Hallel (literally “praise”) is a collection of Psalms (chapters 113-118) included in the morning service on Jewish holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the new moon), and Passover eve. The Psalms are typically sung or chanted joyously, and the final verses (beginning from Psalms 118:21) are repeated twice.

Hallel: Sing and Chant Along

The Blessings

Since saying Hallel is a mitzvah, it is preceded by a blessing praising G‑d for having “sanctified us and commanded us to read the Hallel.” It is followed by a blessing that ends with the words, “Blessed are you G‑d, King, who is extolled with praises.”

When We Say Hallel

On Sukkot (and Shemini Atzeret), Chanukah, Passover, Shavuot, and Rosh Chodesh, Hallel is said following the repetition of the Amidah (What is the Amidah?).

Half Hallel

On Rosh Chodesh and the final six days of Passover, two paragraphs1 are omitted. This is colloquially referred to as “Half Hallel.” When reciting Half Hallel, only the chazzan (leader) recites the blessings, and the congregation responds “amen.” When praying without a minyan, say the blessing even for Half Hallel.

Read: Why Is Hallel Sometimes Whole and Sometimes Half?

Passover Eve

During the Passover Seder, when we praise G‑d for taking us out of Egypt, we recite Hallel. Some of it is included in “Maggid,” the main recital of the Haggadah. The balance is said later, following Grace After Meals. The blessing is not said before this Hallel, possibly because it is broken into two, or because it is more of a reading than active praise.

This Hallel is said while holding aloft the second and fourth of the four cups of wine drunk during the course of the Seder.

At the Passover Seder, we also say another Hallel, known as “The Great Hallel,” from Psalms 136. Why is this Psalm great? Because it praises G‑d for His great kindness in lowering Himself, so to speak, to feed every one of His creations.

In Temple times, when all of Israel gathered in Jerusalem to sacrifice their Passover lambs, the entire crowd sang Hallel together. In this light, when baking matzah on the afternoon before Passover, it is customary for the bakers to sing Hallel.

In some communities (notably Sephardic and Chassidic), Hallel is also said on the first two nights of Passover (in Israel, just the first night) in the synagogue, following the evening prayer service.

Explore: Texts and Explanations for the Seder

On Sukkot

While saying Hallel on Sukkot morning, we hold the “Four Kinds” (lulav and etrog sets). At four points during the service, we wave the lulav in six directions as indicated in the siddur (prayer book). This is followed by Hoshanot, when we circle the reading platform in the middle of the sanctuary while holding the lulav and etrog against the heart.

Read: All About Hoshanot

When We Do Not Say Hallel

Hallel is said on all major holidays besides for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Why is that?

According to the Talmud, the angels asked G‑d the same question. He replied:

Is it possible that while the King is sitting on the throne of judgment and the books of life and the books of death are open before Him, the Jewish people are reciting joyous songs?2

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are somber days whose mood is incompatible with the jubilant chanting of Hallel.

Jews and Hallel

Praying on Shabbat in a shtiebel in Kfar Chabad, Israel © Zalman Kleinman
Praying on Shabbat in a shtiebel in Kfar Chabad, Israel © Zalman Kleinman

There is something very natural about saying Hallel, praising G‑d for His kindness. The very word “Jew” is an adaptation of the Hebrew word Yehudi, which means “praiser.” This is expressed beautifully in the Talmud,3 where it discusses the source of the obligation to recite Hallel during the Second Passover sacrifice. After suggesting a scriptural source, the sages add: “Is it possible that the Jewish people would slaughter their Paschal lambs or take their lulavim and not recite Hallel?” This is so natural and obvious that there is no need for an explicit Biblical source.