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Friday, 24 Kislev 5770 / December 11, 2009

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Megillah vChanukah - Chapter Three

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Megillah vChanukah - Chapter Three

1

In [the era of] the Second Temple, the Greek kingdom issued decrees against the Jewish people, [attempting to] nullify their faith and refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. They extended their hands against their property and their daughters; they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within, and made the sacraments impure.

The Jews suffered great difficulties from them, for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them. The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame [them], slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand.

They appointed a king from the priests, and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple.

א

בבית שני כשמלכי יון גזרו גזרות על ישראל ובטלו דתם ולא הניחו אותם לעסוק בתורה ובמצות. ופשטו ידם בממונם ובבנותיהם ונכנסו להיכל ופרצו בו פרצות וטמאו הטהרות. וצר להם לישראל מאד מפניהם ולחצום לחץ גדול עד שריחם עליהם אלהי אבותינו והושיעם מידם והצילם וגברו בני חשמונאי הכהנים הגדולים והרגום והושיעו ישראל מידם והעמידו מלך מן הכהנים וחזרה מלכות לישראל יתר על מאתים שנים עד החורבן השני:

In [the era of] the Second Temple - The Chanukah miracle took place in the year 3596 (165 BCE). The Greek persecutions began several years beforehand.

the Greek kingdom - More particularly, the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, whose ruling hierarchy was of Greek origin.

issued decrees against the Jewish people, [attempting to] nullify their faith - Bereshit Rabbah 2:4 relates that the Greeks would have the Jews "write on the horn of an ox that they have no portion in the God of Israel."

and refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. - See Megillat Antiochus, which relates that the Greeks prevented the Jews from observing the Sabbath and performing circumcision.

They extended their hands against their property - In this era, the Greek rulers established gentile cities in Eretz Yisrael and deprived the Jewish population of its livelihood.

and their daughters - Rashi, Shabbat 23a, states that before a Jewish virgin was married, she was required to have relations with a Greek officer.

they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within - See Middot 1:6, 2:3 and Shekalim 6:3, which speak of the Greeks breaking open portions of the Soreg, a divider on the Temple Mount, and destroying portions of the wall around the Temple Courtyard.

and made the sacraments impure. - As we find with regard to the oil for the Menorah, the Greeks did not destroy the oil; they made it impure.

Herein, there is a lesson regarding the nature of the conflict between the Greeks and the Jews. The Greeks were not anxious to stamp out Judaism entirely. They were prepared to accept Judaism as one of the cultures of the Mediterranean area, which they would incorporate into an all-encompassing collection of knowledge and values; i.e., the sacraments of Judaism would remain, but they would become impure, tainted by Greek culture.

The Jews suffered great difficulties from them, for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them. - By calling attention to the Divine origin of the Jews' victory before mentioning the Hasmoneans, the Rambam emphasizes the miraculous and spiritual nature of the miracle.

The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame [them], slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand. - The valiant struggle of the Hasmoneans who were able to defeat the most powerful armies of the world with guerilla forces is recounted in many sources.

They appointed a king from the priests, and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple. - There is a significance to these statements beyond the laws of Chanukah. There are many Rabbinic authorities who are highly critical of the Hasmoneans for assuming the kingship of the Jewish people. (See the Ramban's commentary on the Torah, Parashat Vayichi.) Although in Hilchot Melachim 1:7-8, the Rambam writes that King David's descendants have an eternal right to the monarchy in Jerusalem, his description here of the Hasmoneans as kings does not have the slightest intimation of criticism; if anything, the contrary is true.

Several laws regarding the nature of kingship are derived from the Hasmonean kings and others, even from the kings of Herod's dynasty, who ruled after them.

2

When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, they entered the Sanctuary; this was on the twenty-fifth of Kislev.1 They could not find any pure oil in the Sanctuary, with the exception of a single cruse. It contained enough oil to burn for merely one day. They lit the arrangement of candles from it for eight days2 until they could crush olives and produce pure oil.3

ב

וכשגברו ישראל על אויביהם ואבדום בכ"ה בחדש כסליו היה ונכנסו להיכל ולא מצאו שמן טהור במקדש אלא פך אחד ולא היה בו להדליק אלא יום אחד בלבד והדליקו ממנו נרות המערכה שמונה ימים עד שכתשו זיתים והוציאו שמן טהור:

3

Accordingly, the Sages of that generation ordained that these eight days, which begin from the twenty-fifth of Kislev, should be commemorated to be days of happiness and praise [of God]. Candles should be lit in the evening at the entrance to the houses on each and every one of these eight nights to publicize and reveal the miracle.

These days are called Chanukah. It is forbidden to eulogize and fast on them, as on the days of Purim. Lighting the candles on these days is a Rabbinic mitzvah, like the reading of the Megillah.

ג

ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת ימים האלו שתחלתן כ"ה בכסליו ימי שמחה והלל ומדליקין בהן הנרות בערב על פתחי הבתים בכל לילה ולילה משמונת הלילות להראות ולגלות הנס. וימים אלו הן הנקראין חנוכה והן אסורין בהספד ותענית כימי הפורים. והדלקת הנרות בהן מצוה מדברי סופרים כקריאת המגילה:

Accordingly, the Sages of that generation - Shabbat 21b states that the celebration of the holiday was ordained in the year following the miracle.

ordained that these eight days, which begin from the twenty-fifth of Kislev, should be commemorated - There are many who question why the holiday is celebrated for eight days, since the miracle was only for seven (for there was enough oil for the Menorah to burn for a single day). The Rambam's words seem to allude to a resolution of this difficulty. The miraculous lighting of the Menorah began on the twenty-fifth of Kislev and continued for eight days.

[Note, however, the Pri Chadash (Orach Chayim 670:1), who explains that, according to the Rambam, the first day of the celebration was instituted in appreciation of the military victories, while the remaining seven came in recognition of the miracle of the Menorah.]

as days of happiness - an acknowledgement of God's miracles in a material context in appreciation of the military victories.

As the Rambam explains in Hilchot Purim, Chapter 2, "happiness" is associated with feasting. In this context, the Yam shel Shlomo, Bava Kama 7:37, explains that according to the Rambam - in contrast to the rulings of the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 670:2) - the festive meals customarily served on Chanukah can be considered to be feasts associated with a mitzvah.

and praise [of God]. - A spiritual acknowledgement of God in appreciation of the miracle of the Menorah. These two aspects of the celebration of the holiday reflect the different nature of the miracles mentioned in each of the first two halachot (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 10).

Candles should be lit in the evening at the entrance to the houses on each and every one of these eight nights to publicize and reveal the miracle. - Both factors, the kindling of the Chanukah candles at night - when their light could be seen - and their placement at the entrance to the house - where their light will be projected into the street - emphasize the principle of pirsumei nisa, publicizing the Chanukah miracle.

These days are called Chanukah. - According to the Rambam, the choice of this name is somewhat problematic: As mentioned above, there are authorities who associated the name with the expression, חנו כה, "they camped on the twenty-fifth." This certainly does not express the Rambam's view. Megillat Ta'anit associates Chanukah with chanukat hamizbe'ach, the rededication of the altar in the Temple, but there is no mention of this event by the Rambam here.

It is forbidden to eulogize and fast on them, as on the days of Purim. - As mentioned in the commentary on Chapter 2, Halachah 13, the prohibition to eulogize and fast applies only on the days of Chanukah themselves, and not on the preceding or succeeding days.

Significantly, unlike Purim, there is no prohibition against work on Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 670:1).

Lighting the candles on these days is a Rabbinic mitzvah, like the reading of the Megillah. - This emphasizes the Rambam's perspective that the allusion to the obligation to read the Megillah in the Megillah itself does not change the status of this mitzvah. (See also the commentary on Chapter 1, Halachah 1.)

4

Whoever is obligated to read the Megillah is also obligated to kindle the Chanukah lamp.4 On the first night, a person lighting [the lamp] recites three blessings. They are:

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us5 to light the Chanukah lamp.

"...who wrought miracles for our ancestors...."6

"...who has granted us life, sustained us...."7

When a person who did not recite a blessing [on his own Chanukah lamp] sees a lamp,8 he should recite the latter two blessings.9 On subsequent nights, a person who kindles the lamp should recite two blessings and one who sees a lamp should recite one, for the blessing Shehecheyanu is recited only on the first night.10

ד

כל שחייב בקריאת המגילה חייב בהדלקת נר חנוכה והמדליק אותה בלילה הראשון מברך שלש ברכות ואלו הן. בא"י אמ"ה אקב"ו להדליק נר של חנוכה ושעשה נסים לאבותינו וכו' ושהחיינו וקיימנו וכו'. וכל הרואה אותה ולא בירך מברך שתים. שעשה נסים לאבותינו ושהחיינו. ובשאר הלילות המדליק מברך שתים והרואה מברך אחת שאין מברכין שהחיינו אלא בלילה הראשון:

5

On each and every one of these eight days, the entire Hallel11 is recited.12 Before [its recitation], one should recite the blessing "...who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to complete the Hallel." This applies whether the recitation is individual or communal.13

Even though the reading of the Hallel is a mitzvah ordained by the Sages, one may recite the blessing [stating] "who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us," as one recites a blessing for the reading of the Megillah14 and for the erection of an eruv.15 A blessing should be recited for every definite obligation established by our Sages.16

In contrast, if an obligation was established by the Sages because of a doubt - e.g., tithing d'mai,17 - a blessing is not recited.18 [This principle invites a question:] Why is a blessing recited over the second day of a festival; its observance was ordained only because of doubt?19 [This was ordained] lest it be treated with disdain.20

ה

בכל יום ויום משמונת הימים אלו גומרין את ההלל ומברך לפניו אקב"ו לגמור את ההלל בין יחיד בין צבור. אע"פ שקריאת ההלל מצוה מדברי סופרים מברך עליו אק"ב וצונו כדרך שמברך על המגילה ועל העירוב. שכל ודאי של דבריהם מברכין עליו אבל דבר שהוא מדבריהם ועיקר עשייתן לו מפני הספק כגון מעשר דמאי אין מברכין עליו. ולמה מברכין על יו"ט שני והם לא תקנוהו אלא מפני הספק כדי שלא יזלזלו בו:

6

It is not the recitation of Hallel on Chanukah alone that is a Rabbinic ordinance, but rather, at all times - i.e., on all the days that the complete Hallel is recited, [the obligation to do so] is a Rabbinic ordinance.

