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Daily Moroccan Halachot

Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, author Magen Avot
Redacted by Dr. Emile Amzallag

Daily Halachot Topics

Returning the Torah

The Tur (Orah Haim 149) explains that there are two customs with regards to returning the Sefer Torah to the Hechal on a weekday. One custom, as followed by many Ashkenzim, is that once the reading is completed, Kaddish is recited by the Hazan, the Sefer Torah is returned to the Hechal,  and then “Uva Letzion” is recited.  The Arizal supports this custom because he posits that once the reading of the Torah is completed, the spiritual lights that emanate from it are extinguished and the Torah should therefore be returned immediately. The second opinion given by the Tur, which was the custom in Spain, is to return the Torah after the reciting “Uva Letzion”. This latter custom is further subdivided into two practices, with some Sepharadim reciting Kaddish Titkabal after the Torah is returned to the Hechal, and others, based on the Avudraham and the Kolbo, reciting Kaddish Titkabal while the Torah is still out.

Furthermore, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 25:13) writes that the custom is to avoid removing one’s Tefilin while the Torah is still out. The Mishna Berura (ibid:57) says that this is alluded to in the verse (Micha 2:13) “Vaya’avor Malkam Lifnehem V’Hashem BeRosham” (lit. “and their king passed before them, and Hashem was at their head”), with the Tefilin Shel Rosh being symbolic of Hashem. The ideal state of a Jewish man is to be crowned with the Tefilin, and therefore if one must remove one’s Tefilin while the Torah is still out, it is proper to do so while the scroll is covered up so as not to reveal one’s bare head.  Nevertheless, the Ben Ish Hai (Od Yosef Hai, Parashat Haye Sara, § 2) says that this only applies to those scrolls that are covered in a velvet cover, commonly used by Ashkenazim and Moroccans. One, however would be permitted to remove one’s Tefillin beside a Torah that is placed in a hard case since the scroll is permanently covered.

Summary: One should not remove one’s Tefilin while the Torah still out. If one must do so, one should wait until the scroll is covered.

Tehila LeDavid

The Gemara (Berachot 4b) relates that whoever recites Tehila LeDavid (Mizmor 145) thrice daily is guaranteed a place in the World to Come. Accordingly, the Sages incorporated this psalm three times during the day; during Pesuke DeZimra, before Uva Letzion and prior to the Minha Amida.  Some have the custom to recite the verse “Yehi Hasdecha Hashem Alenu Ka’asher Yihalnu Lach” before the psalm, however, according to the Livorno rite (upon which many Moroccan customs are based), this verse only is said before Tehila LeDavid of Shabbat Musaf.

The Avudraham explains that the mere fact of reciting the Mizmor three times is not what guarantees the World to Come, but rather saying it intently. Therefore, by saying it three times daily, it assures that it will be said intently at least once. Furthermore, the Bet Yosef explains that Tehila LeDavid itself does not necessarily guarantee Olam Haba, but rather that if one’s merits and one’s sins are equal, reciting the Mizmor intently can tip the proverbial scale in one’s favor. The Shibole Haleket says that the verses of “Hanun VeRahum” and “Karov Hashem” allude to the word “Hok”, which has an implication of permanence and also has the same numerical value as “Gehinom”.  This alludes to the fact that one who recites the Tehila LeDavid three times daily will

not inherit the judgement of Gehinom.

Summary:  It is praiseworthy to recite Tehila LeDavid three times daily.

Mizmor of “Ya’ancha Hashem”

On weekday mornings, the Ashre preceding Uva Letzion is followed by Mizmor 20 (“Yaancha Hashem”). According to the Zohar HaHadash (Parashat Balak), this psalm has nine verses, which correspond to the nine months leading up to the final redemption during which the Mashiah will take suffering upon himself. Furthermore, there are seventy words, corresponding to the seventy ministers of each nation of the world, whom the Mashiah will vanquish. Rabbi Meir ben Gabai (Tola’at Yaakov, Sod Nefilat Apaim) writes that the nine verses and seventy words correlate with the nine months of pregnancy and the seventy cries a woman makes during contractions, respectively. Interestingly, he writes that a woman will not give birth until she has articulated seventy cries during her labor contractions. As well, the Mizmor has three hundred and ten letters, which correspond to the amount of spiritual worlds that Hashem created. This psalm was incorporated into the prayer because, as the Avudraham explains, it begins and ends with the words “Yaancha” and “Ya’anenu”, which convey the idea of Hashem answering our prayers.

