Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CHANUKA: The " 'al-haNisim " prayer.

1st day of Tebet, 5771

'Antiochus pillaged the Temple, attacked Jerusalem and led captive women and children. In 167 BCE ... shabbat and feasts were banned and circumcision was outlawed. Altars to Greek gods were set up and animals prohibited to Jews were sacrificed on them. The Olympian Zeus was placed on the altar of the Temple. Possession of Jewish scriptures was made a capital offense'.

During the eight days of Chanuka we recite the prayer 'al haNisim, ('for the miracles') in the Amida (=main daily prayer) and in Birkat haMazon (=prayer of gratitude after a full meal).

In this meaningful prayer we thank haShem Almighty for the wonders and portents He performed to our ancestors, preventing them from falling into the hands of the enemy. We stress the fact that haShem delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, bearing in mind that the defeated Greek army was one of the most sophisticated and organized armies in antiquity, while the Jews never practice war, let alone 'excelled' in the art of warfare.

It is important to notice that 'al haNisim prayer comes within the daily blessing in which we THANK God for His many favors to us: modim anachnu lakh (we thank You..) in the Amida and node lekha (we will thank You)... in birkat haMazon. Therefore, when we recite 'al haNisim we should regard it as an extension of the general prayer of gratitude and understand it as saying: We thank You... for the miracles....

For this reason many rabbis would insist that the correct version should be ve'al haNisim (And we also thank You for...).

Text of 'al-haNisim prayer (English version):

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

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