There are eighteen days during the year when it is a mitzvah to recite the entire Hallel. They are: the eight days of Sukkot, the eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach, and the holiday of Shavuot. Hallel is not recited on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, since they are days of repentance, awe, and fear, and are not days of extra celebration. The [Sages] did not ordain the recitation of Hallel on Purim, because the reading of the Megillah [serves the purpose of Hallel].

ו

ולא הלל של חנוכה בלבד הוא שמדברי סופרים אלא קריאת ההלל לעולם מדברי סופרים בכל הימים שגומרין בהן את ההלל. ושמנה עשר יום בשנה מצוה לגמור בהן את ההלל ואלו הן. שמנת ימי החג. ושמנת ימי חנוכה. וראשון של פסח ויום עצרת. אבל ראש השנה ויום הכפורים אין בהן הלל לפי שהן ימי תשובה ויראה ופחד לא ימי שמחה יתירה. ולא תקנו הלל בפורים שקריאת המגילה היא ההלל:

It is not the recitation of Hallel on Chanukah alone that is a Rabbinic ordinance - Since Chanukah is a Rabbinic holiday, one might think that the recitation of Hallel on those days is Rabbinic in origin, while the recitation of Hallel on the festivals has its source in the Torah itself. This is not the case.

but rather, at all times - i.e., on all the days that the complete Hallel is recited, [the obligation to do so] is a Rabbinic ordinance. - The Ra'avad notes that the Sages (see Pesachim 95b, Arachin 10b) consider Isaiah 30:29, "This song shall be to you as the night of the sanctification of the festivals" to be a reference to the recitation of Hallel. Because of this association with a Biblical verse, he considers the obligation to recite Hallel as different in status from other Rabbinic commandments. Indeed, the Halachot Gedolot considers this obligation to be one of the 613 mitzvot. This runs contrary to the position the Rambam mentions in Sefer HaMitzvot (General Principle 1), where he states that even those mitzvot ordained by the prophets are considered to be Rabbinic commandments.

The Maggid Mishneh explains that the verse in Isaiah reflects a command to recite Hallel in appreciation whenever God redeems us from difficulties. (For this reason, it is customary in certain communities to recite Hallel on the anniversary of a miraculous deliverance.) The custom of reciting Hallel on festivals, however, was established afterwards.

There are eighteen days during the year when it is a mitzvah to recite the entire Hallel - in Eretz Yisrael. There are three more days in the diaspora, as mentioned in the following halachah.

They are: the eight days of Sukkot, the eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach - In contrast to the holiday of Sukkot, when a different musaf sacrifice is offered each day, on Pesach the same musaf sacrifice is offered every day throughout the holiday. Therefore, the entire Hallel is recited on the first day alone (Arachin 10b).

(Note also Megillah 10b, which states in connection to the splitting of the Red Sea, the major miracle associate with the later days of Pesach, "My creations are drowning in the sea and you desire to say Hallel!")

and the holiday of Shavuot. Hallel is not recited on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, since they are days of repentence, awe, and fear, and are not days of extra - Rosh HaShanah is a day of happiness. Thus, Nechemiah 8:10, "Eat sumptuous foods and drink sweet beverages... for the happiness of God is your strength," is interpreted as a reference to Rosh HaShanah. Nevertheless, it is not a day of "extra celebration."

celebration. - Arachin 10b relates:

The ministering angels enquired before the Holy One, blessed be He: "Master of the world: Why do the Jews not recite songs [of praise] before You on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur?"

He told them: "Is it proper that the King should sit on the throne of judgment with the book of life and the book of death open before Him and the Jews should recite songs [of praise]?"

See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 4:7).

The [Sages] did not ordain the recitation of Hallel on Purim, because the reading of the Megillah [serves the purpose of Hallel]. - On this basis, the Meiri states that a person who cannot hear the reading of the Megillah should recite Hallel on Purim.

7

In places where the festivals are celebrated for two days, Hallel is recited on 21 days: On the nine days of Sukkot, the eight days of Chanukah, the [first] two days of Pesach, and the two days of Shavuot.21

[In contrast,] the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is a custom and not a mitzvah.22 It is observed [only] communally. [To emphasize that it is a custom,] passages are skipped when it is read. A blessing should not be recited over [this reading], since a blessing is not recited over a custom.23

A person [praying] alone should not recite [the Hallel] at all [on Rosh Chodesh].24 If, however, he began its recitation, he should complete it, skipping the passages the community would skip as he reads it.

