Shavuot Hallel: Paragraph Eight
“Give thanks to God for He is good; His kindness endures forever!” (Psalms 118:1) My principal in 1964, Rabbi Chaim Nussbaum zt”l, used to say that this verse immediately follows the previous paragraph that spoke of all nations praising God, with the message that praise is not enough! Give thanks! Praise is easy. Saying “Thank you,” is difficult.
We sing this Psalm to all of creation as an expression of our appreciation that all of God’s good is eternal. Our Shavuot Hallel focuses on our awareness of the eternal good of all the Torah we study. We also pray that we should always be privileged to sense the eternal good in our Torah study.
“Give thanks to God for He is good; His kindness endures forever!” (Psalms 118:1) Rabbi Chaim Palagi (Chaim Larosh) compares this to the verse in Proverbs (27:14) that warns us that when we praise someone’s generosity we are actually hurting him, because people will stream to him for help, and he may lose all that he has. (See Aruchin 16a)
However, God’s good is Infinite. We, who sense that unlimited good through His Torah, do not hesitate to shout out God’s praises so that everyone will be inspired to turn to Him for help.
This verse is our declaration to the world to, “Turn to God. He, of Infinite good, will respond!”
“God is with me. I have no fear. How can man affect me?” (Psalms 118:6) The Talmud (Berachot 60b) relates, “Our Rabbis taught: It once happened with Hillel the Elder that he was coming from a journey, and he heard a great cry in the city, and he said: I am confident that this does not come from my house. Of him Scripture says: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in God.” (Psalms 112:7)
Rabbi Itzeleh of Volozhin (Peh Kadosh) explains that one who truly trusts in God does not fear anything or anyone else.
We sing this verse with the awareness of those moments when we experienced this level of Trust in God while studying Torah. It is our declaration that we acknowledge that this is how we should always live. It is also a prayer that we should merit constantly living with that level of trust.
“”I shall not die! But I shall live and relate the deeds of the Creator!” (Psalms 118:17) It doesn’t begin with “I shall live!” It begins with, “I shall not die!” This reflects the words of the Zohar (Volume II 158b), “Torah can only thrive in one who is willing to die in it.” I must be willing to dedicate every ounce of my life toward Torah. This verse is our exhalation that no matter how much I may feel that “I am dying for Torah,” “I shall not die!” There is no life other than Torah, a life that I will use to relate the deeds of the Creator. (Rabbi Yosef Tzvi MiSacronavitch – Sh’eirit Yosef)
“Please, God, save now!” (Psalms 118:25) Save us now with redemption. “Bring success,” (Verse 26) so that we can use the Redemption to continue to grow and attach to You, and so we can thank You as one released from prison with, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of God. We bless you from the House of God.” (Rabbi Eliezer son of Rav Natan of Mayence The Ra’avan)
We picture the Redemption as real as our experience at Revelation, with prayers that we maximize this opportunity, as described in the verses that follow.
“Bind the festival offering with cords until the corners of the Altar.” (Psalms 118:27) Please, God, bind our experiences of the Hallel to us, so that we can remained connected to Your Altar of Service, even after the Chag has ended. (Chiddushei HaRim)