Hanukkah 5783 – Hanerot Halalu

On these miracles, and on these wonders, on these salvations, and on these comforts

Al Hanisim v’al hanifla’ot v’al hateshu’ot v’al hanechamot

עַל הַנִּסִּים וְעַל הַנִּפְלָאוֹת וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת וְעַל הַנֶחָמוֹת

These words may sound familiar from the beautiful prayer that we sing on Hanukkah and Purim to celebrate miracles. They appear in Hanerot Halalu, one of the songs we sing after we light the Hanukkah candles. Last year, I wrote about the powerful message of these words: teaching us about the gift of presence as the only thing we are allowed to do with the candles is to bask in their glow and be together with friends and family.

This year, the words above are calling out from the page. The phrase may seem a little off to some readers because in the Ashkenazic (Jews of Eastern European descent) version of the text the last word in the phrase is milchamot, battles. We give thanks for the miracles, the wonders, the salvations, and the wars that You fought with us in those days at this time. In the Sephardic (Jews of North African and Spanish descent) version of the text, the last word in the phrase is nechamot, comforts. 

I chose to use nechamot or comforts in this melody because that is what I believe we so desperately need, especially now. Hanukkah happens during the darkest and coldest time of the year. There is a reason that so many religions have “light” holidays around this time. What we need more of is light and warmth and comfort, and so we give gratitude to the Holy One for being a source of comfort for us then and now.

And yet today as I write this I am thinking of the word milchamot, the battles. Each one of us has battles we are fighting that those around us may know nothing about. Each one of us struggles through moments externally and internally.  And so I believe today we must take both versions of this text together — the comforts and the battles. 

May these words serve as an inspiration to us to be there for each other in our times of need, whether we know we are needed or not. You are not alone. We are not alone. We don’t have to fight these battles alone. Let those close to you serve as nechamot, as comforters.

Wishing you a holiday filled with light, warmth, and love,

Josh

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