Psalms in Liturgy 6 - Hallel - Psalm 114/115

0. What are some of the themes of Jewish holidays / chagim / yamim tovim?

״Israel's Escape from Egypt,״ illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company

By the Providence Lithograph Company -, Public Domain,

1. Psalms for Holidays: Hallel

The word "Hallel" הלל is the imperative (command form) of the verb 'to praise.' The term "Hallel" or "Ha-Hallel" ('the Hallel') refers to the collection of psalms 113-118.

Sometimes this collection is called "Egyptian Hallel" to distinguish it from the "Great Hallel," Psalm 136. The term "Hallel" is a fitting appellation for this series, since words related to hallel recur there.

Rabbinic texts presuppose the existence of this collection. After the fact, they try to explain why it is fitting to recite this collection on holidays. However, I have not found a text that sheds light on how this collection was selected in the first place.

שמונה עשר יום בשנה ולילה אחד קורין בהן את ההלל. ואילו הן, שמונת ימי החג, ושמונת ימי חנוכה, ויום טוב הראשון של פסח ולילו, ויום טוב של עצרת.

Eighteen days and one night (in the year) the Hallel is recited. These are: the eight days of Sukkot, the eight days of Hanukkah, the first festival day of Passover and its night, and the festival of Shavuot.

אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: שִׁיר שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה, מֹשֶׁה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלוּ מִן הַיָּם. וְהַלֵּל זֶה מִי אֲמָרוֹ? נְבִיאִים שֶׁבֵּינֵיהֶן תִּקְּנוּ לָהֶן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיְּהוּ אוֹמְרִין אוֹתוֹ עַל כׇּל פֶּרֶק וּפֶרֶק, וְעַל כׇּל צָרָה וְצָרָה שֶׁלֹּא תָּבֹא עֲלֵיהֶן. וְלִכְשֶׁנִּגְאָלִין, אוֹמְרִים אוֹתוֹ עַל גְּאוּלָּתָן.
Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: The song in the Torah, i.e., the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15:1–19), Moses and the Jewish people recited it when they ascended from the sea. The Gemara asks: And who said this hallel mentioned in the mishna, Psalms 113–118? The Gemara answers: The Prophets among them established this hallel for the Jewish people, that they should recite it on every appropriate occasion; and for every trouble, may it not come upon them, they recite the supplications included in hallel. When they are redeemed, they recite it over their redemption, as hallel includes expressions of gratitude for the redemption.
וְכִי מֵאַחַר דְּאִיכָּא הַלֵּל הַגָּדוֹל, אֲנַן מַאי טַעְמָא אָמְרִינַן הַאי? מִשּׁוּם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ חֲמִשָּׁה דְבָרִים הַלָּלוּ: יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם, קְרִיעַת יַם סוּף, וּמַתַּן תּוֹרָה, וּתְחִיַּית הַמֵּתִים, וְחֶבְלוֹ שֶׁל מָשִׁיחַ.

The Gemara asks: And since there is the great hallel, [DR: 'Great Hallel' is a rabbinic name for Psalm 136] which contains the special praise of “Who gives food to all flesh” (Psalms 136:25), as explained above, what is the reason that one also recites this hallel of Psalms 113–118, the section recited on every joyous occasion?

The Gemara answers: The reason is because the regular hallel contains these five matters: The remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the giving of the Torah, the resurrection of the dead, and the pangs of the Messiah. Since it mentions these key concepts, this hallel is also considered important.

אָמַר רִבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי. אֲנָא מִן יוֹמוֹי לָא אִיסְתַּכְּלִית בְּסִפְרָא דַאֲגַדְתָּא. אֶלָּא חַד זְמַן אִסְתַּכְּלִית. אַשְׁכְּחִית כָּתוּב בָּהּ.

מֵאָה וְשִׁבְעִים וְחָמֵשׁ פַּרְשִׁיּוֹת שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה דִּבֵּר אֲמִירָה צִיוּוּי כְּנֶגֶד שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁלְאָבִינוּ אַבְרָהָם. דִּכְתִיב לַָק֣חְתָּ מַ֭תָּנוֹת בָּאָדָ֑ם. וּכְתִיב הָֽאָדָ֧ם הַגָּד֛וֹל בָּֽעֲנָקִ֖ים.

