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Aug 19, 2012

Surprising/Shocking "Nishmas" At The Kotel

We went last night to daven at the Kotel. We got there around midnight, and as I entered the Kotel area, a fellow was calling everyone together for the nightly public recital of the "Nishmas" prayer. I joined the group, figuring that is as good as any other tefilla, and afterwards I would say my own.

This fellow calling everyone together had a very rabbinic appearance and many of those around seemed to know him - my guess is that he leads this group every night. We all said Nishmas out loud and together, and then afterwards said a couple of chapters of tehillim, which he concluded with a prayer for the sick.

The chapters of tehillim we recited as part of the group were Psalms 121, שיר למעלות אזא עיני אל ההרים, and Psalms 130, שיר המעלות ממעקים קראתיך. These are the popular chapters of tehillim that are said in a group.

Interestingly, the part about this that surprised, and shocked, me was the conclusion. Psalms 130 ends with the sentence "וְהוּא, יִפְדֶּה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל--    מִכֹּל, עֲו‍ֹנֹתָיו"  - "And He will redeem Israel from all its iniquities". This rabbinic looking fellow leading the services said וְהוּא, יִפְדֶּה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל--    מִכֹּל, צרותיו - And he will redeem Israel from all its troubles.

This fellow changed the last word of the chapter. I was surprised and almost said something thinking maybe he made a mistake, or else maybe there is another nusach that I was not aware of, when I saw that someone on the other side of him threw his arms up and called him on it, trying to correct him. Instead of accepting the correction and repeating it with the correct word, this fellow smiled and shrugged indicating that he knows what he is doing, and then repeated loudly צרותיו - Hashem should redeem us from our tzuress (in Hebrew). I would note that most people, many of whom seemed to be regulars, did not protest and I saw some smiling.

I am all for personal prayer. His words make a very nice personal prayer, asking Hashem to remove our troubles. but to change the words of tehillim? I was shocked!

I thought:
  1. is he a Reform Jew?
  2. if someone else did it, with a different or no kippa, he would have been attacked, probably physically, at the kotel as being a heretic, or a Reform Jew. see the women wearing tallit at the kotel for an example of this.
  3. Does he think he is wiser than King David?
After it was over I was going to ask him, but he was saying the prayer for the sick and there were tens of people lined up to submit names, and each person was submitting on average 3-4 names. After a few people I gave up and said my own tefillos and then left.

Does anyone know if there is such a nusach or source for this?

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  1. The Zilvermans stopped going to the kotel. i don't wonder why

  2. why should that stop someone from going to the Kotel?

  3. I did not talk to the zilvermans for a while but from what i understand is they feel that the Kotel is becoming an area of avodah zara. I guess they feel that one can access G-d from anywhere. what i meant by my comment was that the kotel has become a place of a lot of craziness. It is not a "prayer friendly" region.

  4. I also wouldn't recommend tampering with Tehillim, but it's worth noting that Tehillim 25 ends in a somewhat similar fashion using the word צרותיו

  5. http://www.haoros.com/Archive/index.asp?kovetz=991&cat=8&haoro=3 in the footnote discusses a lubavitch minhag by the previous rebbe to say tzarotav first...

  6. interesting. thanks. is that the common custom in chabad?
    (note - he did not repeat the passuk with "avonosav" after saying "tzarosav")

  7. I have actually no idea, I just found a random quote online... There are a lot of references to it all over the place though, search for "והוא יפדה את ישראל מכל צרותיו" in quotes.

  8. I would guess that he should have read the line as written (avonotav) and then added, "and He will redeem Israel from all its troubles (tzorotav)."

  9. In addition, I don't think his intent was to deliberately say something wrong. He meant well, but when you are talking about Psalms (and the Tanach), you should not change the words when the actual prayer is being said. Rather, your point should be made independently, as I mentioned.

  10. Maybe he takes money for pidyonim or segeulas and the market for fixing tzoris is probably bigger than the money for removing sins.


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