Similarly, on the other days of Pesach, [the Hallel] is read while skipping passages.25

ז

מקומות שעושין יום טוב שני ימים גומרין את ההלל כ"א יום. תשעה ימי החג. ושמנה ימי חנוכה. ושני ימים של פסח. ושני ימים של עצרת. אבל בראשי חדשים קריאת ההלל מנהג ואינו מצוה. ומנהג זה בצבור לפיכך קוראין בדילוג. ואין מברכין עליו שאין מברכין על המנהג ויחיד לא יקרא כלל. ואם התחיל ישלים ויקרא בדילוג כדרך שקוראין הצבור. וכן בשאר ימי הפסח קוראין בדילוג כראשי חדשים:

8

And how should one skip? One recites from the beginning of the Hallel until the phrase chalamish lema'y'no mayim. One then skips and [begins] reciting A-donai z'charanu y'varech, [continuing] until Halleluyah. One then skips and [begins] reciting Mah ashiv lA-donai, [continuing] until Halleluyah. Afterwards, one skips and [begins] reciting Min hametzar karati Yah, [continuing] until the conclusion of the Hallel.

This is the common custom. Others skip [passages] according to a different pattern.

ח

כיצד מדלגין. מתחילין מתחלת ההלל עד חלמיש למעינו מים ומדלג ואומר ה' זכרנו יברך כו' עד הללויה ומדלג ואומר מה אשיב לה' עד הללויה ומדלג ואומר מן המצר קראתי יה עד סוף ההלל. זה הוא המנהג הפשוט. ויש מדלגין דילוג אחר:

And how should one skip - when reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and the latter days of Pesach?

One recites from the beginning of the Hallel - Psalm 113

until the phrase chalamish lema'y'no mayim. - The conclusion of Psalm 114.

One then skips and [begins] reciting A-donai z'charanu y'varech - Psalm 115:12

[continuing] until Halleluyah. - The conclusion of that psalm.

One then skips and [begins] reciting Mah ashiv lA-donai - Psalm 116:12

[continuing] until Halleluyah. - The conclusion of that psalm.

Afterwards, one skips and [begins] reciting Min hametzar karati Yah - Psalm 118:5.

[continuing] until the conclusion of the Hallel. - i.e., the conclusion of that psalm.

This is the common custom. - The Maggid Mishneh mentions that this is the custom which was followed in his community. Rav Kapach notes that there are some communities in Yemen that still follow this custom.

Others skip [passages] according to a different pattern. - Today, the popular custom in both Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities is to follow the pattern mentioned by Rashi, Ta'anit 28b. This resembles the pattern mentioned by the Rambam with one difference. Only the first two portions that the Rambam suggests skipping are skipped. From that point onward, the Hallel is recited until its conclusion. (See also Eliyahu Rabba 422.)

9

It is appropriate to recite Hallel throughout the entire day. A person who reads Hallel in improper sequence does not fulfill his obligation. If a person reads and pauses, reads and pauses, even if he pauses for a time long enough to complete the entire [Hallel], he fulfills his obligation.

On the days when the entire Hallel is recited, one may make an interruption between chapters. Within a [single] chapter, however, one may not make an interruption. On the days when Hallel is read while skipping portions, one may make an interruption even within a chapter.

ט

כל היום כשר לקריאת ההלל. והקורא את ההלל למפרע לא יצא. קרא ושהה וחזר וקרא אע"פ ששהה כדי לגמור את כולו יצא. ימים שגומרין בהן את ההלל יש לו להפסיק בין פרק לפרק אבל באמצע הפרק לא יפסיק. וימים שקוראין בהן בדילוג אפילו באמצע הפרק פוסק:

It is appropriate to recite Hallel throughout the entire day. - Although Hallel is recited directly after the morning service, it is not an integral part of the prayer service and may be recited at other times. See Megillah 20b, which derives an allusion to this concept from the exegesis of Psalms 118:24: "This is the day which God wrought; let us rejoice and exult in it." Our "rejoicing and exultation," the recitation of Hallel, may be carried out throughout the entire day.

A person who reads Hallel in improper sequence does not fulfill his obligation. - Megillah 17a,b equates the reading of Hallel with the reading of the Megillah in this respect. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 1.)

Note the Mishnah Berurah 422:26, which explains that there are authorities who rule that proper sequence is required only within a particular psalm. The order of the psalms themselves, however, may be altered. This view, however, is not accepted by most authorities, and the prevailing practice is to follow their ruling.

See also Hilchot Kri'at Shema 2:11, where the Rambam states that it is not absolutely necessary to read the different passages of the Shema in order. On the other hand, there the Rambam explains his decision, stating that the passages of the Shema are not found in this order in the Torah. In contrast, the psalms of Hallel are recited in the order they are found in the Bible.

If a person reads and pauses, reads and pauses, even if he pauses for a time long enough to complete the entire [Hallel], he fulfills his obligation. - From Rosh HaShanah 34b, we can conclude that the laws that apply to the reading of the Megillah also apply to the reading of Hallel. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 2.)

