A More Historical and Universal “Al HaNissim”

For a copy of Reb Zalman’s Al HaNissim:  Click HERE.  For a copy of Reb Zalman’s Maoz Tzur: Click HERE.  

Reb Zalman explains:  “The way the story gets told, we Jews and the Helenists are implacable enemies even to this day. As we are to understand it, the Maccabees were the good guys and we must still pursue their path of unremitting warfare against the spirit of Helenist assimilation just as our ancestors. Had we not then resisted the pressures of the Helenists and the culture of the Greeks, we would surely by now have ceased to be a people and a religion. Those were the impure ones and we were the pure, those were the wicked ones and we the good.

“Therefore, consistent with the way this story has been told, we long ago set the following into our traditional Siddur and have recited thus for centuries:

בִּימֵי מַתִּתְיָֽהוּ בֶּן יוֹחָנָן כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל, חַשְׁמוֹנָאִי וּבָנָיו, כְּשֶׁעָמְדָה מַלְכוּת יָוָן הָרְשָׁעָה עַל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַשְׁכִּיחָם תּוֹרָתֶֽךָ, וּלְהַעֲבִירָם מֵחֻקֵּי רְצוֹנֶֽךָ, וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶֽיךָ הָרַבִּים עָמַֽדְתָּ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם, רַֽבְתָּ אֶת רִיבָם, דַּֽנְתָּ אֶת דִּינָם, נָקַֽמְתָּ אֶת נִקְמָתָם, מָסַֽרְתָּ גִּבּוֹרִים בְּיַד חַלָּשִׁים, וְרַבִּים בְּיַד מְעַטִּים, וּטְמֵאִים בְּיַד טְהוֹרִים, וּרְשָׁעִים בְּיַד צַדִּיקִים, וְזֵדִים בְּיַד עוֹסְקֵי תוֹרָתֶֽךָ. וּלְךָ עָשִֽׂיתָ שֵׁם גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ בְּעוֹלָמֶֽךָ, וּלְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל עָשִֽׂיתָ תְּשׁוּעָה גְדוֹלָה וּפֻרְקָן כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. וְאַחַר כֵּן בָּֽאוּ בָנֶֽיךָ לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶֽךָ, וּפִנּוּ אֶת הֵיכָלֶֽךָ, וְטִהֲרוּ אֶת מִקְדָּשֶֽׁךָ, וְהִדְלִֽיקוּ נֵרוֹת בְּחַצְרוֹת קָדְשֶֽׁךָ, וְקָבְעוּ שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי חֲנֻכָּה אֵֽלּוּ, לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל.

Traditional Translation: “In the days of Mattisyahu, the son of Yochanan, the High Priest, the Hasmonean, and his sons- when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will – You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the dilligent students of Your Torah. For Yourself You made a great and holy Name in Your world, and for Your people Israel you worked a great victory and salvation as this very day. Thereafter, Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified the site of Your Holiness and kindled light in the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary; and they established these eight days of Chanukah to express thanks and praise to Your great Name.

Reb Zalman:  “This, then is the traditional text, but I can no longer recite them in this form and have revised the prayer as follows:

עַל הַנִיסִים וכו’
בִּימֵי מַתִּיתְיָהוּ כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל חַשְׁמוֹנָאִי וּבָנָיו כְּשְׁעָמְדָה עֲלֵיהֶם מַלְכוּת אַנְטִיוֹכוֹס הָרָשָׁע וּבִקֵשׁ לַעֲקוֹר אֶת אֱמוּנָתֵינוּ וְדָתֵינוּ וְהֵצֵרוּ לָנוּ וְכָבְשׁוּ אֶת הֵיכָלֵנוּ טִמְאוּ אֶת מִקְדָשֵׁנוּ: אָז קָמוּ נֶגְדָם הַסִידֶיךָ וְכֹהֲנֶיךָ וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים, עָמַדְתָּ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם, רַבְתָּ אֶת רִיבָם נָקַמְתָּ אֶת נִקְמָתָם וְהָיִיתָ בְּעֶזְרָתָם לְהִתְגַבֵּר עֲלֵיהֶם וּלְטַהֵר אֶת הַמִקְדָשׁ. מִּתוֹךְ גַעְגֲוּעִים לְהַשְׁרָאֲתְךָ רָצוּ לְהַדְלִיק אֶת הַמְנוֹרָה הַטְהוֹרָה וְלֹא מָצְאוּ שֶׁמֶן עַד שֶׁהוֹרֵתָ לָהֶם שֶׁמֶן טָהוֹר לְיוֹם אֶחָד. בְּבִטָחוֹן הִדְלִיקוּ אֶת הַמְנוֹרָה וְאַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ לָהֶם נֵס וָפֶלֶא וְהַשֶׁמֶן לֹא הִפְסִיק עַד שֶׁעָשׂוּ מֵחָדָשׁ. וקָבְעוּ שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי חֲנוּכָּה אֵלוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵרוֹת לְפִרְסוּם הַנֵס לְהוֹדוֹת בְּהַלֵל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָדוֹל וְהַקָדוֹשׁ עַל נִיסֶיךָ וְעַל נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ וְעַל יְשׁוּעָתֶיךָ.

In the days of Matityahu, High priest, and his sons, when there arose against them the reign of wicked Antiochus who sought to uproot our faith and law, oppressing us, they conquered our Temple and desecrated our sanctuary: Then there arose, against them, Your devout priests, and You, in Your great compassion, stood by them, in their troubles, waging their wars, avenging their pain, helping them to overcome Antiochus’ forces and to purify the sanctuary. Amidst their longing for Your Presence among them, they sought to kindle the pure lamps and, not finding enough pure oil, You led them to find some, just enough for one day. In trust, they kindled the Lamp, and You miraculously made the oil last until they could make some afresh. Then did they set these days of Hanukkah to lighting candles, to chanting the Hallel, in gratitude to Your great reputation for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvation.

“In the meantime, we have learned some things that have committed us to a more historical and universal outlook. We realize that the Maccabean victors usurped the high priesthood of the Zaddokite priests, who then had to flee the Maccabees and retire into the Judean desert. The grandchildren of the Maccabean victors bore Greek names. During that time, a flourishing community existed in Alexandria and Greek words crept into the Midrash and much else into our Jewish consciousness.”

One Response to “A More Historical and Universal “Al HaNissim””

  1. Jay Cumming Says:

    Thanks, Reb Zalman. Let’s join with our brothers and sisters from all traditions to light up the mid-winter’s new moon nights. The only thing worth celebrating is the miracle of light dissipating the darkness — the light of Jewish religious liberty dissipating the darkness of Antiochus’s religious intolerance, and the light of unity and harmony dissipating the darkness of division and rivalry.

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