חגיגת יום העצמאות
במדינה ובגולה

The Celebration of Yom Ha-Atzmaut in the State of Israel and in the Diaspora

הרב עקיבא גלזנר ז״ל

[Teshuvah of Rabbi Akiva Glasner, son and successor of the Dor Revi'i as Chief Rabbi of Klausenburg, originally written in Hebrew in Iyar of 1956 and published posthumously in 1978 in HaDarom. ]


From the day of her founding, the State of Israel has been the focus of Jewish thought, both in the State itself and in the Diaspora. This focus has become even more intense as tensions have increased on the borders of the State and the danger of war has loomed over her. In the days that have passed - Yom Ha-Zikaron and Yom Ha-Atzmaut - yearnings and longings have overwhelmed my heart and I also felt within me a corresponding inner turmoil and disquiet because on the fifth day of Iyar the opportunity to join in a public prayer in the synagogue to offer praise (hallel, shevah) and thanksgiving (v'hodayah) with feeling and passion (as my soul has longed to do for many years) was withheld from me. I have therefore been aroused to take up my pen and to take a stand before the general public to proclaim my own humble opinion and my own halakhhic and religious viewpoint. And should I be persuaded that I have erred in my spiritual direction or in my judgment, I shall not be embarrassed to say publicly that I have spoken in error. And this is what I have conceived with the aid of my Rock and my Redeemer (צורי וגואלי).

The question of the celebration of Yom ha-Atzmaut and the victory in the War of Independence has engaged wide sections of religious Jewry in Israel and in the Diaspora. It is a question that has been on the agenda since the law creating Yom ha-Atzmaut was enacted by the Knesset. The Rabbis and students of the Torah, in particular, have dealt with this question. The question in brief is: /Is there an obligation to celebrate Yom ha-Atzmaut as the Chief-Rabbinate of the State of Israel has decided through the recitation of Hallel, and other public prayers. /Over the years, different opinions and various viewpoints have been heard, mostly according to the different factions that comprise religious Jewry (mahaneh ha-hareidim). There are those that agree and those that oppose and they have been unable to reach a consensus despite the efforts of the Chief Rabbinate to terminate this "dispute for the sake of Heaven" and to establish a clear halakhah that will have effect and authority throughout Israel and the Diaspora, so that the matter should not be left in the hands of local rabbis and community leaders, which leads to a proliferation of practices in Israel and in the various communities of the Diaspora.

Each year at the approach of the fifth of Iyar, harsh remarks and conflicting opinions - to the right or to the left, yes or no - are heard concerning the religious observance of the day. Is it not shameful and embarrassing, painful and distressing that in such a matter it should not be possible, within the camp of the devout (בשדרות החרדים), to arrive at a decision and consensus? The difficult situation that now obtains in the camp of the devout is worthy of a response and demands particular reflection.

Especially in this year when the security of the borders of Israel are so threatened, when the threat that hovers over the nation of Israel, both in the State and in the Diaspora, is the most powerful and most dreadful since the Declaration of Independence, there is a great moral value in uniting the positions concerning this question for internal as well as for external reasons. But instead we are witness to division and discord, all under the veil of a "dispute for the sake of Heaven" (מחלוקת לשם שמים).

The Talmud in Berakhot 6a states: R. Nahman b. Isaac said to R. Hiyya b. Abin: "What is written in the tefillin of the Lord of the Universe? -- He replied to him: "And who is like Thy people Israel, a nation one in the earth?" (ומי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ) (1 Chronicles 17:21).

I pose this question: Where is that unity in which the Holy One Blessed Be He takes such pride and glory in His tefilin? Or perhaps, owing to the terrible division, the Holy One Blessed Be He, as it were, covers up the tefilin at the sight of the iron wall that divides those who cling to Him within the camp of the devout? It is as if we heard from behind the screen from the mouth of the Almighty that message that was transmitted from the Holy One Blessed Be He to Israel by Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:5): "therefore take off your ornaments from you that I may know what to do to you" (ועתה הורד עדיך מעליך ואדעה מה אעשה לך). How can we say in the afternoon prayer on the Sabbath: "You are One and Your Name is One, and who is like Your people Israel, one nation in the earth" (אתה אחד ושמך אחד ומי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ)? Is there not a confusion of matters here in relation to Heaven, in relation to the Torah, and in relation to the holiness of the Jewish nation? The proverbial saying of the holy Zohar "the Holy One Blessed Be He, Israel, and the Torah are one" (קודשא בריך הוא ישראל ואורייתא חד) has lost its luster. The camp of the devout is torn and ripped to shreds. With the spiritual division, the proliferation of factions and conflicts, the discord, the squabbles and quarrels, how, when our enemies stand ready to destroy us, will we be able to stand firm in battle? Should, G-d forbid, the day of rebuke come, how will we justify the phrase "Israel and the Torah are one" in which we take pride? Where is that "single entity" (החטיבה אחת) as the Holy One Blessed Be He called us (Berakhot 6a)? How far have we fallen!

