Psalm 136

Psalm 136 (or, some sources say, psalms 135 and 136 together) is known as “the Great Hallel.” This distinguishes it from “the Egyptian Hallel,” Psalms 113-118, recited on festivals and Rosh Chodesh.

Psalm 136 begins with God making the heavens and closes with God giving “bread to all flesh.” Intermediate verses praise God for a variety of wondrous deeds, among them smiting the first born, casting Pharaoh and his army into the sea, leading Israel through the wilderness, giving the Land to Israel “as an inheritance” and slaying “the mighty kings.” Sihon and Og are explicitly named. (The kings appear in a similar context in Psalm 135.) The refrain “ki le’olam chasdo” [“God’s love is everlasting” or “God’s steadfast love is eternal”] is repeated 26 times in response to the litany of God’s deeds.

Og and Sihon

Regarding Og, King of Bashan, (Psalm 136:20) —

The stone which Og, king of Bashan wanted to throw at Israel. This has been handed down by tradition. He said: How large is the camp of Israel? Three parsangs. I will go and uproot a mountain of the size of three parsangs and cast it upon them and kill them. He went and uprooted a mountain of the size of three parsangs and carried it on his head. But the Holy One, blessed be He, sent ants which bored a hole in it, so that it sank around his neck. He tried to pull it off, but his teeth projected on each side, and he could not pull it off. This is referred to in the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked, as explained by R. Simeon b. Lakish. For R. Simeon b. Lakish said: What is the meaning of the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked? [NOTE: Psalm 3:8]. Do not read shibbarta (Thou hast broken], but shirbabta (Thou hast lengthened]. The height of Moses was ten cubits [NOTE: about 15 feet] He took an axe ten cubits long, leapt ten cubits into the air, and struck him on his ankle and killed him.
— Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 54b
[NOTES from Soncino translation*]

For more on the giant Og, see also p.461 in Tree of Souls.” Note, too, midrash in which God holds Mount Sinai over the heads of the Israelites offering them a choice between accepting the Torah or burial on the spot (Shabbat 88a).

See also Devarim Prayer Links.

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