The “Egyptian Hallel” (Psalms 113-118), is distinguished from “the Great Hallel,” Psalm 136. The former is recited — in whole or part — on festivals, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah, as well as Yom Ha-atzmaut and Yom Yirushalayim. The latter is recited after the seder meal and in early prayers on Shabbat and festivals.
Half-hallel, recited on Rosh Chodesh and the last six days of Passover, leaves out the first half of Psalms 115 and 116. See also Re’eh Prayer Links.
Hallel includes both singular and plural verbs, according to Herbert Levine, “to keep alive both a personal relationship with God and a collective one. We cannot legitimately say, ‘We praise you,’ unless each of us is included.”
Hallel, says Rami Shapiro, “reminds us of the inevitable return of joyous times,” and delivery from distress even in the “midst of pain, sorrow, an despair.”
— both commenting in Kol Haneshamah (Reconstructionist)*
Mishkan T’filah (Reform) includes an abbreviated Hallel — psalm 117 and part of 118, plus an English reading from Delmore Schwartz — on pages 558-559. The subsequent ten pages offer a complete half-Hallel (i.e., Psalms 113-118, but missing the first half of ps. 115 and ps. 116; an announcement explains,”This service offers no alternative readings,” but says nothing about the verse selection.
To begin (at the end, as it happens), here are some specific notes for Psalm 118:
This is the final psalm in
–David Shneyer’s Hodu Lashem is one of my favorites for 118:1-4 (This site is a little slow to load, in my experience, but it has many amazing resources; to find this particular song, scroll down in the juke box);
–Shefa Gold offers an inspiring chant chant and teaching based on 118:14: Ozi v’zimrat Yah [My strength and my might — or in this teaching, “my song” — is God];
—There are numerous tunes for the verses beginning 118:5, “Min Hametzar Karati Yah” [from the narrow place I called out to God];
—118:19ff — Pitchu Li Shaarei Tzedek [open to me the gates of righteousness] — has also inspired a number of tunes;
—Likewise 118:21-24 — …Even ma’asu ha-bonim hay’tah l’rosh pinah [the stone the builders rejected will be the corner stone]…Zeh ha-yom asah hashem… [This is the day the Lord has made. Be glad and rejoice in it]….
If you have a link to a favorite tune or drash, please let me know. Comments and a “guest drash” are always welcome.