I pose a further question: Who are the ones disturbing the unity of the devout? Who are those fanning the fires of discord and division? People who cannot rise above this partisan setting, people not in control of themselves. This strange fire (אש זרה) advances and burns, consuming the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, causing, G-d forbid, ruin and destruction, the downfall of the splendid structure of the resurrection and rebuilding of the nation. My arrows are not aimed at particular individuals, or at any party. But a fire is kindled in my anger (סדאש קדחה באפי), and my heart is desolate within me over the rupture, the great and terrible split that divides us - the battle within the camp of the devout, because of which we are powerless, lacking the ability to influence as necessary the direction of spiritual and moral development of our holy people in the manner befitting the religious community in Israel and in the Diaspora. Instead of marching united at the head, as the bearers of the written and the oral Torah, as seekers of traditional ethics, we are like a lame person or an amputee trying to hang on to a loaded wagon. Is this not an intolerable situation? The responsibility for this harsh and difficult situation rests on all our shoulders. It depends on our will, and our ability, and our unity to affect the course of the unfolding of events to our benefit, for the happiness of the people and the glory of the entire house of Israel.

I shall now go to the field of halakhah and the decisors; I shall gather sheaves from the sources in the Talmud and the codes, and I shall try to clarify the law and the halakhah. I ask from the Eternal that I not stumble or deviate, G-d forbid, from the trodden path that has been paved by our holy ancestors and sages from generation to generation. And this is what I have conceived with the aid of my Rock and my Redeemer (צורי וגואלי).

The first source for the obligation to commemorate a miracle that was performed for us, to offer thanks and praise for the deliverance and for the mighty acts, is explicit in the Torah. The first miracle that was bestowed upon Israel after we became a nation and arose as a people on the stage of history was the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea, which are interrelated and occurred in immediate succession. An eternal remembrance of the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt was established in the Torah in poroshat Bo as a positive commandment (Exodus 13:3): "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt" (זכור את היום הזה אשר יצאתם ממצרים). In his Book of the Commandments, the Rambam counts this among the 613 commandments. In his Mishneh Torah (Hametz u-Matzah 7:1) he writes:

It is a biblically mandated positive commandment to recount the miracles and wonders that were performed for our ancestors in Egypt on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan as it is written "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt" just as it says "Remember the Sabbath." And from where do we know that it is required to recount the miracles on the night of the fifteenth? For it says (Exodus 13:8): "And you shall tell thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Eternal did to me when I came forth out of Egypt."

In my hiddushim I have explained the words of the Rambam at length, but there is not enough space to elaborate here. It is clear that the commandment to recount the miracles that were performed on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan is biblically mandated among the 613 commandments. But I will remark here that the obligation mentioned in the Mishnah (Berakhot 1:5) to mention the Exodus from Egypt at night, which is the basis for reciting the third chapter of the shema at night as the Rambam explains (Q'riat Shema 1:3) stems only from the rabbis, who attached it to the verse (Deuteronomy 16:3): } "that you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life" (למען תזכור את יום צאתך מא״מ כל ימי חייך). The formulation of this verse obviously will not in any way support the inclusion of an obligatory Biblical commandment within it.

To commemorate the splitting of the Red Sea, the Torah established the seventh day of Passover as a Holy Day. I will quote here what the S'forno wrote in his commentary in Deuteronomy (16:8):

And on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly (וביום השביעי עצרת). Israel was held back to the service of the blessed G-d and they sang to Him a song of praise on the seventh day of the Festival of Matzot. That day was therefore sanctified, and work may not be performed. For otherwise the day would not have been sanctified at all as is the case in the Festival of Sukkot whose seventh day is not a solemn assembly (מקרא קודש).

Here is proof that the Torah established a memorial for the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea by establishing a special festival on the day on which the miracle occurred.

