Rav Asher Sabag
Former Shaliach in Chicago (2003-4)
The 5th of Iyar can only fall out on one of the following days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Shabbat. Therefore, in most years, Yom Ha’atzmaut is postponed to another date.
Initially, the Chief Rabbinate ruled that when the 5th of Iyar falls on either Friday or Shabbat, Yom Ha’atzmaut should be advanced to the preceding Thursday. Subsequently, the rabbis realized that whenever Yom Ha’atzmaut fell on a Monday, the preparations for Yom Hazikaron – which would then begin on Motzai Shabbat – would inevitably result in a considerable amount of chilul Shabbat (Shabbat desecration). Therefore, the Chief Rabbinate decided that both Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut would be pushed off by one day. In other words, Yom Hazikaron would then occur on Monday, 5 Iyar, and Yom Ha’atzmaut would take place on Tuesday, 6 Iyar.
Thus, when Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on three out of its four possible days, it is either advanced or postponed. The question is, then, what is the halachic status of the 5th of Iyar itself in these cases? Specifically, when is Hallel recited? Furthermore, does one say Tachanun?
With respect to the postponement or advancement itself, we have a precedent where Chazal even delayed mitzvot d’Orayta – by ordering a “shev vi’al ta’aseh” (literally, sit and do not perform the mitzvah) – in cases where they feared a potential chilul Shabbat d’Rabbanan! As the Gemara asks:
“Why [is it forbidden to bring a lulav into the Beit HaMikdash on Shabbat]? There is only [a prohibition] of handling [thelulav]. Should not [the mitzvah of lulav] override this Shabbat [restriction]? Rabba said: ‘It is a decree lest one take [thelulav] in his hand and go to an expert to learn and carry it four amot in the public domain.’ And this is the reason for [not blowing] the shofar [when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat] and the reason for [not reading] the Megillah [when Purim falls on Shabbat].”
Thus, when it comes to the sanctity of Shabbat – even with respect to Rabbinic prohibitions – there is a precedent of applying a “shev vi’al ta’aseh” and delaying the performance of even a mitzvah d’Orayta. However, the Gemara’s case is not perfectly identical to our situation. Chazal did not postpone the observance of the day itself; rather, they merely delayed one specific, relevant mitzvah.
But there is another case which more closely resembles our situation – namely, when Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat (a “Purim Meshulash”, or “threefold Purim”). The Shulchan Aruch ruled:
“When the 15th falls on Shabbat, the Megillah is not read on Shabbat. Instead, its reading is advanced to Erev Shabbat. And coins are collected for Matanot Lievyonim, and they are distributed on that same day. And on Shabbat, two Torah scrolls are taken out [to be read], and from the second one, we read: “And Amalek came”. And Al HaNissim is recited, but the seudat Purim does not take place until Sunday.”
Yet, here too, the essence of the day itself is not postponed. Instead, only those mitzvot which are likely to lead to chilul Shabbat are advanced or delayed. However, mitzvot which have no negative impact on Shabbat – Al HaNissim and the Torah reading for Purim – are not postponed.
In order to answer our questions, we must first clarify whether or not Yom Ha’atzmaut’s essence is dependent on the Chief Rabbinate’s decree. If so, they should likewise have the authority to change the date for Shabbat’s sake.
Yet, since independence and the removal of the yoke of servitude to the nations of the world are the reasons that the Chief Rabbinate established this day as a chag, perhaps they are also the factors that endowed this day with its intrinsic essence. If this latter option is the case, then the dinim which can be observed on the 5th of Iyar – such as skipping Tachanun, recitingHallel, and the blessings of SheAsah Nissim (for those who maintain this custom) and SheHechiyanu -should not be postponed; only the festivities and the celebrations, which may lead to chilul Shabbat, should be pushed off to another day.
Moreover, even if we say that the day’s significance is derived from the Chief Rabbinate’s decree, what about all the later amendments to the original decree (such as postponing from Monday to Tuesday)? Are these subsequent modifications valid? After all, there is a well-known rule that one beit din can not override the ruling of another beit din – unless the second one is greater in terms of wisdom and size. In my humble opinion, everyone agrees that according to this rule, a later Chief Rabbinate should not have the authority to introduce this postponement. (It was a much earlier Chief Rabbinate which advanced Yom Ha’atzmaut when it falls on Friday or Shabbat.)
