‫הלל ועל הניסים בימי חנוכה‬ When Repetition is Not Quite Redundant Often described erroneously as a holiday or festival

, Chanukah is, from a halakhic perspective, nothing of the sort. It is decisively not a mo'ed, it lacks the obligatory meals associated with Yom Tov, and it is associated with no prohibition of labor (Arachin 10b) This is not merely an accidental product of Chanukah being rabbinic in origin; in actuality, it was a rigorously engineered eight day period of time set aside during the year for expression of the dyad of hallel and hoda'ah, praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty. A careful reading of the locus classicus regarding the origin of Chanukah, ‫( לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה‬Shabbat 21b; see Rashi ad loc.) establishes this point decisively. Naturally, the chief liturgical features of Chanukah are the full Hallel which we recite each and every morning (an honor which we do not even afford to Pesach, one hastens to note), as well as the Al Ha-Nissim, which is a prayer of thanksgiving, and nestled in the appropriate ambient context of the general Modim prayer which opens the final third of the daily Amidah. It is only appropriate, then, that careful attention be paid on these days to assessing the twin themes of praise and thanksgiving. From a literary perspective, the praise and thanksgiving of the Hallel and Al Ha-Nissim share a striking similarity; the tendency toward repetition. Conventionally, Jewish prayer is meticulously constructed in both form and content, and flabby verbosity is no virtue (R.Chanina's sardonic undressing of the wordy chazzan from the celebrated passage in Megillah 25a comes to mind). Yet, when it comes to Hallel, the numerous different minhagim of its recitation notwithstanding, there is pervasive repetition, both between leader and the congregation, and even within the congregation is itself. Likewise, in the Al Ha-Nissim, we thank God, repeatedly, not just for the 'miracles,' but for the 'rescue, demonstrations of might, salvations, and victories'; he did not merely to our aid, but he 'stood up for us in the time of our distress, fought our fight, adjudicated our judgment, avenged our vengeance'; he did not just grant the Jewish people victory, but he 'surrendered the mighty 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, the brazen into the hands of those who immerse themselves in Torah.' Obviously, the prophets and sages who composed these prayers were not passing through a passing phase of experimentation with different poetic form, haphazardly dabbling in the forbidden liturgical fruits of verbosity, but consciously reflecting the true experience of praise and thanksgiving. One who feels awestruck, overwhelmed by the power and force of the other, does not respond with measured words and scientific precision; he is effusive and enflamed, and will naturally repeat himself. One who gives voice to a sense of profound indebtedness, if he is sincere in his gratitude, may likewise find himself being somewhat repetitive. If Hallel and Al Ha-Nissim are repetitive, they are by no means redundant.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful