Praise God with the blast of the shofar; praise God with the lyre and the harp.
Praise God with the drum and with dance; praise God with various instruments and the pipe organ.
Praise God with loud-sounding cymbals; praise God with clanging trumpets.
Let all praise God.
הַלְלוּהוּ בְּתֵקַע שׁוֹפָר הַלְלוּהוּ בְּנֵבֶל וְכִנּוֹר׃
הַלְלוּהוּ בְתֹף וּמָחוֹל הַלְלוּהוּ בְּמִנִּים וְעוּגָב׃
הַלְלוּהוּ בְצִלְצְלֵי־שָׁמַע הַלְלוּהוּ בְּצִלְצְלֵי תְרוּעָה׃
כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ׃
Foundations for Planning
- How do Jewish rituals and practices enrich the way I experience my life and the world?
- Why/how might Jewish practices be meaningful for me even if I don’t define myself as “religious”?
- How is prayer a vehicle to help us access connections to God?
- How can I experience moments of connection to God?
- What are the internal impulses that may drive a person to pray?
- How would an individual’s personal situation influence their prayer?
- How may the use of song in prayer enrich the spiritual experience?
- How does music contribute to prayer?
- What are some non-verbal ways that a person can pray?
- For whom is music in prayer intended – for people, or for God?
The prayer presented here is an excerpt from Psalm 150. It is the final psalm in Tehillim (the Book of Psalms) and is also the last of a series of psalms, called Pesueki Dezimra (“verses of song”), recited during Shacharit (morning prayers). This prayer...
The prayer presented here is an excerpt from Psalm 150. It is the final psalm in Tehillim (the Book of Psalms) and is also the last of a series of psalms, called Pesueki Dezimra (“verses of song”), recited during Shacharit (morning prayers).
This prayer invites us to praise God using various musical instruments. The instruments mentioned include: the shofar, harp, lyre (or more specifically, an instrument at that time that was shaped like a lyre and looked similar to today’s harp), drum, flute, minim (which, according to interpretation, meant a “variety” of musical instruments), pipe organ, “chimes” (similar to cymbals), and “clanging” (most likely trumpets). Some of these instruments were used in Temple for the Levites’ music and singing.
The sentence “let all praise God” can be understood simply as every living being, or can be understood as a reference to all the parts of a person’s body that praise God, their whole “soul”, not just their mouth.
This psalm is recited daily as part of Shacharit, both on weekdays and on Shabbat; it is also included in the Mussaf (additional prayers) recited on Rosh Hashanah and other holidays throughout the year. It has been composed into music a particularly large number of times, with renditions performed by both Jewish and non-Jewish musicians alike.
Music has been a part of the human experience since the prehistoric age and also played a role in religious ritual. In the Tanach, primarily the book of Psalms, music is mentioned as a way to praise God, and in the Temple, music was used in the rituals performed by Levites. In Hasidism, music is used as a means for spiritual experience and connection with God.
The power of music is that it is by nature not physical, and is thus able to express abstract feelings and experiences.
In order to help the students understand how music, emotional experiences and prayer are connected, have them listen to the sounds of various musical instruments and show them photographs of those instruments.
Alternatively, you can screen this movie of various instruments being played.
If you have musical instruments in the classroom (such as cymbals, drums, triangles, flutes, etc), they can also be used. Ask the students to listen to the sounds of the instruments and suggest emotions they identify with those sounds.
Now divide the students into pairs: Each student will tell their partner what instrument they feel like today and then explain why they chose that particular instrument. If there are enough instruments in the classroom, the students can demonstrate their feelings using actual instruments.
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- Why do we recite songs of praise to God? What do you think makes people want to praise God / another person?
- Why do you think this psalm asks us to praise God using musical instruments, and not just by using words of praise? What does music add to the words of these prayers?
- Why are different instruments brought as examples? Why are so many instruments mentioned, rather than just two or three?
- What is the purpose of music in prayer? What does music help us express?
- The “Hallelujah” prayer has been composed into music by a large number of artists over the course of history and throughout the world. Explain what it is about this prayer that makes it so universal, allowing people from different cultures to connect to it.
- Not everyone knows how to play a musical instrument. How can we create music using only our bodies? How, for example, is singing different than playing an instrument?
- After learning about how music can allow more parts of ourselves to be expressed during prayer, do an activity that connects students to prayer using their whole body. Have the students listen to different musical versions of the prayer (older students can search online by themselves). Each group should choose a different version and choreograph a dance or movement to go with it. Have the students discuss how a multi-sensory experience can influence our personal connection to prayer. Also talk about how the renditions differ: What is expressed in each of the different versions?
Machon Ben Tzvi’s Piyut Ensemble
Various versions found on the “Piyut” websit
- For classes in which the students pray together, plan a special prayer session that incorporates musical instruments. Invite students who play, to bring their own instruments with them, and have the other students join in using different types of percussions, including cymbals and the triangle.
- Look at the painting “Praise Him With The Timbrel And Dance” by artist Elena Kotliarker. Discuss: Which means did the artist use to represent playing music and dance? In your opinion, how does the artist’s depiction connect to the idea of praising God? Relate to the details of the painting, the colors, movement, etc.
- “Hallelujah” as a universal prayer: Show the students MiQuedem’s multi-participant rendition of the song with musicians from around the world (note – the song includes a section from the beginning of Psalm 150 which we didn’t discuss in this resource).
Have the students consider the following questions: What are some things that connect people from around the world? How can prayer, and especially musical prayer, help us connect to people who are different from us, and why?
Further discuss this connection by relating to the different mediums used in the video – musical instruments, song, movement, and each person bringing their own emotional connection, both verbal and non-verbal.
- Listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, or the song “Hallelujah” by the Milk and Honey band, which makes use of the word “hallelujah” repetitively throughout the song.
- Listen to Peter and the Wolf, which uses various musical instruments to present the different personalities of each of the characters. Explain to the students that the musical instruments mentioned in the “Hallelujah” prayer can be understood as expressions of different attributes or feelings. Ask them to assign each musical instrument in the psalm a different attribute or feeling and to create a story entitled “Let all praise God” using the different instruments, similar to the roles played by the various instruments in “Peter and the Wolf”.