The universal Sephardic custom is that Tahanun and Mizmor 20 are linked, such that on any day that Tahanun is omitted, this psalm is omitted as well. Conversely, the Rama writes (Orah Haim 131:1) that the Ashkenazic custom is that there are some days when Tahanun is omitted but the Mizmor is still recited, such when a groom is present.  

Summary:   Mizmor 20 has deep significance. The Sephardic custom is that on any weekday morning on which Tahanun is omitted, Mizmor 20 is omitted as well. It is auspicious to recite this psalm when a woman is in labor.

Uva Letzion

After the Ashre and Mizmor 20, “Uva Letzion” and the special Kedusha that accompanies it (known as “Kedusha D’Sidra”) are recited. Several reasons are given as to why our Sages included it in the weekday morning prayers. The Avudraham explains that it was intended for those unlearned people who would arrive late to the synagogue to be able to recite Kedusha, which they missed during the repetition of the Amida. The Levush (O.H. 132) writes that Uva Letzion was enacted because at the time, it was decreed by the non-Jewish authorities that sanctifying Hashem through Kedusha was forbidden. As such, it was placed after the Amida, at which point the authorities believed the prayer was already completed. Furthermore, the Kedusha is accompanied by an Aramaic translation and one reason was so that the aforementioned unlearned congregants would be able to understand what was being said, as Aramaic was the vernacular of the masses at the time. The Arizal explains that it is also recited in Aramaic so as to conceal the full extent of its holiness, which may be too much to bear. As well, Rabbi Moshe Zachuta says that since the angels’ function is to sanctify Hashem, they may become jealous, as it were, when we say Kedusha and thus it is recited in a language they do not comprehend.

The Rama (Orah Haim 132:1) explains that the Kedusha D’Sidra has the same status as the Kedusha recited in the blessings of Keriat Shema, and as such it may be recited by an individual without a Minyan. The HIDA (Kesher Gudal) concurs, and Rabbi Shalom Messas explains that this was also the custom in Morocco.

Summary:  Uva Letzion and Kedusha D’Sidra hold deep significance and they may be recited without a Minyan.

What’s the Significance of “Baruch Elokenu”?

The last paragraph of the Kedusha DSidra begins “Baruch Elokenu Shebera’anu Lichvodo”. The Arizal explains that since this segment thanks Hashem for giving us life and for distinguishing us from the other nations of the world and all types of falsehood, it should be said with intense concentration. Rabbi Eliezer Papo (Hesed LaAlafim 131:19) says that when one recites the words “Lo Niga Larik” (lit. “may we not toil in vain”) and “Lo Neled LaBehala” (lit. “may we not give birth to futility”), one should have in mind to pray to not have wasted seed as this may lead to unviable children. Regarding these words, Rabbi Israel Algazi (Shalme Tzibur) says that when reciting them, one should focus on having children who will grow to be righteous Torah scholars. Furthermore, when reciting “Baruch Elokenu Shebera’anu Lichvodo”, one should imagine oneself being thrown into a fire rather than succumb to a life of falsehood.

Summary:  The last paragraph of Kedusha DSidra should be said with intent concentration.

What’s the Significance of “Tefila LeDavid”?

After Uva LetzionMizmor 86 (“Tefila LeDavid”) and the verses of Bet Ya’akov arerecited. The Seder Hayom, the Avudraham and the Tur all discuss Mizmor 86 and say that it was instituted because in it, we ask Hashem to answer all our prayers. Additionally, they mention that one should be careful to recite it and to not treat it lightly. Rabbi Haim Palagi (Kaf HaHaim Palagi 17:14) notes that the psalm has 186 words, which equals the numerical value of “Makom”, or Hashem’s omnipresence, and thus one should have great concentration during its recital. Furthermore, the sum of the products of the value of each letter in Hashem’s four-letter Name, Yud-Ke-Vav-Ke(10×10+5×5+6×6+5×5), is also 186.

