The halachik debate pertaining to Yom Ha’atzmaut stems from valid halachik questions but has become fierce and intense due to ideological considerations. Let us attempt to take an objective look at some of the issues and considerations relating to the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut.
The first question we must contend with is whether we can declare and create new days of celebration. There is a basic question whether declaring a day of celebration would constitute a prohibition of Bal Tosif, not adding to the mitzvot that the Torah commanded us. In response to this claim, some Poskim (halachik authorities) point to the gemarah Megilah (14a) that notes the validity of celebrating Purim stating that if Moshe said a song of praise for the redemption from slavery and servitude how much more so must we celebrate redemption from the threat of death. Some even suggest that such days of celebration would constitute a de’orita (biblical) requirement.
Even if we accept the idea that celebrating a time of miracle does not constitute a “bal tosif” there are poskim who claim that only miracles bringing to the rescue from death of all Jews can be declared a public day of celebration (see Shut Chatam Sofer OC 191, Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 10 Res. 10). Others (see Rav Meshulom Roth in Kol Mevaser part 1 res. 21) respond that the miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel is both a miracle of deliverance from death and one that affects all Jews throughout the world. With the establishment of the state Jews could stand up and fight off all those who intended to “throw them into the sea”. As history has shown the state has been a source of rescue and a place to flee for Jews throughout the world that were persecuted and faced a threat of death.
Questions have been raised about the choice of the date – the fifth of Iyar. Some Poskim (see Rav Ovadya Yosef in Yabia Omer vol. 6 res. 41) are of the opinion that the fifth of Iyar does not represent the redemption from the threat since the cease-fire came about only much later and on the fifth of Iyar the redemption was not yet complete. In contrast, Rav Meshulam Roth is of the opinion that the fifth of Iyar is the ideal date for celebration since the declaration of the state of Israel expressed the independence of the Jewish state and thus enabled the victory.
Beyond the principle issue of celebration and the particular date on which to do so, there are debates as to the specific expressions of thanksgiving and celebration appropriate to Yom Ha’atzmaut. One point of discussion is the recitation of Hallel. One issue discussed is whether we, today, can institute a formal recitation of Hallel. On this issue there are two points of contention; one is the formalistic question of who has the authority to institute the recitation while the other is whether the proper conditions exist for reciting Hallel. The question of proper conditions directly relates to the issue of reciting Hallel only after the redemption is complete; what constitutes a complete redemption when enemies still surround us?
Other issues of debate pertaining to Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut are whether a beracha should be recited and can Hallel be recited on the night of Yom Haatzmaut.
In addition, we find a discussion about reciting the beracha of she’hecheyanu on Yom Ha’atzmaut. The question at hand is, whether a beracha of she’hecheyanu needs to be said in the context of an action or not? Rav Roth in Kol Mevaser notes that this is a non- concluded point amongst the poskim. This raises a second question as to whether we apply the principle of refraining from reciting questionable brachot in reference to birkat shehecheyanu where we do not state “vetzivanu”, and has commanded us. His conclusion is that birkat she’hecheyanu should not be instituted but a person may recite the beracha which should ideally proceed Hallel. Rav Ovadya Yosef(Yabia Omer part 4 res. 50) disagrees and concludes that one should refrain from reciting birkat shehecheyanu.
Whether we recite Hallel at all, with or without a beracha, whether we recite a birkat she’hecheyanu or not, let us remember we must find the way to recognize and praise Hashem for the supreme miracle of an independent state. We also should remember to assess halachik issues from a halachik not emotional prospective respecting each other’s customs.