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Al Hanissim on Both Days of Purim, Everywhere

March 24, 2014

The evening of the 16th of II Adar, as Shushan Purim came to an end, one of the congregants presented the local rabbi with an interesting question. The fellow had observed and celebrated his Purim on the 14th of II Adar, and on the afternoon of the15th he went to visit family in Jerusalem, wherein Shushan Purim was still being celebrated. He wished to lead the afternoon services, but perhaps because his version of the amida would not have the addition of the al hanissim prayer and the rest of the quorum’s version of the amida was to include the al hanissim prayer, he could not serve as their leader. There is a general assumption that the leader and the congregation should have an equal obligation to prayer and an obligation to pray equally. The Rabbi offered his opinion, which tended toward disallowing, and another scholar who happened to be there offered a diverging opinion. I then chimed in, “Why don’t all Jews recite the al hanissim prayer on both days of Purim? Who said that it should only be recited on the day that one observes as his Purim?”


I would tend to agree with the Rabbi if the subject of the discussion was, for example, the yaaleh w’yavo prayer added on festivals and New Moons, an addition which, in our sages’ terms, is m’aqqeiv, critical, to the extent that if one were to have omitted it from his amida, he would have to recite the entire amida once again, as his obligation to pray can not be discharged if he left it out of his amida. However, the al hanissim prayer, which is only added on rabbinical holidays, is not mandated by the sages, and although included in, for example, Maimonides’s version of the prayers, in the Laws of Megilla he makes no mention of it.  In arguing for the inclusion of al hanisism in the prayers for Israeli Independence Day and Jerusalem Day, holidays that are even more important to observe than Purim and Hanukka, Rabbi Bar Hayim pointed out: “In addition, Al-HaNissim should be added to the Amidah and Birkat HaMazon of the holidays. The addition of Al HaNissim in our prayers is Halachically unassailable. The Tur writes that one may add a supplication or words of praise in the Modim section of the Amidah (Ohr HaHayim 582 and Hagahoth Maimoniyoth Tephilla 6:3). Indeed even on days when Hallel is not said, such as Purim, Al-HaNissim is recited.” That is, al hanissim is not an obligatory part of the prayers; it is something proper to add on appropriate days of thanksgiving. Thus, the gentleman who posed the question could very well have said the al hanissim prayer on Shushan Purim, for after all, the miracles of the day were toward the salvation of all of Israel, and I would even go so far as to clam that every Jewish person, wherever he is and regardless of which day he observes Purim, may (and likely should) recite al hanissim on both days, which are equal in all matters save for when one fulfills the various commandments connected to the day. As Maimonides writes (Megilla 2:13-14): 

On these two days, the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar, it is forbidden to eulogize and to fast. This prohibition applies to all people in all places, to the inhabitants of the walled cities who celebrate only the fifteenth and to the inhabitants of the unwalled cities who celebrate only the fourteenth.

In a leap year, it is forbidden to eulogize and to fast on these two dates in the first Adar as well as in the second Adar. When the inhabitants of the villages read the Megillah earlier, on the Monday or Thursday before Purim, they are permitted to eulogize and to fast on the day they read the Megillah, and are forbidden to eulogize and to fast on these two dates, even though they do not read the Megillah on them.

It is a mitzvah for the inhabitants of the villages and unwalled cities to consider the fourteenth of Adar – and for the inhabitants of the walled cities to consider the fifteenth of Adar – as a day of happiness and festivity, when portions of food are sent to one’s friends and presents are given to the poor.

It is permitted to work on these days. It is not, however, proper to do so. Our Sages declared, “Whoever works on Purim will never see a sign of blessing.”

The basic equivalence of Shushan Purim and Purim is based on the passages in Esther 9:

And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,22 the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor… Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of pur. Therefore because of all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and that which had come unto them, 27 the Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to the writing thereof, and according to the appointed time thereof, every year; 28 and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed. {S} 29 Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote down all the acts of power, to confirm this second letter of Purim. 30 And he sent letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, 31 to confirm these days of Purim in their appointed times, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had ordained for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry. 32 And the commandment of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book. {S}

Now, if I can just get Hebrew purists to start calling the holiday by its Hebrew name, Goraloth, and not by the Persian lone word, Purim. 


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