Halachically Speaking: Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits: Ever since the State of Israel came into existence, there has been a debate whether or not to recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. We will discuss the reasoning of those who feel it should be recited and the majority opinion which maintains that it is not recited. The goal is to discuss the halachic sources, not the controversy.

What Is Yom Ha’atzma’ut?
Yom Ha’atzma’ut (the fifth day of Iyar) is the day that Israel was established as a Jewish State. After thousands of years of exile, the land was returned to us. To commemorate this day, there was much celebration across the world.

The Many Reasons for Not Reciting Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut
Hallel is only recited for a miracle which happened to all of Klal Yisrael, and this miracle only affected those who live in Eretz Yisrael. In addition, a miracle which can be explained by nature and not the guiding hand of Hashem is not subject to the recitation of Hallel. The argument to recite Hallel because it is the “start of the Geulah” (see below) is refuted by the fact that there is no peace in the land. In the realm of ruchniyus there is also no rest, as there is so much chillul Shabbos, such a lack of tznius, and so many other shortcomings that we are very far from the actual Geulah. Furthermore, full Hallel is not recited on the last day of Pesach because the Egyptians drowned in the sea. Similarly, the declaration of the State triggered a war that cost the lives of thousands of Yidden; therefore, no Hallel is recited.

Some explain that on Chanukah and at Krias Yam Suf we overcame our enemy and sat quietly without fighting, but here there still is bloodshed and fighting. Many poskim in Yerushalayim, including Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, ruled that one should not recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. Accordingly, Hallel should not be recited on Yom Ha’atzma’ut since it might result in a brachah l’vatalah. Nonetheless, if a tzibbur recites Hallel after Shemoneh Esrei without a brachah they should not be rebuked.

Reasons of Those Who Recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut
Some say that the reason for reciting Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut is because the Jews have their own land, and it is the “start of the Geulah.” Others explain that it is the day on which we were saved from death, since our enemies wanted to destroy us, and having our own state saved us from their plots. They compare this to Purim, where we have a day of joy when we were saved from death. In addition, some say that the new state enables us to renew our acceptance of the Torah.

Some say that it is like Chanukah when we were saved through a war. So too, after winning a Jewish state through a war, we say Hallel. Similarly, the Pri Chadash asks why we light eight lights on Chanukah if there was no miracle on the first day. He explains that the victory itself warrants an extra light. Others compare this to a situation of one who does not have a megillah on Purim, where the rule is that he publicizes the miracle with the recitation of Hallel. This applies to Yom Ha’atzma’ut as well. Some say that Hallel does not require an open miracle, and even a miracle of salvation would warrant the recitation of Hallel.

Finally, others rely on the Magen Avraham who rules that a city may make its own Yom Tov on the day that a miracle occurred.

The Custom
Those with yeshivish and chassidic background do not mark the day of Yom Ha’atzma’ut as a holiday at all. Besides the earlier points, there is another argument that the Israeli government is run by Jews who are far removed from Torah principles, so it does not warrant a day of celebration.

Those who consider it a holiday are from the Mizrachi sect. In earlier years, half Hallel was recited at night and whole Hallel in the day, with a brachah. Later, whole Hallel was recited at night as well. Today, Hallel is recited (where the custom is to recite it) only during the day and without a brachah. This signifies that we realize that Yom Ha’atzma’ut is a day of thanking Hashem, but on the other hand we are pained by the shortcomings (i.e. political divides, poverty, social divides, Arab fighting, and the disengagement). Nevertheless, we anticipate the future, which is the beginning of Mashiach (nonetheless, there are many who do not agree to this line of reasoning). Although many celebrate it as a holiday, some were against the addition of tefillos during davening and mentioned to recite it after davening.

In a Place Where Hallel Is Said
One who is from a sect that does not treat Yom Ha’atzma’ut as a Yom Tov and finds himself in a place where they do recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut should not say Hallel with them.

Synopsis of Poskim
Below we will list the opinions of leading poskim in relation to Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut.

The following poskim did not permit Hallel: Harav Zvi Pesach Frank zt”l, Harav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l, Tzitz Eliezer, Minchas Yitzchak, Steipler zt”l, Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, and the Satmar Rebbe zt”l. It seems logical to assume that the following did not allow it either: Harav Menashe Klein zt”l, Harav Wosner zt”l, Harav Elyashiv zt”l, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, and Harav Yitzchak Hutner zt”l. Harav Mordechai Gifter zt”l did not allow Hallel.

The opinion of Harav Yosef D. Soloveitchik zt”l was to recite (half) Hallel but without a brachah, as well as Harav Ahron Soloveitchik zt”l, Harav Ahron Lichtenstein zt”l, and Harav Hershel Schachter shlit”a. In addition, this is the opinion of the Yaskil Avdi and Harav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l, Yalkut Yosef,and many others quoted in Yabia Omer.

Some were of the opinion to say Hallel with a brachah, while this is not the overwhelming custom.

No matter what one’s custom is regarding saying Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, even if one does not recite it, one should still be thankful that we have Eretz Yisrael as a Jewish homeland. Not saying Hallel is not a contradiction to showing hakaras hatov for Eretz Yisrael in other ways such as visiting, learning there, and supporting the state.

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