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Thought for the Day: Chatzi Hallel Last Days of Pesach and Empathy for Others

A good friend of mine, Dr. Nate Marcus (Yaakov Nachum ben Freidel) has a condition that most of us would consider a minor inconvenience: he has almost no feeling in his feet.  That "minor inconvenience", however, has landed him in a burn unit undergoing procedures (I love that word) for second degree burns on his feet.  He went away for Yom Tov and was preparing to take a shower.  Of course, he adjusts the water temperature by feeling with his hands.  Because it was an unfamiliar shower, he didn't realize the drain was closed, thus filling the tub with scalding water.  By the time he realized the problem, the damage was done.  Never discount the chesed of being able to feel pain.

On the last days of Pesach, we say only Chatzi Hallel (literally, "half praises"'; but we really only elide two half chapters), as codified by the Shulchan Aruch, OC 490:4.  The Be'er HaGola points us to the gemara in Arachin 10b as the source.  The gemara there says that we don't say Hallel (by which it means full Hallel) on the last days of Pesach because the korban musaf is the same for every day of Pesach.  The Mishna Brura, however, gives a completely different reason: Because on the seventh day of Pesach the Egytians drowned.  HaKadosh Baruch Hu said, "My handiwork is drowning and you want to sing praises to me!?"  We can't say full Hallel on the last day and we don't want cholo shel moed to be treated better than the seventh day (which is a full Yom Tov).

Hang on.  First of all, that statement (TB Megilla 10b) was made to the malachei hasharis, not to klal yisrael!  For whatever reason they weren't allowed to sing, why is that relevant to us?  Second, we do sing shira -- Shir al haYam -- every single day in davening; and they did, too!  Third, the medrash raba says that the malachei hashareis wanted to sing praises, but HaShem said, "My children [ie, klal yirael] sing first!"  (The medrash learns "az yashir" as the hifil (causative) form of the verb; ie, klal yisrael was made to sing.)

The devil, as they say, is in the details.  The medrash quoted by the Mishna Brura was said to the malachei hashareis while klal yisrael was still in the sea and the Egyptians were entering to drown.   The medrash raba was said after klal yisrael came up and the drowning was a done deal.  Why is that relevant to us today?  Since entering the sea, where we demonstrated complete faith in HaShem and Moshe His servant, we were made custodians of the world; it's all in our hands.  That chatzi hallel for seven days (six in Eretz Yisrael) reminds us of our privilege and responsibility.


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