The Al HaNissim Prayer
The meaning of the special prayer of gratitude recited on Chanukah.
During Chanukah, the special paragraph of “Al Hanisim” is inserted into the daily prayers when one recites the Amidah prayer, and also during Birkat Hamazon – the blessing after a meal. "Al HaNisim" praises God for delivering the Jewish people at the time of the Maccabees.
Any prayer book (Siddur) worth its weight should have instructions printed at the appropriate places. If there are no instructions in your prayer book, then it's time to upgrade to the "ArtScroll Siddur" that guides you through with explanations and instructions.
“And they established these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great name.”
- from the Al Hanisim prayer
Anyone who has ever made it through an illness knows what it means to be grateful for good health. Judaism says gratitude is one of the cornerstones of life.
General George Schwarzkopf said: "Today there is only one superpower left. Think about what the world would be like if the last remaining superpower had been Mao's China, Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union. Thank God, if there is only one superpower, it's the United States of America."
Personally, I think the general has a good point. As imperfect as America may be, I'm quite grateful things turned out the way they have and that we don't live in a world dominated by Fascism.
Are we thankful the Jewish people were saved, and that we have survived as a nation until today? Are we thankful in the way General Schwarzkopf was talking about? Are we thankful the way my best friend felt when his four-year-old daughter completed her chemotherapy treatments?
Chanukah is the perfect time to think about and to express why you are grateful for being a Jew.
MAKING IT REAL
Every night after lighting the Chanukah candles, ask the following question:
Why am I thankful for being a Jew?
Try to come up with a different answer every night of Chanukah. Write down your answers, and if you are doing this with family and friends, share and discuss your answers. This makes for great discussion… while waiting for your latkes to fry.
Adapted from "Chanukah - Eight Nights of Light, Eight Gifts for the Soul"