My Vows I Shall Fulfill

It is rather obvious why we are studying this topic this week – since the laws pertaining to vows are the first subject mentioned in Parshas Matos. Question #1: Quiz question Can performing a mitzvah become a liability? Question #2: Is this a "klutz question?" What does it mean that I am doing something "bli […]

Bill’s Saga Or The Power of a Single Word

Several articles of mine relating to the observances of the Three Weeks or the Nine Days are available for reading or downloading on RabbiKaganoff.com Since parshas Pinchas discusses many of the relationships of Hashem and His people, I’ll share with you the following true story: Bill’s Saga Or The Power of a Single Word There […]

The Right Type of Help

Since one of the sources for the prohibition of bishul akum is in parsha Chukas, this presents an ideal time to review these laws. By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff Household help Shirley* asks me: "We hired a very nice Polish lady to help around the house, keep an eye on the kids and do light housekeeping. […]

The Numbers Game

Because this article explains some basics of how Torah is taught by Chazal, I think it is appropriate to the week of Shavuos   Question #1: Pie r squared Yanki is supposed to be watching his weight and therefore needs to figure out how many calories are in the pie he beholds. To figure out […]

May I Participate in the Census?

In honor of this week’s Haftarah, I present the following halachic discussion:   Question #1: Counting sheep Why would someone count sheep when he is trying to stay awake?   Question #2: Counting from a list Is it permitted to count people from names on a list?   Question #3: Ki Sissa or Hoshea? The […]

What is a Temurah?

Question: Two Temurahs “Why does the Torah mention the mitzvah of temurah twice at the end of this week’s parshah, Bechukosay, once at the beginning of Chapter 27 and again at its end?” Answer: The concept of offering korbanos is foreign to us, since, unfortunately, our Beis Hamikdash still remains in ruin and we are […]

The Bankrupt Borrower

This week’s parsha, Behar, includes details about being honest in our business dealings. Is declaring bankruptcy to absolve one of one’s debts, considered honest according to halachah? The Bankrupt Borrower Mr. Gomel Chessed shares with his rav, Rav Chacham, the following predicament: “I loaned someone money, and I did not hassle him for payment when […]

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HaRav Abba Berman zt”l, An Appreciation

This Shabbos is the ninth yahrzeit of Rav Abba Berman, zt”l. I decided to send the hesped that I wrote shortly after his passing.

Rav Abba Berman once explained that superficial learning is like watching the hands of a clock move around its dial. In-depth learning, which he felt is the goal of all learning, is like “opening the back of the watch to see what makes it tick.”

What did he mean by this mashal?

The goal of learning is to understand the ideas and concepts of Torah – in its totality, what its “parts” are, and how the parts integrate to produce the result. Rav Abba was vexed by those who gave over ideas without understanding the concepts thoroughly. He devoted himself and his shiurim to develop a deeper and broader understanding of Torah. His yeshiva and the seforim he wrote were called “Iyun HaTalmud” because that is exactly what his goal was; one must strive to understand why the concepts and ideas of Torah are what they are. Even a gezeiras hakasuv, a Torah decree, must be understood, according to Rav Abba, – what exactly is the concept that the Torah is introducing to us, how does it work, and what are its ramifications.

In his own words, his shiurim tried to define the mechanism of how Torah concepts work, to understand what “makes the din tick.”

In the words of a close talmid, “Two people look at and appreciate a beautiful flower. Although both of them appreciate the beauty, one of them may be able to appreciate the subtleties, intricacies and complexities of the flower, compare it to other species and varieties, and savor the subtleties of its fragrance. So, too, Rav Abba taught how to be a Torah connoisseur – how to appreciate the depth and breadth of Torah, how to understand its beauty and ramifications in greater and greater ways.”

With this introduction, we can begin to appreciate the greatness of HaRav Abba Berman zt”l.

AS A YOUTH

He was born on Tu B’Shvat 5679 (January 16, 1919) in Lodz where his father, Rav Shaul Yosef Berman, a talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, was Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Chesed. Rav Abba’s rebbe was his father, whose influence lasted for the rest of his life.

Without any question, Rav Abba was a child prodigy, yet I hesitate to tell the astounding story of his meeting as a six year-old with the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim tested the young child on all of Perek HaMafkid in Gemara Bava Metzia and then gave him a bracha and some advice to his father. However, in a way it is a disservice to relate this story because one might assume that Rav Abba was too brilliant a genius for us to learn from. This was the exactly the opposite of what Rav Abba desired in life, which was to teach people to toil attentively and honestly over a sugya of Gemara with common sense, constantly delving into a deeper understanding of the subject.

At the age of 14 he left Lodz to attend the Mir Yeshiva in Poland. He developed a close relationship with the mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l, possibly the greatest mussar personality of his generation. Although Rav Yerucham passed away when Rav Abba was only 17, he always considered himself a talmid of Rav Yerucham, whose world-view he absorbed.