We must also consider the social implications of reciting Hallel on the 5th of Iyar when the rest of the country is in mourning, as befitting Yom Hazikaron. In fact, such an act is likely to cause great pain both to the bereaved families and to the entireAm Yisrael, who are profoundly and gratefully appreciative of the sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers. Reciting Hallel in such a context is hardly commensurate with darchei shalom (literally, the ways of peace).
Indeed, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt”l stressed that advancing Yom Ha’atzmaut from Friday or Shabbat to the preceding Thursday is in and of itself a remarkable Kiddush Hashem. The date change indicates that the Jewish State is thereby refraining from chilul Shabbat, which is a public and prominent Kiddush Hashem.
When discussing the topic of an “early” or “postponed” Yom Ha’atzmaut, modern poskim were forced to grapple with all of these considerations. For instance, in 5741 (1981), Rav Goren (Torat HaShabbat ViHaMoed) concluded that when Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on Friday or Shabbat, Hallel should be recited on Shabbat, because it does not involve chilul Shabbat. This ruling resembles the above-cited example of Shushan Purim that falls on Shabbat.
Although Rav Goren did not specifically address the case of Yom Ha’atzmaut falling on Monday (since that decree was enacted after his time), we can perhaps assume that he would have been cognizant of darchei shalom and would have thus ruled differently in that case.
In any event, other authorities did not make Rav Goren’s distinction and postponed all the day’s mitzvot to the decreed day. Nonetheless, some rabbis insisted that Tachanun not be recited on the 5th of Iyar (when it falls on Monday or Friday), and in 5764 (2004), the Chief Rabbinical Council agreed with the latter group.
We can dismiss the claim that they were not a beit din which was greater in wisdom and size. When Yom Ha’atzmaut was originally established on the 5th of Iyar, the concept of postponement was immediately raised. Therefore, once the Rabbinate opted to change the date in order to avoid chilul Shabbat¸ all subsequent decisions do not contradict the earlier rulings. Rather, the later amendments only strengthen the initial decree.
Hence, according to the Chief Rabbinate’s ruling – and this is in fact the custom in most locations throughout Israel – all the day’s mitzvot (Hallel, piyutim, and a special prayer service) should be observed on Tuesday, 6 Iyar. Meanwhile, on 5 Iyar – Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance Day for Israel’s Fallen – one should not recite Tachanun during the Tefillah.
All of the above applies to observing Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel. But perhaps one must behave differently when in chu”l (i.e. outside of Israel)? At first glance, it would seem that the impetus for Yom Ha’atzmaut’s postponement does not apply abroad, because there are no national celebrations that could potentially result in chilul Shabbat. If so, maybe in chu”l, one should always observe Yom Ha’atzmaut on the 5th of Iyar. On the other hand, since the chag’s essence was derived from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, perhaps Jews worldwide are obligated to follow the Rabbinate’s ruling?
The latter option makes sense, because the Jews of chu”l do not have a personal stake in the day’s joy. Rather, they celebrate because the Jews of Israel were granted a miraculous salvation on this day. The Jews of chu”l partake in the festivities to show that they identify with Israeli Jews and to indicate that they now have the opportunity to leave galut and head towards Eretz Yisrael. Hence, the Jews of chu”l should celebrate on whichever day Israel’s Jews celebrate.
Also, the above-cited issue of darchei shalom applies in chu”l as well; Yom Hazikaron is observed there, too.
Nevertheless, three years ago, Chicago’s Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the Av Beit Din of America, ruled that Yom Ha’atzmaut should be observed on the 5th of Iyar. Although other American rabbis followed the Chief Rabbinate’s ruling, he felt that the reasons behind the postponement did not apply in chu”l.
Yet, when Rav Yonah Metzger, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, requested that Rav Schwartz change his ruling, he did so graciously. The Jews of Chicago therefore followed the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate in 5764 (2004).
Please note that this article does not constitute a psak halachah. It was simply intended to be a brief overview of the related issues. Each person should follow their local customs and rabbis. If a specific location does not have a minhag hamakom, one should follow the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate (even if one is in chu”l).