Arvei Pesachim #33: 117b

  • Rav Yair Kahn

Gemora Pesachim

Yeshivat Har Etzion



SHIUR #33: 117b

by Rav Yair Kahn





Birkat Ha-shir


Based on our mishna, which demands a berakha upon the completion of Hallel, the Ran concludes that a berakha is also recited before the Hallel. Accordingly, Hallel of the seder night is similar, in this regard, to the Hallel normally recited on special occasions. This conclusion, adopted by many Rishonim, is supported by the Talmud Yerushalmi. In Berakhot (1:5) the Yerushalmi considers the berakhot which follow Hallel on the seder night as berakhot "ha-semukhot le-chaverta" (berakhot which follow a previous berakha). This appears to be a clear indication that there is a berakha which precedes the Hallel.


This position of the Ran is based on the assumption that Hallel of the seder night runs parallel to the standard Hallel which is recited on holidays. However, there are several indicators that the two cases of Hallel differ sharply. For instance, the berakha acharona (after-blessing) of Hallel discussed in our sugya is also referred to in a mishna in masekhet Sukka (38a, also quoted at the bottom of Pesachim 119a) within the context of Hallel in general. However, according to that mishna, the berakha following Hallel is optional, dependent upon minhag ha-makom (local custom); whereas our mishna is unequivocal regarding the obligation to recite this berakha. Furthermore, it is strange that the discussion regarding which berakha is recited at the conclusion of Hallel occurs within the narrow context of the seder night. One would have expected this discussion to take place in the wider, more general framework found in masekhet Sukka. Moreover, there are many poskim who adopted the opinion of R. Yochanan (118a), identifying birkat ha-shir at the seder with "nishmat." Yet, with respect to Hallel in general, they agree with the dissenting view of R. Yehuda that "yehalelukha" should be recited.


Evidently, our mishna is not dealing with the regular berakha of Hallel. Rather, it is discussing "birkat ha-shir," a berakha unique to the seder night. This distinction may be rooted in a basic difference between the standard Hallel and that of the seder night. In a previous shiur (#31), we noted that the mishna (116b) connects the Hallel obligation with the requirement of "be-khol dor va-dor." Since we are supposed to view ourselves as if we were personally redeemed from Mitzrayim, we are obligated to sing praise to the glory of Hashem. Therefore, Hallel of the seder is rooted in thanksgiving for redemption and not in the fact that Pesach is a holiday - "perek" (see shiur #32). This distinction would also explain why on Pesach we add an extra Hallel at night. The Hallel of the day is identical with the standard Hallel of perek, common to all holidays. Hallel recited during the seder night is rooted in the experience of redemption unique to this night.


Consequently, Rav Hai Gaon concluded that Hallel of the seder night is required as a fulfillment of "shira" rather than "kriya" (see shiur #32). Shira is an emotional response to the experience of redemption. Therefore, he claimed that, as opposed to Hallel of perek, there is no berakha at the beginning of the Hallel on the seder night, unlike the standard Hallel, where a berakha rishona is necessary (see 119b). The text of this berakha, "likro" or "ligmor" (expressing the need for completeness), is an indication that Hallel of perek is considered "kriya," as opposed to "shira".


In our sugya, which deals with the berakha FOLLOWING Hallel, the tables are turned. On the seder night this berakha is compulsory, while normally it is optional. The reason for this difference is that the berakha acharona is basically one of PRAISE (shevach), as opposed to the berakha rishona, which is a "birkat ha-mitzva." Therefore, our mishna, which discusses Hallel of shira particular to the seder night, considers this berakha mandatory, as it is itself a continuation and fulfillment of the obligation to sing God's praises. Furthermore, the expression used within this context is the revealing term "birkat ha-shir" - a benediction of song and praise. The gemara in Sukka, on the other hand, dealing with the standard Hallel of kriya, considers the concluding berakha optional, dependent upon the local custom.


According to the opinion of Rav Hai Gaon, we can understand the order of the seder, which places the meal in the middle of Hallel. The festivities of the se'udat Yom Tov add to the shira element of the Hallel. However, this sequence is troubling according to those who compare Hallel of the seder night to the normal Hallel. If Hallel begins and ends with a berakha, how is it possible to interrupt the Hallel and conduct an entire meal in the middle? The Ran answers that since the meal is a mitzva, it is not considered a hefsek (break) which invalidates the Hallel. Furthermore, Hallel on the seder night, as opposed to the standard Hallel, was not instituted to be recited in the beit ha-keneset, but rather during the seder itself, within the context of eating the korban pesach and matza. Consequently, the entire meal eaten in the middle of Hallel is not considered a hefsek.





Rav Yehuda Amar Yehalelukha


According to R. Yehuda (as opposed to R. Yochanan), birkat ha-shir is identical with the standard berakha acharona for Hallel. This can be interpreted as reflecting a more general resemblance between Hallel of the seder night and regular Hallel of holidays.