As mentioned in the commentary on that halachah, the Ramah (Orach Chayim 65:1) rules that should a person be forced to refrain from completing the Shema because the place in which he is located contains filth, he does not fulfill his obligation if he waited the amount of time required to recite the Shema in its entirety. The commentaries question if this law applies with regard to the recitation of Hallel as well. (See Mishnah Berurah 422:25.)

On the days when the entire Hallel is recited, - the recitation of the Hallel has the strength of a Rabbinic commandment. Hence, the laws governing it are more severe.

one may make an interruption between chapters. - Seemingly, the Rambam does not consider the recitation of Hallel analogous to the recitation of the Shema (see Hilchot Kri'at Shema 2:15-16) and appears to allow all interruptions (Maggid Mishneh). The Lechem Mishneh, however, is more restrictive and allows interruptions only when there is a need.

In their analysis of Berachot 14a (the source for this halachah), Rabbenu Asher and other commentaries differ and compare the recitation of Hallel to the recitation of the Shema. Thus, one may greet an honored person between the chapters and may respond to a greeting from anyone at that time. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 488:1) follows this ruling.

Within a [single] chapter, however, one may not make an interruption. - Here, the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.), following the principles mentioned above, states that a person may interrupt his recitation to greet his father or his teacher, or to respond to greetings from an honored person.

On the days when Hallel is read while skipping portions - The Eliyahu Rabba explains that the Rambam's ruling depends on his previous decision that a blessing should not be recited on these days. Making an interruption is significant when a blessing is recited. When a blessing is not recited, what does it matter whether one makes an interruption or not?

Although this explanation may be acceptable according to the Rambam's view, according to the Shulchan Aruch's ruling mentioned below, a different rationale must be applied. (See Be'ur Halachah 422.)

one may make an interruption - as above, any type of interruption

even within a chapter. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 422:4) differs and states that while the rules for making interruptions are more lenient on these days, one may not make an interruption for a matter that has no importance whatsoever. One may, however, greet a person one must honor and respond to greetings given by anyone.

10

On all the days when the complete Hallel is recited,26 a blessing should be recited before Hallel.27 In places where it is customary to recite a blessing afterwards, a blessing should be recited [on these days].28

What blessing is recited?

God our Lord, all Your works will praise You, and the righteous and Your pious ones, who carry out Your will, and Your nation, the House of Israel, will joyously praise Your name. For it is good to praise You, O God, and it is is pleasant to sing to Your name. From the [spiritual] worlds to the [physical] world, You are the Almighty. Blessed are You, God, the King who is extolled and praised, who is glorified, living and enduring. May He reign at all times and for eternity.29

י

כל יום שגומרין בו את ההלל מברך לפניו. ומקום שנהגו לברך אחריו מברך. כיצד מברך יהללוך ה' אלהינו כל מעשיך וצדיקים וחסידים עושי רצונך וכל עמך בית ישראל ברנה יודו לשמך כי אתה ה' לך טוב להודות ונעים לשמך לזמר ומעולם ועד עולם אתה האל ברוך אתה ה' המלך המהולל המשובח המפואר חי וקיים תמיד ימלוך לעולם ועד:

11

There are places which follow the custom of repeating30 each verse from od'cha ki anitani (Psalms 118:21) until the conclusion of the Hallel.31 Each verse is read a second time. In places where this repetition is customary, the verses should be repeated. In places where it it is customary not to repeat, they should not be repeated.32

יא

יש מקומות שנהגו לכפול מאודך כי עניתני עד סוף ההלל כופלין כל דבר ודבר שתי פעמים. ומקום שנהגו לכפול יכפול ומקום שנהגו שלא לכפול אין כופלין:

12

This is the custom according to which Hallel was recited in the days of the early Sages:33 After reciting the blessing, an adult34 begins reciting the Hallel and says, Halleluyah. All the people respond Halleluyah.

He then reads, Hallelu avdei A-donai, and all the people respond, Halleluyah.35 He then reads, Hallelu et shem A-donai36 and all the people respond, Halleluyah. He then reads, Yehi shem A-donai mevorach me'atah v'ad olam, and all the people respond, Halleluyah.

Similarly, after every bar [of the Hallel, the people respond Halleluyah]. Thus, they respond Halleluyah 123 times throughout the entire Hallel; a sign to remember this: the years of Aaron's life.37

יב

מנהג קריאת ההלל בימי חכמים הראשונים כך היה. אחר שמברך הגדול שמקרא את ההלל מתחיל ואומר הללויה וכל העם עונין הללויה וחוזר ואומר הללו עבדי ה' וכל העם עונין הללויה וחוזר ואומר הללו את שם ה' וכל העם עונין הללויה וחוזר ואומר יהי שם ה' מבורך מעתה ועד עולם וכל העם עונין הללויה וכן על כל דבר, עד שנמצאו עונין בכל ההלל הללויה מאה ושלש ועשרים פעמים סימן להם שנותיו של אהרן:

13

[It is] also [customary that] when the reader reaches the beginning of each and every chapter, the people repeat the line he recited. What is implied? When he recites the line B'tzeit Yisrael miMitzrayim,38 the people repeat the line B'tzeit Yisrael miMitzrayim.