Now one might ask why Israel recited a song of praise only for the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, but not on the prior and greater miracle of the Exodus from Egypt that we are Biblically required to commemorate on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan and rabbinically required to recall each day and each night. And I am very amazed that the commentators who write that R. Eleazar b. Azariah (who holds that the commandment to eat matzah in our days [when the paschal offering is not brought] is mandated only rabbinically) holds that the obligation to recount the story of the Exodus is now also only rabbinically mandated. They draw this inference because it is written: "And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, This [the paschal offering] is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came out of Egypt" from which [it is inferred] R. Eleazar b. Azariah concludes that the Biblical obligation to recount the story of the Exodus only obtains if the paschal offering and the matzah are present. And since R. Eleazar b. Azariah maintains that there is no Biblical obligation to eat matzah if the paschal offering is not brought, then neither is there any Biblical obligation to recount the story of the Exodus. But this inference is problematic, because how can we say that R. Eleazar b. Azariah holds that the obligation to recount the story of the Exodus on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan is not Biblically mandated? Did the Scripture not explicitly say "Remember this day, in which you went out from Egypt" without making that obligation contingent on the commandment to eat matzah? However, one might say that R. Eleazar b. Azariah admits that there is a Biblical obligation to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt even when there is no paschal offering, but that the obligation to recount the story of the Exodus is more extensive than simple commemoration, requiring a comprehensive discussion and recounting of all the miracles associated with the Exodus, especially the ten plagues and the like.

Nevertheless, the question why Israel did not sing a song of praise on the night of the Exodus from bondage to redemption, from darkness to a great light, remains. But this in fact is not really a difficulty, because the Torah certainly established the night of the fifteenth of Nisan as an eternal festival as it is written (Exodus 12:14): "And this day shall be for you a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever." The Israelites themselves said nothing at the time, because immediately after midnight they were driven out of Egypt (see Berakhot 9a), "and could not tarry, neither had they made for themselves any provisions" (ולא יכלו להתמהמה וגם צדה לא עשו להם) (Exodus 12:39). So they certainly had no time to sing a song of praise. The Scripture concludes (Exodus 12:42): "It is a night of watchfulness to the Lord" (ליל שימורים הוא לד׳), on which the Ramban comments:

As if to say it is sanctified to His name as an eternal observance for the Children of Israel that they should observe by performing a service before Him, by eating the paschal offering, recounting the miracles, and giving praise and thanksgiving.

What we conclude from this is that we are obligated to establish for eternal commemoration the day on which a miracle was performed. This is what the Men of the Great Assembly did. They instituted the recitation of Hallel on the night of Passover as it is written in Isaiah 30:29: "You shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one sets out with a flute to come to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel," which refers to the defeat of Sennacharib on the night of Passover. (See Eruvin 10b.) It was also established that Hallel should be recited when the paschal offering was brought and when it was eaten as explained in Pesahim (5:5 and 9:3, and 95b and 117a).

Our Rabbis taught: Who uttered this Hallel? R. Eleazar said: Moses and Israel uttered it when they stood by the [Red] Sea. They exclaimed, "Not unto us, not unto us," and the Holy Spirit responded. "For mine own sake, for mine own sake, will I do it." R. Judah said: Joshua and Israel uttered it when the kings of Canaan attacked them. They exclaimed, "Not unto us [etc.]" and the Holy Spirit responded etc. R. Eleazar the Modiite said: Deborah and Barak uttered it when Sisera attacked them. They exclaimed, "Not unto us [etc.]." and the Holy Spirit responded. "For Mine own sake, for Mine own sake, will I do it." R. Eleazar b. Azariah said: Hezekiah and his companions uttered it when Sennacherib attacked them. They exclaimed, "Not unto us [etc.]" and the Holy Spirit responded etc. R. Akiba said: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah uttered it when the wicked Nebuchadnezzar rose against them. They exclaimed, "Not unto us etc.," and the Holy Spirit responded etc. R. Jose the Galilean said: Mordecai and Esther uttered it when the wicked Haman rose against them. They supplicated, "Not unto us etc.", and the Holy Spirit responded etc. But the Sages maintain: The prophets among them enacted that the Israelites should recite at every epoch and at every trouble -- may it not come to them! -- and when they are redeemed, they recite it [in thankfulness] for their delivery.

