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Al Hanissim: Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch

There are in the Jewish year two festivals, which serve to commemorate the miraculous manner in which God intervened on behalf of our people even after it had lost its political independence. These are Chanukah, in memory of God’s miraculous

action in behalf of the preservation of our spiritual values, and Purim, on which we celebrate His intervention, which ensured our physical survival.

On these two holidays, we add to our regular Hoda’ah the portion beginning with Al Hanissim to express our special gratitude for the direct action of God in behalf of our survival, both physical and spiritual, which we have experienced in our history.

In full awareness of what we owe Him, we here give thanks to God for the Nissim, the obvious acts of intervention of His Divine Providence. “Al hapurkan,” for our liberation from every other power in general, and from the yoke of human tyranny in particular, which was the immediate result of our miraculous rescue each time.

“Al hagevurot v’al hateshu’ot,” for the mighty acts and the victories, but particularly, “al hamilchamot,” for the battles from which He allowed us to emerge victorious. For it was through these battles which we had to fight for their preservation that we have truly come to appreciate and treasure the values which had been in such grave danger.

Our Sages say that every Mitzvah for the fulfillment of which the Jews have had to pay with their heart’s blood in times of persecution becomes firmly entrenched within their hearts for all time to come. (Shabbat 130a)

It was only as a result of the persecution we have suffered that we have come to appreciate even our physical survival as a gracious gift of that special Divine Providence which has understood how to help us survive all the fanatical excesses of the mobs of the nations as the one immortal nation in human history.

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