Monday, April 27, 2009

Rabbinic Responsa On Yom Ha’atzmaut

Rabbinic Responsa On Yom Ha’atzmaut
(excerpt from “Yalkut Le’Yom Ha’atzmaut” published by the World Zionist Organization, 2nd ed. 1974)

The celebration of Yom Ha-atzma’ut as a new religious holyday has been the subject of many inquiries addressed to recognized Rabbinic authorities. Here we conclude our survey of the classic ingredients of Jewish national rejoicing down the ages, by citing an excerpt from the authoritative responsa collection of Rabbi Meshullam Roth, member of the Israel Chief Rabbinate, in answer to such an inquiry addressed to him by Rabbi Judah Maimon, veteran religious Zionist leader:

It is obvious then that in our case, which involved the whole Jewish people, marking a passage from bondage to freedom, in which we achieved sovereignty and independence and deliverance from death, in that we were saved from our enemies who were ready to exterminate us – that we are certainly duty bound to proclaim a feast day.

The date of this anniversary is indeed appropriate, in that it marks the day on which the essence of the miracle took place – when we went forth from slavery to freedom through the proclamation of independence.

Had the proclamation of the State been deferred, we might have missed the opportune moment and not have secured the recognition and agreement of the great powers. This miracle brought, in its train, a second one – that of deliverance from death through our struggle against the Arab nations and the rescue of Jewish communities in the Diaspora from their oppressors, giving rise to the third miracle – that of the ingathering of the exiles.

… it is an obligation and mitzvah to commemorate the miracle and establish Yom Ha’atzmaut as a religious holiday and occasion of rejoicing and recite the whole Hallel without omissions. All authorities concur that for a miracle which affects the whole Jewish people the Hallel should be recited, and this means with a berakha. Both eulogies and fasting are forbidden.

Nevertheless concerning the pronouncing the Hallel benediction I cannot render a decision binding future generations, even though from all the evidence I have adduced, it is clearly evident to me that this should be the ruling. Since this would be an innovation, after a lapse of some 2000 years, it is impossible for me to lay down the law without the prior consent of leading rabbinic authorities. Otherwise I might be guilty of encouraging separatism. If this general assent can be obtained, then the benediction should be recited everywhere.

From what has been said it emerges, as far as the law is concerned, that though the obligation to recite Sheheheyanu on Yom Ha’atzmaut cannot be imposed on everyone, whoever wishes to, is certainly authorized to pronounce it. There are no grounds for regarding it as a benediction pronounced in vain (berakha levatallah). The person, for whom the anniversary of the state constitutes an occasion of real happiness and joy is not only permitted to pronounce the Sheheheyanu benediction thereon. He is obliged to! The Sheheheyanu should immediately precede the Hallel benediction, if this is recited (which I have indicated is the formal ruling), or else the Hallel itself, if the benediction is omitted. [Responsa Kol Mevasser no. 28, p. 68]

… from all the aforesaid it emerges that marriages may be solemnized and shaving and haircuts permitted during Sefirah on a date commemorating a miracle and joyous occasion. As regards Yom Ha’atzmaut the fact that the establishment of the State has not been accompanied by the spiritual redemption we looked forward to cannot overshadow the joy at the actual phenomenon of its establishment. For the shortcomings are but a passing phase and it is our fervent prayer that God will soon grant us the true and perfect redemption. [Responsum of Itzhak Nissim, Israel Chief Rabbi and Rishon LeZion, “Sinai”, Nissan, 1958]

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