Beit Midrash

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13. Customs Related to Reciting Hallel

One must stand while reciting Hallel, One should not interrupt one’s recitation of Hallel, The Sages ordained that it is proper that one recite Hallel immediately following the Amida of Shaĥarit.

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Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Av 14 5781

One must stand while reciting Hallel, because Hallel is a testimony to God’s glory, and witnesses must stand while testifying. Be-di’avad, if one recited Hallel sitting or lying down, he has nonetheless fulfilled his obligation. One who is ill and cannot stand may recite it sitting or lying down le-khatĥila (sa 422:7, mb ad loc. 28).


One should not interrupt one’s recitation of Hallel, even just by remaining silent. In the case of an important need, however, like preventing an insult, one may interrupt his recitation. One may also interrupt Hallel in order to recite devarim she-bikdusha (“sacred words”; e.g., Kedusha, Kaddish, Barkhu, or Modim). One should recite Hallel in order, from beginning to end. One who recited it out of order has not fulfilled his obligation and must return to the place where he deviated from the proper order and read it in order (sa 422:4-6). It is proper to read Hallel slowly and pleasantly, and many congregations have a custom to sing parts of it.


The Sages ordained that it is proper that one recite Hallel immediately following the Amida of Shaĥarit. Since we mention the uniqueness of Rosh Ĥodesh in the Amida, in Ya’aleh Ve-yavo, it is appropriate to continue praising God immediately and continue thanking Him for sanctifying Israel and the New Moons. Be-di’avad, one may recite it later in the day, because the entire day is suitable for reciting Hallel (Megilla 20b).


There are various customs regarding how to recite Hallel: which verses are repeated, which verses are recited responsively, etc. All the customs are legitimate and every community should continue following its custom (Sukka 38a-39a, sa 422:3).


Customarily, the ĥazan reads four verses aloud:


Thank the Lord, for He is good, His loving-kindness is forever.


Let Israel say His loving-kindness is forever.


Let the house of Aharon say His loving-kindness is forever.


Let those who fear the Lord say His loving-kindness is forever. (Tehilim 118:1-4)


According to Ashkenazic custom, the congregation responds, “Thank the Lord, for He is good, His loving-kindness is forever” to each of these verses. According to the Sephardic custom, however, the congregation repeats each verse after the ĥazan.[16]


Regarding the repetition of verses, it has become the accepted custom in the last few generations to repeat each verse from Odekha (“I will thank You”) until the end of Hallel (Tehilim 118:21-29). The reason we repeat these verses is to continue the pattern of the beginning of Tehilim 118, in which every idea is repeated. This pattern ends at “I will thank You,” but we continue the pattern in Hallel by repeating the rest of the verses of that chapter as well. Furthermore, according to the Talmud (Pesaĥim 119a), these verses were composed by David, his father Yishai, and his brothers. Thus, because of the importance of these verses, the Sages instructed us to repeat them.


We repeat the verse, “Lord, please, save us. Lord, please, grant us success” (Tehilim 118:25), in a unique manner, reciting the first part twice and then the second part twice.[17]






[16] Rav Amram Gaon mentions both customs in his siddur, recording the Sephardic custom first and the Ashkenazic custom second. Tosafot and Ran (Sukka 38b) also cite the Ashkenazic custom as described above, as do Tur and Beit Yosef 422:3. The congregation fulfills their obligation to recite the other three verses by hearing the ĥazan chant them out loud. Therefore, they can simply answer, “Thank the Lord, for He is good, His loving-kindness is for ever.” Many Aĥaronim write that since there is reason for concern that some congregants may not hear the ĥazan properly, it is best for the congregation to recite the verses along with the ĥazan, finish shortly before him, and then answer, “Thank the Lord, for He is good, His loving-kindness is for ever.” This is the opinion of ma 422:8, Eliya Rabba 422:13, Maĥatzit Ha-shekel and mb 422:20.




[17] The Sephardic custom is that the ĥazan recites the first part of the verse twice, and the congregation then does the same. The ĥazan and congregation then follow this pattern for the second part of the verse as well. The Ashkenazic custom is that the ĥazan recites the first part of the verse one time, and the congregation repeats after him. Then the ĥazan recites the first part again, and the congregation repeats after him again. They then follow this pattern for the second part of the verse as well. This raises a question. The Talmud states in Megilla 22a that one may not interrupt a verse in the middle, except for the purpose of teaching young children. Tosafot (Sukka 38b) answer that it is not a true interruption in this case, since this verse was composed by two distinct parties: David and his brothers. Kol Bo suggests that the prohibition of splitting a verse in two only applies to verses from the Torah (ma 422:8). Maharsham explains in Da’at Torah that one may divide a verse in two if it is in the context of prayer.


Ashkenazim repeat the four verses beginning with “I will thank you”; “The stone the builders rejected”; “This is the Lord’s doing”; and “This is the day.” The custom of many North African Jews is that the ĥazan recites each verse once, after which the congregation responds likewise; because of the principle that “hearing is like answering,” it is considered as if they repeated each verse. 



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