Rav Uri Sherki

"And He provided salvation for me" [Shemot 15:2]

Translated by Moshe Goldberg

It is a mitzva to recite the Hallel on a holiday, but sometimes it is not recited for various reasons. One time when it is not said is the last six days of Pesach (it is true that Bnei Yisrael have taken it upon themselves to recite a partial version of Hallel, but this is not required, as is explained in Taanit 28b]. The two reasons that are given for this seem at first glance to contradict each other. While the Talmud explains that the last six days are not a new holiday, since the sacrifices of each day are identical (Arachin 10b), the Midrash gives a reason that during this time the Egyptians were killed (Pesikta D'Rav Kahana).

However, there is no real contradiction between the two sources. The Talmud usually presents open straightforward explanations, while the Midrash often gives a mystical approach which by itself might not have been a sufficient basis for a halachic ruling. And in what way can the Midrash's explanation be considered mystical? This is because the explanation pertains to G-d and not to mankind. For we have been taught that there is indeed sadness in the heavenly realm when part of the creation is destroyed - "G-d said, these are my creations, and the others are my creations. Why should I destroy one because of the other?" [Sanhedrin 98b]. However, Bnei Yisrael were taught the opposite, to be happy when their enemies fall. In fact, this is the reason that the epic poem "Shirat Hayam" was sung at the Red Sea, praising G-d that he punished those who wanted to do us evil.

According to the Talmud, the test of true leadership is the ability to join in the rejoicing of the nation when its enemies are destroyed. The Almighty wanted to make Chizkiyahu the Mashiach, and Sancheriv would have played the role of Gog and Magog in the final redemption, except that Chizkiyahu did not sing the praises of G-d when Sancheriv was defeated. Evidently, this was because Chizkiyahu tended to act in accordance with his understanding of "the intentions of heaven," as is described in Berachot 10a.

In fact, a careful analysis of the words of the Midrash shows a fine distinction worthy of note. "On Pesach, we do not recite the Hallel, except for the first night and day." That is, Bnei Yisrael take into account the unhappiness in the heavens by reciting the Hallel for only one day. However, it is clear that it should be said on the first day to commemorate the fall of Egypt, in order that we will not be ungrateful for the miracles G-d performed for us. "It is taught in the name of Rabbi Papayus: It is a disgrace that Moshe and a community of 600,000 did not recite a blessing until Yitro came and blessed G-d" [Sanhedrin 94a].

And this explains the verse in Shirat Hayam, "G-d is my strength, and my song" - that is, I praise G-d - because, "He provided salvation for me" [Shemot 15:2]. The actions of the Almighty were a benefit for me and not for the angels. Therefore, the angels did not sing praises (Megila 10b), while "I will sing to G-d" [15:1]. It is appropriate and necessary for me to sing praise.