Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
The Laws of Prayer
Yeshivat Har Etzion
Shiur #17: Hallel (Part 1)
Rav David Brofsky
One of the central prayers of the
Jewish festivals, as well as of Chanuka, is "Hallel." In this
week's shiur, we will investigate the source and level of obligation of Hallel,
and then analyze its nature and function.
We will then explore the different types of Hallel, and how Hallel
seems to play different roles in different contexts.
A number of Talmudic passages relate
to the source of Hallel. However,
as we shall see, some seem to contradict others regarding whether Hallel
is of biblical or rabbinic origin.
On the one hand, the Gemara in Berakhot
(14a), concerning whether the same laws of "interruptions" which
apply to Keriyat Shema should apply to Hallel, suggests that
"Keriyat Shema is mi-de'oraita, and so much more so Hallel
which is mi-derabbanan!" and therefore certain interruptions should
be permitted. This Gemara clearly states
that Hallel is only of rabbinic origin.
On the other hand, the Gemara in
Taanit (28b) records that "Rava said: we see from here that Hallel
on Rosh Chodesh is NOT of biblical origin…," implying that Hallel
on different days may indeed be of biblical origin!
Other Talmudic passages are less
clear. The Gemara in Arakhin
(10a), for example, a central source for the study of Hallel, lists the
18 days that one recites the full Hallel (21 days outside of Israel). The Gemara questions why the full Hallel
is not recited on Rosh Chodesh, and answers, "(Rosh Chodesh) is not
sanctified by the prohibition to work, as it says [Yishayahu 30] 'You
will sing as you do in the evening when you are sanctifying a festival'- an
evening which is sanctified as a festival required song, and one which is not
sanctified as a festival does not require song…"
While one may certainly understand
the derasha as an asmakhta, the Gemara certainly IMPLIES that Hallel
might be a biblical requirement.
Similarly, the Gemara in Pesachim
this Hallel? Rabbi Eliezer said Moshe and Israel said it on the sea (i.e. at keriyat
Yam Suf)… Rabbi Yehuda said Yehoshua and Israel said it as they confronted
the Canaanite kings… Rabbi Eliezer HaModai said Devora and Barak said it as
they confronted Sisra… The Chakhamim said the prophets amongst them instituted
that they should recite (Hallel) upon every time set in the Jewish
calendar for praise (perek u-perek) and upon being redeemed from a
Rashbam cites two explanations, which differ as to whether the above Tannaim
ARGUE, or whether they are each offering other examples of times in which
biblical figures recited Hallel.
While we shall return to this
fascinating Gemara, for now let us note that the Gemara itself questions the
origins of Hallel, suggesting that it may be as early as Moshe, and as
late as the "Chakhamim."
Furthermore, the Chakhamim refer to
two types of Hallel, one said for each "perek," and one
said as a response to redemption from "tzara." Next week we
will question the difference between these two types of "Hallel."
The Rishonim also debate the origins
and level of the obligation to recite Hallel. The Rambam (Sefer Ha-mitzot shoresh
1 and Hilkhot Chanuka 3:5-6) writes explicitly that Hallel is
only mi-derabbanan, similar to other berakhot and tefillot.
Alternatively, the Ramban (in his
comments on the Rambam's Sefer Ha-mitzvot shoresh 1) disagrees, and
argues that Hallel must be of biblical origin. As for its source, he suggests that it may
either be a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai, or an expression of the biblical
obligation to rejoice on the festivals (simchat Yom Tov). We shall return to this point, but we should
note that the Ramban describes the Hallel which we recite on Yom Tov
as an expression of simchat Yom Tov.
Interestingly, the Raavad, in his
comments on the above cited Rambam, suggests that Hallel may be "mi-divrei
kabbala" (from the prophets), which is implied by the Gemara in Arakhin
The Acharonim also debate this
question. The Shaagat Aryeh (69) rules
that Hallel is only mi-derabbanan, and therefore if one is in
doubt whether one recited Hallel, one need not repeat Hallel (safek
de-rabbanan le-kula). Interestingly,
the Chatam Sofer (YD 233) suggests that at times, Hallel may be
mi-de'oraita, and argues (in contradiction to the Ramban!) that the Hallel
of Chanuka may actually be of biblical origin, as opposed to the Hallel
of the festivals. We will return to this
opinion next week.
