Arvei Pesachim #31: 117a

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion






By Rav Yair Kahn




Al Kol Perek U-Perek Ve-al Kol Tzara Ve-Tzara


"Perek" refers to special occasions, such as holidays. "Tzara," on the other hand, refers to a calamity from which we were redeemed. Festivals (yamim tovim) do not necessarily commemorate historic redemption. Shavuot, for instance, although a holiday, is not related to redemption from calamity. On the other hand, historic redemption is not necessarily commemorated as a holiday. Purim, for example, although celebrated, lacks the quality of "kedushat ha-yom" (sanctity of the day) which involves a prohibition regarding work. Kedushat ha-yom also demands some active form of kiddush (sanctification), which is usually fulfilled in the special Yom Tov amida, or over wine, before the festive meal. Therefore, our gemara mentions two separate conditions which independently obligate Hallel - festivals and redemption.


The Brisker Rav (Hilkhot Chanuka) suggested that perek and tzara are not merely CONDITIONS which obligate reciting Hallel. Rather, they reflect two distinct obligations, both fulfilled through reciting Hallel. Redemption from calamity generates an obligation to exalt Hashem through song and praise. This obligation, referred to as "shira" (song), is the required response to the experience of salvation. For instance, following the miraculous deliverance of "keriyat Yam Suf", the entire nation reacted spontaneously, bursting out in song and praise ("Az yashir Moshe u-venei Yisrael"), thus expressing their amazement and gratitude. Similarly, whenever the entire nation of Israel is redeemed, we incur the obligation of shira. Regarding this obligation, the primary aspect is the human reaction and experience. The specific context (Psalms 113-118) is merely secondary.


Holidays, on the other hand, generate an obligation which the Brisker Rav termed "keriya" (reading): We are required to read certain sections of Tanakh that are reserved for special occasions. Regarding this obligation, the specific chapters of Psalms are primary and must be recited without interruption. However, on days which are not considered holidays, not only is there no obligation of keriyat Hallel, but it is forbidden. This is evident from the gemara in Ta'anit (28b) which relates an incident whereby Rav visited a community on Rosh Chodesh. When the congregation began to recite Hallel, Rav wanted to stop them. It was only after he ascertained that they skipped certain sections (as we do) that he allowed them to continue. He realized that the Hallel was not recited in that case to fulfill an obligation (in which case he would have stopped them), but only as a custom. Apparently, if one does not recite the entire Hallel, it is not defined as KERIYAT Hallel, since the text is incomplete (this is known as half Hallel). However, when recited in its entirety, it is considered keriya and is forbidden on ordinary days (see Shabbat 118b).


Based on the above, it is clear that when dealing with the obligation of Hallel, we must deal with both aspects. As an illustration, let us glance at a sugya in Erkhin (10b) (which is one of the main sugyot dealing with Hallel). The gemara distinguishes between Sukkot and Pesach. Although there is an obligation to recite Hallel every day of Sukkot, on Pesach the obligation is limited to the first day. (Therefore we recite only half Hallel on the last six days.) The gemara explains that each day of Sukkot is considered a separate PEREK (occasion), since each day mandates a different set of sacrifices. Consequently, there is a separate obligation for Hallel on each day. The entire Pesach, on the other hand, forms one entity, since the same sacrifices are brought throughout. Therefore, only one Hallel is obligated during the seven days of Pesach. In contrast to this gemara, the Shibolei Ha-leket explains, however, that full Hallel is not recited since Pesach involves the human suffering of the Egyptians who drowned in Yam Suf; therefore Hallel is inappropriate. The obvious question is, why did the Shibolei Ha-leket depart from the explanation offered by the gemara?


Based upon our distinction between keriya and shira, we can explain this discrepancy. After all, regarding Pesach (especially the seventh day, the day of the crossing of the sea), we must consider both the obligation of keriya based on perek, as well as the obligation of shira in reaction to the redemption from tzara. The gemara in Erkhin explains only why there is no obligation to recite Hallel based on the category of perek, by showing that all of Pesach forms one entity. The Shibolei Ha-leket, on the other hand, is questioning why Hallel as shira is not recited, since Pesach (especially the seventh day) commemorates redemption. Therefore, he notes the impropriety of shira.




Hallel as a reaction to redemption is the halakhic basis for reciting Hallel on Yom Ha-atzma'ut and Yom Yerushalayim. The Maggid Mishneh (Hilkhot Chanuka 3:6) limits this category. According to him, this obligation, which we have identified as shira, applies only immediately following the redemption, but can not be extended to subsequent years. He claims that establishing a date to be commemorated yearly involves defining that day as a holiday, which ultimately falls under the category of perek.


The Netziv (Ha-amek She'eila she'ilta 26) agrees that there is a distinction between the immediate aftermath of redemption and subsequent years. He claims that there is a biblical obligation to recite Hallel as an immediate and spontaneous reaction to redemption, while in the years that follow the obligation is only rabbinic (as seems to be implied by a straight-forward reading of our gemara). Nevertheless, he disagrees with the Maggid Mishneh insofar as he obligates Hallel (rabbinically) in subsequent years based upon the category of redemption. The decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, ruling that Hallel should be recited on Yom Ha-atzma'ut and Yom Yerushalayim, is based on the opinion of the Netziv.


