Sefer Shimush Tehillim

My cousin’s husband, Reuven Brauner has another worthwhile compilation published. You may download it here.

What is it? The introduction states:

Sefer Shimush Tehillim is a short and relatively little-known treatise attributed to Rav Hai Gaon (according to the Sedei Chemed) which describes the Kabbalistic uses of particular chapters and verses from the Book of Psalms for prophylactic or healing purposes. These selections are meant to be either recited alone, frequently multiple times, or in conjunction with some other action or prayer. Shimush Tehillim is mentioned in Teshuvas HaRashba (413), by the Chida, and others. This work is not to be confused with bibliomancy which is the use of Biblical verses for predicting the future.

There are numerous instances cited in the Talmud and other sources regarding the utilization of Biblical verses to ward off demons and the Evil Eye, against bad dreams, against the effects of drinking water uncovered at night, and other more serious calamities. Verses were employed to lighten the pain at childbirth, as protection against danger on a journey, fierce dogs, bleeding and wounds, and the effects of fire and fever. Verses were recited to gain favor or improve one’s memory, and so on. (See Sanhedrin 101a and Shulchon Oruch, Yoreh Deoh 179:8-10, et al.)

Yet, it must be noted, there was great opposition to use of the Torah for magical, curative purposes. The Rambam, the Tur (Yoreh Deoh 179), and the Shulchon Oruch (Yoreh Deoh 179:10) forbade such usage. The Rambam in Hilchos Avodas Cochavim 11:12 pointedly writes:

“Regarding one who incants over a wound or reads a verse from the Torah, and so one who reads verses to calm a frightened child or places a Sefer Torah or Tefilin on a child so that he will sleep – it is not bad enough that these people are numbered among the sorcerers and diviners, but they are also counted as heretics to the Torah by using words of the Torah to heal the body. The (words of the) Torah are for healing the soul only, as it is written, ‘and they shall be life for your soul’. However, it is permitted to recite verses and chapters from Tehillim for protection against troubles and harm – by merit of their recitation.”

Protection – yes, curing – no.

Since Tehillim, more than any other Sefer from Tanach, was used to defend against the effects of all types of predicaments and saving from danger, as recorded in Shimush Tehillim, I thought that it might be interesting to prepare the following table1 to illustrate which chapters it suggests be used for which ailment and condition. For the convenience of the reader, I have also added a cross-referencing index.

Nevertheless, since this monograph is meant for general educational purposes only and not practical application, and in deference to the dissenting opinions, I have only provided a selection of chapter usage from the book, and did not list the use of single verses nor what other actions are required in addition to the recitation of the chapter to affect the desired results. For such purposes, the interested reader must consult an actual edition of Shimush Tehillim and ask his rabbi as to how to employ it, if at all. All this aside, it is commendable to recite Tehillim anyway for the efficacy of it as prayer is well-known.

Finally, I made no attempt at trying to determine why each chapter has the effect claimed, as there is no indication of this in Shimush Tehillim itself.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

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