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.