Interestingly, according to the Sephardic custom, on days that Tahanun is omitted,Tefila LeDavid is also omitted. Rabbi Simha Rabinowitz (Piske Teshuvot § 132) explains this by saying that the psalm says “Beyom Tzrati Ekraeka” (lit. “on the day of my distress I shall call You”), which refers to days on which Tahanun is said. According to Nusach Sfard, there are days when Tahanun is not recited but Tefila LeDavid isrecited, such as when a groom is present.

Summary:    One should recite Mizmor 86 with intent concentration. It is notrecited on days that Tahanun is omitted.

Why is the Day of the Week Mentioned Before Shir Shel Yom?

On each day of the week in the times of the Bet HaMikdash, the Levi’im would recite a psalm corresponding to that day. To commemorate this, a different Mizmor is recited on each day of the week during the Shaharit prayer, known as the Shir Shel Yom. Before each Mizmor, an introductory phrase is recited: “Hashir Shehayu Halvi’im Omrim Al Haduchan Beyom [day of the week] BeShabbat” (lit. “the psalm that the Levites would recite on the platform on the [day of the week] from the Sabbath”).

The reason the psalm for a particular day is prefaced with that sentence can be explained as follows: The Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael (Parashat Yitro, Parasha 7) says that one way of fulfilling the commandment to remember the Sabbath by doing things in anticipation of Shabbat, such as preparing a delicious dish for the Shabbat meal. The Ramban (Shemot 20:7), basing himself on the Mechilta, explains that remembering and thinking about Shabbat is a constant Mitzvah. As such, the Arizal (Sha’ar HaKavanot 60a) that when one prefaces the daily psalm by counting the day of the week relative to Shabbat, one is fulfilling the commandment to constantly remember Shabbat. Rabbi Yosef Hazan (Shu”t Hikre Lev, vol. 2, Orah Haim, § 32) that this introduction is a significant custom and that when reciting it, one should have in mind that one is fulfilling the commandment of “Zachor Et Yom HaShabbat Lekadesho”, to sanctify the Sabbath by remembering it.

Summary:  One should have in mind that, by reciting the introductory sentence before each Shir Shel Yom, one is fulfilling the commandment to remember Shabbat.

Shir Shel Yom on Special Days

In general, when Rosh Hodesh, Hanukkah, a public fast, etc. fall on a weekday, the Sephardic custom is to recite the Mizmor designated for that day in addition to Bet Yaakov, Shir Hamaalot, Shir Shel Yom and Hoshienu. There is a lesser known custom among Sepharadim, including Moroccans, however, to omit Bet Yaakov, Shir Hamaalot, Shir Shel Yom and Hoshienu and to only recite the special Mizmor.  

One may ask why the Shir Shel Yom as well as the Mizmor for the special day are not both recited. The HIDA (Birkei Yosef 693:3) quotes the Yerushalmi (Shekalim and Sukkah), which says that once one Mizmor is recited it abrogates the other one. Rabbi Yosef Hazan (Shu”t Hikre Lev, vol. 2, Orah Haim, § 32) explains at length that in the times of the Bet HaMikdash, the Levi’im would sing the Shir Shel Yom, unless there was another occasion such as Rosh Hodesh, in which case the Mizmor for that day would be sung. Furthermore, he says that the nowadays, we do not recite the Shir Shel Yom to emulate exactly what was done in the Bet HaMikdash, but rather to highlight the specialness of each day of the week. Therefore, if another special day takes place, the Mizmor specific to that day is recited and there is no reason to add on the Shir Shel Yom. As such, Rabbi Yedidya Monsonego (Pirhe Shoshanim, Hilchot Tefila § 14), Rabbi David Ovadia (Nahagu Ha’am, Hilchot Tefila § 25), Rabbi Raphael Ben Shimon (Nahar Mitzrayim, Hilchot Tefila § 11) and Rabbi David HaKohen-Skali (Kiryat Hana David, vol. 2, § 20) write that the custom in Morocco and Egypt was to omit the Shir Shel Yom when the day coincided with a Rosh Hodesh, Hanukkah, a public fast, Purim or if a groom was present, and to recite the Mizmor specific to that day only. There were communities in Morocco that included the Shir Shel Yom, Bet Yaakov, etc., but they were in the minority.