מֵאָה וְאַרְבָּעִים וְשִׁבְעָה מִזְמוֹרוֹת שֶׁכְּתוּבוֹת בַּתִּילִים כְּנֶגֶד שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁלְאָבִינוּ יַעֲקֹב. מְלַבֵּד שֶׁכָּל־הַקִּילוּסִין שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל מְקַלְּסִין לְהַקְּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כְּנֶגֶד שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְאַתָּ֥ה קָד֑וֹשׁ י֝וֹשֵׁ֗ב תְּהִלּ֥וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה פָעַמִים שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל עוֹנִין הַלֵּלוּיָהּ. כְּנֶגֶד שְׁנוֹתָיו שֶׁלְאַהֲרֹן. הַֽלְלוּ יָ֙הּ ׀ הַֽלְלוּ־אֵ֥ל בְּקָדְשׁ֑וֹ לְאַהֲרֹן קְדוֹשׁוּ לְ֝אַֽהֲרֹ֗ן קְד֣וֹשׁ יְי. אֲפִילוּ כֵן אֲנָא מִתְבְּעִית בַּלֵּילִיָא.

Background; Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (early 3rd c. CE, Lod, Land of Israel) does something he thinks is improper: He reads from a book of sermons or homiletical teachings. He thinks that such teachings should not be transcribed or read from a book--they should be taught orally, since they are part of Oral Torah. Here he recounts what he learned from reading the book of Aggadah/Midrash.

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said, I never looked into a book of sermon concepts [a Book of Aggadah or midrashic teachings], except that once I looked, and I found written there:

The 175 paragraphs where in the Torah is written speech, saying, commandment, correspond to the years of our father Abraham, as it is written, you took gifts from Man, and it is written, the great Man among giants.

The 147 songs written in Psalms correspond to the years of our father Jacob. This teaches that all praises by which Israel praise the Holy One, praise to Him, correspond to the years of Jacob, as it is said, You are Holy, [enthroned upon] the praises of Israel.

The 123 times Israel answer “halleluiah” [during the public recitation of Hallel] correspond to the years of Aaron, Halleluiah, praise God by His holy one [Psalm 150:1] Aaron his holy one, for Aaron, the Eternal’s holy one [Psalm 106:16].

Nevertheless I was frightened in the night.

Macy Nulman, “THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE HALLEL CHANT AS REFLECTED IN RABBINIC LITERATURE.” Musica Judaica, vol. 5, no. 1, American Society for Jewish Music, 1982, pp. 72–78,

Cantor Macy Nulman (d. 2011) taught at the Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University

In ancient Israel, it was ... noted that the reader recited the Hallel and the congregation responded with "halleluyah" (praise God!) after each half of a verse (Sukkah, 3:10) which at times totalled as much as 123 responses (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 16:1, 16c). This is still the practice among Yemenite Jews.

Elements of praise in each of the chapters of Hallel, Psalms 113-118

Note how Psalm 114 seems to break the pattern in this collection

Psalm within Hallel



Elements of praise at beginning and end of each psalm


Hallelujah. O servants of the Lord, give praise…

…as a happy mother of children. Hallelujah.



When Israel went forth from Egypt…

…the flinty rock into a fountain

(Nothing)… (Nothing)


Not to us, O Lord, not to us / but to Your name bring glory…

But we will bless the Lord now and forever. Hallelujah.



I love the Lord for he hears my voice…

…in the midst of (you O) Jerusalem. Hallelujah



Praise the Lord, all you nations…

…the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Hallelujah.



Praise (Hodu) the Lord, for he He is good, / His steadfast love is eternal.

Praise (Hodu) the Lord, for he He is good, / His steadfast love is eternal.

“Hodu l’Adonai” is related to “Hallelujah”:


From Kaufmann Haggadah MS A 422, Spanish (active in 14th century)

By Unknown author - David Kaufmann and his collection, Public Domain,

The illuminated word בצאת in gold opens Psalm 114 "When [Israel] left [Egypt]"

2. Our Text(s): Psalm(s) 114/115

Note that in the Aleppo Codex of Tanach, the Leningrad Codex of the Tanach, and the Septuagint (an ancient Jewish translation into Greek), Psalms 114 and 115 are considered to be a single psalm.

The commentator David Kimchi (Radak, 12th-13th cc. CE) similarly notes in his commentary to 115:1 that 'there are books (manuscripts) in which this is not the beginning of the psalm,' meaning that he is aware of a Jewish tradition treating 114 and 115 as a single unit.

In the synagogue, it is common to treat 114, 115:1-11, and 115:12-18 as 3 separate units.

Thus, Psalms 114/115 can be thought of as:

  • One unit (114/115)
  • Two units (114, 115)
  • Three units (114, 115:1-11, 115:12-18)

According to the School of Hillel, Psalms 113 and 114 are recited just before the meal at the Passover seder and Psalms 115-118 are recited afterward (Mishnah Pesachim 10:6).

2a. Discussing Psalm 114 together

What elements do we see in this Psalm:

  • Imagery/Metaphors/Language
  • Themes
  • Structure
  • Situation

What reactions do you have? What emotions does this passage arouse in you?

Psalm114: Learning Together

(א) בְּצֵ֣את יִ֭שְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם בֵּ֥ית יַ֝עֲקֹ֗ב מֵעַ֥ם לֹעֵֽז׃ (ב) הָיְתָ֣ה יְהוּדָ֣ה לְקׇדְשׁ֑וֹ יִ֝שְׂרָאֵ֗ל מַמְשְׁלוֹתָֽיו׃ (ג) הַיָּ֣ם רָ֭אָה וַיָּנֹ֑ס הַ֝יַּרְדֵּ֗ן יִסֹּ֥ב לְאָחֽוֹר׃ (ד) הֶ֭הָרִים רָקְד֣וּ כְאֵילִ֑ים גְּ֝בָע֗וֹת כִּבְנֵי־צֹֽאן׃ (ה) מַה־לְּךָ֣ הַ֭יָּם כִּ֣י תָנ֑וּס הַ֝יַּרְדֵּ֗ן תִּסֹּ֥ב לְאָחֽוֹר׃ (ו) הֶ֭הָרִים תִּרְקְד֣וּ כְאֵילִ֑ים גְּ֝בָע֗וֹת כִּבְנֵי־צֹֽאן׃ (ז) מִלִּפְנֵ֣י אָ֭דוֹן ח֣וּלִי אָ֑רֶץ מִ֝לִּפְנֵ֗י אֱל֣וֹקַּ יַעֲקֹֽב׃ (ח) הַהֹפְכִ֣י הַצּ֣וּר אֲגַם־מָ֑יִם חַ֝לָּמִ֗ישׁ לְמַעְיְנוֹ־מָֽיִם׃

(1) When Israel went forth from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,
(2) Judah became His holy one [NJPS note: or 'sanctuary'],
Israel, His dominion.
(3) The sea saw them and fled,
Jordan ran backward,
(4) mountains skipped like rams,
hills like sheep.

(5) What alarmed you, O sea, that you fled,
Jordan, that you ran backward,
(6) mountains, that you skipped like rams,
hills, like sheep?
(7) Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord [אדון / Adon],
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
(8) who turned the rock into a pool of water,
the flinty rock into a fountain.

Chavruta: Psalm 115

In addition to considering

  • Imagery/Metaphors/Language
  • Themes
  • Structure
  • Situation,

please consider how the meaning of Psalm 115 is affected by reading it as the continuation of larger unit including Psalm 114.

(א) לֹ֤א לָ֥נוּ ה' לֹ֫א־לָ֥נוּ כִּֽי־לְ֭שִׁמְךָ תֵּ֣ן כָּב֑וֹד עַל־חַ֝סְדְּךָ֗ עַל־אֲמִתֶּֽךָ׃ (ב) לָ֭מָּה יֹאמְר֣וּ הַגּוֹיִ֑ם אַיֵּה־נָ֝֗א אֱלֹהֵיהֶֽם׃ (ג) וֵאלֹקֵ֥ינוּ בַשָּׁמָ֑יִם כֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־חָפֵ֣ץ עָשָֽׂה׃

