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Thought for the Day: Praying for Miracles

This probably should have been said at Chanuka, but I didn't know it then.  Sometimes when I learn Mishna Brura, I look around the page to see if anything else looks interesting.  I ran across this interesting Sha'arei T'shuva regarding praying for miracles some time ago, and now I can finally writ it up.  That the up and down side of this venue... you get what you get.

Usually when an addition to birkas hamazon is omitted there is a simple rule: if the omission referred to the event that caused the meal, repeat; if not, don't repeat.  For example, one is obligated to eat two bread meals on Shabbos and Yom Tov, so if r'tzei or ya'aleh v'yavo is omitted at the conclusion of one of those meals, birkas hamazon needs to be repeated.  (After the fact, one has fulfilled his obligation for the third meal on Shabbos even without bread.)  On the other hand, omitting ya'aleh v'yavo on rosh chodesh would not require a repetition because one is not obligated to eat a bread meal on rosh chodesh.

There is one exception: al ha'nisim.  If one omits al ha'nisim, he needn't repeat, but he can make it up in the harachamans. (Shulchan Aruch OC 187:4, Rema)  The nusach is: May the Merciful One do miracles for us as He did in those days, etc.  Seems straightforward, right?  One little problem; actually, not so little.  The al ha'nisim in the middle of bentching (and, in fact, in t'fila) is part of hoda'a/thanksgiving.  This little harachaman has morphed that acknowledgement of past goodness into a prayer for HaShem to do miracles for us in the future!  Besides the shift from thanks to please; we aren't allowed to daven for miracles!

The Sha'arei T'shuva on the spot gives two heterim.  First, the t'fila is for the community and not for the individual.  Second, the beginning of the miracle was about the Chashmonayim being victorious in war, which happens using natural means (though the victory itself remains miraculous).  The Sha'arei T'shuva does not say if you need both those conditions or if either would suffice.  He concludes that one must be very careful not to daven for a miracle that can't be accomplished by natural means; so it sounds like he is permitting one to use these rules for ones own davening.

Then the Sha'arei Tshuva ends with a cryptic statement: "And you can't bring a proof from R' Chanina ben Dosa".  He doesn't really explain himself; but I have some ideas.


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