SHANGHAI AND CHIDDUSHEI RABBEINU CHAIM

During the war years, Rav Abba was part of the Mir Yeshiva exile in Shanghai. Although he grew tremendously in learning during his years in Shanghai, those years took a tremendous toll on his health, which affected him the rest of his life. He had prodigious achievements in learning and teaching Torah despite the fact that he always suffered from medical problems that needed constant attention.

In Shanghai, he began developing his distinctive derech halimud (approach to learning). There he became absorbed with the sefer Chiddushei Rabbeinu Chaim HaLevi of Rav Chaim Brisker. Rav Abba drew upon and developed concepts from Rav Chaim and incorporated them into his understanding of the Gemara and Rishonim.

It was known in Shanghai that if you did not understand something in the works of Rav Chaim Brisker, the address to seek was Rav Abba Berman, then known as “Abba Lodzer,” after his birthplace, as was common in that era. In Shanghai he developed into one of the Gedolei Yisroel.

Due to his own profundity, his diligence, and his application, Rav Abba often recognized deeper concepts in the writings of Rav Chaim than others did. He considered himself a disciple of Rav Chaim, because studying Rav Chaim’s sefer deepened his own understanding of the concepts of Shas. One might say that the entire publication of the Chiddushei Rabbeinu Chaim was worthwhile just to make it available to Rav Abba Berman.

ROSH YESHIVA

After the war, Rav Abba joined the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, married, and gave chaburahs and said shiurim there. After giving shiurim in Kaminetz and other yeshivos, he then opened his own yeshiva, Iyun HaTalmud, first in Brooklyn, then in Bnei Brak, Far Rockaway, and later in Monsey. In Elul 5739/1979 he moved the Yeshiva back to Eretz Yisroel, to Yerushalayim. Later he moved it to Kiryat Sefer. Although he was offered positions in many yeshivos over the years, he preferred (until his last years) having his own yeshiva where he could alone decide what, how, and where to teach.

He once told a talmid that he had considered naming the Yeshiva “Yeshivas VeHa’er Eineinu B’Sorasecha,” “Open our eyes in Your Torah,” which describes our goal to appreciate Hashem’s Torah in deeper and deeper levels. However, because the name was a bit long, he decided instead to name the Yeshiva “Iyun HaTalmud,” which emphasizes the method — appreciating Hashem’s Torah by utilizing our own efforts to delve into it deeper and deeper. His view was that man accomplishes his greatest purpose on Earth and fulfills ratzon Hashem by learning the concepts of Shas as deeply as he can.

A seasoned Talmud chacham who came to study under Rav Abba found that it took him several years until he could understand Rav Abba’s profound shiur. However, during the same period of time he would regularly attend the chazarah shiur, which reviewed Rav Abba’s shiur in a simplified way, but for years he could not see what the chazarah shiur had to do with the shiur he had heard earlier in the day from the Rosh Yeshiva. After many years of hearing Rav Abba’s shiur, and as the depth of his own learning developed immeasurably, he began to understand Rav Abba’s shiur. After several more years, this Talmud chacham began to give the chazarah shiur, although he relates that it took him approximately six hours to review Rav Abba’s 1¼ hour-long shiur until he felt ready to repeat the shiur! Yet he felt the investment of most of his day extremely worthwhile because that was how he achieved proper understanding of Torah.

A talmid once spent the month of Elul studying in Rav Abba’s yeshiva, but he missed the bekiyus (breadth of Torah knowledge) style of his previous yeshiva. He went to discuss the matter with Rav Nochum Pertzovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, who advised him to remain learning in Rav Abba’s yeshiva, saying “What could be greater bekiyus than mastering the basic understanding of Bava Kamma.”

(One should not get the impression that Rav Abba was opposed to bekiyus. Quite the contrary, he himself reviewed Shas and Rishonim until most of it was in front of his eyes. However, Rav Abba viewed bekiyus as the foundation with which to understand Amkus HaTorah, the deep true understanding of Torah, which was his passion.)

To Rav Abba, all of Torah is one contiguous whole. It was anathema to develop an idea that was inconsistent with a principle elsewhere. Quite the contrary, a concept that elucidates one part of Shas might clarify a seemingly unrelated subject. In so doing, he developed his own nomenclature and his own system of understanding.

Rav Abba was a master of saying things punctiliously and was extremely careful in his choice of words when he gave a shiur. He only included a line of logic in a shiur if he was convinced that it was completely accurate. He once remarked to a talmid that he would think through a svara 30 or 40 times before saying it over in a shiur.

Rav Abba used the late commentaries and the published shiurim of the Roshei Yeshiva judiciously. Sometimes he began with their concepts and then developed the idea into a brilliant analysis of the concepts. At other times, he would spare no words in pointing out that he felt the true understanding of the sugya lay elsewhere.

GOALS OF LEARNING

It was not Rav Abba’s goal to have talmidim memorize his shiur; he wanted them to absorb his APPROACH at analyzing the Gemara to its deepest concept.