(ד) עֲֽ֭צַבֵּיהֶם כֶּ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֑ב מַ֝עֲשֵׂ֗ה יְדֵ֣י אָדָֽם׃ (ה) פֶּֽה־לָ֭הֶם וְלֹ֣א יְדַבֵּ֑רוּ עֵינַ֥יִם לָ֝הֶ֗ם וְלֹ֣א יִרְאֽוּ׃ (ו) אׇזְנַ֣יִם לָ֭הֶם וְלֹ֣א יִשְׁמָ֑עוּ אַ֥ף לָ֝הֶ֗ם וְלֹ֣א יְרִיחֽוּן׃ (ז) יְדֵיהֶ֤ם ׀ וְלֹ֬א יְמִישׁ֗וּן רַ֭גְלֵיהֶם וְלֹ֣א יְהַלֵּ֑כוּ לֹא־יֶ֝הְגּ֗וּ בִּגְרוֹנָֽם׃ (ח) כְּ֭מוֹהֶם יִהְי֣וּ עֹשֵׂיהֶ֑ם כֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־בֹּטֵ֣חַ בָּהֶֽם׃ (ט) יִ֭שְׂרָאֵל בְּטַ֣ח בַּה' עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃ (י) בֵּ֣ית אַ֭הֲרֹן בִּטְח֣וּ בַה' עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃ (יא) יִרְאֵ֣י ה' בִּטְח֣וּ בַה' עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃

(1) Not to us, O LORD, not to us
but to Your name bring glory
for the sake of Your love and Your faithfulness.
(2) Let the nations not say,
“Where, now, is their God?”
(3) when our God is in heaven
and all that He wills He accomplishes.

(4) Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of men’s hands.
(5) They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see;
(6) they have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell;
(7) they have hands, but cannot touch,
feet, but cannot walk;
they can make no sound in their throats.

(8) Those who fashion them,
all who trust in them,
shall become like them.
(9) O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and shield.
(10) O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and shield.
(11) O you who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and shield.

(יב) ה' זְכָרָ֢נוּ יְבָ֫רֵ֥ךְ יְ֭בָרֵךְ אֶת־בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְ֝בָרֵ֗ךְ אֶת־בֵּ֥ית אַהֲרֹֽן׃ (יג) יְ֭בָרֵךְ יִרְאֵ֣י ה' הַ֝קְּטַנִּ֗ים עִם־הַגְּדֹלִֽים׃ (יד) יֹסֵ֣ף ה' עֲלֵיכֶ֑ם עֲ֝לֵיכֶ֗ם וְעַל־בְּנֵיכֶֽם׃ (טו) בְּרוּכִ֣ים אַ֭תֶּם לַה' עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃

(טז) הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם שָׁ֭מַיִם לַה' וְ֝הָאָ֗רֶץ נָתַ֥ן לִבְנֵי־אָדָֽם׃ (יז) לֹ֣א הַ֭מֵּתִים יְהַֽלְלוּ־יָ֑הּ וְ֝לֹ֗א כׇּל־יֹרְדֵ֥י דוּמָֽה׃ (יח) וַאֲנַ֤חְנוּ ׀ נְבָ֘רֵ֤ךְ יָ֗הּ מֵעַתָּ֥ה וְעַד־עוֹלָ֗ם הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃ {פ}

(12) The LORD is mindful of us.
He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron;
(13) He will bless those who fear the LORD,
small and great alike.

(14) May the LORD increase your numbers,
yours and your children’s also.
(15) May you be blessed by the LORD,
Maker of heaven and earth.

(16) The heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth He gave over to man.
(17) The dead cannot praise the LORD,
nor any who go down into silence.
(18) But we will bless the LORD
now and forever.

3 Psalm 114/115: Parallels, Comments

Nature imagery & allusions to biblical events in Psalm 114

Adele Berlin & Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, introduction to Psalm 114

"The exodus and its aftermath is celebrated not only as the liberation of Israel, but as an event through which all of nature came to see the power of God. The exodus is a cosmic theophany [=revelation of God] that alters the course of nature. The poem is structured on events involving water: the splitting of the sea, the crossing of the Jordan, and the supplying of water in the wilderness. The language suggests that this is a late psalm, and is commemorating the new exodus, namely the return from Babylonian exile."

יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם, דִּכְתִיב: ״בְּצֵאת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם״. וּקְרִיעַת יַם סוּף, דִּכְתִיב: ״הַיָּם רָאָה וַיָּנוֹס״. מַתַּן תּוֹרָה, דִּכְתִיב: ״הֶהָרִים רָקְדוּ כְאֵילִים״. תְּחִיַּית הַמֵּתִים, דִּכְתִיב: ״אֶתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי ה׳״.

The Gemara elaborates: The exodus from Egypt, as it is written: “When Israel came forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language” (Psalms 114:1). And the splitting of the Red Sea, as it is written: “The sea saw it and fled; the Jordan turned backward” (Psalms 114:3). The giving of the Torah, as it is written: “The mountains skipped like rams” (Psalms 114:4), which is similar to the description of the giving of the Torah found elsewhere in the books of the Prophets. The resurrection of the dead, as it is written: “I will walk before the Lord in the lands of the living” (Psalms 116:9), which follows the verse: “For you have delivered my soul from death.” After mentioning death, the psalm describes the resurrection in the lands of the living.

'a people of strange speech' (114:1)

(מט) יִשָּׂ֣א ה' עָלֶ֨יךָ גּ֤וֹי מֵרָחֹק֙ מִקְצֵ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר יִדְאֶ֖ה הַנָּ֑שֶׁר גּ֕וֹי אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תִשְׁמַ֖ע לְשֹׁנֽוֹ׃

(49) ה' will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, which will swoop down like the eagle—a nation whose language you do not understand,

mountains skipped like rams (114:4)

(א) ההרים. לשון רבים כי אפשר שחרדו ורעשו הרים אחרים הסמוכים להר סיני: וכן הגבעות.

Commentary by Rabbi David Kimchi, Radak (1160–1236) of Provence.

Mountains [skipped like rams, hills like sheep] - 'Mountains' in the plural. It is possible that other mountains close to Mount Sinai trembled and quaked [in response to the revelation of the Ten Commandments].

The connection between Psalms 114 and 115 (comment to 115:1)

לא. יש ספרים שאין זה תחילת המזמור, אמר כמו שעשית חסד עם אבותינו והוצאתם ממצרים כן תעשה עמנו בכל דור ודור ואף על פי שאין אנו ראוים אל תעשה לנו, כי אם לשמך כי גם הם לא היו ראוים לולי כבוד שמך וברית האבות:

There are manuscripts [of the book of Psalms] in which this verse [115:1] is not the beginning of the psalm. [In other words, those manuscripts join together Psalms 114 and 115.]. [The Psalmist] said that, just as You have performed acts of lovingkindness for our ancestors by taking them out of Egypt, so may you do for us in every generation. Even though we are not worthy, do not do so 'for us' (115:1) but for your Name's sake. For they [the generation of the Exodus] likewise would not have been worthy had it not been for the glory of Your name and [Your] covenant with the Fathers. He says "not for our sake" twice in order to emphasize the point.

Seeking a historical context for the statement "Not to [or 'for'] us... but to Your name [or 'for the sake of Your name'] bring glory" (115:1)

