There seem to be many variations of the text of HaNeros Hallalu, the explanatory paragraph that people recite while lighting Hanukkah lights. Is it possible to list the major versions? What are the issues that make people prefer particular versions?

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    I've collected some versions for you to look at: Siddur Rinat Yisrael (Nusach Ashkenaz), Siddur Tefillah Yesharah (Nusach Sfard), Siddur Tehillat Hashem (Nusach Chabad). I tried finding a Sefardi version but I couldn't. I believe it's close to the Lubavitch version though. – ezra Nov 26 '18 at 17:46
  • (2) It seems to me that most versions have problems with the grammar rules. For instance, many have "אנו מדליקים" while others have "אנו מדליקין", etc. Others, especially those printed in Eretz Yisrael, have the more Hebrew "אנחנו מדליקים". Of course there are also other differences in the wording. – ezra Nov 26 '18 at 17:47
  • @ezra I don't think מדליקים vs מדליקין is a "problem" with grammar rules or even significant at all. It's not consistent even within mishnayos. Same with אנו\אנחנו (my family says אנחנו just because that fits better in our tune). In Tanach obviously the exact spelling matters (and even there אנן לא בקיאין בחסרות ויתרות), but other than that I don't think anyone cares or ever cared about having a consistent spelling for these things. The more interesting differences between the versions you posted are ועל המלחמות (only in Nusach Ashkenaz) and ולהלל (Nusach Ashkenaz and Chabad). – Heshy Nov 26 '18 at 18:32
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    Taz OC 676:5 quotes from Maharshal that there are 36 words following the introductory phrase הנרות הללו, corresponding to the 36 lights lit during Chanukah. – Joel K Nov 26 '18 at 19:20
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    @ezra sefaria has edot hamizrah as: sefaria.org/… – Sam Miller Nov 27 '18 at 1:03

A great article on this topic is by Rabbi Daniel Sperber in Minhagei Yisrael, Book 5 Chapter 2. It addresses your question (some of it directly, otherwise, by the sources he cites) and much of it is available within the 40 page viewing limit on Otzar Hachochma (page 27 in their pdf here). Another useful resource (albeit much shorter) is the Wikipedia page for Haneiros Halalu. Images are taken from Minhagei Yisrael.

In short, there are a number of versions (seen in both links above).

The Maharshal has one version (also cited by the Tur much earlier from Maharam Mirotenberg), and he suggests that there should be 38 words (Haneiros Halalu + 36 more, meant to represent the 36 Chanukah candles we light, not including the Shamash). Except that his version has 41 words in total (Haneiros Halalu + 39):

enter image description here

Various Mefarshim deal with this in different ways, see the article for the suggestions of the Mateh Moshe and Elyah Rabbah.

There is a version attributed to the Rosh by the Mateh Moshe, which adds words to the version above until it reaches 44 total words (Haneiros Halalu are included in that count), except that all of the other sources that mention the Rosh say that his had 41 words as well, with one small change within.

Although the Tur quoted the version that he had ("Maharshal's version") from the Maharam Mirotenberg, our version of the Maharam Mirotenberg's teshuvos have a 38 word total (Haneiros Halalu + 36).

enter image description here

All of these versions are based on the original in Maseches Sofrim 20:7 (20:4 in some versions), but clearly, we had different versions of that at different times, so that's what the disagreements are based off. The version of Maseches Sofrim that we have now is no more authoritative than what the Rishonim had. In determining a correct text, some will also potentially take the number of words into play.

Daniel Goldschmidt (in Mechkarei Tefillah Upiyut, page 399, but see this article of his too) also writes about this at length. According to him, the structure is basically broken into three parts:

  1. Haneiros Halalu...
  2. Vechol Shmonas Yemei Hachanukah...
  3. Kedei Lehodos...

He reconstructs a "Nusach Mekori", which is remarkably different than what we have, but see the R' Sperber article in Minhagei Yisrael or Goldschmidt's book for details.

For Sam: Rabbi Sperber notes that none of the Rambam's, Rif's, or Rashi's followers (including Machzor Vitri), as well as many, many others (prior to the Maharm Mirotenberg) mention the Minhag to say this.

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