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The song "Al Hanisim" is popularly sung on Hanukkah by many Jews everywhere. However, I've noticed a discrepancy:

On this website it states that the lyrics are:

עַל הַנִּסִּים, וְעַל הַפֻּרְקָן, וְעַל הַגְּבוּרוֹת, וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת, וְעַל הַמִּלְחָמוֹת, שֶׁעָשִֽׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֽינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

However, on Chabad's website, it states that the text is:

עַל הַנִּסִּים, וְעַל הַפֻּרְקָן, וְעַל הַגְּבוּרוֹת, וְעַל הַתְּשׁוּעוֹת, וְעַל נפלאות, שֶׁעָשִֽׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֽינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Why the change? Is this just how the song is arranged? Is this a difference with the source text itself (I know that Chabad has a nusah different from other Ashkenazi communities, making changes so some prayers are grammatically correct). Or what?

  • Note Chabad's differences in Nusach are not solely to account for grammar. – Double AA Dec 18 '14 at 20:10
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The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Baal HaTanya when composing the siddur had in front of him 60 different siddurim. This version appears in the Abudraham among others (listed at the link).

The plain-meaning logic behind the selection is: "For the wars" isn't understood - it should be "for winning the wars" or something similar. Another version of leaves out the "and" (for תשועות on the war) but this is inconsistent, because then it should also be saying that for the other clause - על הפורקן (שנעשו) על הצרות. Some have נחמות - comforts - instead of war. But comfort for what? (similar to the debate about ונחמתא in Kaddish). And most compellingly in Haneiros Hallalu נפלאות is mentioned twice, so it should be mentioned here as they should be expected to parallel each other.

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I have seen the 2nd version in Chabad and a few other Nusach Sefard texts.

From what I have heard from a few sources - Chabad people as well as several of my rebbei'm, there is some objection to attribute the winning of a war as a significant part of Chanukah, as people mistakenly think that it was the might of the Macabbees and their war strategies that saved the Jewish people rather than attributing it as the sole work of G-d who created a miracle, including winning the war.

(For a similar, though not direct reason, they avoid singing the Chanukah song "Mi Yemalel" since it has a phrase "Macabee moshi'ah" - The Macabees saved.)

Thus, they substituted for the reference to the wars, a reference to the "wonders" (of G-d) which helped win the war.

I've also heard another reason for using the word נפלאות is to allude this paragraph to the "Modim" payer which immediately precedes it. The last phrase in that payer uses the word נפלאות as well.

Another thought- the phrase וְעַל הַמִּלְחָמוֹת, שֶׁעָשִֽׂיתָ לַאֲבוֹתֽינוּ seems strange (even though I say this version, this just occurred to me, now...) "The wars that you (G-d) made / did for our fathers"?? - G-d didn't "make" or even command the war! What is meant by stating this?

  • Textual variants of the Siddur have nothing to do with why Jews should not sing anti-Jewish songs like that, ch"v. Jews sing Psalms 106:2 with pride. We don't bastardize it to erase God from our tradition. – Double AA Dec 18 '14 at 20:19

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