The Recitation of Al HaNissim

On Chanukah and Purim, Al HaNissim is added to the Amidah and to Birkat HaMazon. Al HaNissim, which recounts the miracles of Chanukah and Purim, is recited in the section of the Amidah and the section of Birkat HaMazon that focus on thanking the Almighty for his beneficence on a daily basis. This week's issue will discuss the nature of this addition as it relates to Chanukah.


The Institution to Recite Al HaNissim

The Gemara, Shabbat 21b, in recounting the story of Chanukah, states that the days of Chanukah were instituted as days of hallel (praise) and hoda'ah (thanksgiving). Rashi, ad loc., s.v. Hachi, explains that "days of hoda'ah" refers to the recitation of Al HaNissim. According to Rashi, the recitation of Al HaNissim is part of the original institution of Chanukah.

R. Ya'akov B. Zolty, Mishnat Ya'avetz, Orach Chaim no. 73, suggests that Rambam disagrees with Rashi. Rambam, Hilchot Megillah UChanukah 3:3, does not list the recitation of Al HaNissim among the various observances that were instituted for Chanukah. In fact, Rambam does not mention the recitation of Al HaNissim anywhere in Hilchot Megillah UChanukah, the section that deals with the laws of Purim and Chanukah. Rambam codifies the recitation of Al HaNissim in Hilchot Tefillah 2:13, in the context of the additions to the Amidah on all of the various holidays and similarly in Hilchot Berachot 2:6, in the context of the additions to Birkat HaMazon. R. Zolty deduces that Rambam's opinion is that the nature of the obligation to recite Al HaNissim is a function of the obligation to mention special events of the day in the Amidah and Birkat HaMazon. This obligation is independent of the institutions to celebrate Purim and Chanukah.


One Who Omitted Al HaNissim

The Tosefta, Berachot 3:12, states that one who omits Al HaNissim from the Amidah is not required to repeat the Amidah. Tur, Orach Chaim no. 682, applies this ruling to Birkat HaMazon as well. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 682:1, codifies both of these rulings.

Kol Bo, no. 25, suggests that if one omits Al HaNissim and has not yet concluded Birkat HaMazon, he may insert Al HaNissim into the HaRachaman section by stating "He Who is Merciful, may He provide miracles for us as he did in ancient times. In the days of Matityahu etc." Rama, Orach Chaim 682:1 codifies Kol Bo's suggestion.

R. Alexander Shor, Tevu'ot Shor, Shabbat 21b, objects to Kol Bo's suggestion based on a statement of the Gemara, Berachot 60a. The Gemara states that one should not pray for a miracle. Kol Bo's suggestion seems to include a prayer for a miracle. R. Shor notes that perhaps one can justify Kol Bo's position and distinguish between praying for miracles that appear to be supernatural and miracles that appear to be natural. Those that appear to be supernatural are prohibited and those that appear to be natural are permitted. Al HaNissim only mentions the miracle of the war, which was a miracle that appeared to be natural. [See Chanukah-on-the-Run 5768 for a further discussion of this aspect of Al HaNissim.] R. Shlomo Kluger, Chochmat Shlomo, Orach Chaim 682:1, justifies Kol Bo's position by positing that the prohibition to pray for a miracle only applies to a miracle that impacts individuals. However, it is permissible to pray for a miracle that affects the entire congregation. R. Ya'akov Orenstein, Yeshuot Ya'akov, Orach Chaim 682:2, also distinguishes between praying for a private miracle and praying for a public miracle. He suggests that the reason why it is not appropriate to pray for a miracle is that if the prayer is answered and the miracle occurs, one's merits are diminished. However, if one prays for a miracle that affects the masses, the Kiddush HaShem that is produced by a public miracle outweighs other considerations.


Why is Al HaNissim Excluded from the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh?

When one eats foods (other than bread) that are derived from the seven species that the Land of Israel is praised for (see Devarim 8:8), one recites an abridged version of Birkat HaMazon titled Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh (known colloquially as "Al HaMichya"). On Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh, there is one sentence that mentions the specific day that is being observed. Chanukah and Purim are noticeably absent from this list. Why don't we mention Chanukah or Purim in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh?

R. Chaim Soloveitchik (cited in Haggadah Shel Pesach MiBeit Levi page 233) suggests that the reason why Chanukah and Purim are not mentioned in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh is based on the concept of the compensatory beracha for Birkat HaMazon. The Gemara, Berachot 49a-b, provides a solution for one who omits R'tzei or Ya'aleh V'Yavo from the Birkat HaMazon of Shabbat and Yom Tov.  If one realizes the mistake after completing the beracha of Uv'nei Yerushalayim, but prior to reciting HaTov V'HaMeitiv, one can recite a compensatory beracha at that point and there is no need to return to the beginning of Birkat HaMazon. [The concept of the compensatory beracha was discussed in a previous issue.] This beracha is only available for the additions for Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh.

R. Chaim explains that the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh is an abridged form of all of the berachot of Birkat HaMazon. Anything that is not a beracha is not included in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh. Although the additions for Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh don't normally appear as independent berachot, they have the potential to exist as independent berachot in the form of the compensatory beracha. Therefore, the additions for Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh are abridged and included in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh. The additions for Chanukah and Purim (i.e. Al HaNissim) do not have a compensatory beracha and do not exist as independent berachot. Therefore, they are not mentioned in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh. [Based on this logic, R. Chaim explains why the additions for Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh appear after Uv'nei Yerushalayim and not before. Although in the normal Birkat HaMazon, these additions appear before Uv'nei Yerushalayim, the compensatory beracha is recited after Uv'nei Yerushalayim. Therefore, one should view the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh as an abridged form of Birkat HaMazon when the compensatory beracha is recited and the logical placement for these additions is after Uv'nei Yerushalayim.]

R. Yosef D. Soloveitchik (cited in Harerei Kedem Vol. I, page 302), presents a slightly different answer than that of his grandfather, R. Chaim. He suggests that the additions of Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh have a different status than the additions of Chanukah and Purim. On Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh, the function of the additions is to mention the day. On Chanukah and Purim, the function of Al HaNissim is to provide a detailed account of G-d's providence in the Hoda'ah section of the Amidah and Birkat HaMazon. Therefore, the additions of Shabbat, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh are independent portions of Birkat HaMazon. Al HaNissim is not an independent portion of Birkat HaMazon, rather an extension of the Hoda'ah section. Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh, whose purpose is to provide an abridged version of Birkat HaMazon, abridges all portions of Birkat HaMazon by providing the main idea of each portion. The additions for Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh are independent portions of Birkat HaMazon and are therefore abridged and included in Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh. However, Al HaNissim is not an independent portion and it is not the main idea of the Hoda'ah section. Therefore, it is not mentioned in the Beracha Mei'ain Shalosh.