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    Abudarham’s consolation

    One of the few liturgical reflections of Chanukah is the Al HaNissim prayer, inserted in the Amidah and Grace After Meals. It acknowledges “the miracles, the deliverance, the mighty deeds, saving acts and wars” which God wrought for our ancestors “in those days at this season”.

    Its origins are not ancient; it is mentioned in the 8th century Massechet Sof’rim 20:8, though our present version is more elaborate.

    The 14th century liturgical authority Abudarham had a problem with the reference to milchamot, “wars”; he preferred n’chamot, “consolations”.

    In a passage which was still in a state of flux it is possible to have various renderings, and the choice of n’chamot clearly echoes the sages’ reluctance to stress the war aspect of the Maccabean story.

    But even if the reference to wars is more authentic, the important point to note is that it is not human warriors to whom the prayer attributes the victories, but God.

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