In the week after his passing, two talmidim were discussing a shiur that one had delivered in the Yeshiva where he is currently a Rav. The Rav mentioned that he had given a shiur based substantially on a shiur printed in one of Rav Abba’s seforim, then added, “Assuming I understood the Rosh Yeshiva correctly.” The other talmid replied, “Either you told over Rav Abba’s torah, or you explained what you thought is the correct understanding of the sugya. The latter is what Rav Abba wanted even more, and is a greater achievement of his goal.”

Rav Abba did not tolerate lazy thinking. One must fully understand what one says. A Talmid chacham interested in joining Kollel Iyun HaTalmud told Rav Abba a shiur that he had delivered in his previous kollel. Rav Abba heard his shiur, and then responded, “If you would learn by me, you would never talk like this.” The kollel scholar was baffled by the response, because the shiur had been well received in his previous kollel. He requested to share with Rav Abba a different shiur he had delivered and received the same response.

Ultimately, Rav Abba accepted this talmid chacham into his kollel. Years later, when he told me the story, he explained, “I thought that I understood what I was saying. But when I began to study under Rav Abba, I realized that this man REALLY knows what he’s talking about – and that I had been totally superficial in my understanding without realizing it. I may not understand him, but I know that he knows what he is talking about. After years of studying under Rav Abba I realized that my whole thought process had changed. Rav Abba taught me how to truly understand what I was learning.”

His talmidim usually spent many years studying in his yeshiva. His yeshiva was always small, but it included a very impressive group of top talmidim, who today are accomplished roshei yeshiva, roshei kollel, magiddei shiur, and dayanim.

HIS IMMERSION IN LEARNING

To say that Rav Abba was a tremendous masmid is not sufficient. It is more appropriate to say that he was totally immersed in learning and that he constantly applied himself to delve deeper and deeper into understanding Shas. He thought in learning constantly — his lips were constantly moving. Presumably, he was constantly thinking of a deeper way to understand the sugya that he was learning at the moment.

MUSSAR

Rav Abba was a true talmid of the mashgiach, Rav Yerucham zt”l, and delved into hashkafah subjects with the same enthusiasm and analysis that he studied halacha and lomdus. He taught how to be deep in one’s hashkafah and how to intensify one’s avodas Hashem. For many years he gave chaburos on emunah, hashkafah, and philosophical subjects on Shabbos afternoon. In his younger years, he also gave musar schmoozen in the Yeshiva. His schmoozen were not fire and brimstone, but shiurim on deep machshavah. He would devote a series of schmoozen to developing one’s thoughts on a specific topic.

He was also readily available and accessible to his talmidim to discuss any topic at all. Although his own world was totally devoted to understanding Shas better, he was a big pikeach in understanding people.

HIS SEFORIM

Five volumes of Rav Abba’s shiurim were published in his lifetime, under the titles Shiurei Moreinu HaGaon Rabbi Abba Berman or Shiurei Iyun HaTalmud. Technically the seforim were authored by his talmidim based on notes and tapes of his weekly shiur klali, but I was told that Rav Abba reviewed the shiurim before publication. This does not include the “blatt shiurim” that he gave, nor is it more than a fraction of the shiurei klali that he delivered, and certainly does not include notes on other parts of Shas. Hopefully, we will be zocheh to see the publication of many more volumes of his shiurim.

One of the five volumes is unique. Although all of his years as Rosh Yeshiva he gave shiurim only on Nashim and Nezikin, his personal favorite seder was Kedoshim. At one time, a chaburah of advanced talmidim in his kollel learned kedoshim, and then he gave chaburos to them on Mesechta Zevachim. One volume of his published chiddushim is taken from these shiurim.

HIS FAMILY

Rav Abba and his Rebbitzen, tichyi, raised a European-type home in the United States at a time when the prevailing environment, even among frum Torah Jews, was highly permissive. His daughters were taught to stand up for him as is correct according to halacha. They were taught to plan their schedules so as not to disturb his learning. They absorbed none of the liberal attitude towards Yiddishkeit of the “frum” world around them — and this is manifest in their own highly notable achievements.

Rav Abba had six daughters. In a humorous moment, Rav Abba once quipped to a talmid, “You get to choose your sons-in-law but not your sons. His six sons-in-law are all tremendous talmidei chachomim, marbitzei Torah, magiddei shiur and roshei yeshiva in yeshivos in America and Eretz Yisroel. Truthfully, his daughters are all n’shei chayil, well-recognized and respected as top mechanchos.

Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

I’m really sorry for the delay in posting this… – webmaster

This is the last article I intend to send out until after Yom Tov. For those who would like more reading over Yom Tov, there are numerous articles on the topics of: selling chometz, baking or purchasing matzohs, showering on Yom Tov, observing the laws of sefirah, chol hamoed, hallel; whether korban pesach can be offered without our having the Beis Hamikdash; should I be keeping one day or two; with which family should I spend Pesach—etc. already posted on:

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Dedication:

This week’s article is dedicated le’iluy nishmas

NachumYosef Ben Yitzchock Isaac,

whose yahrzeit falls on the 18th of Nissan

And now, our article for the week:

Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question #1: Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Question #2: Why at the Very Beginning?

