HALLEL (Heb. הַלֵּל), the general term designating Psalms 113–118 when these form a unit in the liturgy. These psalms are essentially expressions of thanksgiving and joy for divine redemption. Hallel is recited in two forms: (a) The "full" Hallel, consisting of Psalms 113–118. It is chanted in the synagogue on *Sukkot, *Ḥanukkah, the first day of *Passover (the first two
The term Hallel ha-Gadol ("Great Hallel") refers only to Psalm 136 (Tosef. Ta'an. 3:5) which is recited during *Pesukei de-Zimra at the morning service on Sabbaths and on festivals (Tos. to Ta'an 26a). It is the daily psalm on the last day of Passover (Sof. 18:2), and is added to the seder Hallel (Pes. 118a; TJ, Pes. 5:7, 32c). According to the Mishnah (Ta'an 3:9), this psalm was sung on joyous communal occasions, e.g., the long-awaited rain after a period of severe drought.
In the Talmud, various origins are attributed to the custom of chanting Hallel. R. Eleazar claims that it was Moses and the people of Israel who first recited Hallel; R. Judah states that it was the Prophets who instituted its recitation for every occasion that the people of Israel should be redeemed from potential misfortune (Pes. 117a). The Talmud relates that Hallel was recited by the levites in the Temple (Tos. to Pes. 95b), and it was also chanted on Passover eve while the paschal lambs were being slaughtered (Pes. 5:7). Hallel became part of the synagogue service at an early stage, and in talmudic times, communities in Ereẓ Israel added it to the end of the evening service for Passover (TJ, Pes. 10:1, 37c). This practice later spread to the Diaspora (Sof. 20:9), and is still the custom among Oriental Jews and Ḥasidim (Sh. Ar., OḤ 487:4; but see Isserles ad loc.) and in most synagogues in Israel.
Hallel is recited on all major biblical festivals, with the exception of *Rosh ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement; the solemnity of those occasions, when each mortal's destiny and fate is being decided, is deemed unsuitable for psalms of joy (Ar. 10b). Similar considerations caused these psalms to be omitted in a house of mourning on the New Moon and Ḥanukkah (Magen Avraham to Sh. Ar., OḤ 131:4). Hallel is not recited on *Purim, since the scroll of Esther is considered the festival's Hallel (Ar. 10b; Meg. 14a). One rabbinic tradition is that only the "half" Hallel is recited on the last six days of Passover because joy is mitigated by the calamity that then befell the Egyptian host when pursuing the Israelites (see Meg. 10b); another reason given is because no different sacrifice was offered each day (At. 10b). On Sukkot the lulav is waved during the refrains of Psalm 118:1–4, 25, and 29 (Suk. 3:9). Hallel may be recited at any time during the day (Meg. 2:5), although in the synagogue it is recited immediately after the morning service (RH 4:7). Special benedictions are recited before and after Hallel except at the seder service when no benediction is recited before it.
There is a difference of opinion among the early authorities as to whether the obligation to recite the Hallel is to be considered biblical or rabbinical (see Sefer Mitzvot Katan 146, Yere'im ha-Shalem 262; Maim. Yad, Ḥanukkah 3:6; Sefer ha-Mitzvot, ch. 1). The recitation on the New Moon is considered to be a custom (Ta'an. 28b), and there are some opinions that it is only recited in congregational prayers on that day. Similarly there are authorities who ruled that for the full Hallel the benediction should read "Blessed art Thou… who hast commanded us to finish (ligmor) the Hallel" instead of the customary "to read (likro) the Hallel." According to the tosafot (Sot. 32a, S.V. Keri'at Shema), Hallel may be recited in any language (see also Tosef., Sot. 7:7). It should be read standing (Shibbolei ha-Leket 173; Sh. Ar., OḤ 322:7), except at the seder service. Various traditions are related to the manner in which the Hallel is chanted. In some communities, it was sung antiphonally (Tosef., Sot. 6:2); in others (as is still the practice among Yemenite Jews) the congregation responded with hallelujah after each half of a verse (Suk. 3:10; TJ, Shab. 16:1, 16c). Among Ashkenazi Jews, it is customary to repeat Psalm 118:1, 21–29 (see Suk. 3:10 and 39a). Opinions and customs differ regarding the recital of Hallel on Israel Independence Day.
For musical rendition see *Psalms.
Abrahams, Companion, 184ff.; Zeitlin, in: JQR, 53 (1962/63), 22–29; Finkelstein, in: HUCA, 23 (1950–51), part 2, 319–37; E. Levy, Yesodot ha-Tefillah (19522), 209–13; ET, 9 (1959), 390–432; Idelsohn, Liturgy, 134, 158–9.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.