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Hallel: Rosh Chodesh Tevet Kavanot

Many of the verses in the concluding Psalm of the Hallel resonate powerfully on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the month in which Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian hordes lay siege to Jerusalem:


“I called to the Creator of Heaven and Earth from a tight spot (inside besieged Jerusalem), and He answered me broadly.”

Sefat Emet: The Baal Shem Tov explained that we should read this verse as, “Not only will God take us out of this tight spot, but it will be from within the tight spot itself that the salvation will come (Netzavim 5640).” Kavanah: Rather than look for the salvation to come from outside besieged Jerusalem; we can look inside the city, at ourselves, and find the key to salvation.

Kedushat Levi: Just as the Creator, Blessed is He, is Infinite; so are His Attributes without measure. At the time of creation, He constricted His Attributes. However, from within the constricted Attributes, as they are drawn to Israel, they expand broadly (Ki Tisa). Kavanah: The siege of Jerusalem was possible only because of the constricted Attributes. We need only access their Essence, and they will broaden and wipe away all who fight them. “May we merit to access all of the Divine Attributes and broaden their expression in this world through our service of God, so that all boundaries imposed on us will be smashed.”

Ohr HaChochmah: When the Evil Inclination pushes me into a limited state, so that I feel besieged, I consider whether Above I am being constricted, and I call out,  as in, “I called to the Creator of Heaven and Earth from a tight spot, and He answered me broadly,” to the One Who promised that He will always be with us when we are suffering, so that I will be empowered to break all boundaries and limitations (Beshalach). Kavanah: The Spiritual Influence of the siege of Jerusalem is experienced when we feel constricted in our spiritual growth. We turn to God and request His ‘Broadness,” expansiveness, so that we can achieve explosive growth.

Ohr Yisrael: When we are suffering and besieged by troubles and enemies, we do not respond as others, described by the prophet, “Through the land will pass the troubled and hungry. When he will be hungry he will be angry and curse his kings and gods, and direct his face on high (Isaiah 8:21),” rather, we, “Call out to God from a tight spot,” and this committed expression of love and loyalty, elicits, “He answers me expansively.” (Tikkunei Zohar #12) Kavanah: We sing this Hallel in loyal love even though we hear the Babylonians, and our other enemies approaching, confident that You will respond to our love for You with Infinite blessings and kindness.

Shufrah d’Yaakov: When we are in exile, we call out because Your Name is not whole. We pray that Your Name be fully expressed in this world (Chanukah) Kavanah: Had the inhabitants of Jerusalem prayed, not for themselves, but for God’s Name to be expanded in the world; the Babylonian siege would have been smashed, just as was the Assyrian attack. We commit ourselves to focus on Your Glory; not our suffering.

Yismach Yisrael: “I called out to Y-H,” as in, “For with Y-H, He created worlds (Isaiah 26:4),” ‘worlds,” meaning, this world and the World to Come. When I am besieged by enemies, limited by my sins, I fear that I have lost both worlds. They respond from Heaven, “and He was for me, Li, a salvation,” your salvation is in returning Li, to Me, and then you will experience the broadness of God (Likkutim; Tehillim). Kavanah: “We call out to You to return to You. Please respond broadly.”

I suggest that we focus on the following verses in the same context of escaping the “siege.”

“All the nations surrounded me but I survived them in God’s Name. They surrounded and encircled me but I survived them in God’s Name. Though they surrounded me like a swarm of bees, they were snuffed out like burnt thorns. I survived them in God’s Name. I was pushed to fall but God helped me.”

“Open the gates of justice for me, I will enter and thank the Creator. This is the gate to God, the just may enter here.”

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