Adar I 5771
Saying Tehilim…At Night?
by Rabbi Aaron Tendler
Dear Rabbi Tendler,
I have a question concerning saying Tehillim. I belong to a Tehillim group that has been together for almost two years meeting several hours after Mot’zei Shabbat. Just recently one of the women announced that she was told not to say Tehillim in the evening and for sure not Mot’zei Shabbat. What does this mean for the rest of us? Are there set rulings for saying Tehillim? Help!
Thank you very much.
Name and Seminary withheld upon request
Thank you for your question. The truth is, it isn’t only an issue regarding Tehillim, but studying any part of the Written Torah in the evening would be forbidden according to those who observe this Minhag. The Be’er Heitev, in his commentary on the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 238:1, quotes this custom in the name of the Ari Z”L. The Shaar Hatziyon there states that even according to the Minhag, it is only a preference to study Torah during the day rather than at night, but if this is too inconvenient, it is certainly permissible to study Torah and recite Tehillim at night. The Teshuvos Be’er Moshe, Vol IV Siman 22 states that if Tehillim are being recited on behalf of someone who is sick or in need, there is no basis at all not to recite Tehillim at night.
This custom is based on a Medrash that states that when Moshe Rabbeinu was studying Torah with Hashem on Har Sinai, he could tell the difference between night and day because during the day Hashem would study the Written Torah with him, and at night the Oral Torah. On the other hand, the Gemara in Berachos (3b) teaches us that Dovid HaMelech would compose and recite Tehillim at night after Chatzos (midnight). The Be’er Moshe therefore says that there is no reason not to recite Tehillim after Chatzos, if one wishes.
Interestingly, according to all opinions, if Tehillim are being studied with their commentaries, it is permitted even earlier during the night (i.e. before midnight). So, you might wish to propose a compromise where your group could become a Tehillim study group, rather than a gathering for women to recite Tehillim. This can also be done in the merit of someone who is sick or in need.
I am not familiar with any distinction between Motzaei Shabbos and any other night regarding this custom.
I hope that this is somewhat helpful.
Rabbi Aaron Tendler