“I am curious why Mizmor Lesodah is located at the beginning of pesukei dezimra. Isn’t Ashrei and the five chapters of Tehillim that follow it the essence of pesukei dezimra?”

Question #3: Standing Room Only

“My father always told me that one should stand when saying Mizmor Lesodah, but I cannot find this halachah in the Mishnah Berurah. Where is it located?”

Answer:

There are two different chapters of Tehillim, #100 and #107, that devote themselves to the thanksgiving acknowledgement of someone who has survived a major physical challenge. In Psalm 107, Dovid Hamelech describes four different types of treacherous predicaments — traveling through the desert, traveling overseas, illness, and imprisonment — in which a person would pray to Hashem for salvation. When the person survives the travails and thanks Hashem, the passage reflects this thanks: Yodu lashem chasdo venifle’osav livnei adam, “they acknowledge thanks to Hashem for His kindness and His wondrous deeds for mankind.”

The Gemara cites this Psalm as the source for many of the laws of birchas hagomeil, the brocha we recite when surviving these calamities. To quote the Gemara: Four people need to acknowledge thanks to Hashem.

Mizmor Lesodah

Whereas Chapter 107 of Tehillim describes the background behind korban todah and birchas hagomeil, the 100th chapter of Tehillim, Mizmor Lesodah, represents the actual praise that the saved person recites. Although only five verses long, this psalm, one of the eleven written by Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rashi ad locum), captivates the emotion of a person who has just survived a major ordeal. The first verse expresses the need for everyone on Earth to recognize Hashem, certainly conveying the emotions of someone very recently saved from a major tribulation. The second verse shares the same passion, since it calls upon everyone to serve Hashem in gladness and to appear before Him in jubilation. The third sentence continues this idea. In it, the thankful person who has been saved calls on everyone to recognize that Hashem is the personal G-d of every individual, and that we are His people and the sheep of his pasture. He then calls on all to enter into Hashem’s gates and His courts, so that we can thank and bless Him. We should note that the Gates of the Beis Hamikdash were meant for all of mankind, not only the Jewish People, as specifically included in Shlomoh Hamelech’s prayer while inaugurating it (Melachim I 8:41-43).

The closing sentence is also very significant: “For Hashem is good, His kindness is forever, and our trust should be placed in Him in every future generation.” (We should note that the word olam in Tanach means “forever” and never means “world,” which is a meaning given to this word by Chazal. The most common Tanach word for “world” is teiveil; see, for example, Tehillim 19:5; 33:8; and 90:2, all of which are recited during the pesukei dezimra of Shabbos, and 96:10, 13; 97:4; 98:7, which are part of kabbalas Shabbos.) The celebrant calls upon those he has assembled to spread the message that Hashem is the only Source of all good, and that we should recognize this at all times, not only in the extraordinary situations where we see the manifestation of His presence!

We can now understand better why the Mizmor Lesodah chapter of Tehillim is structured as it is. It provides the beneficiary of Hashem’s miracle with a drosha to present at the seudas hodaah that he makes with all the bread and meat of the korban todah — complete with encouragement to others to internalize our thanks to Hashem.

Clearly, then, this psalm was meant to be recited by the thankful person prior to offering his korban, and this is his invitation to others to join him as he thanks Hashem. The Avudraham notes that Hashem’s name appears four times in the psalm, corresponding to the four people who need to thank Him for their salvation.

Mizmor Lesodah and our daily davening

In order to make sure that this thanks to Hashem takes place daily, the chapter of Mizmor Lesodah was introduced into our daily pesukei dezimra. We should remember that miracles happen to us daily, even when we do not realize it (quoted in name of Sefer Nehora; see also Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Although Mizmor Lesodah was not part of the original structure of the daily prayers established by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, it apparently was already common practice in ancient times, long before the time of the Rishonim, to recite it at or near the beginning of pesukei dezimra. The importance of reciting this psalm should not be underestimated. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 51:9) states: One should recite Mizmor Lesodah with song, since eventually all songs will cease except for Mizmor Lesodah. This statement of Chazal is explained by Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Psalm 100) in the following manner: One day in the future, everything on Earth will be so ideal that there will be no reason to supplicate Hashem for changes. Even then, prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving will still be appropriate.

Why start at the very beginning?

In nusach and minhag Sfard, Mizmor Lesodah is the first psalm recited in pesukei dezimra, and in all versions it is recited before the essential parts of pesukei dezimra, which are Ashrei and the five chapters of Tehillim that follow it. Why do we recite Mizmor Lesodah towards the beginning of pesukei dezimra?

The Avudraham explains that Mizmor Lesodah is in its place because it corresponds to the second statement of Creation – yehi or, “Let there be Light,” since all of mankind needs to thank Hashem for providing light and for our existence.

