Monday, April 23, 2007

Hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut

This post will also appear on The Muqata

Reciting Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut (YH) seems to be a sticky issue to a lot of people. Hopefully, I can piss some people off today :P. Gil posted about this very issue, listing various reason for and against reciting Hallel on YH. For the purpose of this discussion, I would like to steer away from whether one should recite a bracha or not. I believe that is only a far secondary to the real issue at hand. Also, this is the first time I am attempting to give a “dvar Torah”, so please have mercy, I bruise easily. : ) I also don’t have my source sheet in front of me, so I will do my best with sources (if I can find them) from the internet.

Jews, according to Chazal, (Pesachim 117a) are required to give thanks, when something miraculous happens to them that result in them being saved. If it happens to an individual at a specific place, he should recite Alhanisim (Hallel?) whenever he is at that place again. A community might also declare a day to say Hallel if they were redeemed, but not with a bracha, since it was for a smaller community and not for the entire klal.

One of the main examples of saying Hallel is Chanukah and in my opinion, it is also an example that refutes those that say we should not recite Hallel on YH. Chazal recognized Chanukah as being a miracle worthy of saying Hallel, therefore implying that it was in a sence a geulah. Remember, it was not THE geulah, but A geulah. Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 3:1-3) discusses that one of the reasons we celebrate Chanukah is because we as Jews were able to claim sovereignty over the the land. Al Hanissim, does not even mention the miracle of the oil but mentions the military achievements. Chazal, as well as we, recognize that it was Gods hand at work when a small band of Jews were able to be victorious. Remember for the past 2000 years, God is hidden. Gone are the days of supernatural miracles (if ever :P). Now, we recognize his work through the natural process. When something extraordinary happens that shift the paths of history into a direction that it could not have happened, we see THAT as a miracle.

Looking at it like that, and seeing how God relates to us now, I will ask the question as the Rabbi I learned with put it. How can you NOT sayHallel? What heter do you have NOT to say it. Who can honestly look at 1948 and say a great miracle did not happen? Jews after 2000 years have control of more land then they did during theMaccabbees . A smaller army was able to thwart off a much larger one. A people that only a few years before were almost obliterated. How can anyone say this is not a great miracle?

The Maharatz Chiyutz (Shabbat 21b) states that no blatant miracle happened like it did during Chanukah. Rambam, as mentions above, states that one of the reasons we DO view it as a miracle is BECAUSE of the hidden aspect of it which manifested itself in a military victory. Purim is a day that we that everyone agrees a great miracle happened. Was there any blatant supernatural miracle there? Noof course not. And what sort of miracle was it, it was a a miracle of salvation. No one can deny it. If I remember correctly, one of the reasons we don’t sayHallel on Purim is because we view the Megillah itself as a sort of Hallel. We remember and praise God yearly for that great miracle by reading the megillah.

There are others that say Israel is not a religious country. It serves no value. Messiah did not come yet. There are too many problems. The war is still going on. It was not the entireKlal only those in Israel that were spared

So I ask, what does any of this have to do with the events in 1948. Sure its not a perfect country, and its not run by religious law and theMessiach did not come etc., but the point of giving thanksgiving to God is when there is a great salvation for the Jewish people. Where does it say thatHallel is only to be giving at the end of days when Meshiach comes? All these questions can honestly be answered by looking at the story of Chanukah in which we DO give thanks to God. Messiah never came then either. Most of the Jews did NOT reside within the reclaimed land. The Hashmonaim hardly governed the country as we would like to call a “torah run” land. The Hashmonaim hardly saw eye to eye with the rabbinate and often lead to violence. Yet these rabbanim, or even later ones, still viewed that day as a miracle of salvation for the Jewish people warranted enough to give a special thanks to God.

Yes, we have problems. Yes we have corruption. Yes the land is not run by the laws of Torah. But, how is this different than the time of the Maccabees and after? So because people have been screwing up the gift God gave us, that’s reason to all of a sudden turn our backs and say what we have is not a function of a miracle? Since when did we have a perfect society? So, since we don’t have one, the miracles that DO happen to us are not warranted to give thanks? Israel today is probably better than it ever has been since the days of David. There is more learning Torah then there ever was. So then, how can you say Israel has no value? Jews all around the world have someplace to go. The world, in 1948 recognized Israel. This is no great miracle of salvation?

I think there are a few reasons for people looking at Israel as they do now. I believe there are a lot of emotions involved in this. There has been such a split over Zionism from the beginning that people just don’t WANT to see Gods hand on the side of the Zionists (so to speak). I think people have also very narrow view of what the Redemption is. For them, its either all or nothing. They claim Israel has not achieved what the Redemption is suppose to. Well, since when do you give God thanks only at THE redemption. SayingHallel is for any redemption. The establishment of Israel, if not the being the beginning of THE redemption is still a redemption. I believe the other problem is the lack of real depth of historical knowledge. In every society, you need a military, an economy, agriculture etc. Jews, for the longest time, have not had their own country to realize how complicated dealings with these things can be. They fluctuate up and down. History takes you down different roads all the time. Its never an all or nothing approach. Hard decisions have to be made by leaders for instance. That’s life. And it always has been like that.

Chazon Ish (Letters of the Chazon Ish, number 97) says that since this generation is so spiritually flawed, we are in no place to institute anything new. He was not referring toYH though. IMO, ideas like this is what set us back. Again, of course we are not perfect, but we have never been. If its not one sin we are doing as a klal, it’s a different one. We may be spiritually flawed, but we are not spiritually dead. That part of our spirit seeks to express itself. It still recognizes God in this world. If we are always going to stand still because of our imperfections, we will get nowhere. It is something within the spirit of the early Zionist (both religious and secular) to see Palestine as the future of the Jews.

IMO, all this debated about the imperfections of Israel and looking at the minutias of how its NOT a miracle because God himself did not appear to us or giving subjective opinions on our spirtuality is beyond wrong. Its almost like spitting in Gods eyes to me. I can’t help thinking God rolling his eyes at us when we cant see the obviousin front of our eyes. Or at least, to use the same logic that we have done in the past.

So in conclusion, I will be saying Hallel for YH. It is the greatest “obvious” miracle of our time. If we can’t view it as a miracle worthy of a special thanks to God then there is something wrong. I will conclude with what the Rabbi said in the shiur along these lines: “That maybe when we open our eyes and see we are being redeemed, we finally will be.”
Happy Yom Ha'atzmaut

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