Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph One Part Four: A Feast of Song
The words of this psalm are to be considered in light of the verse, “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance neginati in the night; I commune with my own heart.” (Psalm 77:6-7) What is meant by, “I call to remembrance neginati”? Rabbi Aibu and Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon differed.
Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon took it to mean that the Congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “I call to remembrance the miracles which You did for me in Egypt, and how I sang songs to You because of the miracles – how, indeed, I sang songs and psalms to You during that night,” as it said, “You shall have a song as in the night when a feast was hallowed.” (Isaiah 30:29) And what was that night when a feast was hallowed? The night when You did smite the first-born in the land of Egypt, as it is said, “And it came to pass at midnight, that God smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:29) Accordingly, Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon took the words, “neginati in the night,” to refer to the song of that night when You did redeem us and brings us forth in freedom. We became Your servants, and were no longer the servants of Pharaoh. (Midrash Tehillim 113.1)
Rabbi Yehudah teaches that in order to have a proper internal conversation, “I commune with my own heart,” we must first recall the song we sang at the “hallowed feast,” after God killed the first-born of Egypt, and we officially became servants of God, and were no longer the servants of Pharaoh.
The “Hallowed feast,” does not refer to the Korban Pesach, the Paschal Offering; that meal was finished before midnight when the plague began! The “Hallowed feast,” was a Feast of Song when the people who were safely gathered in their homes, listening to the screams and cries of the Egyptians, sang with joy over achieving the status of Servants of God.
In order to sing this paragraph of Hallel, we must picture that Feast of Song, and transform our Hallel into exactly such a Feast.