Despite the weaknesses and wrongdoings of the Israeli government, the sanctity of Independence remains valid * The dispute among Jewish law arbiters on the blessing over Hallel on Independence Day * From the Beit Midrash to barbecues – four categories of celebrating Independence Day * The special virtue of settlements in Judea and Samaria * Inheriting the entire land depends on proliferation * In previous generations and our times – when the Jewish nation is not large enough, difficulties arise with the foreign inhabitants of the Land * The heads of state should acclaim the contributions of mothers who nurture large families
The Sanctity of Yom Ha’atzmaut
Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) is invested with three sanctities: the mitzvah of settling the Land, which occurs by means of Israeli sovereignty over the Land; the sanctity of the fulfillment of the prophetic return of Israel to its Land – which is an immense Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations; and the sanctity of Israel’s salvation from their enemies.
Therefore, despite all the occasional weaknesses and wrongdoings performed by government officials and Prime Ministers, our joy and thanksgiving on Yom Ha’atzmaut is still valid, because all three sanctities of the day remain firm.
The Mitzvah of Yom Ha’atzmaut
There is a mitzvah to establish a holiday, to rejoice and praise God, on a day when Jews were delivered from distress. This is what prompted the Rabbis to establish Purim and Chanukah as everlasting holidays. The Chatam Sofer explains (Y.D., end of 233, O.C. 208) that since this mitzvah is derived from a kal va’chomer, it is considered a biblical commandment. However, the Torah does not prescribe exactly how to make a holiday; therefore, one who does anything to commemorate these great salvations fulfills his biblical obligation. It was the Rabbis who determined that we read the Megillah, prepare a festive meal, send portions of food to others, and give charity to the poor on Purim, and light the candles on Chanukah.
Many Jewish communities throughout the ages kept this mitzvah of instituting days of joy in commemoration of miracles that happened to them.
The great gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth (Rata), writes: “There is no doubt that we are commanded to rejoice, establish a holiday, and say Hallel on [the fifth of Iyar], the day which the government, the members of the Knesset (who were chosen by the majority of the people), and most of the greatest rabbis, fixed as the day on which to celebrate, throughout the Land, the miracle of our salvation and freedom” (Responsa Kol Mevaser1:21)
The Mitzvah to Recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut
It is a mitzvah to recite Hallel on special occasions, in order to thank and praise God for the miracles He performs on our behalf. Similarly, the Talmud (Pesachim 117a) states that after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, “the prophets among them instituted that the Jews should recite Hallel for each and every season [i.e., festival] and each and every trouble that should ‘not’ come upon them; [meaning], when they are redeemed, they should say it upon their redemption.”Rashi explains that the Sages of the Second Temple era relied on this to institute the recitation of Hallel on Chanukah.
Thus, it is incumbent upon us to say Hallel over the miracle that God did for us on Yom Ha’atzmaut. On that day we were saved from the greatest trouble of all, that of exile and subjugation to foreigners, which caused all of the terrible decrees and massacres that we suffered for nearly two thousand years.
Those who ignore this, deny God’s benevolence , prevent good from Israel, and distance the Redemption, as occurred in the days of Hezekiah, who failed to thank God for his salvation, and consequently, was not privileged to bring redemption to Israel in his times (Sanhedrin 94a).
Simply, the rabbis of the generation were divided whether or not to recite a blessing over Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut.
According to Rabbi Ovadyah Hadayah (Yaskil Avdi, vol. 6, O.C. 10), Hallel should be recited without a blessing. This was also the opinion of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l, Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli ztz”l, the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, and the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Ovadiyah Yosef ztz”l (Yabi’a Omer, vol. 6, O.C. 41).
In contrast to them, the opinion of Rabbi Meshulam Roth ztz”l was that Hallel should be recited with a blessing (Kol Mevaser 1:21). This was also the opinion of Rabbi Zevin ztz”l. The Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Herzog and Rabbi Uziel ztz”l also believed that it was appropriate to say Hallel with a blessing following the establishment of the State, but because of various objections, they refrained from issuing such a ruling. After the victories in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, led by Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz”l, ruled that Hallel be recited with a blessing. Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l was elated.
How Should Yom Ha’atzmaut be celebrated?
In addition to the thanksgiving prayers and festive meal, there are four various levels of celebrators on Yom Ha’atzmaut.
The lowest level is going out to a park and having a barbeque. Although such actions are devoid of spiritual content, nevertheless, if the participants are happy about God’s salvation of His People – their festive meal can be considered a se’udat mitzvah.
On the second level are those who tour sites where the rebuilding of the State of Israel’s can be observed, such as national industries, museums about the history of the settlement of Israel, and military bases.
The third level are people who take trips to visit the communities in Judea and Samaria, to observe the continuation of the settling of the Land, and recite the blessing “matziv gevul almana” (“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sets a limit for a widow”). Concerning a settlement that one has visited previously, although thirty days have passed since one’s last visit, the custom is not to recite another blessing. However, if in the meantime, more houses were built in the community, a blessing should be recited.