One could perhaps suggest another reason. Since Mizmor Lesodah was written by Moshe Rabbeinu, it predates the other parts of Tehillim we say in our daily pesukei dezimra, and therefore is recited first.

At this point, we can answer one of the questions raised above. “I am curious why Mizmor Lesodah is located at the beginning of pesukei dezimra. Isn’t Ashrei and the five chapters of Tehillim that follow it the essence of pesukei dezimra?”

Indeed, the questioner is correct that the original and most vital part of pesukei dezimra is Ashrei and the five psalms that follow it. Nevertheless, since Mizmor Lesodah serves such an important function, and it also corresponds to the second of the ten statements of Creation, it was placed earlier in our davening.

“No thanks”

We find a dispute among early authorities whether one should recite Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos (Shibbolei Haleket, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Why should this be?

Since the korban todah is a voluntary offering, it cannot be offered on Shabbos. The Tur mentions that established custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, out of concern that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, someone may mistakenly offer the korban todah on these days. On Shabbos, of course, it is prohibited to offer any korban other than the required daily tamid and the special Shabbos korbanos, whereas on Yom Tov one may offer only voluntary korbanos that are because of the Yom Tov (Beitzah 19b).

The Tur does not agree that this is a valid reason to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah on these days, contending that we need not be concerned that people will mistakenly offer a korban todah on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Orach Chayim, Chapter 51 and Chapter 281). Others explain that we recite Mizmor Lesodah to remind us of the korban todah, and since it was not offered on these days, there is no point in reciting it (see Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 51:11). Perhaps this is done as an aspect of uneshalma parim sefaseinu (Hoshea 14:3), “may our lips replace the bulls (of offerings),” which is interpreted to mean that when we have no Beis Hamikdash, we recite passages that commemorate those offerings. For this reason, the custom developed among Ashkenazim to omit Mizmor Lesodah on days that the offering could not be brought in the Beis Hamikdash.

Mizmor Lesodah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

There are places where the custom was to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, because of the words hari’u lashem kol ha’aretz, which calls on the entire Earth to sing praise to Hashem (Magen Avraham 51:10, quoting Kenesses Hagadol). Kaf Hachayim (51:50) notes that the most common custom among Sefardim was to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Rosh Hashanah, but not on Yom Kippur, although some places omitted it on Rosh Hashanah, similar to the Ashkenazic practice. Pri Megadim, an Ashkenazi, mentions that he was unaware of any community that did recite Mizmor Lesodah on Rosh Hashanah.

Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur

Ashkenazic custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, and for a very interesting reason: One may not offer a korban in a way that curtails the amount of time that the Torah permitted one to consume the parts of the korban that are eaten (Zevachim 75b). Were a todah offered on Erev Yom Kippur, one would be permitted to eat it and its bread only until sunset, whereas the time limit for a todah is usually until midnight. Thus, one cannot offer the korban todah on Erev Yom Kippur, and the custom is to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah on Chol Hamoed Pesach

For the same reason that Mizmor Lesodah is omitted on Shabbos, Ashkenazim omit reciting it on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Since the korban todah contained chometz, it could not be offered on Pesach.

Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Pesach

For the same reason that Ashkenazim omit recital of Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, they omit it on Erev Pesach. The korban todah and its breads can usually be eaten until the midnight after the day it was offered. However, were one to offer a korban todah early on Erev Pesach, one would be restricted to eating its chometz for only a few hours. Since one may not offer a korban whose time limit is curtailed, one may not offer korban todah on Erev Pesach, and, following Ashkenazic practice, Mizmor Lesodah is omitted then, also. The common custom among Sefardim is to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, Erev Pesach and Chol Hamoed Pesach (Pri Chodosh 429:2; Kaf Hachayim 51:51-52).

With this background, I can now begin to answer the first question raised above.

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Indeed, in this instance, the student is correct. Hopefully, the rebbe was not that badly embarrassed.

Mizmor Lesodah on Tisha B’av

Apparently, there were places where the custom was to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah on Tisha B’av and on Erev Tisha B’av (Magen Avraham 51:11, quoting Hagahos Maimoniyos). Shu”t Maharshal (#64) writes that this is a gross error, because when the Beis Hamikdash stood and when it will be rebuilt, Tisha B’av was and will not be a fast day, and there is no reason why one could not offer a korban todah then.

Standing only

The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah, 10:8) requires that a person stand up when he recites birchas hagomeil. The Bach (Orach Chayim 219) feels that there is an allusion to this practice in Tehillim 107, whereas the Elyah Rabbah (219:3) presents a different reason why one should stand, explaining that birchas hagomeil is a form of Hallel, which must be recited standing. Others explain that since birchas hagomeil substitutes for the korban todah, it bears similarity to shmoneh esrei, which is similarly bimkom korban and is recited standing (Nahar Shalom 219:1). According to all of these opinions, we can understand why a custom developed to stand when reciting Mizmor Lesodah (see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 14:4, and sources quoted by Kaf Hachayim 51:48). However, the Kaf Hachayim quotes the Arizal that one should deliberately sit while reciting Mizmor Lesodah, and he (the Kaf Hachayim) concludes that this is the preferred practice. The Mishnah Berurah does not mention anything about either practice.