On Hanukah they instituted eight days of praise and thanksgiving. The Beit Yoseiph asked a famous question why the Sages instituted a festival of eight days when there was no miracle on the first day, inasmuch as there was enough oil to burn for one day, so that the miracle began only on the second day. The answer of the Beit Yoseiph is well known. However, the Pri Hadash at the beginning of Hilkhot Hanukah provided enlightenment with a different answer based on the explanation of the Rambam at the beginning of Hilkhot Hanukah that the victory over the Greeks was on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, and they did not light the menorah in the Temple until that night, which was already the twenty-sixth of Kislev. So, if we were merely commemorating the miracle of the menorah in the Temple, it would seem that we should light the first light on the night of the twenty-sixth. But one question answers the other, for we certainly do not light the menorah on the night of the twenty-fifth to commemorate the miracle of the menorah, but, as the Rambam wrote, to commemorate the miracle of the victory that occurred on the twenty-fifth. It is only on the other seven nights that we light to commemorate the miracle of the menorah. וזה אמת לאמתה של תורה.

Now for many years I have been troubled why the Men of the Great Assembly instituted four cups on the night of Pesah representing the four expressions of salvation (but in the Talmud Yerushalmi, R. Levi links them to the four exiles). In the Talmud (Pesahim 118a) we find the following beraita, according to the text of the Rashbam (which is the basis for the halakhah).

Our Rabbis taught: At the fourth [cup] he concludes the Hallel and recites the great Hallel this is the view of R. Tarfon. However, the text of Rabbeinu Hannanel is "the fifth [cup]." The Rosh also has this text, but he questions it. In the Shulhan Arukh the halakhah is codified according to the text of the Rashbam, and the practice both in Israel and in the Diaspora follows this codification. It is, however, customary to pour a fifth cup, which we call the cup of Elijah the prophet. The source of the custom is presumably the Scripture in poroshat Va'eira (Exodus 6:6-7) which immediately after the four expressions of redemption - והוצאתי והצלתי ולקחתי וגאלתי - closes with a fifth expression of redemption (Exodus 6:8): והבאתי אתכם אל הארץ אשר נשבעתי לתת אותה לכם (And I will bring you into the land, concerning which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for an heritage: I am the Lord.) If so, a fifth cup is necessary and we should say the great Hallel specifically over that cup to commemorate the entry into the Promised Land when the Jordan river was crossed through the parting of its waters and the fulfillment of the oath of the Holy One Blessed Be He to Abraham our father, which is a clear proof to the text of Rabbeinu Hannanel and the Rosh.

In chapters four, six, and seven of the book of Joshua and in the Talmud (Kiddushin 38) it is explained that they crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of Nissan corresponding to the tenth day of Nissan on which the paschal lamb was taken in Egypt. And they ate the produce of the land on the day after bringing the paschal offering, i.e., on the fifteenth of Nissan. (See the Tosafot in Kiddushin 37b concerning the dispute between the Ibn Ezra and the Rabbeinu Tam.) They reached the border of the first city that they conquered, Jericho, and it is written in Joshua 5:9

And the Lord said unto Joshua. "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you" (hayom galoti et herpat mitzrayim mei-aleikhem). Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.

That was the first stopping point after crossing the Jordan and the journey to conquer the land. And I ask this question: How is it possible that concerning the most important event in the course of the first redemption about which the Holy One Blessed Be He said: "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt form off you" - an expression that we never encounter in connection with Exodus or the splitting of the Red Sea or the drowning of Egypt in the Red Sea - no festival was established in special commemoration of this luminous day? Is this not exceedingly strange and impossible to understand?

Now most of the commentators interpret the verse "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you" as a reference to the Israelites having been uncircumcised like the Egyptians. But this, according to my meager understanding, is a forced interpretation. For why would the expression "the reproach of Egypt" signify that they were uncircumcised? Were not all the other nations also uncircumcised? And it was only while in the desert for forty years that the Israelites did not perform circumcision, because, as the Talmud (Yevamot 72a) explains, the north wind did not blow upon them. The words of the Ralbag, however, appear to me to be correct:

Perhaps we could say further that the meaning of this was that the reproach of Egypt that they had said (Exodus 32:12)) "For an evil intent did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth" (ברעה הוציאם להרוג אותם בהרים ולכלותם מעל פני האדמה), not to bring them into the Promised Land. So when they were delayed for forty years in the desert, this became a reproach to them. However, the Eternal is now advising them that by performing the commandment of circumcision, they will be considered to have inherited the land, and this reproach will thereby be removed from upon them.

