For the last 64 years Israel has been growing and thriving as a country, a land and as a state B”H. As a result celebrating it has justification as in the end of the day, it has brought Jews together in their own state. However how one should celebrate it is another story.
Yom Ha’Atzmaut happens to fall out on 4 Iyyar, which everyone agrees is part of the 33 days of mourning R’ Akiva’s 24,000 students. That said, some religious Jews will say Hallel without a Bracha and have an event/presentation, which is fine.
However, a few years ago (in 2009) I attended an event given by Mizrachi Canada where, after the presentation was given, some things bothered me.
For one, during the Maariv service, the “Barchu Es Hashem Hamvorach” was done with the Yom Tov tune and Hallel was said after Shmoneh Esreh. After that, fellow Jews wearing knitted Kippas and girls with decent-length-skirts sang and danced, and I must say that the dancing/singing performed was louder and done B’Simcha more than any wedding I’ve ever attended (and I’ve attended some loud weddings before).
Questions About Simchas During Sefira and How A Secular Holiday Overrides a Religious Holiday
My first question is, can a wedding-style atmosphere be done? Rabbi Yaakov Klass of the Jewish Press asks something similar when it comes to attending weddings. Bottom line, one can attend engagement parties and Bar Mitzvahs as long as there’s no music. Bar Mitzvahs are okay since you can’t change someone’s birthday, and Engagements since there’s a fear that if one waits too long, the girl will be engaged to somebody else during that time. Weddings though are not allowed to attend during the mourning period as well as the three days of Hagbala. Therefore, how can a wedding-style Simcha atmosphere replete with music and dancing be done? I don’t get that.
My next question is, how can a holiday instituted by secular Jews override a period of mourning instituted by scholarly Rabbis? The Gemara in Yevamos (62b) says that R’ Akiva’s 12,000 pairs of students died during that period and therefore our Geonim instituted the custom of not showing excessive joy during this period.
In any case, Yom Ha’Atzmaut was instituted by people that were not only secular Jews, but were educated people that knew Tanach cold, and who were anti-Rabbanus. For example, people don’t know this, but they originally set Yom HaZikaron (Holocaust day) in the month of Nissan, the one month where observant Jews are not allowed to have days of mourning and say Tachanun. Later it was moved to the day before Nissan after it was met with resistance by the Orthodox community.
Origins with Theodore Herzl
Not only that, but in the Knesset, the main portrait is a bearded fellow named Theodore Herzl. This was someone who had a Christmas Tree in his house when that holiday arrived. One of his sons, Hans (he did not have a Hebrew name) was deliberately left uncircumcised (to the objection of Theodore’s entire family that still considered themselves Traditional) and intermarried a Shiksa. When the founding members of Zionist movement criticized him, Hans replied that he was acting in a belief system not far from their own. Therefore how could they criticize him? He later on committed suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Hans’ wasted life was met with such disbelief that Albert Einstein stated in a letter: “Your article about Hans Herzl moved me greatly at the time. His wasted life constitutes a warning to all Jews against defection from their people.”
Also, David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister, did many things to hurt not only non-religious Jews, but Jews in general. For example, he ordered the blowing up of a ship, the Altalena, which had Jewish refugees from concentration camps, where all they wanted to do was join their brethren in fighting for the State’s independence.
There is so much more. But, in this spirit, can a holiday with this basis override a period of mourning instituted by those remaining close to our traditions?
Don’t get me wrong here. I am fully supportive of Israel as a land and as a country. Most of my family lives there and when I can I do my best to visit as often as I can (which is rare as airplane ticket prices are too expensive). My only issue is HOW an observant Jew should properly celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut in light of the conflicting day it’s being celebrated on.