We can now answer the last question raised above: “My father always told me that one should stand when saying Mizmor Lesodah, but I cannot find this halachah in the Mishnah Berurah. Where is it located?”

The answer is that although there are some halachic authorities who record this custom, it is not universally accepted. As a point in fact, the Mishnah Berurah does not discuss this particular question.

Conclusion

Why is korban todah the only private offering that includes chometz and the only offering that includes both chometz and matzoh? Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Vayikra 7:14) explains that the three types of matzoh represent different degrees of prosperity, but using matzoh conveys the idea that it is obvious that everything I have is dependent on Hashem. Chometz, however, implies that a person is living more independently – his need for Hashem’s regular involvement is not nearly as obvious.

The person who has survived one of the four ordeals requiring a korban todah now recognizes that only the outside world views him as independent. He himself understands that everything he has is dependent on Hashem. Similarly, on Pesach, we all need to acknowledge our salvation and creation as a Nation by Hashem.

Hallel in Shul on Seder Night

Question #1: When I visit Eretz Yisroel, I notice that even Nusach Ashkenaz shullen recite Hallel on the first night of Pesach. Should I be reciting Hallel with them when my family custom is not to?

Question #2: Should a woman whose husband recites Hallel in shul on Seder night recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder?

Question #3: When I was in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach, I davened maariv the second day of Pesach with a chutz la’aretz Nusach Ashkenaz minyan, but none of us knew whether to recite Hallel. What should we have done?

Hallel is our unique praise to Hashem that is reserved for special occasions. Whenever the Jews survived a crisis, they responded by singing Hallel. Thus we sang Hallel after crossing the Yam Suf and again after Yehoshua defeated the allied kings of Canaan. Devorah and Barak sang Hallel when their small force defeated the mighty army of Sisra; the Jews sang this praise when the huge army of Sancheiriv fled from Yerushalayim and when Hashem saved them from Haman’s evil decrees. Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah sang Hallel after surviving Nevuchadnetzar’s fiery furnace. After each of these events, Jews recited Hallel to thank Hashem for their miraculous salvation (Pesachim 117a, as explained by Rashi; cf. Rashbam ad loc.).

Before addressing the above questions, let us clarify the five different ways we recite Hallel during Pesach.

THE FIVE TYPES OF PESACH HALLEL

I. Thanking Hashem while performing mitzvos

In the Beis HaMikdash, the Jews sang Hallel while offering the korban pesach on Erev Pesach (Mishnah Pesachim 64a, 95a; Gemara 117a) and then again during the festive meal when they ate it that night. To quote the immortal words of the Gemara, “Could it possibly be that the Jews would offer their korban pesach without reciting Hallel?”

The Jews sang Hallel at the Seder with such fervor that a new expression was coined, “The kezayis of Pesach and the Hallel split the roof.” It is unlikely that people needed to hire roofers to repair the damage after Pesach; this statement reflects the zeal of the experience. As Chazal teach, we should sing every Hallel with ecstatic feeling and melody (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9).

The Hallel recited while offering and consuming the korban pesach is inspired by the fervor of the event. Similarly, some have the custom of reciting Hallel while baking matzos on Erev Pesach to remember the arousing passion of singing Hallel while offering korban pesach. Unfortunately, as we have no korban pesach with which to ignite this enthusiasm, we substitute the experience of baking the matzos.

II. Part of the evening davening

In the times of Chazal (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9; Yerushalmi Berachos 1:5), the Jews recited Hallel immediately after maariv in shul on Seder night, a practice continued by Nusach Sefard and in Eretz Yisroel. I will soon discuss the different reasons for this practice.

III. During the Seder

We sing Hallel as part of the Seder. This Hallel is different from the regular Hallel in the following ways:

We divide this Hallel into two parts, separating the two parts with the festive Yom Tov meal. We sing the first part as the conclusion of the Maggid part of the Seder, as we describe the ecstasy of the Exodus while holding a cup of wine in celebration. The bracha, Asher Ga’alanu, is recited after these preliminary paragraphs of the Hallel, immediately followed by a bracha upon the second cup of wine. (Sefardim do not recite a bracha on this cup of wine.)

Following the birchas hamazon after the meal, which concludes with the third cup of wine, we pour a fourth cup of wine and hold it while reciting the rest of Hallel. Upon completing Hallel, we recite Chapter 136 of Tehillim, Nishmas, a bracha to conclude the Hallel (there are different opinions which bracha to recite), a bracha upon the wine (Sefardim do not recite a bracha on this cup of wine either), and then drink the cup of wine as the last of the four kosos.

