There is a religious supermarket in Jerusalem that has been playing Purim music in honor of the upcoming holiday. The music puts the shoppers in the Purim spirit and may also cause the shoppers to buy more products in honor of Purim.
While shopping there a few days ago, they were playing the song “Al HaNisim”, “For the miracles.” The cashier didn’t understand why they were playing that song which is often associated with Chanuka. I explained to her that we recite the “Al HaNisim” prayer during the Shmoneh Esrei (silent devotion) and Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) on Purim as well as on Chanuka.
The Al Hanisim prayer states:
For the miracles and for the salvation and for the mighty deeds and for the victories and for the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
On Purim we add:
In the days of Mordechai and Esther in Shushan the capital when Haman the wicked rose up against them and sought to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all of the Jews, young and old, infants and women on the same day, on the 13th of the 12th month which is Adar and to plunder their possessions. But You in Your abundant mercy nullified his counsel and frustrated his intention and caused his design to return upon his own head and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows.
If you check in a siddur you will find that the “Al HaNisim” for Purim is much shorter than the “Al HaNisim” for Chanuka.
The reason according to Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch is that the danger of Purim was straightforward. Haman wanted to exterminate the entire Jewish nation so the prayer did not need to elaborate. The dangers during the time of Chanuka involved assimilation and purity and therefore needed more explanation.
What does the phrase “in those days, at this time” mean?
The Levush, Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe explains that the verse praises miracles that were performed in those days as well as the countless hidden miracles that are constantly being performed at this time.
We have seen revealed miracles even in our own time on Purim. The miracle that stands out the most is that the Gulf war in 1991 ended on Purim.
On a daily basis there are hidden miracles which many people never even hear about. Many terrorist attacks are miraculously thwarted due to Israel’s intelligence and the terrorists are often caught before they even reach their destination.
Just this week, Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem intervened during a terrorist attack in downtown Jerusalem. The fact that the mayor was in the right place at the right time and was able to insure that more people were not stabbed was something that we should not take for granted.
As we recite “Al HaNisim” this Purim, we must be grateful for the fact that against all odds the Jewish people survived during the time of the megilla and against all odds the Jewish people are thriving in the modern State of Israel today.