The fourth and highest level are those who study Torah on Yom Ha’atzmaut, dealing with issues related to the mitzvah of settling the Land, the mitzvah to serve in the army in order to protect the nation and the country, and matters connected to Clal Yisrael and the Redemption. Together with this they enjoy a festive meal, accompanied by thanksgiving and happiness for the salvation we merited in the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Ingathering of the Exiles.
While on the subject, I invite readers who come up to the heart of Samaria to participate in Torah lectures to be held in Yeshiva Har Bracha from the morning until the early afternoon, and thereby gain both the third and fourth level at one and the same time.
The Virtue of Settlements in Judea and Samaria
Q: What makes the settlements in Judea and Samaria so exceptional, that it is a special mitzvah to live and visit there?
A: There are three reasons. 1) They are located in the heart and core of the Land, as God said to our forefather Yitzchak when he was forced to leave the center of the Land (Judea) because of the famine: “Sojourn in this land” – for although the land of the Pelishtim is less sacred, nevertheless, it is also considered Eretz Yisrael. And as Rashi wrote on the verse: “And Isaac sowed in that land” – even though it was not considered as esteemed as the Land of Israel itself” (Genesis 26:12).
2) The commandment to settle the Land of Israel means that the Land must be in our possession and not in the hands of any other nation, and therefore it is a greater mitzvah to settle in areas which are threatened to be surrendered, God forbid, to another nation.
3) The strengthening of communities in Judea and Samaria can prevent the most serious, existential threat to the State of Israel – the danger of the establishment of an additional Arab state in Judea and Samaria. For if, God forbid, such a state is created, its main goal will be to bring about the destruction of Israel. With the huge funds the U.N. and the Arab states will allocate, they will bring to Judea and Samaria five million Arab refugees from all the Arab countries, and threaten every Israeli city with rockets and all types of dangers, until life becomes unbearable, and the majority of present-day “peace” supporters will emigrate to other countries.
The Mitzvah of Settling the Land Depends on Procreation
The mitzvah of procreation is an immense commandment, because by means of it, the Jewish nation inherits the Holy Land. And as God said to our forefather Avraham: “For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like dust of the earth; if a man will be able to count [all] the grains of dust in the world, then your offspring also will be countable” (Genesis 13: 15-16).
And following the trial of the Akeida (the binding and near sacrifice of Yitzchak), God said to him: “I will bless you greatly, and increase your offspring like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring shall inherit their enemies gate” (Genesis 22:17).
God also said to our forefather Yitzchak: “I will make your descendants numerous as the stars of the sky, and grant them all these lands. All the nations on earth shall be blessed through your descendants” (Genesis 26:4).
Additionally, God also said to our forefather Yaakov: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13-14).
Lack of Procreation Prevents Fulfillment of the Divine Promise
When Israel was about to enter the Land, despite the fact that Transjordan is part of Eretz Yisrael, the Divine instruction was to inherit only the western side of the Jordan, as explained in the Torah portion ‘Massey’. This was because there were not enough people to properly inherit the eastern side. Consequently, the plan was to first inherit the main parts of the Land, and only after proliferating, to also inherit the eastern side of the Jordan (see, Ramban, Numbers 21:21).
Similarly, concerning the matter of expelling the inhabiting nations from the Land, it is written: “I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you [to contend with]. I will drive [the inhabitants] out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and [fully] occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (Exodus 23: 29-31).
And the price paid for not having enough Jews to settle all of the Land of Israel – our enemies remained, and the Torah’s warning, “If you do not drive out the land’s inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle” (Numbers 33:55), came to fruition.
Similarly In Our Times
Today’s situation is similar to the past. The fact that only six million Jews presently live in Israel and not twelve million, brought about the Arab demands that threatens the State of Israel’s existence.
If, from the time of the establishment of the State, every Jewish family had one more child, there would be another five million Jews living in Israel today. If a few hundred thousand more Jews had made aliyah before the Holocaust, we would number more than twelve million.
Criticism of State Leaders and the Head of IDF Manpower Branch
It would be appropriate for our state leaders to encourage Jewish birth, and to speak the praises of women privileged to raise large families. Why, among the 14 women selected to light a torch on Yom Ha’atzmaut, was not one mother blessed with a large family chosen? Is this not a female accomplishment worthy of praise?
It would be fitting for the Head of the I.D.F. Manpower Branch, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai (Israel’s first female Maj. Gen.) to devote a few hours a year visiting and encouraging families blessed with many children, so as to kiss the precious mothers who raise the next generation of soldiers. It’s not enough to complain about the lack of manpower in the I.D.F.; gratitude and appreciation must be conveyed to the precious mothers who raise families for the glory of the nation, and the Land.
May the words of the Prophet be fulfilled within us: “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:37-38).
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.