The reader then recites beit Yaakov me'am lo'ez and all the people respond, Halleluyah. [They continue to respond Halleluyah after each bar] until the reader reads, Ahavti ki yishma A-donai et koli tachanunai,39 to which the people all respond, Ahavti ki yishma A-donai.... Similarly, when the reader reads Hallelu et A-donai kol goyim,40 the people all respond, Hallelu et A-donai kol goyim.

יג

וכן כשהקורא מגיע לראש כל פרק ופרק הן חוזרין ואומרין מה שאמר. כיצד כשהוא אומר בצאת ישראל ממצרים כל העם חוזרין ואומרין בצאת ישראל ממצרים. והקורא אומר בית יעקב מעם לועז וכל העם עונין הללויה עד שיאמר אהבתי כי ישמע ה' את קולי תחנוני וכל העם חוזרין ואומרין אהבתי כי ישמע ה' וכו'. וכן כשיאמר הקורא הללו את ה' כל גוים כל העם חוזרין ואומרין הללו את ה' כל גוים:

14

The reader should read, Anna A-donai hoshi'ah na, and [the people] should repeat Anna A-donai hoshi'ah na, although it is not the beginning of a chapter. He [then] reads Anna A-donai hatzlichah na, and they repeat Anna A-donai hatzlichah na.41 He reads Baruch haba... and they respond Baruch haba....42

If the person reading the Hallel was a minor, a slave, or a woman, [the people] should repeat the entire Hallel after them word by word.43 The above represents the custom followed in the early ages and it is fitting to adhere to it. At present, however, I have seen different customs in all places with regard to the reading of [the Hallel] and the responses of the people, not one of them resembling another.

יד

הקורא אומר אנא ה' הושיעה נא והם עונין אחריו אנא ה' הושיעה נא. אע"פ שאינו ראש פרק. הוא אומר אנא ה' הצליחה נא והם עונים אנא ה' הצליחה נא. הוא אומר ברוך הבא וכל העם אומרים ברוך הבא. ואם היה המקרא את ההלל קטן או עבד או אשה עונה אחריהם מה שהן אומרין מלה מלה בכל ההלל. זהו המנהג הראשון ובו ראוי לילך. אבל בזמנים אלו ראיתי בכל המקומות מנהגות משונות בקריאתו ובעניית העם ואין אחד מהם דומה לאחד

Footnotes
1.

Significantly, the wording of the Rambam appears to indicate that the victory of the Hasmoneans took place on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. Rabbenu Nissim and other authorities explain that the victory took place on the twenty-fourth, and it was on the twenty-fifth that the Jews rested from the war and entered the Sanctuary. Indeed, an allusion to this is found in the very name Chanukah, חנוכה, which is broken up into two words, חנו כה, "they camped on the twenty-fifth."

2.

The commentaries raise the question: Why was the miracle of the cruse of oil necessary? With regard to communal offerings, in which category falls the kindling of the Menorah, we follow the rule that "the requirement for ritual purity is suspended," if it is impossible to bring the offering in purity (Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 4:7-17). Thus, if the cruse of pure oil had burned out, the Jews could have used impure oil. Why did God perform a miracle when there was no absolute necessity?

Among the explanations for this is that God saw the dedication of the Jewish people as evidenced by their search for pure oil, and, in a greater sense, by their entire struggle against the Greeks. This commitment which extended beyond the limits of their intellect evoked a miracle from God that transcended the limits of nature.

3.

This fact also provokes a question: Why did it take so long to produce pure olive oil? Although there is an obligation to use oil of the finest quality for the Menorah (see Hilchot Issurei HaMizbe'ach 6:1, 7-8-10), when there is no other alternative, inferior oil prepared for the Menorah is also acceptable. Seemingly, it would have been possible to produce oil from olives in the Jerusalem vicinity in less than eight days.

4.

I.e., all adult men and women; similarly, there is an obligation upon parents to train their children in the observance of this mitzvah.

Although Chanukah is a mitzvah that is dependent on a specific time, women are obligated, because "they were also included in the miracle." As mentioned in Halachah 1, the Greeks' decrees affected them and they also had a share in the military victory, for the Greek commander was slain by a woman, Yehudit.

5.

Although the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights was ordained by the Sages, it is proper to praise God "who commanded us," as explained in Chapter 1, Halachot 1 and 3.

6.

This blessing is also recited in commemoration of the Purim miracles (Chapter 1, Halachah 3).

7.

This blessing is recited whenever one fulfills a mitzvah that is performed only from time to time (Hilchot Berachot 11:9).

8.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 676:3) interprets this as referring to a person who has not lit the Chanukah candles yet, is not intending to light them, and will not have them lit by others in his home. (See Chapter 4, Halachah 11.) Since he will not be fulfilling the mitzvah by himself, he should commemorate the miracle by reciting these blessings on candles lit by others.

