The six psalms of the “Hallel of Egypt,” which we chant on each of the Pilgrimage Holidays, has a certain purposeful flow:
Psalm 113- God who is above the Heavens pays attention to those who are the lowest on earth (giving context for God responding to Jewish suffering in Egypt);
Psalm 114- “In Israel’s going out from Egypt,” begins this Psalm, which recounts national miracles of redemption, Sinai, and God’s care in the desert.
Psalm 115- Freedom entails spiritual awareness that visible, human-made idols are impotent and that the invisible God has true power.
Psalm 116- Deeply personal witnessing of God’s redemptive power.
Psalm 117- A universal call to all nations to praise God for triumphant acts.
And now for Psalm 118, which concludes the Hallel:
This is the longest of the six Hallel Psalms, as if there is so much to say and so little time. The Psalms moves back and forth: between words of celebratory praise and pleas for redemption; from the past to the present to the future; from the poem of the individual to inviting others to sing in a call and refrain; from speaking outside the Temple to moving through its gates. Those are the “gates of the just” and the gate is restricted, “the just will enter through it.” This is a Psalm marked by movement toward goodness. As if to say, the Hallel leads us from prayer toward righteous action.
Join me for a close reading of Psalm 118.
This Psalm is dedicated to Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson