1) THE HALF-HALLEL
OPINIONS: The Gemara lists eighteen days on which every person recites the entire Hallel, even when he prays in private: eight days of Sukos, eight days of Chanukah, the first day of Pesach, and Shavuos. In Chutz la'Aretz, the individual recites the entire Hallel on twenty-one days (because of the additional three days of Yom Tov of Pesach, Sukos, and Shavuos).
Does the Gemara mean that there is no obligation for an individual to recite Hallel at all on other days, or does the Gemara mean that only on these days does one recite the entire Hallel, while on the other days one recites an abridged Hallel?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Shemonah Asar Yamim) writes that on the other festival days, Hallel is not recited at all. This is apparent from the Gemara's question (10b) when it asks that we should recite Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. This implies that Hallel is not recited on Rosh Chodesh at all.
Tosfos cites additional proof from the Gemara in Ta'anis (28b). The Gemara there states that when Rav went to Bavel, he heard the people reciting Hallel. He intended to stop them, since one is not supposed to say Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. However, when he heard them skipping parts and not saying the full Hallel, he realized that they must merely have a custom (as is the custom today) to recite an abridged Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. It is clear from the Gemara there that Rav maintained that Hallel is not said at all on Rosh Chodesh.
Tosfos concludes that reciting an abridged Hallel on all other days is simply a custom (and it is not an enactment of the Rabanan). (According to this approach, on the last day of Pesach, which is a Yom Tov and the day on which Keri'as Yam Suf occurred, there is no obligation to recite Hallel at all.)
(b) The RAN in Shabbos (11b of the pages of the Rif) quotes the RAMBAN who maintains that the Rabanan instituted that just as one must recite the full Hallel on these eighteen days, one must recite the abridged Hallel on the other days of Pesach, since those days are called "Mo'ed." This is supported by the Gemara in Berachos (14a) which discusses the "days on which an individual does not finish Hallel" as a matter of fact. The Gemara there continues with additional Halachic discussion of this topic (such as when one may interrupt his recitation of the abridged Hallel), indicating that reciting the abridged Hallel is not merely a custom but is a Halachah instituted by the Rabanan. The Ramban adds, however, that the Gemara in Berachos is referring only to the Hallel recited on the other days of Pesach. He agrees with Tosfos that the abridged Hallel recited on Rosh Chodesh is a custom, as is apparent from the Gemara in Ta'anis.
The MAGID MISHNEH (Hilchos Chanukah 3:7) records the opinion of the Ramban, but he says that none of the commentators agree with his approach.
The CHIDUSHIM U'VI'URIM points out that one of the problems with the Ramban's approach is the fact that the Gemara makes no mention of reciting Hallel, even as a custom, on the other days of Pesach, in contrast to Rosh Chodesh for which such a custom is mentioned. It is a very novel approach to suggest that the recitation of the abridged Hallel on the other days of Pesach was a Halachah instituted at the same time as the enactment to recite the full Hallel. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) HALLEL ON THE LAST DAYS OF PESACH
QUESTION: The Gemara (end of 10a) asks why we recite Hallel only on the first day of Pesach, while we recite Hallel on all of the days of Sukos. The Gemara answers that since each day of Sukos has a different Korban, each day is considered a separate Yom Tov in some respect and warrants the recitation of Hallel. The days of Pesach, in contrast, all have the same Korbanos, and thus Hallel is recited only on the first day.
(OC 490:3) offers a different reason based on the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, end of Mishlei 2:960; Pesikta d'Rav Kahana, end of #29). The Midrash relates that the angels wanted to sing joyfully at Keri'as Yam Suf when the Jews were saved and the Egyptians drowned. Hash-m said to them, "The works of My hands are drowning in the sea and you wish to recite Shirah?!" Therefore, we do not recite Shirah (Hallel) during the rest of Pesach. (See Insights to Megilah 10:2
Why does the Midrash give a different reason than that of the Gemara?
ANSWER: There are two basic reasons for reciting Hallel. The first reason for reciting Hallel is to praise Hash-m on His festival days. (See RAMBAN, Shoresh Rishon, who understands that reciting Hallel is part of the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov.) The second reason for reciting Hallel is to commemorate a miraculous salvation from danger.
The Gemara here is asking why we do not recite Hallel on all of the days of Pesach because of the first reason mentioned above: since each day is a Mo'ed, and part of the joy of Yom Tov is to recite Hallel. why do we not recite Hallel on all of the days of Pesach? The Gemara answers that the ensuing days of Pesach are not considered independent Mo'adim, as is evident from the fact that each day does not have its own unique Korban (as does each day of Sukos).
The Midrash is addressing a different question: why do we not recite Hallel on the last day of Pesach because of the miraculous salvation (Keri'as Yam Suf) that occurred on that day (the second reason mentioned above)? The Midrash answers that since some of Hash-m's creations were destroyed by this miracle, it is not fitting to recite Hallel to commemorate such a salvation.
3) THE READING OF MEGILAS ESTHER ON PURIM CONSTITUTES HALLEL
QUESTION: Rav Nachman explains that the reason why we do not recite Hallel on Purim is that the reading of the Megilah constitutes Hallel. The ME'IRI (Megilah 14a, DH Davar) infers from Rav Nachman's reasoning that if a person has no Megilah on Purim, he should recite Hallel.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Megilah 3:6) records the reasoning of Rav Nachman as the Halachah. Therefore, according to the Me'iri, in a place where there is no Megilah one indeed should recite Hallel on Purim. However, the SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 693:3) rules that we do not recite Hallel on Purim and he mentions no exceptions. Why does he not record this exception?
ANSWER: RAV YITZCHAK HUTNER zt'l (Pachad Yitzchak, Purim #33) offers a novel approach to explain why the Poskim do not mention the Me'iri's ruling. He explains that Rav Nachman means that just as there are two types of miracles -- a Nes Nigleh (a revealed, obvious miracle) and a Nes Nistar (a concealed, hidden miracle), there are two types of Hallel. For a Nes Nigleh, we recite Hallel in its normal form. However, to commemorate a Nes Nistar, we praise Hash-m with a "hidden" form of Hallel. In the case of Purim, when our salvation came about through a Nes Nistar, we praise Hash-m through the reading of the Megilah, a concealed form of Hallel. Therefore, even when we do not have a Megilah on Purim, we still should not recite the normal Hallel.
(The SHA'AREI TESHUVAH (OC 693:3) suggests that one should recite Hallel without a blessing in the absence of a Megilah on Purim.)
4) AGADAH: THE KING AND THE SHILO'ACH SPRING
QUESTION: Raban Shimon ben Gamliel relates that the waters of the Shilo'ach spring originally flowed as narrow as an Isar. The king demanded that the outlet be widened to increase the flow. The waters, however, diminished their flow instead of increasing it. The king commanded that the Shilo'ach spring be returned to its previous state, and the waters once again flowed freely.
What is the significance of this incident?
ANSWER: The MAHARSHA explains this incident based on the Gemara in Kerisus (5b) which teaches the Halachah that a new Jewish king must be anointed near a spring (the Gemara there gives the Shilo'ach as an example) in order to symbolize that his sovereignty should be continuous just as the flow of the waters of a spring. Raban Shimon ben Gamliel relates that the king sought to widen the flow of the Shilo'ach in order to increase the good omen that the river signified for him. When the waters diminished, he ordered that the flow be returned to its original state so that the diminished waters not be an inauspicious omen for him. This served as a lesson to the king that humility will lend his reign more durability than any other effort that the king might exert.