Psalms – Chapter 113

Hallel Begins

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Psalm 113 is the first Psalm in the series that constitutes Hallel. Hallel, which means “praise,” is a special prayer recited on most holidays. (There are a variety of rules governing when Hallel is said. For example, Hallel is not recited on Purim or Rosh Hashana; on Rosh Chodesh and all the days of Passover except the first day(s) of Yom Tov, an abbreviated version often called “half Hallel” is recited.)

David says that the Jews, who are G-d’s servants, should praise Him. They served Pharaoh before G-d redeemed them from Egypt, making His Name known to the world. That Name should be eternally blessed, from sunrise to sunset (see Malachi 1:11). G-d is far above all nations; His glory is even higher than Heaven.

Who is like G-d? (Nobody.) His metaphorical throne is high above us, but He still keeps an eye on all of us down below. He picks the needy up out of the gutter and seats them alongside important people. He controls nature so that childless women can become mothers. For all this, praise G-d!

The reference to childless women refers to many righteous women who initially had trouble conceiving, but then gave birth to important leaders of the nation. This includes Sarah (the mother of Isaac), Rebecca (mother of Jacob), Rachel (mother of Joseph) and the mothers of Samson and Samuel, among others. Metaphorically, it refers to the rebirth of Israel and Jerusalem when the exiles return. (Rashi cites Isaiah 66:8, comparing Israel to a woman who has been through labor, then delivers.) The closing words of this Psalm, “Eim HaBanim Semeicha,” a joyful mother of children, was used as the title for Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal’s seminal work on the land of Israel.

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