Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph One Part Three: A Song of Teshuvah
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 Aibu took it to mean that the congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power,” neginati meaning, ‘the breaking,’ as indicated in the verse, “God, the Most High has delivered (miggen) your enemies into your hands.” (Genesis 14:20) And so the congregation of Israel says, “Because I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power in the night, therefore I commune with my own heart.” (Midrash Tehillim 113.1)
The Mahari Cohen (Son-in-law of the Maharal of Prague) reads Rabbi Aibu as, “I call to remembrance how I was handed over into my enemies’ power.” The proof-text from Genesis is from the Covenant of the Pieces, in which Israel was “handed over’ into multiple exiles with a promise of redemption. The internal conversation described by Rabbi Aibu is one of Teshuvah: “I converse with myself and reflect on why God placed me under the power of my enemies.”
A true Servant of God, the singer of this Psalm, will attempt to understand why God sent us into exile; what can we improve? How can we change?
This is a joyous song. Rabbi Aibu believes that an internal conversation of Teshuvah – repairing our relationship with God – will be a joyous song. Teshuvah is sung with the expectation that we can repair our relationship with God, and that He will repair His relationship with us. It is a song of the infinite possibilities empowered by Teshuvah. It is a celebration of how even we, Servants of God, are always afforded the possibility of improving our relationship with our Master. The same possibilities symbolized by the increasing candles of each night of Chanukah.