Hallel "on one foot":
Hallel is a section of the morning service comprised of a blessing and Psalms 113-118. It is recited on most holidays, including Chanukah due to it being modeled on Sukkot, but not including Purim. Hallel comes right after the Shacharit Amidah and before the Torah Service. The lulav and etrog are shaken during Hallel on Sukkot. The first half of Psalms 115 and 116 are not done on Rosh Chodesh or on the last 6 days of Passover. Originally Hallel wasn't done on the last 6 days of Passover because there were no unique Temple rituals then (unlike on Sukkot), so when the Jews of Babylonia expanded Hallel to include more days they needed a way of indicating that this was an addition (Taanit 28b:2). Later reasons were built on top of this historical foundation, like the Exodus being achieved through violence.
Context: This is the blessing for reciting Hallel. It has the "asher kidshanu" phrase in it because it is a "doing" blessing, not a "thanking / praising" blessing. The blessing is sung by the leader and then the congregation repeats it using the same (or each individual’s favorite) tune.
Joel Grishaver, quoting Rabbi Gunter Plaut, describes mitzvot as "opportunities". If so, what opportunity are we being given here? How does saying Hallel make our lives better?
Context: This is Six13 and Kol Rina’s version of the Hallel Blessing.
Context: This is from Safam, a Jewish-American rock band. It's on their album "Sons of Safam" from 1980.
Context: This is Psalm 113. One of the themes here is G-d as creator.
This psalm posits that G-d "raises the destitute". When have you seen this play out in your life or in the life of somebody else?
Context: This is a version of Psalm 113 set to a tune for "Lo Yisa Goy".
Context: This is Psalm 114. It refers to the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and connects to the midrash that the water saw G-d and that all the waters of the world split (Mechilta 14:21:1, 3). When it is sung according to them most common tune, the first half is done in unison and from “Ma l’cha” onward it is done responsively.
This psalm suggests that nature is affected by people -- Moses split the waters and the Jordan also split. How can we reduce our impact on nature?
Shira Kline, a children's Jewish musician, recorded this common tune for B'tzeit Yisrael. Two notes about the recording: 1. At "Ma l'cha hayam" the tune is responsive between the leader and everybody else. 2. At "Milifnei adon" the tune usually changes.
Also, Debbie Friedman wrote a tune for this. It is on her 1981 album "And the Youth Shall See Visions" and her 1989 album "And You Shall Be a Blessing", as well as her 1997 "Haggadah in Song" album (https://www.discogs.com/artist/1502517-Debbie-Friedman). Although there doesn't seem to be a YouTube video of it, you can listen to it on Spotify if you have an account: https://open.spotify.com/track/11SOJcOEJ5n8Kf6Hvpd1XT.
Context: This is the first half of Psalm 115. It is not done on Rosh Chodesh or on the last 6 days of Passover.
What are things today that people trust to make their lives better but don't actually help?
Context: This is the second half of Psalm 115. It suggests that G-d blesses us, and we have something to offer G-d in return.
What does it look / feel like to be blessed by G-d?
Context: This is Six13 and Kol Rina singing "Adoshem Z'charanu".
Context: This tune was written by Debbie Friedman for the end of Psalm 115.
Context: This is from Safam's 1980 "Sons of Safam" album.
Context: This is the first half of Psalm 116. It is not done on Rosh Chodesh or the last 6 days of Passover.
Have you had a life-threatening experience? Would this psalm have been helpful to you?
Context: This is the second half of Psalm 116. One of the themes here is having an "attitude of gratitude".
What can you give back to the Lord for all that God has favored you?
Context: This is Six13 and Kol Rina singing "Ma Ashiv".
Context: This is Psalm 117 and the beginning of Psalm 118. In some communities the verses (starting with "Hodu" and onward) are repeated, in some they are not. This is not a matter of some places doing it right -- the question of repeating or not repeating these verses is so old that it dates back to the Mishnah, 1800 years ago (Mishnah Sukkah 3:11), which rules that it is fine to do it either way.
Another way of translating "chesed" besides "kindness" is "grace", namely "unearned kindness". How does G-d show grace to you?
Context: This is a common tune for Hodu.
Context: This is Six13 and Kol Rina singing Psalm 117 and Hodu.