This is the better, the more correct, and the more reasonable, interpretation. I therefore say that the text of the Rabbeinu Hannanel and the Rosh is the true interpretation and that we do in fact pour a fifth cup to commemorate the arrival into and the conquest of the Promised Land which was determined on the day of Passover. This can be seen from the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua concerning the commandment to set up twelve stones as a memorial to the miracle of the splitting of the Jordan (Joshua 4:6-7):

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come saying: What do you mean by these stones? [A question like that of the son on Passover "What is this service unto you?"] Then you shall answer them: That the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord; when it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off; and these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.

This is problematic because the stones must, by the laws of nature, sooner or later be eroded and consumed. So how could the Scripture use the expression "a memorial forever" (זכרון עד עולם) about these stones? One must therefore say that what is meant is that there should be some oral remembrance and that it should be a fixed ordinance in Israel for all generations to recall by praise and thanksgiving the miraculous event of the splitting of the Jordan. This is the meaning of "a memorial to the children of Israel forever" (זכרון לבני ישראל עד עולם).

The upshot of all this is that there is a Biblical obligation to make some memorial for a miracle. (Now it seems from the Talmud (Megilah 7) that the establishment of Purim as a festival was agreed to only reluctantly by the Sages after they found Biblical support for doing so in the verse "Write this as a remembrance in the book" (כתב זאת זכרון בספר). But this is problematic, because why should Purim have been different from Hanukah and the other days that were recorded in Megilat Ta'anit before its suspension? (See Rosh Hashanah 18-19 at length.) Since as one of the salvaged remnants, I have access to just a few books, I have not the opportunity to elaborate.) But I rely on the words of my holy ancestor the Hatam Sofer in his responsa O'H 163, 191, 193, and on his famous final responsum to Orah Hayim. And it is truly the Shekhinah speaking through the holy voice of the Hatam Sofer, may his merits protect us and all Israel. He ruled definitively that:

A. There is a Biblical obligation to make some commemoration of a miracle that happened to us and to the community similar to the salvation from slavery to freedom and from death to life as I have written. See Megilah 14a.

B. The manner and content of the commemoration, e.g., the reading of the Megilah, exchanging gifts, and kindling Hanukah lights, is left to the discretion of the Rabbis. But some commemoration, at a minimum a prohibition against fasting and eulogizing the dead, is surely of Biblical origin.

C. Both an individual and a community (צבור) may establish a day of celebration for themselves. Not only is it permitted, but it is an absolute obligation to commemorate the day upon which a miracle was performed as is explained in Eruvin 41 in the beraita of R. Eliezer b. Tzadoq

And the Hatam Sofer closes with the following words:

We conclude that the community (הקהל) has the power to establish a day of celebration for themselves and their offspring as an immutable ordinance, and many communities in Israel as well as many of the greatest individuals have done so on the day on which a miracle occurred.

This is the ruling of Moshe (תורת משה), the master of all the children of the Diaspora, our teacher the Hatam Sofer. And who would raise his hand to dispute him, G-d forbid, in this matter?