Significantly, Rav Kapach's version of the Mishneh Torah does not contain the phrase, "who did not recite a blessing." Based on a responsum of the Rambam, he develops a unique interpretation, explaining that one may recite these blessings several times each night if he did not have the intent to light or see additional Chanukah lamps.

9.

Since he did not kindle the lamp himself, it is improper for him to praise God for the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah.

10.

After the fulfillment of this mitzvah on the first night, it is no longer appropriate to recite this blessing.

11.

Hallel is a selection of celebrant psalms (Psalm 113-118). The Rambam mentions the entire Hallel as a contrast to the partial Hallel recited on Rosh Chodesh and the latter days of Pesach, which is described in Halachah 7.

12.

Significantly, the Rambam describes the laws of Hallel in these halachot instead of in the laws of prayer. This emphasizes that Hallel is an expression of praise for the miracles associated with the holiday, and, as apparent from the following halachah, an expression of holiday joy rather than a requirement of prayer.

13.

With regard to the partial Hallel, there are differences between an individual recitation and a communal recitation, as explained in Halachah 7. No such differences apply with regard to the full Hallel, and there is an obligation incumbent on each individual to recite these psalms with a blessing.

14.

As mentioned in the commentary on the previous halachah, the difficulty is that the blessing implies that the mitzvah was given to us by God, and yet these mitzvot were ordained by the Sages. This difficulty is resolved by explaining that the Torah commands us to adhere to the rulings of the Sages. Therefore, by observing the Sages' command, we are fulfilling God's will. (See Chapter 1, Halachot 1 and 3.)

15.

The term eruv refers to three different practices: the convention established to allow one to carry in a closed courtyard on the Sabbath, the convention established to allow one to cook for the Sabbath on a festival that falls on Friday, and the convention allowing one to extend the limits one is allowed to walk on the Sabbath. (See Hilchot Eruvin.)

One might ask why the Rambam mentions the reading of the Megillah and the eruv, but not the kindling of the Chanukah lights mentioned in the previous halachah. Similarly, one may ask why this issue was not discussed with regard to the recitation of the blessing over the Chanukah lights.

16.

In addition to these four mitzvot, the mitzvot instituted by the Rabbis over which blessings are recited include the washing of hands before prayer and meals, and the lighting of candles before Sabbaths and festivals.

17.

D'mai refers to produce belonging to unlearned individuals whom the Sages suspected of refraining from separating the tithes required by our Sages. They required that the tithes be separated by anyone who acquired such produce. (See Hilchot Ma'aser, Chapter 9.)

18.

The Rambam's statement is based on his interpretation of Shabbat 23a. The Ra'avad offers a different interpretation of the passage, which would require the recitation of a blessing for a Rabbinic mitzvah even if it was ordained only because of a doubt. Nevertheless, the Rambam's view is accepted by most authorities.

19.

See Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh, Chapter 5. Originally, when the calendar was determined according to the testimony of witnesses who saw the new moon, the inhabitants of the far-removed areas were in doubt regarding when the festivals should be observed. Hence, they began to observe two days. This practice was perpetuated even in the present age, despite the fact that we follow a fixed calendar.

20.

The Sages felt that were the blessing not to be recited, the people would not regard these days as festivals.

21.

In order to emphasize that there is no difference between the first day of each holiday and the second, Hallel is recited on both days.

22.

Arachin 10b relates that although Rosh Chodesh is called mo'ed (a festival), since there is no prohibition against performing work, there is no obligation to recite Hallel.

The recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is also dealt with in Ta'anit 28b. That passage relates:

Rav arrived in Babylon. He saw that they recited Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and thought of stopping them. When, however, he saw that they skipped portions, he [allowed them to continue,] saying, "They are perpetuating a custom practiced by their ancestors."

Rav studied in Eretz Yisrael at the time of the composition of the Mishnah and returned to Babylon shortly thereafter. We can thus conclude from this passage that at that time, it was not customary in Eretz Yisrael to read Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, and that it was not until the center of Rabbinic authority shifted to Babylon that this custom became uniformly accepted throughout the Jewish people.

23.

The Rambam is reiterating a principle he stated in Hilchot Berachot 11:16, based on Sukkah 44b, which states that a blessing is not recited over the striking of the willows on Hoshana Rabbah, because it is a custom.

Some authorities object, however, explaining that the custom of striking the willows differs from the recitation of the Hallel. In the latter instance, since the Hallel is a lengthy prayer - in contrast to the performance of a simple action - it is proper to recite a blessing (Tosafot, Ta'anit 28b). Others differentiate between the communal recitation (see the following note) of the Hallel, where a blessing is required, and the recitation of these psalms by an individual, when it is not (Rabbenu Yonah, Maggid Mishneh).

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 422:2) quotes Rabbenu Yonah's view and that of the Rambam, stating that it is customary in Eretz Yisrael to follow the Rambam's ruling. In his gloss, the Ramah quotes Tosafot's view, stating that this is the Ashkenazic custom.

24.

