shenasan Torah, Torah. Baruch
shenasan, Torah, Torah, l'amo Yisrael bik'dushaso." This is not a pasuk,
and it does not have Hashem's Name, and in those regards I see no objection
to repeating. But I have heard some object on the grounds that it sounds
like we have two competing Torahs, and it is therefore similar to the
famous prohibition of saying "Modim Modim", which sounds like he is praying
to two gods, chalilah. On the other hand, some might respond that we *do*
have two Torahs: one Sheb'ksav and one Sheb'al Peh.

The same could be said about the immediately previous line, which is often
sung as, "Kee mitzion taytzay Sorah. Kee mitzion taytzay Sorah,
ud'var Hashem miYrushalayim." But this one has the additional problems of
being a pasuk (or more accurately, a partial pasuk; see Yeshaya 2:3) and
containing Hashem's Name. However, the repeated phrase is meaningful on its
own, and doesn't have the Name. So I do not see how these problems make it
more problematic than Tehillim 118:25 in Hallel.

When shuls sing the last line of Avinu Malkenu, they often sing as follows:
"Avinu Malkenu, chaneinu vaaneinu. Avinu Malkenu, chaneinu vaaneinu ki ain
banu maasim. Aseh imanu tzedaka vachesed. Aseh imanu tzedaka vachesed
v'hoshiaynu," Each of those phrases is meaningful. Is their sum total
significantly different than how it appears in the siddur?

When the Sefer Torah is put back on Shabbos and Yom Tov, many shuls sing
"Etz Chaim Hee" with a tune that ends with: "Hashivenu Hashem, aylecha
v'nashuva. Chadesh! Chadesh yameinu! Chadesh yameinu k'kedem!" This is
another case of a real pasuk, complete with Hashem's Name, and it is being
split up in ways different than originally written. But little or nothing
is being lost from the meaning of the words; I could argue that the
extension of "chadesh" to two words, and then to three, even *amplifies*
the power of the phrases. But I don't know the halachos of breaking up a
pasuk, and that's part of this entire question.

Many shuls sing the last line of Aleinu: "V'haya Hashem l'melech al kol
haaretz, bayom hahoo, bayom hahoo yihyeh Hashem echad, ushmo, ushmo, ushmo
echad." Beside the problems of this being a pasuk, and containing Hashem's
name (twice!), I personally don't see much (if any) rhetorical value in
these repetitions. Others might disagree, but whereas the examples above
have somewhat solemn tunes and the repeated words give weight to the
context, this last line of Alenu has an upbeat singsong tune, and I just
don't hear any enhancement at all.

Does anyone know of any seforim who explain the details of these
situations? Rav Moshe Feinstein does have a teshuva on this (Igros Moshe
Orach Chayim 2:22), but he writes specifically about Chazaras Hashatz and
Birchos Krias Shema, and all my examples are from elsewhere. (If anyone is
curious, his first paragraph there gives many examples of specific ways
that chazanim mangle the Chazaras Hashatz.) He does mention the gemara
about Hallel, and he suggests that in those places where Hallel was said
without doubling those last pesukim, there would be a "kepeida" against
doubling them. But it seems to me that if so, then it would have been
problematic to start doubling to begin with, and he does not discuss this.

I will close by giving some examples to demonstrate how repeating a word or
phrase can enhance the meaning of a pasuk:

Yeshaya 6:3 might have been "Kadosh Hashem Tz'vakos", but instead it says
"Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Hashem Tz'vakos"
Tehillim 115:14 might have been "Yosef Hashem aleichem v'al bneichem" but
instead it says "Yosef Hashem aleichem, aleichem v'al bneichem"
Tehillim 116:16 might have been "Ana Hashem kee ani avd'cha ben amasecha"
but instead it says "Ana Hashem kee ani avdecha, ani avd'cha ben amasecha"
In each of these, there's not much of a change in meaning, yet it is more
meaning*ful*. I see "Chadesh! Chadesh yameinu! Chadesh yameinu k'kedem!" in
the same light.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can suggest places to learn more about this,
Akiva Miller
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