Another difference between Hallel on Seder night and Hallel during the year is that we sit for Hallel at the Seder. Halacha requires that one give testimony standing, and when we recite Hallel we testify that Hashem performed wonders for us. Furthermore, the pasuk in Hallel declares, “Sing praise, servants of Hashem who are standing” (Tehillim 135:1-2), implying that this is the appropriate way to praise. However, at the Seder we sit because the Hallel is part of the meal and is recited while holding a cup of wine, which is not conducive to standing; furthermore, sitting demonstrates that we are free from bondage (Shibbolei HaLeket #173).

Reciting Hallel during the Seder commemorates singing Hallel while eating the korban pesach (Mishnah Pesachim 95a). Unfortunately, we have no korban pesach, so we must substitute the Yom Tov meal and the matzos.

IV. After Shacharis on the first day(s) of Pesach

We recite the full Hallel immediately following shmoneh esrei on the first day(s) of Pesach to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Hallel on days that are either Yom Tov or commemorate a miracle. These days include Chanukah, Sukkos, Shavuos, and the first day(s) of Pesach (Arachin 10a). This Hallel can only be recited during daytime hours, which the Gemara (Megillah 20b) derives from the verse, from the rising of the sun until it sets, Hashem’s name shall be praised (Tehillim 113:3).

V. After Shacharis on the other days of Pesach

We recite Hallel with parts deleted (colloquially referred to as half Hallel) immediately following shmoneh esrei on the other days of Pesach. This reading is not part of the original takanah to recite Hallel on Yomim Tovim, but is a custom introduced later, similar to the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. Thus the poskim dispute whether one recites a bracha prior to reciting this Hallel. Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:7) rules that one does not recite a bracha, and this is the prevalent custom among the Sefardim and Edot HaMizrach in Eretz Yisrael (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 422:2). Tosafos (Taanis 28b), however, rules that one may recite a bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and the last days of Pesach, and this is the universal practice among Ashkenazim.

Why do we recite the full Hallel every day of Sukkos, bur only on the first day of Pesach? The Gemara gives a surprising answer to this question. We recite full Hallel every day of Sukkos since each has different korban requirements in the Beis HaMikdash; on Pesach, we do not recite full Hallel every day because the same korban was offered every day. The fact that a day is Yom Tov is insufficient reason to recite Hallel; there must also be something original about that particular day’s celebration. Thus, although the Seventh (and Eighth) day of Pesach is Yom Tov, full Hallel is omitted.

The Midrash presents a different explanation why full Hallel is not recited on Pesach — we should not recite it at a time that commemorates human suffering, even of the evil, since this was the day that the Egyptians drowned in the Yam Suf (quoted by Shibbolei HaLeket #174).

Now that we have a basic background to the five types of Hallel, we can now discuss the Hallel we recite at the Seder. The Gemara’s list of dates that we recite Hallel only mentions reciting Hallel in the daytime. However, other sources in Chazal (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9; Tosefta Sukkah 3:2; Yerushalmi Sukkah 4:5) include Hallel of Seder night when mentioning the different days when we are required to recite Hallel. This leads us to an obvious question:

DO WE RECITE A BRACHA ON HALLEL AT THE SEDER?

Since we recite Hallel at the Seder, should we not introduce it with a bracha? Although the universal practice today is to not recite a bracha before this Hallel, whether one recites a bracha on this Hallel is actually disputed. Here are three opinions:

1. One should recite a bracha twice; once before reciting the first part of Hallel before the meal and once before resuming Hallel after bensching (Tur Orach Chayim 473, quoting Ritzba and several others).

2. One should recite a bracha before beginning the first part of Hallel, notwithstanding the interruption in the middle of Hallel (Ran; Maharal).

3. One should not recite any bracha on Hallel at the Seder (Shu’t Ri MiGash #44; Rama; Bach).

Of course, this last opinion presents us with an interesting difficulty: If Chazal instituted reciting Hallel on Seder night, why does it not require a bracha beforehand?

I found three very different approaches to answer this question:

A. Some contend that, despite inferences to the contrary, Hallel on Seder night is not a mitzvah but only expresses our rejoicing (Shu’t Ri MiGash #44).

B. Alternatively, although there is a mitzvah Seder night to praise Hashem, this praise could be spontaneous and unstructured which would not technically require reciting the structured Hallel. Since no specific song or praise is required, Chazal did not require a bracha before singing Hallel (see Rav Hai Gaon’s opinion, as quoted by Ran, Pesachim Chapter 10).

C. Although Hallel Seder night should require a bracha, we cannot do so because we interrupt the recital of the Hallel with the meal (Tur Orach Chayim 473). This approach leads us to our next discussion:

HALLEL SEDER NIGHT IN SHUL

In several places Chazal mention reciting Hallel in shul on the first night of Pesach. Why recite Hallel in shul, if we are going to recite it anyway as part of the Seder?

The Rishonim present us with several approaches to explain this practice.