Ta'anit 28b states:

There are eighteen days each year when an individual recites Hallel.... [With regard to Rosh Chodesh,] an individual does not begin. If he begins, he should complete it.

The halachic authorities differ in their interpretation of this passage: The Rambam interprets "does not" as "should not" - i.e., these prayers should be recited only communally and not by an individual. The Ashkenazim (Rashi and Tosafot) interpret "does not" as "need not" - i.e., the custom is an obligation on the community, which may be accepted by an individual if he desires.

In this instance, the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) does not accept the Rambam's ruling, and states that a person praying alone should recite the Hallel.

25.

Although most halachic authorities equate the latter days of Pesach with Rosh Chodesh totally, the Ramban differs and explains that there is a binding obligation on every individual to recite Hallel throughout the Pesach holiday. Nevertheless, he agrees that passages should be skipped in its recitation.

26.

There is a difference of opinion regarding the conclusion of this blessing. Many authorities state that on the days when the entire Hallel is recited, the blessing should conclude ligmor et haHallel, "to conclude the Hallel." It is, however, Ashkenazic custom to conclude the blessing likro et haHallel at all times, even when the entire Hallel is recited (Ramah, Orach Chayim 488:1).

27.

The Rambam's statement emphasizes the contrast between these days when a blessing is recited and the days when the Hallel is recited with skipped passages. On those days, no blessing is recited according to the Rambam, as stated in Halachah 7.

28.

The Rambam mentions that the matter is dependent on custom, quoting Sukkah 3:11. In the present day, however, it is a universally accepted custom to recite this blessing.

29.

There are slight differences between the text of the blessing quoted by the Rambam and that recited in Ashkenazic communities today. Rav Kapach also mentions slight differences between the authoritative Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah and the popularly printed text.

30.

According to our present custom, this means that both the chazan and the congregation recite these verses twice. Rav Kapach interprets this as meaning that the verses are repeated by the congregation after the reader.

31.

Rashi (Sukkah 38a) explains the rationale for the custom of repeating these verses as follows: The previous verses are repetitive in nature - e.g., "It is better to rely on God than to trust in men; It is better to rely on God than to trust in nobles"; or "The right hand of God performs deeds of valor, the right hand of God is exalted." In contrast, each of the verses from od'cha onward is an independent concept that is not repeated.

32.

In the era of the Shulchan Aruch, it appears that there were still variant customs in different communities. (See Orach Chayim 422:3.) Our present custom is to repeat these verses.

33.

The Rambam's rulings in this and the following halachot are based on Sukkah 38b, 39a.

34.

In contrast to a minor, as mentioned in Halachah 14.

35.

With regard to the practice of the people responding Halleluyah after each bar, Rashi (Sukkah 38b) cites Sotah 30b's description of the manner in which the Jews responded to Moses' recitation of the song of celebration after crossing the Red Sea.

36.

I.e., each verse of the Hallel contains at least two bars. The reader reads each bar out loud, and the people respond after him Halleluyah. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 422:3) mentions that there are communities that follow these practices. In the present age, these customs are no longer followed in all Ashkenazic and most Sephardic communities.

37.

See the Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 16:1 and Soferim, Chapter 16.

38.

This is the beginning of Psalm 114. The custom mentioned in this halachah is not followed in most communities at present.

39.

This is the beginning of Psalm 115. Significantly, the Rambam does not mention Lo lanu, the beginning of Psalm 116 according to our present reckoning.

Rav Kapach explains the Rambam's ruling based on the Jerusalem Talmud (Shabbat 16:1) which states that there are 147 chapters in the book of Psalms. According to the custom he cites, our Psalms 115 and 116 are a single chapter. There are, however, commentaries that maintain that the omission of Lo lanu is merely a printing error.

40.

This is the beginning of Psalm 117. There is a difference of opinion among the authorities if the congregation should repeat the verse Hodu... which begins Psalm 118.

41.

The Rambam is stating that these two phrases should be repeated by the congregation after the reader. This custom is followed at present as well, except that it is customary for both the reader and the congregation to repeat each phrase twice.

42.

Our translation follows the standard published text of the Mishneh Torah. Based on manuscripts and early printings of the Mishneh Torah, some authorities amend the text so that it reads: "He reads Baruch haba... and they respond beshem A-donai."

At present, it is customary to recite this and the following verses a second time, but not to do so in response to the reader.

43.

When the Hallel is recited in the manner described by the Rambam, the entire congregation does not recite the entire Hallel themselves. They nevertheless fulfill their obligation, based on the principle that "one who listens is considered as if he recited [the prayers] himself" (see Hilchot Berachot 1:11).

This principle does not apply, however, when the person reciting the prayer is not obligated to do so. Hence, since all the individuals mentioned by the Rambam (quoting Sukkah 3:10) are not obligated to say Hallel, an adult male cannot fulfill his obligation by listening to their recitation. By repeating the Hallel word for word, he does fulfill his obligation, since in this manner he recites the entire Hallel.

The Mishnah (loc. cit.) states that a person who must have one of the above read for him is worthy of a curse. The intent is that he should learn how to read himself.

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