Rabbi Yehuda David
Former Rosh Kollel in Dayton
Next week is Rosh Chodesh Kislev, a day when we recite hallel. As we know, hallel is recited on certain special days and holidays. In this article, we will address two issues:
Is there a difference between the recitation of hallel on Rosh Chodesh and the recitation of hallel on other festivals?
What specific dinim (laws) apply to hallel?
A. The difference between hallel on Rosh Chodesh and hallel on other days:
The Gemara (BT Ta’anit 28b) lists the days when hallel is recited:
“As R’ Yochanan said in the name of R’ Shimon ben Yehotzadak, ‘on eighteen days of the year, an individual must complete thehallel, and they are: the eight days of the Chag (Succot and Shemini Atzeret), and the eight days of Chanukah, and the first yom tov of Pesach, and the (one) yom tov of Atzeret (Shavuot). And in the Diaspora, twenty-one days, and they are: the nine days of the Chag, and the eight days of Chanukah, and the first two days of Pesach, and the two yamim tovim of Atzeret.’”
Rosh Chodesh is obviously missing from this list. The Gemara continues with a story about the amora Rav:
“Rav visited Babylon and saw that [the people there] were reciting hallel on Rosh Chodesh. He considered stopping them. [But] since he saw that they were omitting [part of hallel], he said, ‘from this it is evident that it is minhag avoteihem b’yadeihem (their forefathers’ custom which they are upholding).’”
In other words, once he realized that they were reciting hallel b’dilug (literally, hallel with skipping or omission), he did not prevent them from reciting hallel on Rosh Chodesh. He understood that they were simply adhering to their forefathers’ custom.
Hallel b’dilug refers to the practice of reciting hallel but omitting the beginnings of two specific pirkei Tehillim: Chapter 115 (“Lo lanu”) and Chapter 116 (“Ahavti”). The remainders of these p’rakim are recited.
The Gemara does not indicate whether or not hallel b’dilug requires a bracha, and the Rishonim disagree in this regard. (Thismachloket relates to the larger question of whether or not one should recite a bracha over a minhag.) The Tosafot (ibid) – in the name of Rabbenu Tam – rule that although reciting hallel on Rosh Chodesh is a minhag, one should recite the bracha (as with other minhagim). Since the Rama concurs, Ashkenazim follow the Tosafot. However, the Rambam (Hilchot Megillah V’Chanukah 3) notes that hallel is not considered to be a mitzvah on Rosh Chodesh, and therefore one must recite it b’dilug and without a bracha(because one can not accurately say “v’tzivanu” – Who has commanded us). The Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with the Rambam, and thus Edot HaMizrach do not recite the bracha.
Conclusion: On Shloshet HaRegalim (the Three Festivals), hallel is recited, and according to some opinions, this recitation isme’haTorah. In contrast, everyone agrees that on Rosh Chodesh, hallel is a minhag, but the custom of reciting the bracha is not universal. Ashkenazim do recite the bracha, but Edot HaMizrach do not.
B. Laws of hallel:
1. Women: As we know, women are exempt from time-dependent positive mitzvot. Hence, women are exempt from recitinghallel, which is time-dependent. However, a woman is permitted to recite hallel, if she so desires. Sephardic women should refrain from reciting the bracha, but Ashkenazi women should recite the bracha.
We must note that women are required to recite hallel on the Seder night. In fact, the Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef rules that a woman may even recite the bracha for a man.
2. Hafsakah (interruption): Stopping to talk in the middle of hallel is similar to talking during kriat shema. In other words,mei’ikar hadin¸ during the middle of a perek (literally, chapter), one may greet those who must be treated with respect and also respond to anyone. For kriat shema, a perek refers to one of the parshiyot, and during hallel, each perek Tehillim is considered to be a “perek”.
But the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 66:2) rules that today, one should not greet anyone during the middle of a perek. In this way, he explains, no one will be inadvertently insulted. Therefore:
“One should neither greet nor respond – even for divrei Torah – neither between the p’rakim nor during p’sukei dizimra.”
Even silence can be a hafsakah (if the silence continues for the amount of time during which a person could have recited the entire hallel). Although one is not required to repeat hallel if there was a silent hafsakah, the Mishnah Berurah observes that some are machmir in this regard, and therefore, one should repeat hallel without a bracha.
3. Responding to devarim she’b’kedushah: If a person hears a bracha, kaddish, kedushah, etc. while he is reciting hallel, he may respond but should not say “baruch Hu baruch Sh’mo”. The reason is that since one may greet another person during kriat shema, one may certainly stop during the tefillah in order to honor HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
4. Arriving late to shul: If a person arrives in shul just before the recitation of hallel, he should recite hallel together with the rest of the congregation – in order to satisfy the opinion that states that only the tzibur (congregation) recites the bracha overhallel.
Conclusion: Reciting hallel is one way of observing Rosh Chodesh and other holidays. In terms of making a hafsakah, hallel is comparable to kriat shema. But at the same time, hallel is a time-dependent positive mitzvah, and thus, the question of a woman’s obligation arises. According to every opinion, women are permitted to recite hallel – both the full hallel and hallel b’dilug. However, not everyone agrees that women are obligated to recite the bracha.
May we all be privileged to enjoy a good and blessed month!