And now let us come to the essential point of our discussion, which is whether the miracle of the War of Independence and the founding of the State of Israel can be classified among the great miracles that have been performed in the history of Israel. I ask in wonderment: Can it be that one who believes with a perfect faith "that the Creator Blessed Be His Name is the Creator and Ruler of all creatures, and that He alone made, makes, and will make all that is made"; can it be that one who believes with a perfect belief in what R. Hanina said (Hulin 7b) "No one bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him in heaven;" can it be that one who believes with a perfect faith in the verse from Moses's song (Exodus 15:3) "the Lord is a man of war, the Lord is His name" which, according to the Midrash, teaches us, "if Israel requires it, G-d makes war for them, woe unto the nations of the world because of what they will hear with their own ears, for the One Who said 'let the world come into being' is destined to make war on them;" can it be that one who believes in the Torah of Moses in which it is written (Deuteronomy 32:8), "He fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel" (see Rabbeinu Bahya on the Torah: "This verse explains that Israel is not subject to the control of the stars and constellations, but is above them, and no other nation merited to be so elevated."); can it be that one who believes in all these things (which are surely the foundation of the Torah and faith and anyone who stands on the foundation of the written and oral Torah must certainly believe in all these principles of faith which have been transmitted to us from generation to generation and on which rests the entire house of Israel) would dare to say that the victory in the War of Independence and the founding of the State was just a happenstance in the history of the people of Israel, the product of men, devoid of the will of the Creator Blessed Be His Name Who made all that which is made, devoid of the will and approval of Divine Providence, and that it occurred without the aid of the Rock of Israel and his Redeemer (צור ישראל וגואלו)? Is it possible that even a shadow of a doubt could enter the mind of one who considers himself as, and calls himself by the name ירא וחרד לדבר ד׳, who believes that he has the merit and the right to be included among those who are in the camp of the G-d-fearing, that this wondrous victory and the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel openly manifested to all the salvation of G-d Keeper of Israel Who promised us in His holy Torah (Leviticus 27:44): "And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them to destroy them utterly to break My covenant with them" (ואף גם זאת בהיותם וכו׳ לא מאסתים ולא געלתים לכלותם להפר בריתי אתם)? And is it possible that one who is not stricken blind should deny the fact that the War of Independence was a war of the few against the many - 600,000 residents of the Land of Israel, armed only with a perfect faith and a sublime courage and a love of the homeland, against more than 40 million Arabs? And thanks only to this and to the unending kindness of G-d above and His ceaseless mercy did we merit the crown of victory. Is this not like the miracle of Hanukah for which - according to the Rambam - the kindling of the light on the night of the twenty-fifth of Kislev was established for generations? Only one stricken blind or one who willingly twists the truth could deny that a great miracle occurred there in Israel in the year 5707-08. And for such a miracle it is forbidden to make a commemorative holiday? There is no cure for what ails someone with this opinion. Nor is there need to elaborate further on this point. Anyone with a clear mind and a devout heart who watches the unfolding of events with open eyes and who is truly and completely a ירא וחרד לדבר ד׳must admit that the victory of Israeli Defense Force in the War of Independence was the finger of G-d. And all the proofs in the world would not help one who, with a crooked and perverse heart, shuts his eyes in order not to see, for all the winds in the world could not move him from his position.

After all this discussion, I say that there is no judge who need be ashamed to rule that all the inhabitants of Israel, which was the field of battle, and who were all in mortal danger - for if, G-d forbid, the Arabs had triumphed, there might not, G-d forbid, have been any survivors - are most obviously under a Biblical obligation to make some commemoration of this miracle. See also Hatam Sofer Yoreh Dei'ah responsum 233 to R. Amram Hasida in which he labored to find a basis for the custom of the city of his birth, Frankfort am Main to celebrate a local Purim on the twenty-seventh of Adar.

Nevertheless, there might be some room for the opponents in the Diaspora to argue that residents of the Diaspora, who were not in any immediate danger during the War of Independence, are under no such Biblical obligation to commemorate a miracle that was performed in the Land of Israel. However, if one considers this question from a higher point of view, one will come to the conclusion that the status and condition of all the children of the Diaspora depended on the outcome of the War of Independence. If the Arabs, G-d forbid, had triumphed, and the founding of the State of Israel had been nullified, this event would have led to and caused physical and moral suffering for all the children of the Diaspora, and would have fanned the flames of anti-Semitism among various nations. And who knows what what consequences might have ensued? Instead, the crown of victory in the War of Independence in Israel shined its brilliant light over all the Jews in the Diaspora. The name "Jew" which during the Holocaust sank to the depths until we were like refuse, disgraced, humiliated, and ridiculed during the course of that awful tragedy, was elevated in triumph and glory. Instead of the yellow Star of David that we wore as a sign of degradation and disgrace in the eyes of the nations, we carried proudly and boldly the name "Jew," and we merited that the name "Jew" became a source of pride, honor, and glory. All the rights that we possess in the enlightened countries were similarly endangered, and who knows what our situation in the Diaspora would be today had it not been for the victory in the War of Independence in Israel? Does not the great miracle that was performed there in Israel also obligate us, the children of the Diaspora, to thank, to praise, to laud to glorify, and to extol the One Who performed these miracles for us? It would seem in my eyes to be superfluous to elaborate any more about this matter which seems clear and simple to one who has eyes to see and who wants to see. And thanks be to G-d.


