5/12/2005

Yom Ha'atzma'ut Part II - Hallel

For those confused, Part I is here.

This is a surprisingly simple issue, even though there are so many different evolving customs, namely:
  1. Hallel w/ bracha
  2. Hallel, no bracha
  3. 'Minhag Ben Gurion' (no Hallel, no Tachanun, just like Ben Gurion)
  4. Full Tachanun

The fundamental question is whether or not it's appropriate to say Halllel on Yom Ha'atzma'ut. That may sound obvious, but it really often gets lost in the discussion. The question is not whether or not the founding of the modern State of Israel was a miracle, or whether it's the beginning of an eschatological fulfillment. Rather, is it appropriate to praise God for its establishment. Generally speaking, the Dati Leumi and MO camps say yes - they view the establishment of the modern state, with all of its trappings, as a significant event from a religious perspective.

The chareidi community, by and large, doesn't see the establishment of a secular state as an event which is in any way meaningful religiously. Would you say Hallel on the 4th of July?

One could counter that the provision of a safe haven for Jews everywhere constitutes a salvation - a fulfillment of the Brit Bein Habetarim like I mentioned in the earlier post. That explanation wouldn't go far enough from the MO/DL perspective, but it's a yeshu'ah that all can agree upon. On the other hand, so close to the Holocaust, the inability to get Jews out of the USSR for so long, and the passage of significant time before that salvation was put into practice w/ the absorption of European and Sephardic refugees, makes it difficult to point to a declaration of the right of Jews to return as an immediate act of Yeshua.

If one accepts that Hallel is appropriate, it really doesn't make sense for Ashkenazim to do so without a bracha. Kri'at Hallel is a ma'aseh mitzvah, which requires a bracha when performed, even in a supererogatory manner. That's why we say a bracha over Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, which is only a minhag. Similarly, women who perform mitzvot in which they aren't obligated make brachot in the Ashkenazic tradition. Sephardim would have to ask a further question - whether or not Hallel on YH is obligatory on the Rabbinic or Biblical level. The whole 'it's just saying Tehillim' svara is a cop-out, big time. If you read it aloud like you read Hallel, then it's kri'at Hallel. If it's tillem zoggen, then it's tillem zoggen.

If it's an insignificant event, why not say Tachanun? The only way to justify 'minhag Ben Gurion' is to acknowledge that it's significant but doesn't warrant Hallel either becuase:

  1. It's not significant enough (like, say, Pesach Sheni or Purim Katan)
  2. It's highly significant, but not in a way mandates Hallel (like Rosh Hashana).

This maps out the possibilities. The next post will address what I think is appropriate.

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