I’ve noticed that some people recite Psalm 119 every day for the Rebbe. What does this psalm have to do with the Rebbe and why are people still reciting psalms for the Rebbe after he passed away?

Reply:

Let’s first explore the origin of this custom before addressing your question.

There is a custom dating at least as far back to the Baal Shem Tov1 that each day one should recite the chapter of Psalms that corresponds to one’s age. For example, a 13-year-old, who is in his or her fourteenth year of life, would recite Psalm 14 for the duration of that year.2

Many also have the custom of reciting the psalms corresponding to their children’s age (e.g., until the first birthday, Psalm 1 is recited, and on the first birthday, one begins reciting Psalm 2, etc.). Reciting the children’s psalms daily is an especially potent prayer that children remain on the right spiritual path.3

The Lubavitcher Rebbe also encouraged that the children themselves should recite their own psalms from time to time.4

Reciting the Rebbe’s Chapter

Wishing to be spiritually connected to their rebbe, many chassidim have the custom to recite the psalm corresponding to the age of their rebbe.5 As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained regarding reciting the psalm of the Previous Rebbe, doing so is a vehicle through which we receive many material and spiritual blessings.6 Reciting the Rebbe’s psalm connects one to the Rebbe and is beneficial both to the Rebbe and oneself.7

The custom is to continue reciting the Rebbe’s chapter even after his passing, for the lives of the righteous are spiritual, and as long as their disciples continue following in their path, the righteous are spiritually alive as well.

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, provides an insight into the relevance of these psalms. In a diary entry dated 20 Marcheshvan 5705 (1944), the birthday of his own father and Rebbe, who passed away 24 years prior, the Previous Rebbe records:

In my dream I saw my holy father dressed in Shabbat attire, and his face was full of great joy. He said, “On this day, when I completed 84 years since my soul came down into the lower world, I will have holy guests, and according to the order, each one will expound upon a verse in chapter 84 of Psalms . . .”8

Accordingly, chassidim of the Rebbe, who was born in 1902, are now saying Psalm 119, since it has been 118 years since his birth.

Tracing Back to David

Psalms 72 finishes with the verse “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are completed,” indicating that this psalm was said when King David’s life ended. Now, we know that King David lived to the age of 70, so why did he finish with Psalm 72 and not Psalm 71? The Talmud9 tells us that Psalms 1 and 2 were originally one single psalm. Thus, the psalm King David would have been reciting at the end of his life was indeed (our) Psalm 72.10

One should not underestimate the power and benefit of reciting psalms in general and, more specifically, the psalm corresponding to one's age. So, especially in these trying times, if you’re not already reciting your psalm, now is a great time to start!

Intimidated by the Hebrew? We are glad to share that you can listen to the entire Psalms in Hebrew, chanting along to the best of your ability.