1) THE ESSENCE OF "HALLEL"
QUESTION: The Gemara says that the Nevi'im (prophets) instituted that the Jewish people should recite Hallel for each "Perek" ("time period") at which they were saved, and for each "Tzarah" ("trouble") from which they were saved. What is the difference between the Hallel of a "Perek" and the Hallel of a "Tzarah"?
(a) The RASHBAM (116b, DH Al Kol Perek) explains that "Perek" refers to the times that are set in the Jewish calendar by the Torah -- in particular, Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukos. "Tzarah" refers to times not established by the Torah, but that were added later in history after a miraculous salvation occurred, such as Chanukah.
The Rashbam does not distinguish between the two occasions on which Hallel is said for salvation from a "Tzarah" -- the Hallel said at the actual moment of the miraculous salvation by those who were saved, and the Hallel said each subsequent year in commemoration of the salvation. Apparently, both of those forms of Hallel are the same. The only difference is that when it is a highly significant miracle, it is commemorated in subsequent years, and when it is a less significant miracle, the miracle is celebrated only the year that it occurred.
(b) The BRISKER RAV (Hilchos Chanukah 3) cites RABEINU YERUCHAM who explains that "Perek" refers to any set time during the year at which there is a special enactment to recite Hallel (the three festivals, and Chanukah). "Tzarah," on the other hand, refers to the actual moment of salvation at which the Jewish people should sing Hallel to thank Hash-m for their deliverance. The source for the recitation of Hallel at the moment of salvation can be found in the BEHAG. He writes that part of the decree of the Nevi'im was for the Jews to say Hallel spontaneously whenever they, as a group, are saved from imminent peril.
The Brisker Rav points out that these two types of Hallel differ not only in when they are recited, but in the nature of their obligation to be recited.
1. The Hallel established for specific calendar days is obligatory. The spontaneous Hallel, however, is optional. One is allowed, but not obligated, to say Hallel with a blessing at such an occasion.
2. RABEINU YONAH in Berachos says that when the Jewish people want to sing spontaneous praises to Hash-m in response to a miraculous delivery from danger, they need not recite the entire Hallel. Even when they have said a blessing over Hallel, they are permitted to say as many or as few passages as they wish. They may even interrupt in the middle. In contrast, the Hallel of a "Perek" must be recited in the order of its paragraphs, and a blessing may be said only when the entire Hallel is recited.
The Brisker Rav explains that these differences are based on a more fundamental disparity in the underlying essence of the two types of Hallel. The "Perek" Hallel is recited as an obligation of "Keri'ah" -- to read the Hallel. Its goal is to arouse one's love for Hash-m through the remembrance of a miracle which He performed at a certain time in the past. In contrast, the Hallel of "Tzarah" is said as a form of praise to Hash-m, or "Shirah." It is an expression of the immense love for Hash-m that one feels at a time of miraculous salvation. In short, one Hallel is an emotional display of one's love and appreciation towards Hash-m, while the other is a means to develop one's love for Hash-m.
This explanation helps to answer the Rashbam's question on Rashi in this Sugya. The Beraisa quotes one opinion, that Hallel was initiated by Moshe and the Jews at the Sea. Another opinion says that it was said by Yehoshua and Yisrael when they conquered Eretz Yisrael. A number of other opinions are given. At the end, the Beraisa quotes the Chachamim who say that Hallel was instituted by the Nevi'im to be read at each "Perek" and each "Tzarah" from which the Jewish people were saved.
Rashi explains that all of the opinions mentioned prior to that of the Chachamim do not argue, but rather they add to each other. The Beraisa means that Hallel was also (and not only) said at those different times. The Rashbam asks that the wording of the Beraisa clearly implies that the Chachamim argue. If the previous opinions agree that Hallel was said whenever the Jewish people were saved, then they do not argue with the opinion of the Chachamim.
Perhaps Rashi understands the Beraisa based on the ideas expressed by the Brisker Rav. That is, according to the first opinions in the Beraisa, there is no general institution to say Hallel after Hash-m saves the Jewish people. Only when the Navi instructs the Jews to say Hallel after a miracle occurs may they then say Hallel (with a blessing). On the other hand, the Chachamim maintain that there is a general institution to recite Hallel (as the BEHAG says). Accordingly, the Nevi'im established that whenever the Jewish people, as a nation, are saved by a miracle, they may say Hallel, even without specific dispensation from the Nevi'im.
2) HALACHAH: RECITING BIRKAS HA'MAZON OVER A CUP OF WINE
OPINIONS: The Mishnah says that one should recite Birkas ha'Mazon over a cup of wine on Pesach night. The Gemara says that it cannot be proven from here that Birkas ha'Mazon always needs a cup of wine. When the Rabanan instituted the Mitzvah to drink four cups of wine on Pesach night, they enacted that each cup should be used for a Mitzvah, and that is why Birkas ha'Mazon on Pesach night must be recited over a cup of wine. At any other time, however, there may not be an obligation to recite Birkas ha'Mazon over a cup of wine.
What is the Halachah? Must one recite Birkas ha'Mazon over a cup of wine or not?
(a) TOSFOS (105b, DH Shema Minah Berachah) cites RABEINU YECHIEL who says that even when an individual recites Birkas ha'Mazon, he must recite it over a cup of wine, as the Mishnah implies when it says, "They poured for him a third cup" ("Mazgu Lo Kos Shelishi"). This is also the opinion of the ROSH (Pesachim 10:14 and Berachos 9:2). The Rosh adds that the Gemara says "Birkas ha'Mazon needs a cup," and not "Birkas ha'Zimun." This implies that a cup of wine is an integral part of the recitation of Birkas ha'Mazon, and not just an obligation in Zimun.
(b) However, TOSFOS (loc. cit.) mentions a dissenting opinion that says that perhaps Birkas ha'Mazon needs a cup only when three people (a Zimun) eat together. The Gemara here thought that since Birkas ha'Mazon throughout the year needs a cup when three people eat together, the Rabanan would have established that on Pesach night even an individual should recite Birkas ha'Mazon over wine. The Rabanan would not have enacted the recitation of Birkas ha'Mazon over a cup of wine on Pesach night if it never requires wine during the rest of the year.
(c) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Berachos 7:15) rules like the apparent conclusion of the Gemara that Birkas ha'Mazon does not need to be said over wine. Even though the Beraisa earlier (105b) said that Birkas ha'Mazon does need a cup of wine, that Beraisa expresses the view of Beis Shamai as the Gemara there states, and the Halachah does not follow Beis Shamai.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 182:1) records all three opinions. The REMA adds that although they argue whether there is an obligation or not, everyone agrees that it is a meritorious act, a Mitzvah Min ha'Muvchar, to use a cup of wine for Birkas ha'Mazon.
The MISHNAH BERURAH says that it is best to be stringent to use a cup of wine when three men recite Birkas ha'Mazon together (a Zimun). However, he points out that the common practice is not to be stringent even with three men, unless wine happens to be readily available in one's home.
As for an individual, the SHA'AR HA'TZIYUN writes -- based on the writings of the ARIZAL -- that one need not recite Birkas ha'Mazon with a cup of wine when alone.