In yesterday’s section we mentioned the notion of a son, woman or slave reciting Hallel and the man repeating every word they say. In today’s section Rava uses the general customs of how Hallel was recited to derive some general halakhot with regard to the recitation of Hallel.
We should note that Rava alludes to an older custom whereby people would recite Hallel responsively, or semi-responsively with the leader of the service. The idea seems to have been that most people did not know Hallel, so they would need to rely on the leader’s knowledge of Hallel. It is always important to remember that people did not have siddurim back then. They didn’t even exist. The first siddurim were written in the post-talmudic period. It is likely that until the invention of the printing press, most people did not have siddurim.
In today’s section Rava learns three halakhot from the way that people recite Hallel in his time. We shall look at these one at a time.
1) The recitation of Hallel begins with the leader reciting Halleluyah, the first word in Psalms 113. The respondents then reply by saying Halleluyah as well. From here he learns that this is a mitzvah—something that people should do. Rashi says that in earlier days they used to answer “Halleluyah” to everything that the leader said. People didn’t know how to recite the full Hallel, so they would just say “Halleluyah.” Rava limits this to their time. Nowadays, meaning in Rava’s time, one doesn’t answer “Halleluyah” to every line of Hallel, just the first word (and the first line as we will see below). The fact that they answer “Halleluyah” and they don’t just start reading right away shows that the old custom is no longer around.
2) Rava goes on to say that the fact that they say “Halleluyah” after the first half line, teaches another halakhah. If today there is a person that doesn’t know how to say the whole Hallel, then it is sufficient to recite Halleluyah for every line that the reader recites. In other words, we don’t do like they used to do, when people didn’t know how to say the Hallel. But a person could still recite the Hallel in that way.
3) Finally, there is a mitzvah to respond with the full verse of the beginnings of chapters. This, Rashi explains, was the old custom. They would recite the beginning of the chapter and then Halleluyah for the remainder of the chapter. But we, Rashi explains, who know how to recite the whole Hallel, don’t even do this.
This section is a continuation of yesterday’s section concerning what halakhot we can learn from the way in which we recite Hallel.
In this case, the responders say exactly what the leader says. This is a hint at the halakhah that if the Hallel leader is a child who is not obligated to recite the Hallel then the responders must say exactly what the child says. This is because there is a rule that if one is not liable in a certain mitzvah, he cannot discharge the duty on behalf of others. So in this case, those obligated must say the whole Hallel.
Here again, we have the practice of repeating the exact words stated by the prayer leader. We don’t need to learn the same halakhah from above, so Rava (whose statement began in yesterday’s section) learns something different. If a person wants to repeat extra elements, he is allowed to do so. This is still the practice today—the above two verses are repeated when singing the Hallel.
This is an important principle in halakhah. Generally if one person recites a berakhah and the other answers amen, the one who answers amen has fulfilled his obligation to recite a berakhah. This is what we do for berakhot over food, birkat hamazon can be done this way, as well as other berakhot. But at times one can fulfill an obligation just by listening without any response whatsoever. Rashi brings up an interesting example of this. If someone is in the middle of reciting the Amidah and the shaliah tzibbur gets up to the kedushah, the one reciting the Amidah should not participate in the kedushah, because that would interrupt his own Amidah. But neither should s/he just go on with the Amidah, because the community is reciting the kedushah, the holiest part of the Amidah. Rather, s/he should just stop and listen and by listening s/he is fulfilling the duty to answer those sections of the kedushah that require a response.
The final section is interesting for the way that R. Hiyya b. Abba cites all sorts of groups as authorities on this matter. I don’t know of anywhere else in the Talmud where we see this type of description. Most interesting to me is the notion that it was not only rabbis who were giving the “derashah” (expounders) but there seem to have been others, perhaps professionals, who gave derashot in front of the community.
Today’s section continues discussing the concept that someone who hears is like someone who answers a blessing.
Bar Kappara notes a discrepancy between two verses in II Kings 22. According to the latter verse, it was the King of Judah, Josiah, who actually read the scroll. But earlier in the chapter Shaphan, the scribe, is described as reading the scroll in front of the king. From here Bar Kappara learns that Josiah, who really only listened to the scroll being read by Shaphan, is given credit for having read it himself. The one who listens is credited as if he had responded.
R. Aha b. Yaakov goes on to prove that Josiah did not read the scroll himself, he only heard it. This is accomplished by pointing to verse 19 where it specifically says that he heard the scroll—he didn’t read it.
The final section of this week’s daf contains a few more instructions that Rava gives concerning prayer.
Rava says one shouldn’t split up the verse “Blessed by he that comes in the name of the Lord” which is part of Hallel. Rashi explains that disconnecting “in the name of the Lord” makes it unclear what it refers to.
R. Safra replies that this really isn’t so clear and therefore there is no problem splitting the verse up.