Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chanuka ---> Al Hanissim

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Whenever one has eaten a meal on Chanuka (or Purim), there is a special prayer, known as "al hanissim", which is inserted in the Birkat Hamazon in honor of the holiday. In contrast, however, no mention of Chanuka or Purim is made when one recites the "al hamichya" blessing which follows a snack of mezonot foods, such as cake, cookies, and sufganiyot.[1] Indeed, on all other holidays which include a special insertion in the birkat hamazon in honor of the day, a similar insertion of some sort is included in the "al hamichya" as well. There seems to be an inconsistency here.[2]

Click here to read moreA number of answers to this contradiction have been offered. It is explained that the "al hanissim" is a prayer of thanksgiving, and as such, it is inserted in the Shemoneh Esrei alongside the "Modim" which is a blessing of thanksgiving in its own right. Similarly, in the Birkat Hamazon, "al hanissim" is inserted in the second section, which includes a list of a number of gifts from God which we are thankful for. However, the "al hamichya" blessing does not include a component or section which is dedicated specifically to thanksgiving. As such, the "al hanissim" is a prayer which essentially not compatible with the content or purpose of "al hamichya" and is therefore not included with it.[3]

Nevertheless this explanation is weak on several accounts. For example, one who forgot to insert "al hanissim" in the appropriate place in the Birkat Hamazon can still make up his error by reciting it in the concluding "harachaman" section of the Birkat Hamazon.[4] This is seems to prove that "al hanissim" is not dependent on a specific section of any prayer. So too, there is some mention of thanksgiving in the "al hamichya", albeit on a lesser scale than the birkat hamazon, which can allow for some sort of "al hanissim" to be recited at that time.

It may just be that there is no solid explanation for the exclusion of "al hanissim" (or some other reference to Chanuka and Purim) in the "al hamichya". It is noted that one who unintentionally omitted the "al hanissim" in either the Shemoneh Esrei or the Birkat Hamazon is never required to repeat the prayer.[5] This seems to convey a sense that the status of the "al hanissim" is on a much lower lever than the other seasonal additions as one is required to repeat the Shemoneh Esrei should one have omitted them. It is interesting to note that there exists an opinion among several halachic authorities that Chanuka and Purim should indeed be mentioned in the "al hamichya", though the halacha is not like this view. [6]

Readers: Any other ideas??


[1] O.C. 208:12
[2] Levush O.C. 208:12
[3] Levush O.C. 208:12
[4] O.C. 187
[5] Aruch Hashulchan 208:7
[6] Kaf Hachaim 682:3

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