Question: We have learned that ‘Yishtabach’ is a bracha. If so, why does it not begin with the words ‘Baruch Atah Hashem…’?
Answer: At the beginning of the previous siman, we learned about the structure of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ as follows (excerpted from an earlier lesson):
The Sages instituted that this section should begin and end with a bracha. These brachos are known as ‘Baruch She’Amar’ (“Blessed is He Who spoke…”) and ‘Yishtabach’ [“May (Your Name) be praised…”], respectively. Elsewhere we learned that when one (or more) bracha follows another in a series [Heb. ‘bracha ha-s’mucha l’chaverta’] only the first one begins with ‘Baruch Atah Hashem…’, while the other does not. There are many examples of this pattern: the string of brachos in ‘Shemoneh Esrei’, in ‘Birkas HaMazon’, and the list goes on. What we have in the case of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ is a “series” comprised of two brachos which are separated by a huge gap – a gap filled with all of its ‘pesukim’ (verses)! Despite this gap, the two brachos - ‘Baruch She’Amar’ and ‘Yishtabach’ – still function as a “pair” and thus the latter qualifies as a ‘bracha ha-s’mucha l‘chaverta’. That is why ‘Yishtabach’ does not begin with ‘Baruch’. Got it?
Trivia question: Where else do we have brachos which are considered ‘s’mucha l’chaverta’, despite the fact that there are numerous ‘pesukim’ between them?
The ‘Chasimas ha-Bracha’ (the concluding words of the ‘bracha’)
‘Yishtabach’ possesses a bracha-ending which is unusual because it is comprised of several independent phrases: ‘Keil, Melech Gadol ba-tishbachos - Keil ha-Hoda’os - Adon ha-Niflaos…’ – (“G-d, King exalted through praises - G-d of thanksgivings - Master of wonders, etc.”) As such, one may even make mitzvah-responses (e.g. Kedusha, ‘Amein, y’hei Sh’mei Rabah…’) between the phrases (!), whereas, normally one would not interrupt in the middle of a “short” bracha. The final ending phrase of the ‘Yishtabach’ is ‘Melech, Keil, chei (or chai) ha-olamim’ (lit. “King, G-d, Life-giver of the worlds”). This phrase is interpreted to mean: “The King Who gives life to (or lives in) both ‘Olam Habah’ (the World–to-Come) and ‘Olam Hazeh’ (this world)”.
Question: When one completes the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ after reciting ‘Yishtabach’, what is his status, vis-à-vis making interruptions, mitzvah-responses, etc?
Answer: Let us examine each of three junctures:
Juncture 1 - Between ‘Yishtabach’ and ‘Kaddish’ (p. 82)
Juncture 2 - Between ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Borchu’ (turning to p. 84)
Juncture 3 - Between ‘Borchu’ and the beginning of the first bracha before ‘Krias Shema’ (p.84)
While Junction 1 is the most lenient of the three, one is nevertheless not permitted to interrupt then without significant reason. Indeed, when the Torah declares “sinners” to be unfit for serving in the Biblical army of Hashem (see Devarim 20:8), the Sages teach that this includes even those who speak unnecessarily between ‘Yishtabach’ and the bracha of ‘Yotzer’! (Whoa!) However, license is granted to interrupt for the sake of mitzvah or communal matters, such as campaigning for ‘tzedaka’ funds, announcing ‘Beis Din’ court summons or donning ‘talis and tefillin’. This is also the presumed rationale for the custom in some shuls to recite Psalm 130 (‘Shir ha’ma’alos mi-ma’amakim…’ (“A song of ascents, from the depths…”) at this point, between ‘Rosh Hashanah’ and ‘Yom Kippur’. (Ed. – This is not the custom at Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, by the way. On the other hand, in our weekly “ASK Learners Minyan”, we verbally introduce and explain the upcoming section of davening at this juncture.) An important note must be made here: after ‘Yishtabach’ the ‘Shat”z’ (acronym for ‘Shaliach Tzibur’ - a.k.a. the Chazzan) recites the ‘Half-Kaddish’. This ‘Kaddish’ is a bridge between the section it follows (‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’) and the section it precedes (‘Krias Shema’ and its brachos.) These connections are crucial! ‘Kaddish’ may never be said if it does not follow anything of ‘Tefila’ (or, in the case of ‘Kaddish d’Rabanan’ – the Rabbis’ Kaddish, the learning of Aggadic material from the Oral Torah.) Therefore, if a significantly long mitzvah-break is made after ‘Yishtabach’, the ‘Shat”z’ must recite several random ‘pesukim’ (verses) of praise before resuming the service with the ‘Half-Kaddish’. (Note: Pausing to don ‘talis and tefillin’, as we will learn presently, is not considered a significantly long break.)
Another relevant point here: Suppose that an individual who is davening with the minyan was unable to don his ‘talis and tefillin’ until this juncture (1). It is more than likely that the entire procedure of donning them and making their brachos will take him longer than the time it takes for the ‘Shat”z’ to get up to the middle of the ‘Half-Kaddish’. Now this individual is stuck “between a rock and a hard place”: Can he simply ignore responding to the Kaddish? No. Can he respond with ‘Amein, y’hei Shmei Rabah…’ while in the middle of donning the ‘talis and tefillin’? No. Can he just stop and listen intently to it? Preferably, not (because that is also an interruption of sorts)! Should he wait until after the ‘Shat”z’ concludes ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Borchu’ to don his ‘talis and tefillin’ with the brachos? No – then he will be at either juncture 2 or 3, which are even worse in terms of mitzvah-responses! What is the poor guy to do?
(Keep reading, help is on the way…!)
In order to help our poor individual davener, we must first complete our analysis of the other two junctures, because he will have to apply that to his situation:
Juncture 2 (between ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Borchu’) is considered halachically to be ‘bein haperakim’ (i.e. between paragraphs of the section of ‘Krias Shema’ and its brachos). At this juncture, the bracha over ‘talis’ may not be recited, but the brachos over ‘tefillin’ may. Even if he had put on his ‘tefillin’ during ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ without a bracha, he could say their brachos at this juncture (if he can squeeze them in between ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Borchu’- unlikely!)
If the ‘Borchu’ has already been called out by the ‘Shat”z’, and this individual plans to daven with the congregation, he is unable to make even the ‘tefillin’ brachos now. Once ‘Borchu’ has been declared (Juncture 3), one is considered to be ‘b’emtza haperek’ (i.e. in the midst of a section), during which no extraneous brachos may be made. He will now have to wait until the next ‘perek’ break, which is after the conclusion of the first bracha before ‘Krias Shema’ - ‘Baruch… Yotzer ha-meoros’ (“Blessed… Who fashions the luminaries”, see p. 88.) Of course, if the individual is not planning to daven together with the ‘Tzibur’, he may respond to the ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Borchu’ as usual, put on his tefillin, and daven as an individual at his own pace.
[Note: In some congregations, during the winter months when sunrise is very late, and the minyan begins before it is light enough to wear ‘talis and tefillin’ with a bracha, the entire congregation will pause at Juncture 1 (including the ‘Shat”z’) and don their ‘talis and tefillin’ with the brachos. Alternatively, they will don the ‘talis and tefillin’ before davening without making the brachos, and during Juncture 1 they will pause and make the brachos. In that case, the ‘Shat”z’ should be courteous enough to allow time for the average person to be ready to respond to the Half-Kaddish before he begins.]