On the last days of Pesach we say only half-Hallel. Isn’t that because of מעשה ידי טובעים בים ואתם אומרים שירה (Megillah 10b)? Aren’t we sad that Egyptians were drowned and we therefore don’t want to sing to Hashem?
The answer is no, it’s not because of this; it’s not because of מעשה ידי טובעים בים. There is no gemara that says that this is the reason for not saying Hallel on Pesach. I know that it’s frequently quoted and people think it’s a gemara but there is no gemara to that effect. And even if you show me a medrash that says it, you’re misinterpreting the medrash.
The reason why we say only half Hallel is because there was a takanah that on the first day of Pesach – for us the first two days – that we have to say Hallel. There is no reason, no takanah, to say Hallel on the other days. The other days it was only a minhag to say Hallel. And therefore, because there was no takanah, they couldn’t say the whole Hallel, so they said half-Hallel. Half-Hallel is only a minhag – the takanah was only the first day.
Now, on Sukkos the takanah was to say Hallel every day, because on Sukkos every day there was a different korban tzibur brought in the Beis Hamikdash. Because every day was something new and special, like its own yomtiv, so each day was also made special with the whole Hallel. Pesach however has the same korban every day and that’s the difference, that’s why we say only half-Hallel on all the other days of Pesach.
But this reason that you give, you heard it from others, and I’ve heard it as well many times, but there is no real Talmudic source that says that. Maybe in some sefer it’s written, but we have a right to discount it as the real reason for why we say half-Hallel.
TAPE # 26 (April 1973)
If we rejoice at the fall of the wicked, why don’t we say Hallel on the last days of Pesach?
So I’ll say two answers to that. One answer is what there is in seforim and one answer what I think is the real answer.
In seforim it says the last day of Pesach we don’t say the whole Hallel because of the drowning of Pharaoh’s army. But this is contradicted by the fact that az yashir Moshe — so we see we do rejoice — so we’ll say it’s just a zecher to the fact that the malachim didn’t rejoice. We’re reminded that Hakodosh Boruch Hu doesn’t rejoice. That’s all. But we have to rejoice anyhow! Still, we don’t say the full Hallel the last days in order to remember that the angels weren’t allowed to rejoice. That’s according to the seforim.
The truth is, however, there’s a more simple and straightforward answer. Because the takanah of Hallel was only a whole Hallel. There’s no such thing as half-Hallel in the original takanah. And the takanah was to say Hallel on the first day of Pesach and that’s all. The Hallel we say Chol Hamoed, that’s only a minhag that they started later. And the minhag of Hallel is only half-Hallel.
The same is Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is half-Hallel because originally there was no takanah to say Hallel – later on some communities began to say Hallel on their own, and when Hallel is said as a minhag, only half-Hallel is said.
TAPE # 425
Doesn’t it say, בנפל אויביך אל תשמח – ”When your enemy falls, do not rejoice?” And isn’t that the reason we say only half-Hallel on the last days of Pesach?”
Now, this was asked many times but it deserves an answer again.
The answer is as follows: When an enemy is your private personal enemy and he falls, don’t rejoice. But if he’s an enemy of Hashem, then rejoice and say Hallel.
Like the Am Yisroel did! אז ישיר ובני ישראל. Moshe sang when Pharaoh and his army were drowned. Certainly we rejoice! And so when we see the enemies of Hashem everywhere are perishing from AIDS we rejoice. They’re all atheists. They ridicule us. I once went into a store. There was a young man with an earring and he looked at me as if I was dirt. I’m a religious Jew so I’m a nothing. But he? He was wearing an earring so he’s an important person. You know what an earring means, don’t you?
And so, they’re our enemies. And therefore, when we read in the New York Times obituary, that so-and-so, an enemy of the Am Yisroel, died at the age of forty-two, we smile. We’re happy! Certainly! And we’re not ashamed to say so. We rejoice at the downfall of the enemies of Hashem.
“Don’t rejoice at the downfall of your enemy” means if you have a store and another Jew has a store. He’s your competitor. Now, maybe sometimes you spoke against him. Maybe he spoke against you. Whatever it is, אל תשמח – If chalilah something happens, don’t rejoice. But suppose it’s a person like Haman or Hitler or Pharaoh, certainly we rejoice. And by rejoicing in the downfall of the reshaim, Hashem is elevated. He’s elevated in our minds.