Context: This is a version written by Debbie Friedman in 1981 for the album “Sing Unto God” (https://www.discogs.com/release/13947056-Debbie-Friedman-And-The-Youth-Shall-See-Visions), and performed by the Platt Brothers. Ben Platt was the star of the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hanson”, but all three of them grew up performing at Camp Ramah Ojai. You can read more about them here: https://www.heyalma.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-brothers-platt/
Context: This is by Safam, on their 1980 "Sons of Safam" album.
Context: This is the bulk of Psalm 118.
Have you been in a "narrow place" in your life before?
Context: This is the most common tune for “Min HaMeitzar”, here sung by Cantor Lizzie Weiss of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.
Context: This is Deborah Sacks Mintz's version of "Min HaMeitzar", produced with Hadar.
Context: This is the tune by Rabbi Shefa Gold for “Ozi v’zimrat Yah” (a text also in the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15). It is being sung here by Marsha Nagorsky of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago. To hear it being done in a round, here’s a video by Mishkan Chicago: https://youtu.be/Xgsj5oh18KU and here’s one from the Women of the Wall: https://youtu.be/tFGZw84inmA. Finally, here’s a video of Techiya, MIT’s Jewish a cappella group, singing their arrangement: https://youtu.be/tvdABBh8eA8
Context: This is a Yemenite version of “Ozi v’zimrat Yah”, though this time the Exodus 15 version. It is being performed by the Chicago Children’s Choir in 2016.
Context: This is "Pitchu Li", by Safam. It is on their 1980 album "Sons of Safam".
Context: Rabbi Joe Black wrote this song inspired by "Pitchu Li" and it appears on his 2015 "Eight Nights of Joy" album with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, led by Lori Lippitz. She's in the front in this video, next to Rabbi Black.
Context: This is the next part of Psalm 118. There are many tunes for "Odecha", and some of them are done responsively.
How can an ordinary day be construed as "This is the day of the Lord, let us exult and rejoice upon it"?
Context: This is Beged Kefet's take on "Odecha" from their 2003 album "One Little Dot". Beged Kefet was a group active from 1982 to 2009, comprised of the clergy couples of : Rabbi Les Bronstein and Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Rabbi Billy Dreskin and Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Cantor Leon Sher and Beth Sher, and Cantor Riki Lippitz (formerly married to Rabbi John Schechter). See here for their (now somewhat outdated) bios: https://www.oysongs.com/products/bio.cfm?artist_id=128, and to see Cantor Azi Schwartz of Park Avenue Synagogue in NYC do this tune during services see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq_7IFbx6xU (cameo by Cantor Rachel Brook now of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago starting at 1:38).
Context: This version was written by Salamone Rossi, a 1500s Italian Jewish composer who was one of the pioneers of polyphonic music (multiple voices singing different parts at the same time).
Context: This is Psalms 118, verse 25. When it's done in Hallel, each half is repeated, and each repeat is then done responsively (so instead of 2 phrases, it's done a total of 8 times).
What would you like G-d to give you success in?
Context: This is from Julie Geller's 2020 album "Zeh HaYom". The song covers all of Psalm 118. It hasn't caught on much, but it goes really nicely with the words.
Context: This is the next part of Psalm 118. Note that some scholars think that the part of tying up the horns of the festival offering is "stage directions" that got put into the text by mistake.
What would it look like to come in the name of the Lord?
Context: This is a tune for "Eili Ata", possibly by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Part B of the tune can be applied to the "Hodu" line. The song is included in the Tara Publication song book Hasidic Melodies: A Joyous Celebration in Song.
Context: This is a prayer that does not come from the Book of Psalms (or anywhere in the Bible).
What does it mean that someone's works would praise them? Can you think of an example?
Context: This is the Kaddish Shalem, indicating the end of a section of the service.
What would it look like.
Context: This is Cantor Jack Chomsky doing the Shabbat and Festival version of the Kaddish Shalem. Cantor Chomsky was the cantor at Tifereth Israel in Columbus, OH, from 1982-2020 (following Cantor Neil Schwartz).
Context: This is a 2018 video about Hallel produced by BimBam and narrated by Rabbi Josh Feigelson.
Appendix: Hallel in the Talmud