A. In Chazal’s times, there were no siddurim and therefore the common people davened together with the chazzan or by listening to the chazzan’s prayer. (This is why the chazzan is called a shaliach tzibur, the emissary of the community, since he indeed prayed on behalf of many individuals.) On the days that we are required to recite Hallel, these people listened to the chazzan’s Hallel and responded appropriately and thereby fulfilled their mitzvah. However, how could they recite Hallel Seder night? They did so by reciting Hallel together with the chazzan in shul before coming home (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

B. A different approach contends that the community recited Hallel in shul the first night of Pesach in order to fulfill the mitzvah with a large group. Although one may recite Hallel by oneself, reciting it communally is a greater observance of the mitzvah.

Neither of these two approaches necessarily assumes that Hallel on Seder night requires a bracha. Indeed, the Chazon Ish recited Hallel in shul Seder night without reciting a bracha beforehand. There are congregations in Bnei Braq that follow this approach.

C. A third approach contends that the primary reason for reciting Hallel in shul is to recite a bracha beforehand. These poskim contend that Hallel at the Seder would require a bracha if it was not interrupted by the meal; to resolve this, Hallel is recited twice, once in shul with a bracha without interruption, and then a second time during the Seder. According to this opinion, Hallel Seder night fulfills two different purposes:

(1) We sing Hallel to Hashem as we do on all Yomim Tovim because of his miracles; on Seder night we sing Hallel at night because that is when we were redeemed.

(2) We praise Hashem while performing the mitzvos of Seder night – haggadah, matzah etc.

Although one could fulfill both of these mitzvos by reciting Hallel one time during the Seder, one would miss making a bracha. Therefore, Hallel is recited during davening so that it can be introduced with a bracha, and is sung again during the Seder so that it surrounds the mitzvos of the night. This is the prevalent practice of Sefardim, Chassidim, and the most common approach followed in Eretz Yisroel today (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

At this point, we can begin to discuss the questions we raised above:

Question #1: When I visit Eretz Yisroel, I notice that even the Nusach Ashkenaz shullen recite Hallel on the first night of Pesach. Should I be reciting Hallel with them when my family custom it not to?

Your custom follows the poskim that reciting Hallel Seder night does not require a bracha. You should preferably follow your own practice and not recite a bracha on the Hallel, but there is no reason why you cannot recite Hallel with them. Since you do not lose anything, have in mind to fulfill the bracha by listening to the chazzan’s bracha.

However, there is another halachic issue, which is that one should not do things in a way that could cause strife. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:94) discusses a situation of someone in chutz la’aretz who does not recite Hallel in shul on Seder night, but davens in a Nusach Ashkenaz shul that does. The person asking the shaylah, a certain Reb Yitzchak, was apparently upset that his shul recited Hallel with a bracha on Seder night and wanted to create a commotion to change the practice. Rav Moshe forbids this and emphasizes that one should follow a path of shalom. Rav Moshe further demonstrates that if it is noticeable that Reb Yitzchak is omitting the bracha on Hallel, he must recite the bracha with them so that no machlokes results.

Question #2: Should a woman whose husband recites a bracha on Hallel in shul Seder night recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder?

This takes us to a new question. Assuming that one’s husband recites Hallel with a bracha on the night of Pesach, should his wife also recite Hallel before the Seder with a bracha?

WOMEN AND HALLEL

Are women required to recite Hallel?

Although Hallel is usually a time-bound mitzvah from which women are absolved (Mishnah Sukkah 38a), some poskim rule that women are obligated to recite Hallel on Chanukah and Pesach since this Hallel is recited because of miracles that benefited women (see Tosafos, Sukkah 38a s.v. Mi; Toras Refael, Orach Chayim #75). All agree that women are required to recite Hallel Seder night because women were also redeemed from Mitzrayim. Rav Ovadiah Yosef reasons that the wife or daughter of someone who recites a bracha before Hallel in shul on Seder night should also recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder (Shu’t Yechavah Daas 5:34). However, the prevalent custom is not to.

Question #3: When I was in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach, I davened the second day of Pesach with a chutz la’aretz Nusach Ashkenaz minyan, but none of us knew whether we should recite Hallel. What should we have done?

Assuming that this minyan consisted of people who do not usually recite Hallel in shul on Pesach night, they did not need to recite Hallel, and certainly not a bracha on Hallel, in their minyan. Since they are only visiting Israel, and have not yet assumed residence there, they follow their own custom in their own minyan, and their custom is to not recite a bracha on Hallel Seder night.

Reciting Hallel with tremendous emotion and reliving Hashem’s miracles rekindles the cognizance of Hashem’s presence. The moments that we recite Hallel can encapsulate the most fervent experience of His closeness.

In the merit of joyously reciting Hallel, may we see the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim and the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash, speedily in our days.

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This Torah Article is Dedicated

Leilui Nishmas
Devorah bas Yaakov ע”ה
Olga Simons
By Her Granddaughter

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