Question: Should one stand or sit for the Ashrei recited after Keriat haTorah, and is the answer to this question affected by the requirement to show kavod, or respect, to the Torah scroll, which is being wrapped up as Ashrei begins?
Answer: We begin with a review of the beautiful Ashrei prayer. Rabbi Yosef Grossman, zt”l, in Otzar Erchei Hayahadus (p. 72) writes, “The Ashrei prayer’s main component is from Tehillim, the Book of Psalms (Ch. 145), except that in Tehillim one will find that this psalm begins with ‘Tehilla l’Dovid…’ However, in our prayer, we find two additional verses at its beginning: ‘Ashrei yoshvei veitecha… – Praised are those who dwell in Your house…’ (Psalm 84:5), followed by ‘Ashrei ha’am shekacha lo… – Praised is the people for whom this is so…’”
He states further: “The verses are organized in the order of the Aleph Bet, and it is said three times daily – twice as part of the Shacharit prayer, once in pesukei d’zimra and right before u’va letzion, and in the evening before Mincha.”
Rabbi Grossman also notes that when reciting the verse in Ashrei, “Po’te’ach et yadecha u’masbia l’chol chai ratzon – You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,” it is customary to place one’s hand first on the tefillin shel rosh and then on the tefillin shel yad (others reverse the order – see Rabbi Eichenstein’s Otzar Dinim u’Minhagim, p. 32).
The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 28:1) writes, “One is required to touch the tefillin at all times so as not to become unaware of them. And he should first touch the tefillin shel yad. When he recites [in Shema] ‘U’keshartem l’ot al yadecha – you shall bind them as a sign on your hand,’ he should touch the shel yad, and when he recites, ‘ve’hayu l’totafot bein einecha – and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes,’ he should touch the tefillin shel rosh.”
In seeking to explain the great importance our sages attached to the Ashrei prayer, Rabbi Grossman cites the Gemara (Berachot 4b): “R. Elazar b. Abina says: Whoever recites Tehilla l’David three times every day is sure to inherit the World to Come.”
In Rashi (s.v. “teisha sha’ot“) is an allusion to the three recitals of Ashrei corresponding to the three daily tefillot. The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 132:1) explains that each Ashrei precedes a Kedushah recital – the Kedushah in the Shacharit Amidah, the Kedushah in u’va letzion, and the Kedusha in the Minchah Amidah. We don’t say Ashrei before the fourth Kedushah in Birkat Keri’at Shema, he explains, because it’s only a narrative about how the angels in Heaven recite Kedushah.
Rabbi Grossman suggests that we also say Ashrei three times a day because the word “Ashrei” appears three times in this prayer.
He also cites the Tur (Orach Chayim 51:10, citing Rabbenu Amram Gaon), who writes that a verse was added to the conclusion of Ashrei (“Va’anachnu nevarech kah…Hallelukah [Psalms 115:18]) to connect it to the Hallelukah paragraphs that follow.
Finally, citing the Gemara (Shabbos 118b), Rabbi Grossman concludes, “In regard to those [who recite this prayer as well as the entire pesukei d’zimra], R. Yosi stated, ‘Let my portion be amongst those who recite the entire Hallel each and every day.” The Gemara explains that “Hallel” in this context refers to pesukei d’zimra.
(To be continued)