Nishmat Kol Chai – a special prayer
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaA friend invited me to join a group of women that recite Nishmat Kol Chai every day for 40 days. Should I add Nishmat before ישתבח to my daily Shacharit, like we do on Shabbat?
First I must express the חיזוק I get from hearing about groups of women getting together to strengthen prayer in our world. With so much virtual reality surrounding us, I find the call for direct connection to Hashem truly special.
Nishmat Kol Chai is a special prayer recited on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as well as on Seder Night. A discussion regarding the addition of Nishmat to a Chol prayer is found re davening on Hoshana Rabba. While we have additional מזמורים added to the usual Chol Hamoed morning prayer on Hoshana Rabba, the Rema explicitly writes that Nishmat is not included.
As an explanation to the Rema, we find his disciple, the Levush, Rav Mordechai Yaffe, reasoning that because our Neshama does not invest the same Simcha as on Yom Tov, therefore we do not recite Nishmat on Chol (Orach Chayim 664). We find a similar idea in the Pri Megadim, Rabbi Yosef Te’omim, who quotes the Levush and adds that we do not get the same יתרה נשמה –extra soul - on Chol Hamoed as we do on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Eshel Avraham 664).
The Mishna Berura (664:3), by way of explanation to the Rema, simply clarifies that Hoshana Rabba is truly a Chol day (while Nishmat is a prayer for Shabbat and Yom Tov only).
Nishmat as a special prayer for thanking Hashem in times of extreme situations
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 221:1) mentions Nishmat as one of the special prayers recited for thanking Hashem for rain in places suffering from drought. This is another aspect of Nishmat - it is a prayer for deliverance.
The Ben Ish Chai (Halakhot 2nd year, Toldot, Chap. 3) brings in the name of Rav Yehuda HaChassid, that Nishmat is a unique, very dear prayer of gratitude for deliverance from great trouble. One that hopes to emerge safely from trouble should make a נדר to say Nishmat once he/she is delivered.
Similarly, Rabbi Chayim Palagi (Chayim laRosh 100b) and the Kaf Hachayim (Orach Chayim 281:8) bring the same instruction for reciting Nishmat after great deliverance.
Both the instruction to refrain from saying Nishmat on Chol days, even on Chol Hamoed, as well as the advice to take a vow to say Nishmat for deliverance, emphasize that Nishmat Kol Chai is indeed a unique prayer that should be kept for Shabbat and Yom Tov or extreme cases of great salvation.
The Rambam in Hilkhot Tefila 7:12 emphasizes the importance of saying Tehilim as part of our daily prayer:
“The early Sages lauded one who reads every day Psalms from the Psalter, beginning with "the Psalm of David" (Psalm 145) and continuing till the end of the book. It is also settled practice to read verses before and after these Psalms…”