Until now we have focused on the
origins of Hallel, yet regarding the nature of Hallel, we have
already seen a number of possibilities.
The Gemara in Pesachim (117a) identifies two types of Hallel:
one recite each "perek," and one recited upon redemption from
"tzara." the simple understanding of this Gemara seems to
teach that while one type of Hallel was established to be recited on
specific occasions, another types may come as a response to a miraculous
Furthermore, the Hallel
recited on Yom Tov, especially according to the Rambam, may express
another element, that of "simchat Yom Tov."
I would like to dedicate the
remainder of our shiur, as well as next week's shiur, to the
exploration of the different types of Hallel, and their halakhic
on Rosh Chodesh and Chol Ha-moed:
Before we focus on the different
types of Hallel which are obligatory, I'd like to relate to a Hallel
which is only a "minhag," and not included among the days in
which one "completes the Hallel."
The Gemara (Ta'anit 28b)
teaches that while on the chagim, as well as on Chanuka, one is REQUIRED
to recite the entire Hallel, on Rosh Chodesh, it is CUSTOMARY to recite
a partial Hallel. The Rishonim
debate why this Hallel is said at all, which parts are recited, and when
or whether one is to recite a berakha.
Regarding the reason for reciting Hallel,
some (Shita Mekubetzet Berakhot 14a) explain that it serves as a
reminder of the ancient practice of "kiddush ha-chodesh,"
the sanctification of the new month.
Seemingly, this reason would apply exclusively, or at least more, to a
PUBLIC recitation of Hallel (see Rabbi Soloveitchik's Shiurim
Le-zecher Abba Mari v. 2).
Alternatively, the Raavad (Hilkhot
Berakhot 11:17) explains that Hallel is recited to
"publicize" the day. While
this also seems to place a greater weight upon the public recitation of Hallel,
individuals may also need to be reminded, and encouraged, to mark the
uniqueness of Rosh Chodesh.
The Kaftor Va-ferach (R. Yitzchak
ben Moshe Ha-Parchi 1280 – 1355) explains that this custom developed in Bavel,
and NOT in Eretz Yisrael, as there was no need to remind the people of
Rosh Chodesh during the time in which the Beit Din sanctified the new month!
The Rishonim write that it is also
customary to recite the partial Hallel on Chol Ha-moed Pesach, as
well as on the last day of Pesach.
Unlike on Sukkot, the full Hallel
is not recited for the entirety of the festival. The Gemara (Arakhin 10b) explains that
only Sukkot, when on each day a new and distinct korban is offered
("chalukin be-korbanotehen"), warrants a full Hallel
each day. Pesach, however, which does
not have a new and distinct mussaf each day, does not obligate a new Hallel
each day. Incidentally, it seems that
this distinction reflects a fundamental difference between the two chagim:
The festive aspect of Pesach is observed primarily on the first day, as opposed
to Sukkot, which should be viewed as one long seven/eight day festival. The Netziv (Ha-Emek Davar Vayikra 23)
already notes this distinction in the pesukim, and the halakhic
differences between the two festivals also express this idea. Pesach is a commemoration of a onetime event,
whose aftermath we experience to this day, while Sukkot may not commemorate a
specific event, but rather a constant relationship between God and the Jewish
people (see Sukka 2a).
Alternatively, some Rishonim (see
Beit Yosef OC 590) cite the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Parashat Emor 247)
which explains that it would be inappropriate to recite Hallel on the
seventh day of Pesach, which commemorated not only salvation of the Jewish
people through the keryiat Yam Suf, but also the death of the Egyptians
in those waters.
The Rishonim question whether and
when one should recite a berakha on a shortened Hallel.
The Rambam (Berakhot 11:17),
and other Rishonim, insist that berakhot cannot be recite upon minhagim,
and therefore a berakha should not be recited before Hallel on
Rosh Chodesh or on Chol Ha-moed Pesach.