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: הַלֵּל זֶה מִי אֲמָרוֹ? רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: מֹשֶׁה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמְדוּ עַל הַיָּם. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ ה׳ לֹא לָנוּ״, מְשִׁיבָה רוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ וְאָמְרָה לָהֶן: ״לְמַעֲנִי לְמַעֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה״. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמְדוּ עֲלֵיהֶן מַלְכֵי כְנַעַן. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ״, וּמְשִׁיבָה וְכוּ׳: רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַמּוֹדָעִי אוֹמֵר: דְּבוֹרָה וּבָרָק אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמַד עֲלֵיהֶם סִיסְרָא. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ״, וְרוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ מְשִׁיבָה וְאוֹמֶרֶת לָהֶם: ״לְמַעֲנִי לְמַעֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה״. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה אוֹמֵר: חִזְקִיָּה וְסִייעָתוֹ אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמַד עֲלֵיהֶם סַנְחֵרִיב. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ״, וּמְשִׁיבָה וְכוּ׳. רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר: חֲנַנְיָה מִישָׁאֵל וַעֲזַרְיָה אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמַד עֲלֵיהֶם נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר הָרָשָׁע. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ״, וּמְשִׁיבָה וְכוּ׳. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר: מָרְדְּכַי וְאֶסְתֵּר אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָמַד עֲלֵיהֶם הָמָן הָרָשָׁע. הֵם אָמְרוּ: ״לֹא לָנוּ״, וּמְשִׁיבָה וְכוּ׳.
The Sages taught: This hallel, who initially recited it? Rabbi Eliezer says: Moses and the Jewish people recited it when they stood by the sea. They said: “Not to us, God, not to us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalms 115:1). The Divine Spirit responded and said to them: “For My own sake, for My own sake, will I do it” (Isaiah 48:11). Rabbi Yehuda says: Joshua and the Jewish people recited it when they defeated the kings of Canaan who stood against them (see Joshua 12:7–24). They said: Not to us, and the Divine Spirit responded: For My own sake. Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i says: Deborah and Barak recited it when Sisera stood against them (see Judges 4–5). They said: Not to us, and the Divine Spirit responded and said to them: For My own sake, for My own sake, will I do it. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya says: Hezekiah and his company recited it when Sennacherib stood against them (see II Kings 18–19). They said: Not to us and the Divine Spirit responded: For My own sake. Rabbi Akiva says: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah recited it when the wicked Nebuchadnezzar stood against them (see Daniel 3). They said: Not to us, and the Divine Spirit responded: For My own sake. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili says: Mordecai and Esther recited it when the wicked Haman stood against them. They said: Not to us, and the Divine Spirit responded: For My own sake (see the book of Esther).

Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1315), Perpignan (now part of France; then part of Catalonia)

Commentary to Psalms (Psalm 115:1)

לפי הפשט וענינו אמרו על צרת הגלות והתפלל לא-ל שיושיענו מצרינו ויפדנו מבית עבדותנו...

According to the simple contextual meaning, [the Psalmist] addressed it to the troubles of Exile and prayed to God to save us from our enemies and redeem us from our house of bondage...

Mocking idols and their makers and worshipers (115:3-8)

(ה) לְמִ֥י תְדַמְּי֖וּנִי וְתַשְׁו֑וּ וְתַמְשִׁל֖וּנִי וְנִדְמֶֽה׃ (ו) הַזָּלִ֤ים זָהָב֙ מִכִּ֔יס וְכֶ֖סֶף בַּקָּנֶ֣ה יִשְׁקֹ֑לוּ יִשְׂכְּר֤וּ צוֹרֵף֙ וְיַעֲשֵׂ֣הוּ אֵ֔ל יִסְגְּד֖וּ אַף־יִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֽוּ׃ (ז) יִ֠שָּׂאֻ֠הוּ עַל־כָּתֵ֨ף יִסְבְּלֻ֜הוּ וְיַנִּיחֻ֤הוּ תַחְתָּיו֙ וְיַֽעֲמֹ֔ד מִמְּקוֹמ֖וֹ לֹ֣א יָמִ֑ישׁ אַף־יִצְעַ֤ק אֵלָיו֙ וְלֹ֣א יַעֲנֶ֔ה מִצָּרָת֖וֹ לֹ֥א יוֹשִׁיעֶֽנּוּ׃ {ס}
(5) To whom can you compare Me
Or declare Me similar?
To whom can you liken Me,
So that we seem comparable?
(6) Those who squander gold from the purse
And weigh out silver on the balance,
They hire a metal worker to make it into a god,
To which they bow down and prostrate themselves.
(7) They must carry it on their backs and transport it;
When they put it down, it stands,
It does not budge from its place.
If they cry out to it, it does not answer;
It cannot save them from their distress.

Who are 'those who fear the Lord'? (115:11)

יראי ה'. הם החכמים שהם מתבודדים בבית ה' ללמוד ומתעסקים בחכמה לדעת ה' כי הם ידעים מחכמתם, כי אין זולתו שראוי לבטוח בו, ויש מפרשים כי יראי ה' אשר בכל עם ועם:

[you who fear the Lord] ... Some explain that these are people who fear the Lord among the various peoples.