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"Abba, Hallel is a beautiful prayer."
"I heartily agree, Avi."
"When was it first recited?"
"The Gemoraii Pesachim 117a presents a discussion of this point when it asks, 'Who said this Hallel?' Rebbe Eliezer dates it back to Yetzias Mitzrayim, when Moshe and Yisrael said it at the Yam Suf. Rebbe Yehuda says that Yehoshua and Yisrael recited Hallel after defeating the kings of Canaan. Rebbe Elozer HaModai relates that Devora and Barak said it after defeating Sisera. Rebbe Elozer ben Azariah is of the opinion that Chizkia and his allies recited Hallel after defeating Sancherib. Rebbe Akiva says that Channia, Mishael, and Azariah said it after being saved from the wicked Nebuchadnezzar. Rebbe Yossi HaGlili relates that Mordechai and Esther said Hallel after the defeat of the Haman the evil one.
"We follow the ruling of the Neviim, who fixed the recitation of Hallel on each perek (section of the year i.e. the three regalim); to fend off impending tragedies; and to commemorate times of national deliverance from peril (Chanukah). Therefore, we recite the complete Hallel eighteen times a year (in Eretz Yisrael) - eight days of Chag (Succos including Shemini Atzeres), eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach, and Shavuos."iii Erechin 10a
"Abba, Hallel is composed of chapters of Tehillim, correct?"
"Yes, Avi - chapters 113 thru 118."
"That being the case, how could Moshe Rabbeinu have said Hallel, if Dovid HaMelech only composed it hundreds of years later?"
"What an astute question, Avi! I am very proud of you! The Gemoraiiii Bava Basra 14b relates the answer. Dovid HaMelech wrote Sefer Tehillim with the words of ten Elders, one of whom was Moshe Rabbeinu. Dovid wrote down the words that Moshe Rabbeinu had said centuries before he was born."
"Thank you for answering that question, Abba. May I ask another one?"
"In addition to the complete Hallel, we also recite a partial Hallel, omitting the first sections of chapters 115 and 116. When and why do we say this shortened version?"
"Another excellent query, Avi. We have a custom to say the shorter version on the last six days of Pesach and on Rosh Chodesh. Additionally, we do not say Hallel at all on Purim, although we experienced a tremendous salvation. The Gemoraiiv Megillah 14a, Erechin 10b, in the name of Rav Nachman explains that the reading of the Megillah is equivalent to Hallel.
"The seventh day of Pesach saw the Mitzrim drowning in the sea. Hashem said, 'My handiwork is drowning in the sea, and you are singing shira?' For this reason, we only say the shorter version. Since Chol HaMoed cannot be on a higher level than the last day of Yom Tov, we do not read the full Hallel on Chol HaMoed Pesach either.vv Taz Orach Chaim 490:3 The Gemora2 cites an additional reason. Each day of Succos, a different number of korbonos (sacrifices) were offered in the Beis HaMikdash. All of the days are different; therefore each one merits a full Hallel. On Pesach, however, the same numbers of korbonos were offered every day. The first day is a chag; therefore, it merits the full Hallel. However, the remaining days are not distinguished from each other; therefore, we recite only half-Hallel. For a similar reason, we say the full Hallel each day of Chanukah, for the number of lights differ each day.vvi Shibolei HaLeket 173
"The source of the full Hallel is a verse in the Novi, 'The shira (song) will be yours like the night of the festival's consecration.'vvii Yishaya 30:29 A night that has the holiness of a festival requires shira (full Hallel). One that does not have that holiness (Rosh Chodesh) does not receive the full Hallel."
"Abba, these five chapters of Tehillim must contain some very special praises of Hashem."
"Indeed they do, Avi. They speak of five foundations of our lives - Yetzias (the exodus from) Mitzrayim, kriyas (the splitting of) Yom Suf, matan (the giving of the) Torah, techias hamesim (the revival of the dead), and chevlei (the birth pangs of) Moshiach. The Gemoravviii Pesachim 118a cites a verse for each topic. Avi, it is our privilege to sing these praises of Hashem at least thirty-six times every year! 'Give thanks to Hashem for He is good; for His kindness endures forever!'"iix (Tehillim 118:1)
Kinderlach . . .
Hallel is a very special collection of praises and thanks to Hashem. Our Neviim declared that we say it on festivals, and in commemoration of miraculous salvations. Moshe Rabbeinu and Klal Yisrael were the first to say it, and Dovid HaMelech later incorporated it into sefer Tehillim. The Hallel speaks of Yetzias Mitzrayim, kriyas Yom Suf, matan Torah, techias hamesim, and chevlei Moshiach. We say the full Hallel on the Regalim and Chanukah, and the shortened version on the last six days of Pesach and Rosh Chodesh. Kinderlach, say the Hallel with great joy and appreciation! 'Give thanks to Hashem for He is good; for His kindness endures forever!'
"Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey and it said to Bilaam, 'What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?'"xx Bamidbar 22:28 This was an awesome miracle, which went totally against the laws of nature. This miracle was so unique that it needed to be created during the six days of creation.xxi Pirkei Avos 5:6 Who was deserving of such a miracle and why was it performed? Bilaam HaRasha (the evil one). The Tannaxxii Pirkei Avos 5:19 describes Bilaam as being jealous, craving honor, and having lust for pleasures, three of the worst possible qualities of a human being. In addition to that, he defied Hashem's will by going to curse the Jewish people. He continually ignored Hashem's attempts to convince him to stop his evil ways. We might think that a person such as this is lost. There is no hope for him. Give up on him. The Sforno disagrees. "Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey." Why? In order to arouse Bilaam to do teshuva (repent). To show him that Hashem gives the power of speech. He can also remove the power of speech. All this was done in order to avoid having to destroy Bilaam. Although he was so evil, Hashem did not give up on him. On the contrary, He performed a tremendous miracle to attempt to save him.
Kinderlach . . .
Never say that you will never change. You may have done an aveyrah (sin) 100 times. So what? Now is the time to change, before you do it the 101st time. Bilaam committed some of the worst aveyros possible. Hashem did not give up on him. He does not give up on you, and therefore you should not despair either. Similarly, do not give up on others. This may be the time that they change. All they need is a little encouragement from you. Help yourself and help them. Never say never.
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