Most of us are familiar with the Hebrew word, Halleluiah. It is a word associated with devotion, thanksgiving and praise. Halleluiah means “Praise be God,” and it is a central theme throughout the Passover season.
During the second half of our Seder (the part that immediately follows our festive meal) songs of praise to God dominate our festivities. Theologically, these expressions of thanks and praise logically follow a fabulous feast celebrating our freedom and our hopes for a future redemption. These songs of praise, which come directly from the Book of Psalms, are referred to as Hallel.
Hallel is traditionally recited on all of the festival holidays, and it is used to mark and celebrate the coming of the new moon each month. According to the Talmud, Hallel serves to remind us of five major themes in the unfolding story of our heritage. These themes include the Exodus from Egypt; the splitting of the Red Sea; the giving of the Torah; the revival of the dead; and the challenges preceding the Messianic Age (Pesachim 118a). In other words, as we recite Hallel as a community of faith, we express our joy and gratitude for the miracles of the past with the hope that God will bless us with such miracles again in the future.
The Hallel liturgy is brief, and because it is constructed from selections from the Psalms, it lends itself to a wide variety of musical settings. Some of the compositions are complex, involving large choirs and elaborate instrumentation. Other settings are more participatory, enabling the congregation to express their joy and gratitude through song and verse. Regardless of the setting, Hallel can be a powerful way to express praise to God as a community.
Join us for a magnificent HCRJ Hallel on Friday night, April 18. This special service, which is part of our year-long got shabbat? series, will also be our second service from the rich musical heritage of Classical Reform Judaism.