Now, Hallel on the last days of Pesach you have to understand it like this. The gemara says that Hakodosh Boruch Hu told the malachim, “You should not sing.” The question is why shouldn’t malachim sing when we did sing?
We sing because our function in this world is to get better and we become better when we see the downfall of reshaim; we become more and more aware of Hashem by means of our singing and our gratitude so we’re justified in singing. That’s the ladder by which we climb up higher and higher to Hashem.
But malachim cannot get any better. Malachim can’t improve. So why should they sing when they see the downfall of people who are the creatures that Hashem made? Every person is a marvelous product of Hashem’s handiwork and therefore it’s a great loss if a human being goes lost. So a malach has no right to rejoice. But we do rejoice; we’re obligated to rejoice!
Now, some say that on the last days of Pesach, as a zecher to what Hashem said to the malachim, that Hashem is sorry that anybody is destroyed, so we say only half-Hallel. But we say Hallel! After all, we do say half-Hallel. We don’t say no Hallel at all. So we see that our job is to rejoice, only that in order that it should be a zecher to the rachmei Hashem, so we just make a little remez.
Now the truth is, not everybody agrees with that reason. The real reason we’re saying half-Hallel is because it’s a continuation of the first day. On Pesach we bring the same korbanos every day, not like on Sukkos. We don’t say shehechiyanu in kiddush the last two days of Pesach. The last two days of Pesach, you don’t say shehechiyanu whereas the last two days of Sukkos, on Shmini Atzeres, you say shehechiyanu because it’s a special regel bifnei atzmo.
And therefore, not everybody agrees that that’s the reason. But even the source that says that reason is not saying that it’s a check on us, a check on our happiness. Because we do rejoice at the downfall of the wicked! Like it says, לא אמר שירה – Dovid didn’t say shira, עד שראה במפלתן של רשעים – until he saw the downfall of the resha’im. יתמו חטאים מן הארץ ורשעים עוד אינם הללוקה. The first hallelukah in Tehillim, Dovid said only when he saw the downfall of the resha’im.
TAPE # 905
The Gemara says that when the Egyptians were drowning in the Yam Suf and the malachim wanted to sing shira to Hashem, Hashem didn’t let them. He said מעשה ידי טובעים בים ואתם אומרים שירה – “My handiwork is drowning and you dare sing songs?!” Do we say only half-Hallel on Pesach because of מעשה ידי טובעים בים, because we are somewhat sad that Hashem’s handiwork was destroyed in the Yam Suf?
No, no. We don’t go along with that thought. That was said for the malachim – the angels weren’t created to grow greater in Awareness of Hashem, so why should they sing to Hashem when His handiwork is drowning? But we, we’re different; we’re in this world only to become more and more aware of Hashem. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to sing to Him in gratitude when He takes nekamah for us because that’s one of the more important methods of gaining tangible awareness of Him.
Now, there’s no question that it’s a loss – it’s Hashem’s handiwork drowning in the sea. Those are human beings that are drowning! They’re not just slabs of meat. It was people, with families. You know what that means? Hashem was drowning real people for our benefit! And what that means is that it’s incumbent upon us that we recognize that Hashem is expending His creatures for us, so that we should grow in Awareness of Him. That’s why we make note of the fact that it was the handiwork of Hashem – so that we should realize how big of an obligation we have to sing to Hashem.
But not that we should feel in any way sad that the Egyptians are drowning – the loss of human life is accentuated only so that we should realize how vital it is to make use of this event. Hashem wants us to sing to Him – that’s why He did it! And if Moshe Rabeinu hadn’t led the Bnei Yisroel in shira, Hashem would have said: “My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you’re not singing songs to Me?!” So we must sing! Only that in memory of Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s thoughts, as a memorial of Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s thoughts, that’s why we yield a little bit and say half-Hallel.
But that’s not the real reason, what the seforim say. The real reason is because of the korbanos. You see, there’s no such thing as half-Hallel al pi din. It’s either all Hallel or no Hallel. Half-Hallel is only a minhag. Only that in order to justify the minhag they invented this thought. But it’s not our thought. It’s a thought that Hashem told the malachim.
But we ourselves, even on chol hamoed we say Az Yashir – the whole shira – we’re very happy. We are very happy with what happened to Mitzrayim. We sing Az Yashir and we’re very happy. It says בשמחה רבה! We sing the song of gratitude with great happiness. We sing ירדו במצולות כמו אבן. They went down into the depths like stone, like lead. We’re very happy that they drowned. We sing and we rejoice that they drowned. We’re not sorry at all that they drowned.