We now come to the question what should be the framework of the religious celebration of Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Ha-Zikaron. Now according to the holy opinion of the Hatam Sofer in the above responsa, we would discharge our Biblical obligation through a prohibition of fasting and eulogizing the deceased on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, exactly as is the case on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar I on which it is prohibited to fast or eulogize the deceased (see Megilah 14). But we still have a broad field for Rabbinic enactments to fill out the framework of the prohibition against fasting and eulogizing the deceased through a public prayer of celebration, the recitation of the Hallel, and the eating of a holiday meal, all according to the decision of the higher authorities according to their judgment of da'at torah. (I ask: Is it possible to entertain the thought that we would violate the prohibition of taking the name of the Eternal in VAIN if we recited the Hallel with a blessing in order to give praise and thanksgiving to the Rock of Israel and his Redeemer in a time of trouble.)

Now the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Hodesh, in particular with a blessing, and in public is a settled halakhah. Yet from a simple reading of the sugya in the Talmud it appears that we do not say Hallel at all. See Erakhin 10a and Ta'anit 28 and the Tosafot and the Rosh there. And the Mehaber himself in Orah Hayim 122 cites the opinion of the Rambam and the custom of Eretz Yisrael not to recite a blessing either before or after Hallel. I will not explain at length the differing opinions because there is not the place to do so. But go out and see whether anyone in all the communities of the Diaspora has ever questioned saying Hallel with a blessing on Rosh Hodesh, a practice with no basis in the Talmud, and, on the contrary, one that appears to be contrary to the conclusion of the Talmud. The recitation of Hallel on Rosh Hodesh, as is the universal custom, was instituted because the renewal of the moon symbolizes the renewal of the kingdom of the House of David which should be fulfilled speedily in our days amen. The renewal of the kingdom is symbolized in the Hallel in the verse (Psalms 118:22): "the stone that the builders despised has become the cornerstone" (אבן מאסו הבונים היתה לראש פינה). This refers to the coming of the Messiah, the son of David, King of Israel, which is why we say in the blessing for the new moon "that they are destined to be renewed like it" (שהם עתידים להתחדש כמותה). And we recite Hallel and praise in anticipation of the future (see my essay on Shabbat Shirah in "Ikvei ha-Tzon"). Can there then be any further doubt that there is an obligation to say Hallel (with or without a blessing) on the fifth of Iyar on which the founding of the state was declared? There is no judge, in my humble opinion, who need be ashamed to rule that there is such an obligation..

And I pray to the Eternal that from on high He should bring about a new spirit in our midst so that then all of us will admit that the miraculous victory in the War of Independence was indeed from the Eternal. Then the day of the fifth of Iyar will be great and highly valued in the eyes of all sections of devout Jewry without difference and without exception, as on that day about which the prophet Amos prophesied (Amos 9:11): "in that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (ביום ההוא אקים את סכת דוד הנופלת).

And to close my essay, I turn to all the residents of the State of Israel, to all our brethren of the House of Israel that are in danger and distress. I will raise my voice like a shofar: Fear not, be not afraid. The prayer of David, King of Israel, lives and endures (Psalms 83)

Do not keep silent, O G-d; do not hold your peace and be still, O G-d. For, behold, your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate you have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted against your hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may no longer be remembered. ... Let them be put to shame and dismayed for ever; and let them be put to shame, and perish, That men may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the most high over all the earth.

This prayer is heard from the voice of the Jewish nation in Israel and the Diaspora. This supplication ascends to the heaven of heavens to the throne of glory. The prayer of Israel will not return barren. It will be heard.

And the words of the Sages (Sanhedrin 106a) will be fulfilled in our days and before our eyes.

"And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when G-d does this!" (va-yisa mishalo va-yomar oi mi yihyeh misumo qeil) (Numbers 24:23) . . . R. Johanan said: Woe to the nation that may be found [attempting to hinder], when the Holy One, Blessed be He, accomplishes the redemption of his children: who would throw his garment between a lion and a lioness when these are in need of each other!

And Rashi commented: Woe unto any nation at that time that will entertain the thought of holding back Israel from being united with the Holy One Blessed Be He, for this is dangerous, as if to say, woe unto him who holds back Israel when the Holy One Blessed Be He is gathering them in.

Be strong and brave and trust in the Eternal and His salvation. Our enemies will be clothed in disgrace and He will glorify us with the crown of victory as in the days when we left Egypt and saw wonders. Amein.

In the Diaspora in the month of Iyar 5716
זעירא דמן חברייא.