What is Hallel?

When a person begins looking into and trying to learn about Jewish faith, rituals, and prayers, they come across a lot of words and names for prayers that they have never heard about before; and finding out what those prayers are, and what the words of them are, is not always easy because a lot of Jewish websites seem to assume that the reader already knows what those prayers are. However, for those who were not raised in a devout Jewish family, this is not the case, we don’t know what those prayers are and we truly want to know, yet it is sometimes so hard to find that information. Recently I have posted my own translations of some of these hard to find prayers. In this article I will be answering, “What is Hallel?”

What is Hallel?

Hallel, which means Praise, is Psalms 113-118. There is also The Great Hallel which is Psalm 136.

Full Hallel, also known as Hallel Shalem, consisting of all six Psalms (113-118) in their entirety, is recited on High Holy Days (the night of Pesach, the first day Hag HaMotzi, Yom HaBikkurim, Shavuot, and Simchat Torah Shemini Atzeret) and on all seven days of Sukkot and on the eight days of Hanukkah. Full-Hallel is Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115, Psalm 116, Psalm 117, Psalm 118.

Half-Hallel, also known as cHatzi Hallel, omits the first eleven verses of Psalms 115 and 116; and is recited on the remaining days of Hag HaMotzi and on Rosh cHodesh (New Moon/Month). Half-Hallel is Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115:12–18, Psalm 116:12–19, Psalm 117, Psalm 118.

Hallel

Hallelu Yah
Praise the Lord, you his children: praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and for ever.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord, most worthy, is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like to the Lord our God, who dwells enthroned on high,
and looks below upon all creation in heaven and earth?
He raises the needy from the dust, and lifts the poor out of the gutters:
He seats them amongst princes, with the princes of his people.
Who places the barren woman in a house, and makes her the joyful mother of children.
Hallelu Yah

Psalm 113 (112) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

He brought Israel out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people:
Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his kingdom.
The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back.
The mountains leapt like rams, the hills like lambs.
Why is it, O seas, that you fled? Why is it, O Jordan, that you turned back?
Why is it, O mountains, that you leapt like rams, and you hills, like lambs?
At the presence of the Lord, the earth trembles, at the presence of the God of Jacob:
Who melts the rocks like pools of water, the stony hill into fountains of water.

Psalm 114 (113:1-8) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

–Omitted from Half-Hallel–

Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to your name be the glory,
for you are merciful, and faithful.
The nations ask: where is their God?
Our God is in heaven: he does all things, whatsoever he wills.
Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths, yet cannot speak; they have eyes, yet cannot see.
They have ears, yet cannot hear; they have noses, yet cannot smell.
They have hands, yet cannot feel; they have feet, yet cannot walk; no decrees can come from their throat.
Let those who make them, be like them; and all who trust in such.
The house of Israel trusts in the Lord, he is their help and their shield.
The house of Aaron trusts in the Lord, he is their help and their shield.
Those who honour the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

–Omission ends–

Psalm 115:1-11 (113:9-19) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

The Lord shall remember us, and bless us. He has blessed the house of Israel: he has blessed the house of Aaron.
He blesses all that honours the Lord, both the lowly and great.
May the Lord heap blessings upon you and your children.
May you be blessed by the Lord, creator of heaven and earth.
The highest heavens belongs to the Lord, but the earth he has given to the children of Adam.
The dead do not praise the Lord, none of them that go down to hell.
But we that live, bless the Lord, now and for ever.
Hallelu Yah

Psalm 115:12-18 (113:20-26) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

–Omitted from Half-Hallel–
I love the Lord, for he hears the voice of my prayer, he heard my cry for mercy,
he turned his ear to me; so I will turn to him all my days.
The snares of death entangled me: and the anguish of hell came over me. I was overcome by distress and despair:
Then I called upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, deliver my soul.
The Lord is merciful and just, our God is full of compassion.
The Lord is the protector of the meek; I was weak and he delivered me.
O my soul, return to your rest, for the Lord has been bountiful to you.
For he has delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I will walk in the ways of the Lord in the land of the living.
*I kept my faith, even when I cried in great affliction,
when in rashness I declared every man a liar.
–Omission ends —