And when Haman was hung up, nobody was going to be sorry for Haman. And all the reshaim of the world are the same. והזדים מהרה תעקר ותשבר ותמגר ותכניע במהרה בימינו. In that bracha we say מהרה three times. More than we say for anything else. And that’s because we have to get rid of the reshaim.
And that’s why Dovid Hamelech didn’t say הללויה until he saw the punishment of the wicked. Dovid waited until kepitel קד, he waited till the 104th chapter to say הללויה. All those kepitlech he said, but he couldn’t say הללויה. Only when he came to יתמו חטאים מן הארץ ורשעים עוד אינם – The wicked will be destroyed from the land, and there will be no more resha’im. “Ohhh, now I can say ברכי נפשי את השם הללויה,” said Dovid. “Now I can praise Hashem” (Brachos 9b). So now you know that the real happiness is not when Hashem does us favors; when He saves us. That’s not enough. We want to see the revenge that Hashem brings upon the wicked because that’s how we see Hashem; that’s how Hashem becomes real to us.
That’s why when Moshiach will come it’s not enough that we’ll go back to Eretz Yisroel. That’s not enough. We’ll have to see the nekamah on the gentiles for what they did to us. Especially in Europe. We must see the nekamah. And it’s going to be a tremendous nekamah. לעשות נקמה בגוים תוכחות בלאומים. Hakodosh Boruch Hu, in order to show that He’s a shofet tzedek, He’s going to justify his mishpat by meting out a tremendous punishment that they deserve to get. And it will happen; it will happen.
TAPE # E-182 (April 1999)
In private, the Rav told talmidim that although the reason of “maasei yadai toiv’im ba’yam” is quoted by the Beis Yosef (OC 490) in name of a medrash, as well as the the Taz, the Mishna Berura and others, it is only a drush and the actual reason is the one brought in the gemara in Arachin [that only on Sukkos when a different korban was brought each day, was there a takanah to say Hallel each day].
The Maharsha (Sanhedrin 39b and Brachos 9b) clearly says that the gemara in Arachin is rejecting the angel paradigm as the reason for half-Hallel. Many others including the Aruch Hashulchan (490:1) make note of the fact that the actual reason is the Talmudic one as does his son in Torah Temimah (Shemos 14:20) and the Mishna Berura himself in Hilchos Sukkah (644:4).
When talmidim asked the Rav about the medrash and how it might be explained, he said as follows:
והאלוקים עשה שיראו מלפניו – Everything that Hashem does in this world is for the purpose of us becoming more aware of Him. It means that the sun, trees, fruit, clouds etc. were all made by Hashem so that our Awareness of Him should become more genuine.
Now, when Hashem makes the sun or a tree or a cloud and people ignore it and don’t use it for its intended purpose, it’s a tragedy because it’s the handiwork of Hashem that is going to waste – it’s going to waste in the sense that it’s not being used for it’s intended purpose.
But it’s a much bigger tragedy when Hashem destroys people for the purpose of the Am Yisroel growing in Awareness of Him – as was the case with the drowning of the Mitzrim in the Yam Suf – and people still don’t use that opportunity to see the Hand of Hashem.
It’s a much bigger tragedy than not making use of the sun because here it’s people being expended, not merely solar energy. And that’s why if the Am Yisroel would not have said shira at the Yam Suf, Hashem would have said “My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you’re NOT singing to Me?!” Meaning, “How can you not make use of such a great opportunity to become more aware of Me, to tangibly feel My Presence, an opportunity that was only created by means of expending human life?”
And the point of the medrash is intended to serve as an impetus for us to understand how big of an obligation we have to say the half-Hallel with the proper Awareness of Hashem. And like the Rav said, “the real reason is because of the karbonos” and the medrash is only intended to “be a zecher to the rachmei Hashem,” and to emphasize our obligation to praise Hashem for the downfall of the reshaim.
As an additional note, it’s quite possible that the Beis Yosef brought this medrash down only in order to explain the daas yachid of the Ramban (ad loc) who says that there actually was a takana to say half-Hallel and that it wasn’t just a minhag like by Rosh Chodesh. However the reason from the Gemara in Arachin that the Beis Yosef brings down first, remains the primary reason for the halacha of our minhag to say half-Hallel on Pesach.