Some explain that the reason is technical: one cannot say the words
"asher kiddeshanu" ("Who COMMANDED") of the birkat
ha-mitzva, on a minhag. For
that reason, it would seem that women should not recite a birkat ha-mitzva
upon a mizvat asei she-hazeman gerama, from which she is generally
exempt, as she cannot truly say "asher kiddeshanu."
Indeed, the Rambam (Hilkhot Tzitzit 3:9) rules that women do NOT
recite a birkat ha-mitzva before performing a mitzvat asei she-hazman
Seemingly, however, one could
suggest that at times the "kiyum" of a minhag is not
significant enough to warrant a berakha.
If so, we may at times distinguish between different minhagim.
Regarding Hallel, the Kesef
Mishna (Hilkhot Berakhot 11:17) notes that unlike the Rambam, other
Rishonim allow one to recite a berakha before Hallel. He notes that while the Raavad suggests that
one should recite a berakha on Rosh Chodesh, and NOT on Pesach, the
Ramban argues the opposite, claiming that Hallel on Chol Ha-moed Pesach
is an expression of one's simchat Yom Tov (as mentioned above) and
therefore deserves a berakha, unlike the Hallel of Rosh Chodesh.
Other Rishonim offer a different
distinction. The Shulchan Arukh (OC 522)
cites a view which maintains that while the tzibbur should recite a berakha
before Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, an individual should not. Apparently, there may be a qualitative
difference between the public and private recitation of Hallel, and only
the publicly recited Hallel is worthy of a berakha. The Rema notes that the minhag is that
even individuals recite the berakha.
Ultimately, the Raavad concludes
that one should recite the berakha on both Rosh Chodesh and Chol
Ha-moed, as "they instituted Hallel on these days to acknowledge
their kedusha, and their action was praiseworthy and requires a berakha…"
Rabbenu Tam also argued that Hallel
should always be recited with a berakha, and, incidentally, that women
should recite berakhot on mitzvot asei she-hazeman gerama.
To this day, there are different
customs among Sefaradim, Ashkenazim, and Chassidim regarding a berakha
for Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.
and its Relationship to the Arba Minim:
So far, we have seen Hallel
as a text recited on the festivals, an expression of simchat Yom Tov, a
response to miraculous salvation, and even as a means of calling attention to a
day (i.e. Rosh Chodesh).
I would like to briefly explore
another type of Hallel - one which is recited in tandem with the
performance of mitzva, such as the arba minim.
The Mishna (Sukka 37b)
teaches that the "shaking" of the lulav (na'anumim)
should be done DURING Hallel, while saying "hodu" and
"ana Hashem." How
should we view the relationship between the performance of the mitzva of
arba minim and the recitation of Hallel?
Seemingly, one could suggest that
while on the one hand, the shaking of the arba minim intensifies the
recitation of Hallel and transforms it into a more meaningful prayer,
the Hallel may also do the same for the mitzva of arba minim!
There seems to be ample evidence
that the arba minim, or at least the lulav, is meant to be an
instrument of praise. For example, the Yerushalmi
(Sukka 3a) disqualifies a dried up lulav, for "the dead are
unable to PRAISE God." Similarly, the Midrash Tanchuma (Parashat Emor
18) describes the taking of the arba minim as an expression of victory,
demonstrating that the Jewish people were judged favorably on Yom Kippur. Therefore King David said, "And then the
branches of the forest should sing before God… when he comes to judge the
world…" The Midrash equates the taking of the arba minim with the
"branches of the forest singing."
Interestingly, the lulav
itself is measured by its ability to be waved.
Therefore, the Mishna teaches (Sukka 29b), a "lulav
must be at least three tefachim long, enough to shake."
not surprising that the Rambam, in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot (mitzvat asei
169), writes, "… commanded to take a lulav and rejoice with it
before God for seven days…"
Seemingly, the Hallel of Sukkot
doesn't just commemorate the festival, or express its simchat Yom Tov,
but may also elevate the mitzva of lulav, and be elevated by the mitzva
of arba minim, as together they offer praise to God.
Next week we will continue our study
of Hallel, especially the Hallel of Pesach and Leil Ha-seder.