The Me'iri takes this idea even further. He makes reference to communal and personal redemption as well. Any community or even as individual who was redeemed may recite Hallel (without a berakha) on the anniversary of the redemption. The Me'iri not only accepts the formulation of the Netziv and extends Hallel based on redemption to the years following the event, he goes a step further by classifying an individual's private redemption as requiring Hallel as well. Tosafot (Sukka 44b s.v. Kan), on the other hand, claim that only national redemption obligates Hallel.



Hallel Zeh Mi Omro


Aside from an interesting discussion of the authorship of the chapters in Psalms which form Hallel, this beraita is relevant regarding the source of the obligation of Hallel. The Ba'al Halakhot Gedolot (Behag) enumerated Hallel as one of the taryag (613) mitzvot. The Rambam (Sefer Ha-mitzvot shoresh rishon) argued that the mitzva of Hallel is of rabbinic origin and therefore should not be included in taryag. To prove his point, the Rambam noted that Hallel was composed by King David hundreds of years after the Torah was given. In defending the Behag's position, the Ramban pointed to our gemara which quotes an opinion that Hallel dates back to the biblical era.


Moreover, the Ramban claimed that the mitzva of Hallel may be biblical even if it was authored by King David. As an illustration, he notes the mitzva of prayer, which is of biblical origin according to the Rambam. Nevertheless, even the Rambam agrees that the siddur itself was not composed until the period of the second commonwealth. In other words, the mitzva of tefilla demands that man pour his heart out to Hashem. The specific text was not introduced until a much later date. Likewise, the Ramban claims that the mitzva of Hallel demands that man sing praise to Hashem on certaoccasions. The specific text however, may have been introduced much later.


This controversy between the Rambam and the Ramban brings us back to the issue of "keriya" versus "shira." According to the Ramban, the mitzva of Hallel is shira - to sing praise to Hashem. Therefore, similar to tefilla, the specific text is irrelevant. The Rambam, on the other hand, apparently defined Hallel as a formal mitzva of keriya - reading a specific portion of Tanakh. Regarding keriyat Hallel, it is self-evident that the text is critical. Therefore, the Rambam could not even consider the possibility that there is a biblical requirement of keriya regarding a portion of Tanakh authored by David Hamelekh.


There is a sugya in Erkhin (10b), which seems to support the position of the Ramban. The gemara asks why Hallel is not recited on Purim. One of the answers offered by the gemara is that reading the megilla acts as a replacement for the Hallel obligation. According to this response, the specific text of Hallel may be substituted by another text. This appears as conclusive proof for the Ramban, and a grave difficulty for the Rambam. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Rambam himself codified this answer (Hilkhot Chanuka 3:6).


Perhaps, the Rambam interpreted the gemara as asking why there is no obligation of shira on Purim. After all, Purim commemorates national redemption which obligates shira. However, the gemara was not questioning the lack of keriyat Hallel, since Purim, which lacks kedushat ha-yom, is not categorized as a PEREK which can obligate keriya. Regarding shira, the possibility of reciting a variant text instead of Hallel is acceptable even according to the Rambam.


The Ra'avad (Hilkhot Chanuka 3:6) agrees with the Rambam that the obligation of Hallel is not biblical. However, he disagrees with the Rambam's formulation of Hallel as a rabbinic obligation. According to him, Hallel fits into a middle category referred to as "divrei kabala" which includes mitzvot which are based on Tanakh. The Ra'avad, to support his contention, quotes a pasuk from Yeshayahu (30:29) which refers to reciting Hallel on the seder night: "You shall have a song as in the night when a festival is hallowed."


In defending the Rambam, the Brisker Rav reverts to the distinction between shira and keriya. The pasuk in Yeshayahu is referring to Hallel on the seder night which is categorized as shira. (This will be discussed in greater detail in a later shiur.) The Rambam, on the other hand, is discussing the mitzva of keriyat Hallel, which is generated by perek. This mitzva of keriya has no source whatsoever in Tanakh.



1. 117b "ve-choteim be-ge'ula ... na'avid bei mitzva."

2. Dvarim 5:14-15, Commentary of the Ramban.

3. Minchat Chinukh mitzva 31 "ve-hinei mevu'ar be-psachim ... lo yatza min ha-torah."

4. Berakhot 49a "gufa ... chavilot."

5. Tosafot s.v. rivi'i, Ran (26b pages of the Rif) s.v. chamishi, hasagot haRa'avad (alef).



1. How did the Minchat Chinukh view the requirement to mention yetziat Mitzrayim in kiddush?

2. What alternative is suggested by the Rambam's failure to codify this as halakha?

3. What is wrong with ending a berakha "mikadesh Yisrael ve-hashabbat?" How can Rava legitimize this ending?

4. Under what circumstances can one drink a fifth kos?






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