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Appraising Praise

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Halleluyah, Meaning

Lee Kong Giap from Johor Bahru, Malaysia wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Is the word "hallelujah" constructed by four words or one word? Because it is constructed by four words in Chinese, and I hear my teacher said "halle" means praise, "lu" means "your," "Jah" means "G-d," and the word "Hallelujah" sounds a bit commanding. It that true? Does the word comes from Hebrew or Greek? I look forward to your reply.


Dear Lee Kong Giap,

The word hallelujah mentioned in Psalms is the Hebrew word for requesting a congregation to join in praise. "Hallel" means to recite praise, "hallelu" is the plural form. The grammatical extension "yah" is a way of expressing magnanimity. For example "merchav" means space, "merchavyah" means a vast space (Psalms 118:5); "shalhevet" means flame, "shalhevetyah" means a colossal flame (Song of Songs 8:10). Hence, halleluyah means "a great praise."

There are other ways of interpreting this word, as the Hebrew language does include the possibility for many meanings in the same word; thus it can also be understood to mean "praise G-d."

Sources:

  • Midrash Talpiyot
  • Pesachim 117a


 
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