I live in two worlds, Ashkenazic and Sephardic. Sometimes I get mixed up between the two. The Kaddish, for example, as universal a prayer as it is, includes additional words that I rush to get through when I am reciting it on Zoom with my Ashkenazic synagogue community.
In Al Hanissim, the special prayer we say both on Hanukkah and Purim, the text varies by two words in the Ashkenazic and Sephardic versions. In the Sephardic version, we thank God for the miracles, deliverance, the mighty deeds, the salvation, the wonders and comforting acts God performed for our ancestors then and now. The Ashkenazic text substitutes "wars" (milhamot) for "wonders and comforting acts" (nifla'ot ve-nehamot).
The texts of our liturgy were adapted to the times and regional circumstances, and of course, human triumphs can also be divinely inspired. Still, I often stumble on the word "milhamot" in musical settings of Al Hanissim. Even though Hanukkah celebrates a military triumph, somehow I cannot get the word out.
Below, one of the beautiful glossy " Hanukkah papers" we hang around the hanukkiah (which is also hung on the wall) with God’s name printed in gilt letters at the top, and each child’s name inscribed at the bottom. You can see a close-up of Hanerot hallalu (We light these candles) with the text of Al Hanissim, followed by Psalm 30 (Mizmor Shir Hanukkat Habayit LeDavid), which is about the dedication of the Temple. We chant all these after the blessings over the lighting of the hanukkiah.
This Hanukkah, as we chant Al Hanissim, I will think with tenderness about my father, z"l, who passed away on July 14, and whose middle name was Nissim. Miraculously, God gave him strength to be with us for almost 93 years.
Tizkoo l'shanim rabot!
May we all merit many years.
I admit it. It's a hokey picture, staged by a photographer to look like I have the Taj in my hands. But, wow, so much fun.
November is usually a time of excitement--embarking on a new group tour with its own dynamics, adventures and surprises--and then returning with new friends, new bonds, new memories and a ton of new photographs. We are always home with our families by Thanksgiving to celebrate and share our experiences in India (Hodu in Hebrew) over a meal filled with thanks (also hodu) and sometimes turkey (yes, hodu, believe it or not).
This year, of course, is different. I decided to look through our past group photos at the Taj, to reminisce and relive the color, and beauty of India that I so dearly love. The Taj always ends our tours, an unforgettable highlight that seals the experience that has enveloped us for two weeks.
When I looked at the above picture again, I noticed that the position of my hands resembles the gesture we make with open hands when we recite the phrase "poteah et yadekha u-masbia l'khol hai ratzon" (God, open Your hands and satisfy every living thing) in the Ashrei or Birkat Hamazon.
Perfect for Thanksgiving and every day.
With optimism, we have scheduled our next tour for November 4-17, 2021!