Certain Rishonim, perhaps troubled by this analogy, point out various distinctions, even according to R. Yehuda, despite the similarity of the closing berakha. Tosafot (s.v. Mai) note that birkat ha-shir is mandatory even in places where there is no custom to recite a berakha following regular Hallel. Furthermore, they note that birkat ha-shir is singular insofar as it is recited at night, as opposed to the standard Hallel which is limited to the daytime. The Rosh (siman 32) points to the lack of berakha rishona for Hallel of the seder night, in contrast to normal Hallel. As we noted in the previous section, all these differences may reflect a more basic distinction between kriya and shira.



Ve-R. Yochanan Amar Nishmat Kol Chai


The most obvious understanding of R. Yochanan is that "nishmat" is recited instead of "yehalelukha." In fact, this is apparently how R. Chaim Cohen interpreted the gemara (see Tosafot s.v. R. Yochanan). This rendition of R. Yochanan is a clear-cut expression of the differentiation between Hallel of the seder night and regular Hallel.


The Rashbam, however, explained that R. Yochanan did not replace the standard berakha of "yehalelukha", but rather added to it. Accordingly, "yehalelukha" is recited after the regular Hallel, corresponding to normal procedure. However, on the seder night there is the addition of "Hallel ha-gadol" (see 118a) which is usually recited within the context of pesukei de-zimra of holidays. This makes sense specifically according to the Rashbam, who included Hallel ha-gadol within the context of the fourth kos rather than the fifth (last week's shiur). Therefore, the suitable berakha for this addition is "nishmat-yishtabach", which is the closing berakha for this pesukei de-zimra. According to this approach, the uniqueness of birkat ha-shir does not reflect the distinctiveness of Hallel on the seder night, even according to R. Yochanan. In fact, the basic format of standard Hallel remains untouched. Birkat Ha-shir, as an independent addition, represents the aspects of Hallel unique to the seder night ("be-khol dor va-dor", shira and redemption).


The Mechaber (OC 480:1) suggests a third opinion, whereby the two berakhot are combined. According to this opinion, after completing both the regular Hallel and the Hallel ha-gadol, one continues with nishmat and yishtabach. However, at the point of the concluding berakha of nishmat (which normally ends "melekh [yachid] e-l chei olamim"), one inserts the normal ending of Hallel - yehalelukha. In contrast to the opinion of the Rashbam, this approach does not reflect a dualistic view of Hallel. Instead, it is an expression of the complex nature of Hallel on the seder night. Therefore, the two Hallels are not separated by a berakha, but are fused together. Moreover, instead of being recited separately, the berakhot themselves are merged into one.


U-mechalek Mezonot Le-khol Berya


The term Hallel normally refers to "Hallel ha-mitzri" (Psalms 113-8). This Hallel deals with the uniqueness of the Jewish People. It contains references to the miracles that led to the redemption of the children of Israel, as well as matan Torah. Therefore, it is reserved for festivals which commemorate various aspects of the chosenness of the Jewish People.


Hallel ha-gadol, on the other hand, is normally recited within the context of pesukei de-zimra of Shabbat. Pesukei de-zimra is also referred to as Hallel (see Shabbat 118b). However, in contrast to Hallel ha-mitzri, pesukei de-zimra contains a more universalistic message. It contains references to creation, the natural causal order, and the involvement of God within that order. Therefore, it is a Hallel that can be recited daily.


In last week's shiur, we discussed the different opinions regarding the fifth kos. These variant positions also lead to different views regarding the necessity to recite Hallel ha-gadol on the seder night. Some Rishonim considered Hallel ha-gadol as merely a possible context to permit drinking a fifth kos. Accordingly, there is no obligation to recite Hallel ha-gadol on the seder night. This position is reasonable, since the seder focuses on the uniqueness and chosenness of Am Yisrael.


However, there are Rishonim who included Hallel ha-gadol within the context of the fourth kos. Furthermore, the Ra'avad who considered the fifth kos, recited over Hallel hagadol, as a mitzva, also maintained a more activistic view regarding Hallel ha-gadol on the seder night. Apparently, they considered Hallel ha-gadol as suitable for the seder night, despite its universalistic message. Perhaps this view is based on the approach that Hallel of the seder night is shira. Accordingly, the praise we sing to Hashem concerning His universalistic Providence complements the praise regarding our particular redemption. (See Si'ach Hagrid pg. 94-5.)




  1. 119a "T'nan hatam ... km"l" (120a).
  2. Rashbam s.v. amar Rav.
  3. Ba'al Hama'or (26b in pages of the Rif) "v'ha d'tnan ... zekher limikdash," Milchemet Hashem "v'havei yodei'a ... chova," Rambam Hilkhot Chametz U-matza 8:9-10.
  4. 120a Rashbam s.v. ein maftirin, Rosh siman 34 [till "maror vacharoset"].



1. Based upon our sugya, what type of berakha is recited before Hallel?

2. List the various explanations for the prohibition of afikoman? How long should this prohibition last according to each explanation?

3. Does R. Yochanan argue with Shmuel's definition of afikoman?

4. With which kezayit matza do we fulfill our obligation, the first or the last (afikoman)?






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