Chanukah Hallel: First Paragraph: Two Forms of Inspiration
“Hallelukah! Praise, you who serve God! Praise the Name of God. Let the Name of God be blessed from now and forever. From sunrise to sundown, the Name of God is praised. God is above all the nations. His Glory is beyond the sky. Who is like God, our Lord, Who lives up high, but drops down to see what happens (to us) in the (lower) heaven and earth? Who lifts up the lowly from the dust, raises the destitute from the garbage dumps to be seated with leaders, the leaders of their people. Who Makes a home for the childless woman and joy for the mother of children. Hallelukah!”
There is another Psalm that is similar: “Hallelukah! Praise the Name of God, O you servants of God; you who stand in the House of God, in the courtyards of the House of our Lord.” (Psalm 135) It is similar, but the order has been reversed.
These two psalms represent two different paths in serving God: One is the path of the wise person who is astounded and inspired by what he discovers with his mind and intellect. As in, “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have set in place, I think.” (Psalms 8:4) “Raise up your eyes on high and see Who created these things!” (Isaiah 40:26)
The other, more common, path is the one in which the inspiration comes from the heart and emotions. It is the service that is a response to miracles and emotional stimulation.
Psalm 135 includes the Hallel of both: The wise and the others, the “servants of God,” praise God and His works. The wise stand in the House of God, and the servants stand in the courtyards.
The wise sing, “Whatever God wished, He did,”(Verse 6) as an expression of their deep understanding of all they see in the world and life. “He raises clouds from the end of the earth. He made lightning bolts for the rain. He brings forth wind from His treasuries.” (Verse 7) They see God in everything around them.
They reflect on creation and they perceive God’s work, and they rejoice that the Mighty King has chosen us to serve Him.
The “servants,” who need external inspiration, focus on, “It was He Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, from man to beast. He sent signs and wonders into your midst.” (Verses 8-9)
They join together, “O House of Israel, bless God,” (Verse 19) for His miracles. The wise, who find internal inspiration sing, “O those who are in awe of God, bless God!” (Verse 20)
Our Hallel, begins with the servants of God. It is our response to the external inspiration of the miracles of Chanukah that will, in turn, teach us how to find inspiration inside of ourselves. (The Alter of Kelm, Chochmah U’Mussar, Volume II, #120)