Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Al HaNissim for Yom Ha‘Atzmaut: A case study in liturgical development in our day

Writing new liturgy is a wonderful exercise in what we used to call "values clarification." Deciding how to frame an event, what to include, what to emphasis and what to omit, forces the writer to confront his or her true beliefs about the meaning of the event.

Masorti (Conservative) and Reform prayer books of the last generation often include an Al Hanisim ("For the miracles") prayer from Israel Independence Day, similar to the prayers recited on Hanukkah and Purim.

For example, Ve’ani Tefillati has: 

In the days of the second return to Zion, when the Arab nations surrounded Your people in the Land of Israel saying to them, “Let us destroy this nation and eradicate the memory of Israel,” You, in Your great mercy, stood by them in time of trouble. You defended them and vindicated them. You taught them the ways of war (Ps. 144:1) and delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few, and the evil into the hands of the people of Your covenant. You made a great and holy Name for Yourself in Your world and for Your people Israel you wrought great salvation and redemption to this day.       

The Israeli Reform Avoda Shebelav

בִּימֵי שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן הַשְּׁנִיָה כְּשְבָּאָה שְׁאֵרִית הַפְּלֵיטָה מגֵּיא הַהֲרֵיגָה וּבְנֵי עַמְּךָ מִכָּל תְּפוּצוֹתֵיהֶם, שָׁלְטוּ זֵדִים בְּאֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ וְנַעֲלוּ שְׁעָרִים בִּפְנֵי נִרְדָפִים. אָז קָמוּ שִׁבְעָה  גּוֹיִים לְהַכְרִית עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים עָמַדְתָּ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם. לְהִקָּהֵל וְלַעֲמוֹד עַל נַפְשָׁם לְלַמֵּד יְדֵיהֶם לַקְרָב אֶצְבְּעוֹתֵיהֶם לַמִּלְחָמָה. מָסַרְתָּ רַבִּים בְּיַד מְעַטִּים וְזֵדִים בְּיַד בְּנֵי בְרִיתֶךָ. וּלְךָ עָשִׂיתָ שֵׁם גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ בְּעוֹלָמֶךָ. וּלְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל עָשִׂיתָ תְּשׁוּעָה גְדוֹלָה וּפֻרְקָן כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:
וְאַחַר כֵּן נִקְבְצוּ בָנֵיךָ לִבְנוֹת אֶת אַרְצֶךָ וּלְהִבָּנוֹת בָּה וְקָבְעוּ אֶת יוֹם הָעַצְמָאוּת הַזֶּה יוֹם חַג וְשִמְחָה לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל. וּכְשֵם שֶעָשִיתָ נִסִּים לָרִאשוֹנִים, כָּךְ תַּעֲשֶה לָאַחֲרוֹנִים. וְתוֹשִיעֵנוּ בַּיָּמִים הָאֵלּוּ כְּבַיָמִים הָהֵם. 

In the days of the second return to Zion, when the remnant from the valley of killing and Your people from throughout their dispersion came, evil people controlled our holy land and locked the gates before the pursued. Then seven nations arose to annihilate Your people Israel and You, in Your great mercy, stood by them in time of trouble, to gather together to protect themselves and train themselves to fight. You delivered the many into the hands of the few, and the wicked into the hands of those who keep Your covenant, making a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world and bringing great deliverance and rescue, as in this time.
Afterwards, Your children gathered to rebuild Your land and be rebuilt in it. They established this Independence Day as festival of happiness to give thanks and praise to Your great name. As You made miracles for the first ones, do the same for later ones and save us in our day as You did in theirs.                                                                                           [translation SMZ]

In the days of the ingathering of the remnant of Israel from the lands of darkness and the shadow of death to their beloved inheritance, pioneers of the nation arose, raised the flag, composed a declaration, and claimed the right of the nation to be established with its own consent, as a Jewish government in the land of its birth. With song and dance, women and children, the old and the young, celebrated on the streets with joy and rejoicing. At that same time, their enemies converged forthwith, to eliminate all trace of Israel from the land, and to push into the sea all the keepers of its faith. But You hurried forth to rescue your nation. You strengthened the hands of their defenders, and destroyed the weapons of their enemies. A revival of glory you made, a country of beauty you established, the beginning of the longing of the generations, a refuge and a fortress for the return of all Your people. 
  Avi Shmidman and Ben-Tzion Spitz, alhanisim.blogspot.com
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