Summary: The Shir Shel Yom, along with Bet Yaakov, Shir Hamaalot and Hoshienu are omitted on Rosh Hodesh, Hanukkah, Purim, a Taanit or when a groom is present, and only the Mizmor specific for that day is recited.    

Kaddish Yehe Shelama

After the Shir Shel Yom, the custom is to recite Kaddish Yehe Shelama, although the Ashkenazim recite it after Alenu Leshabe’ah. The Rama (Orah Haim 132:2) notes that this Kaddish is also called Kaddish Yatom (orphan’s Kaddish) and is normally recited by one who has lost a parent, but may also be recited by one whose parents are both alive and do not object to him reciting it.

There are situations in which, fortunately, every congregant’s parents are alive and the rabbis discuss whether or not Kaddish Yehe Shelama need me recited at all. According to the Arizal (Sha’ar HaKavanot) the Shaharit prayer has seven Kaddishim, which act as separators between the different parts of the prayer. Each part of the prayer represents a different spiritual world and the Kaddish helps transition between those worlds. It follows that Kaddish is not just beneficial for the elevation of the souls of the departed, but is also an essential component of the prayer, and therefore even if no one has lost a parent, it should still be recited. Rabbi Ya’akov Moelin (Shu”t Maharil, § 64) declares emphatically that Kaddish Yehe Shelama should still be recited even if none of the congregants have lost a parent. Furthermore, Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel (Shu”t Mishpete Uziel, Orah Haim § 2) writes that the Kaddish should not be ascribed auspicious powers, but rather is a fundamental part of the prayer and should be recited at all times. However, Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch (Shu”t Pri HaSade, vol. 4, § 92) writes that although strictly speaking the Kaddish should be said, if one’s parents will object or if it will be looked upon oddly in the synagogue, the custom is to omit Kaddish. It appears that this common practice is partially because of the superstitious belief that it is inauspicious for someone who has both parents to recite it, although this is incorrect according to the letter of the law.

Summary: Strictly speaking, Kaddish Yehe Shelama (aka Kaddish Yatom), should be recited at all times, regardless of whether one of the congregants has lost a parent.

Ketoret on Klaf

There is a Segula to read the Pitum HaKetoret off of parchment, and Rabbi Haim Palagi (Kaf HaHaim 17:18) says that it is propitious for prosperity. These parchments have become popular in recent times and they are usually framed on the wall of the synagogue or are leather-bound for individual use. Nevertheless, the Gemara (Gittin 60a) explains that unless done so in its entirety, the Torah should not be written down. Additionally, the Shulhan Aruch (Yore De’a 283:3) rules that it is not permitted to write down more than three verses of Torah, unless the whole Torah will be transcribed. In extenuating circumstances the principle of “Et La’asot L’Hashem, Heferu Toratecha” is applied. In other words, when there is a great need, Hashem’s laws can be temporarily abrogated for the greater good of the community.  Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yabia Omer, vol. 9, Yore De’a § 23) questions the practice in light of the Gemara’s dictate, and says that a scribe should not write the Pitum HaKetoret on parchment as it contains Torah verses. (However, if it is already written, it may be used).  

To reconcile this apparent contradiction, Rabbi Avraham HaLevi (Ginat Veradim, Klal 2, § 27) explains that there are several examples of more than three Torah verses being written down, such as on the Parochet, on the Ketuba etc. and that the custom is to be lenient. The source of this leniency is the Rif, who says that if writing the verses is for the purpose of learning, then it is permitted.  Reading the Pitum HaKetoret has a positive purpose and, even though the Shulhan Aruch follows the Rambam’s stricter position, the common practice to follow the Rif’s leniency.

Summary:  There is a Halachic basis to the leniency of allowing the Pitum HaKetoret to be written on parchment.

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