Hallelukah, halleli nafshi es Hashem
Hallelukah! Praise Hashem, O my soul!
Right at the outset of this series of “Hallelukahs” (T’hilim 146-150), David HaMelech teaches us that we must praise Hashem with our nefesh, our soul. Tefilah must be with our hearts and souls and not merely lip service.
“Nafshi” denotes genuine desire of the soul, meaning not merely with lips but rather with a true inner urge that comes from intellectual recognition and awareness of Hashem and from the emotions of gratitude and love. In order for the praise to come from the soul, we must meditate deeply about the constant kindness of Hashem. [based on Praise, My Soul, by HaRav Avigdor Miller]
Ahallelah Hashem b’chayai, azamrah leilokai b’odi
I will praise Hashem while I live; I will make music to my G-d while I exist.
There are a few understandings of this pasuk. Perhaps the Meiri is the most basic one, saying that “b’chayai” means that I will praise Hashem all my life.
The Rokei’ach says that it means that I will praise Hashem while I have my health, while “b’odi” means that I will praise Hashem while I have my strength – I will serve Hashem with all my abilities and all my strength.
The Ramban writes that “b’chayai” means that I praise Hashem through the way I live my life. When we live our lives according to the will of Hashem, this is praising Hashem with our very lives.
The Malbim has a beautiful explanation of this pasuk, where he contrasts each word of the first phrase “Ahallelah...” with each word of the second phrase “azamrah...”
Starting from the end of the phrase, “b’chayai” means we are praising Hashem for life itself. We often take for granted the precious gift of life itself. As we wake up to a new day, if we are still alive, that is a precious gift we should not take for granted.
“B’odi” in the second phrase refers to the multitude of blessings each of us has in our personal lives that Hashem has granted to us. Not only are we alive, but each of us has so many blessings in addition to being alive. We must recognize, contemplate, appreciate, and thank Hashem for His constant lovingkindness. If we were to sit down and write a gratitude list in detail for every body part and organ that is healthy and for the multitude of other blessings we enjoy, we would be writing forever and ever.
The name “Hashem” connotes Hashem’s watching over all of klal Yisrael and the world, while “Elokai” means my G-d – Hashem’s hashgachah pratis (divine providence) in my personal life.
The word “azamrah” reflects a higher form of praise than “ahallelah.” Azamrah means I will sing. Song comes from deeper in the soul than ordinary praise.
In the first phrase, we praise Hashem for life itself. Hashem is granting us life every moment we are alive. In the second phrase, we should feel a deeper connection as we are singing to Hashem for our personal connection with Hashem and for all that He has granted each of us as individuals. If we contemplate our lives, we will see Hashem’s guidance has been there through every step of our lives. This is true of our past and true of every day. Let us feel Hashem’s presence more in our lives by asking Him for the “small stuff,” as well as the large, and by thanking Him for the small and the large.
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please visit OU Torah’s Search portal, select the Topic of “Tefillah,”
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or simply search for “TorahAnytime Rabbi Finkelman.”