Friday, September 11, 2009

mizmor l'todah: hoda'ah or viduy?

The Yerushalmi (Shavuos 6b in Vilna ed) writes that when Moshe heard that the viduy of the sa'ir l'chatas is mechapeir he recited the chapter of tehillim "mizmor l'todah". It seems that the Yerushalmi understands the term "todah" in "mizmor l'todah" as an expression of viduy, contrary to the views of poskim (see Tzion Yerushalayim on the spot) who read it as an an expression of thanks, hoda'ah.

Perhaps there is a way to reconcile the two views. R' Yosef Engel in his derasha for shabbos shuva cites a Tosefta which tells of a man who instructed his son to make an elaborate seudas hoda'ah because he fulfilled the mitzvah of shikcha. The father explained that being able to fulfill shikcha gave him more joy than any other mitzvah because shikcha occurs only where a person forgets crops in the field unintentionally. Hashem brings about the mitzvah without the doer intending it and gives him the credit! Therefore, a special hoda'ah is required.

The same holds true of tshuvah. Tshuvah m'ahavah transforms all sins into merits, yet it is obviously prohibited to sin in with the intent to then do tshuvah to accrue more merits that way. Like shikcha, these zechuyos come without the person intending to do good (in fact, the person had just the opposite intention), yet Hashem gives credit anyway. Therefore, like shikcha, these zechuyos which come through our viduy and tshuvah warrant a special hoda'ah to Hashem.

Interestingly, the MG"A (O.C. 51:10) quotes a minhag (which we do not have) to recite mizmor l'todah on R"H and Y"K. He attributes the minhag to the fact that the mizmor contains the words "hari'u l'Hashem", hinting to tekiyas shofar. Based on the Yerushalmi perhaps the minhag is rooted in the relationship between the today and viduy.

(Also see Sefas Emes, Chanukah leil 3, 5631, who explains hoda'ah in a way that relates to viduy.)


  1. Interesting that the incongruity of Vidui Ma'asros crops up with Mizmor Le'Soda. Also with Modim in Shmoneh Esrei-- does it mean "we thank you", or does it mean "we admit our indebtedness"? I suppose the reason for the ambiguity is because the ideas are adnate: We thank/praise a person when we recognize/admit what they have done for us.

  2. I'm sorry; adnate is not a normal word unless you spend a lot of time thinking about plants. I meant that the two meanings stem from the same underlying conceptual structure.

  3. Chaim and Barzilai,

    See Yalkut Shimoni on Tehillim 100, where it is interpreted as admission. Since I saw that I realized that Modim in SE is an admission. If I recall in Otzar Hatefilo he notes that it is so and therefore we read Shoato Hu... not Sheato (that you are, rather than because or for you are )

    Shavua Tov

  4. I should have added to the post the MG"A in O.C. 51 -- I'll do that now.

  5. Nice 'vort', but just because Moshe said 'mizmor l'todah' on the caparah of the sa'ir l'chatat doesn't mean it had vidduy-related elements, could be he's just thankin' G-d for the caparah..

  6. the lashon of the Y"lmi is "hischil lomar mizmor l'sodah al shem v'hisvadah alav", which points to the todah-viduy relationship.

  7. Anonymous3:21 PM

    The Bavli in Shvu'os 16b says that Mizmor LeSodah is the shirah that accompanied korbanos Todah, the Shir shel Todah referred to in the first Mishna of the Perek where it talks about how they expanded Kedushas Yerushalayim and the Azaros. For sure it's a Korban Todah there.

  8. The English equivalent of 'Hoda'ah' is 'acknowledgment.' This English word encompasses the same two meanings as the Hebrew, and for the same reason.

  9. Anonymous6:16 PM

    Wow, that's crazy man. They should really try to do something to fix that.