Hallel: First Paragraph: Mine!
Psalm 113: First Paragraph: Mine “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!”
At which point did the Children of Israel recite Hallel? When the plague of the Slaying of the First Born began, Pharaoh went and knocked on the door of Moshe and Aaron’s house. Pharaoh wanted Israel to leave immediately, in middle of the night. “Fool,” said Moshe, “ are we thieves that we should sneak out in middle of the night?” Pharaoh responded with desperation: “All of Egypt is dying. You must leave!” Moshe and Aaron said, “If you want to stop this plague, say ‘you are free. You are under your own power. You are now the servants of God.’ Pharaoh began to cry out, “In the past you were my slaves, but now you are free. You are under your own power. You are now the servants of God and you must praise Him for the fact that you are His servants.” That is why the verse says, “Praise Him servants of God.” (Midrash Socher Tov)
Pharaoh learned that there was a significant difference between the way God and he described what was “mine”. Pharaoh thought of slaves as non-humans who would work for him. God made it clear that He considered His people as His responsibility. Pharaoh deprived his servants. God sustained His. Pharaoh treated his servants as disposable. God treasured each of His servants.
Moshe and Aaron demanded that Pharaoh first declare the former slaves as free, then as “under their own power”, and only then, as God’s servants. Pharaoh understood that he used force to turn the Jews into his slaves, but that God wanted His people to be free and then to choose to serve Him.
Pharaoh probably understood better than the Jews what it meant for the Children of Israel to be the servants of God. That is why he went one step further than Moshe and Aaron demanded. He did not simply say, “You are now servants of God.” He urged them to rejoice over and sing about the fact that they were now the servants of God.
Adam’s first mission was to be an “Eved” – a servant. “Now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for God, the Lord, had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work – “l’a’avod” – the soil.” (Genesis 2:5) Rashi explains that God had not sent rain because there was no man to work the land, and no one to recognize the utility of rain and the need for God’s constant continued involvement in creation. Adam’s first job was to pray for God to send rain. Adam’s task was to request God’s continued involvement in the world.
“God, the Lord, took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it – “l’ovda” – and to guard it.” (Genesis 2:15) God planted the Garden for Adam. He wanted Adam to work the Garden by eating and enjoying its fruit and tress, God’s blessings. “Of every tree of the garden you must eat.” God wanted Adam to enjoy what God had done for him.
The first “Avodah” of the first “Eved” – the first work of the first servant – was to recognize and appreciate God’s generosity. This first paragraph of the Hallel is our stepping back in time to assume the original job of the original person. We acknowledge that we are God’s servants, and therefore He will take care of us. He will constantly be involved in our lives. He will shower us with blessings. The Hallel is our expression of joy at the opportunity to “work the land” and to fulfill the original task of humanity.