Psalm 116:1-11 (114:1-9) [*and (115:1-2)] – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

How can I repay the Lord for all he has given me?
I will raise the chalice of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord amidst all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am truly your servant, and the son of your handmaid. you have freed me from the shackles.
I will in thanksgiving offer you a sacrifice of praise, and call upon the name of the Lord.
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord amidst all his people.
In the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
Hallelu Yah

Psalm 116:12-19 (115:3-19) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

O praise the Lord, all you nations, praise him, all you people.
For he is merciful upon us: the Lord remains faithful for ever.
Hallelu Yah

Psalm 117 (116) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

Praise the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures for ever.
Let the house of Israel declare he is good,
his mercy endures for ever.
Let the house of Aaron declare he is good,
his mercy endures for ever.
Let them that honour the Lord declare he is good,
his mercy endures for ever.
In my distress I cried out to the Lord; and the Lord heard me, and strengthened me.
The Lord is my Stronghold, I will not fear what man can do to me.
The Lord is my Paraclete: I will stand before my enemies.
It is better to trust in the Lord, than to have trust in men.
It is better to trust in the Lord, than to trust in leaders.
All the nations surrounded me, yet in the name of the Lord I defeated them.
They surrounded me on all sides, yet in the name of the Lord I defeated them.
They surrounded me like bees, yet they were destroyed like thorny brush cast in the fire; and in the name of the Lord I defeated them.
They fiercely attacked me, so that I might fall, but the Lord is my support.
The Lord is my strength and my defence: he is my salvation.
Shouts of joy and salvation resound from the tabernacles of the righteous,
“The strong right hand of the Lord has done mighty deeds!
The strong right hand of the Lord has raised me up!
the strong right hand of the Lord has done mighty deeds! “
I shall not die, but live: and I shall proclaim the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me, and not delivered me over to death.
Open to me the gates of justice, and I will go into them, and give praise to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter.
I will give glory to you because you have heard me, and you are my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.
This the Lord has done, and it is wondrous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
O Lord, save me! O Lord, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name Lord.
Blessed is he who comes from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and his face shines upon us. He has appointed a solemn day, a procession of palm branches to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you:
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
I will praise you, for you have heard me, and are my salvation.
Praise the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures for ever.

Psalm 118 (117) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

The Great Hallel

The Great Hallel, also known as Hallel HaGadol, is Psalm 136 and it is recited in the form of a litany on the first night of Passover after full-Hallel is recited. If during a time of famine, on a fast day, rain is prayed for and it starts raining, The Great Hallel is also recited in thanksgiving to God. There is also some evidence that The Great Hallel was sung antiphonally during Temple worship. According to other opinions in the Talmud, Great Hallel can refer to Psalms 134-136.

Praise the Lord, for he is good: R. His mercy endures for ever.
Praise the God of gods: R.
Praise the Lord of lords: R.
YHVH alone does great wonders: R.
YHVH with wisdom made the heavens: R.
YHVH established the earth above the waters: R.
YHVH made the great lights: R.
YHVH made the sun to rule over the day: R.
YHVH made the moon and the stars to rule the night: R.
YHVH slew Egypt with their firstborn: R.
YHVH brought out Israel from among them: R.
YHVH with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm: R.
YHVH divided the Red Sea into parts: R.
YHVH brought Israel out from the sea: R.
YHVH overthrew Pharao and his host in the Red Sea: R.
YHVH led his people through the desert: R.
YHVH slew great kings: R.
YHVH slew strong kings: R.
YHVH slew Sehon king of the Amorrhites: R.
YHVH slew Og king of Basan: R.
YHVH gave their land for an inheritance: R.
YHVH gave an inheritance to his servant Israel: R.
YHVH was mindful of us in our affliction: R.
YHVH redeemed us from our enemies: R.
YHVH gives food to all flesh: R.
Praise the God of heaven: R.
Praise the Lord of lords: R.

Psalm 136 (135) – Translated by Jack Danya Kemplin

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