by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler

Psalm 113 is the first listed in the book of Psalms under the grouping of 6 psalms known as the “Hallel”, special psalms of praise traditionally recited at special seasons of the calendar, most notably, Passover.

This psalm lauds Adonai more for Who and What He is, more than for what He does or has done.

“Hallelu Yah”! This very well known Hebrew phrase is derived from the root never specifically used in the Hebrew text, but carrying the sense of boasting. The text uses the verb in the piel and pual stems, verbal stems that take the core meaning and ratchet up the intensity. “Hillel”, the most basic Biblical form, calls for intense boasting, not for one’s own achievements or possessions, but, in Adonai Himself. By opening with this piel imperative, the psalmist sets the stage by commanding us excitedly, even ecstatically, voicing the overwhelming qualities of the Lord. There is an implication of finding Joy therein. David states in Psalm 100, “Know that Adonai, He is God. It is He Who has made us, and we are His people…For Adonai is good. His lovingkindness endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” David contrasts the God that we have with the one we could have had; the One we have is faithful, merciful, loving, consistent, powerful, saving… There is reason to celebrate.

Then, back in Psalm 113, the writer gives us the audience of his exhortation: “Hallelu avdey Adonai”, “Praise (intensely) O servants of Adonai”. This refers to all who have any relationship with Adonai, even those charged with menial tasks. In scripture, even high government and military officials are often referred to as “servants” of their king. We can find joy and pleasure in anything involving our God

Verse 1 continues, “Hallelu et-shem Adonai”, “Praise the Name of Adonai”. In Psalm 8, David says, “Adonai, Adoneynu, mah-adir shimka b’kol- haaretz!, “Adonai, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name over all the earth!” David is thrilled by the substance, the content, of the divine Name; it is more than merely the title of a traditional, religious, entity. The Name is the Name of the One Who had taken him from the sheep to becoming the hero of Israel and, ultimately, the king.“Y’hi shem Adonai m’barek meattah v’ad-olam”, “Blessed be the Name of Adonai from now and forever.” God’s virtuous Character is such that men and angels and every knee will bow and every tongue profess…(Philippians 2:10) without end.

“Mimizrach-shemesh ad-m’boo m’hullalshem Adonai.” “From the rising of the sun to its going down the Name of Adonai is to be praised.” The Lord is worthy of honor and praise from the farthest extents of East and West, and without limitations by time.

Verse 4: “Adonai is “ram”, “high”, “al-kol-goyyim”, “above all nations”– the great powers, the Security Council, the U.N., N.A.T.O.,… All powers are subservient to His.

“Al hashamayim k’vodo”, “His Glory is above the heavens”. The Lord does not exist in the Universe, but, the Universe exists in Him!

“Mi k’Adonaieloheynu?!”- “Who is like Adonai our God?!” He is incomparable! Because of Who He is and What He is, He does the things He does.

  1. Enthroned on high, He brings Himself down to look upon heaven and upon earth.
  2. He raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy out of the dunghill, to seat him with princes.
  3. He settles the barren woman in her home as a joyful mother of children.

So, with all these things being said, the psalm closes as it began, “Halleu-Yah!” Let’s do it!

Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.