With Yom Ha’atzma’ut having passed and Yom Yerushalyim ahead of us, many have been bothered with the question: What is the case for saying Hallel with a Bracha and without and the case for omitting both? Is the notion to say Hallel a halachically-based argument or one based purely on philosophy and how one views the State of Israel?
The Case For Saying Hallel
The Gemara states (Pesachim 117b) that “The prophets instituted it (Hallel) on any suffering that happens to them, that they should recite it upon their salvation”. The obligation of reciting Hallel is dependent on being saved from physical harm. Without question the 1948 and 1967 wars fit into this category.
Why Without A Bracha?
Commentating on the above passage, the Behag and Rebeinu Tam stipulate that a Bracha can only be made if the miracle occurs to the ENTIRE Jewish people. One could say that despite the fact that the establishment of the State of Israel was a miracle with tremendous ramifications, still this only involved a fraction of the Jewish nation and as a result would not allow us to make a Bracha upon reciting Hallel.
Rav Shlomo Goren And Rav Ovadia Yosef
In a novel response Rabbi Goren (The Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F. during the 6-day war) claims that one is still obligated in making a Bracha. The above commentaries are not a problem as there are sources that indicate that when the Torah requests a majority of Jews for certain Halachic issues, it is only concerned with those Jews living in Israel and does not take into consideration those who are living in the Diaspora. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef disagrees with Rabbi Goren on this issue and claims that this only applies to certain cases alone and can not be generalized to all realms of Halacha.
Hence, making a Bracha upon the recitation of Hallel is dependent on the question whether we can consider these miracles to be ones that occurred to the majority of Jews.
Other Concerns Of Making A Bracha
1) The Date: The 5th of Iyar represents the date when the State was established. However, the war of independence continued unabated for many months thereafter. Setting this date as the one of celebration is questionable as far as Hallel is concerned, since Hallel is only recited upon redemption from a physically threatening situation. The termination of the war would perhaps be a more logical time for celebration (See Yabia Omer 6:41).
2) The Type Of Miracle: There are many commentators that require there to be a miracle that defy the laws of nature in order to recite Hallel with a Bracha. For example, Hallel was only instituted on Chanukah as there was also the supernatural miracle of the oil lasting eight days. However, the Poskim differ as to how to assess the clear miracles which befell us during the war of Independence and the 6-day war.
It is clear that Hallel needs to be said on these special days: Yom Ha’atzma’ut and Yom Yerushalayim. There are serious halachic reservations though as to whether a Bracha should be said or not. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has changed its position on this issue a number of times. Most communities recite Hallel without a Bracha but one should consult his/her local Rabbi for a definite Psak.