Hallel, Al Hanissim, and Yom Haatzmaut
Happy Yom Haatzmaut -- Happy 59th Birthday, Israel!!
A hat-tip to SWFM, who unearthed the following d'var torah I wrote for the mail.jewish list back in 1994. This pertains to the topic of Hallel and Al Hanissim, and specifically why the former is said on certain occasions - e.g., the Shalosh Regalim and Chanukah - and the latter on others, specifically Chanukah and Purim:
Several questions can be asked:Now to get back to today's holiday. If my theory is correct, it would argue for saying not Hallel, but Al Hanissim today, since the founding of Israel falls into the "nes nistar" category. And in fact, Shira points out that there is a text of Al Hanissim for Yom Haatzmaut... found in the Conservative siddur! Has anyone heard of an Orthodox authority/siddur which incorporates this?
1) What is Chanukah celebrated for; the oil miracle, the victory in the war, or both? And why does the "Al Hanissim" prayer mention only the war and not the oil miracle?
2) Why is Hallel said on Chanukah but not on Purim?
3) Why is "Al Hanissim" said only on Chanukah and Purim, but not on all the other holidays on which miracles took place (e.g., Pesach)?
A drasha I heard several years ago addressed all of these questions with the following theory. Briefly, the key distinction is between a "Nes Nigleh", an open, supernatural miracle, and a "Nes Nistar", a "hidden" miracle, where all events appear to have happened through natural means. The theory is that Hallel was mandated for occasions associated with a Nes Nigleh, and Al Hanissim for occasions associated with a Nes Nistar. Al Hanissim is appropriate for the latter type of miracles since they can easily be denied by doubters; thus, there is a need to openly proclaim that they were, in fact, "Nissim", miracles.
All the above questions can now be answered. The miracle of Purim is the textbook case "Nes Nistar" - Hashem's name is not even used in the Megillah. Thus, Al Hanissim is said. The Hasmonean victory on Chanukah was also through natural means, so Al Hanissim is said on Chanukah, but mentions only that particular miracle. However, Chanukah also had a Nes Nigleh - the miracle of the oil. Therefore, Hallel is said on Chanukah too.
As for the Yom Tovim - Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos - all can be associated with very supernatural, open miracles (for Succos, the "Annaney HaKavod", clouds of glory), and thus Hallel is said but not Al Hanissim. Incidently, this also helps explain why Hallel is not said on Rosh Hashanah, even though it is a Yom Tov like the other three. Simply because there was no Nes associated with it!