- Hallelukah! Praise G-d in His Sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power.
- Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him as befits His abundant greatness.
- Praise Him with the blast of the shofar; praise Him with lyre and harp.
- Praise Him with drum and dance; praise Him with organ and flute.
- Praise Him with clanging cymbals; praise Him with resonant trumpets.
- Let all souls praise G-d. Hallelukah!
This mizmor, which concludes the section of the Hallelukahs, is also the concluding mizmor in all of Sefer T’hilim. It is also considered the most important in halachah. If one comes late to shul and must skip parts to enable starting Shemoneh Esrei with a minyan (which is the definition of davening with a minyan), the bare minimum for P’sukei D’Zimrah is Baruch SheAmar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach. If one has any additional time, the first add-on is this Hallelukah.
The overall theme of this Hallelukah can be viewed as a summation of the entire purpose of T’hilim and of life itself. The Meiri beautifully writes that this mizmor concludes T’hilim in this way in order to inspire us to thank and praise Hashem with alacrity, because this is the purpose of all existence.
In the introduction to this mizmor in the ArtScroll Sefer Tehillim by HaRav Avraham Chaim Feuer, he writes: “The psalms were composed to give man an opportunity to develop and enrich his soul by recognizing the accomplishments and kindness of Hashem and by offering Him songs of praise.”
There are a number of interpretations to the first two p’sukim. This segment will primarily be based on Praise, My Soul by HaRav Avigdor Miller.
“Hallelu Keil b’kodsho” – Praise Hashem in His perfection and uniqueness. “Kadosh” generally means separate and apart, or unique. HaRav Miller uses the word “perfect.” We praise Hashem, knowing He is beyond any praise we can offer and beyond our ability to fathom. HaRav Miller writes: “Study His perfection and meditate on it, so that you become more and more aware of it and you enthusiastically praise Him for it.”
The Name of Hashem “Keil” is used because that Name means powerful compassion. HaRav Miller writes: “This general Name is used to denote the general principle of kindness, which is the fundamental intention of the Creator – olam chesed yibaneh (forever will [Your] kindness be built)” – T’hilim 89:3.
The Radak notes that some form of the word “hallelu” appears 13 times in this mizmor, corresponding to the 13 Midos (Attributes) of Hashem mentioned in the Torah. HaRav Miller notes that most of the 13 Midos follow the word “Keil” in the pasuk where the 13 Midos appear. This is because the Name “Keil” includes all of the 13 Midos of compassion.
The phrase in the second half of this pasuk – “birkia uzo” – refers to all that is in the sky, where His strength is seen to some extent, even though scientists acknowledge that there is so much more up in the sky than the trillions of stars they are aware of. New discoveries are common, as Hashem opens up more technology for us to become more and more aware of the vastness of the Universe that He created and of His awesome and limitless power.
The second pasuk, when looked at in totality, instructs us to praise Hashem’s awesome power and abundant kindness, recognizing that our praise will fall short of the totality of His greatness.
Perhaps we can add that 13 is also the numerical value of “echad (one)” and “ahavah (love).” The more we contemplate and reflect on the perfection and uniqueness (“echad”) of Hashem, His awesome power, and His abundant kindness, the more our awe of and love for Hashem will grow. The Rambam writes that the road to awe and love is contemplation of Hashem’s awesome power. Other Rishonim write that the road is contemplation of His abundant kindness. Here, in these first two p’sukim of the summation of T’hilim, David HaMelech instructs us to praise Hashem for both His awesome power and His abundant kindness. This will bring us to praise Him in a more meaningful way, as we deepen our internalization of His perfection, uniqueness, and kindness, which in turn will lead us to come closer to Him through greater awe and love.
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