This past Yom Ha’Atzmaut I posted a blog post on how we should celebrate it. The truth of the matter is, I kept that post unpublished for the last 3 years as I didn’t Chas V’Shalom want to give off the wrong impression of my personal views. I was thinking, “should I post it or not?” In the end I did as my question was more so an academic one rather than one meant to incite, and B”H the response to that post has been overwhelmingly positive.
That said, I came across some answers to my question that, while it doesn’t answer the question outright, it provides enough material for one to better shape ones own opinion.
Correction on the Whole Mourning Concept
Correction on R’ Akiva’s Talmidim Dying
Apparently the Gemara that I referring to, Yevamot 62b does not mention any mourning custom that was instituted because of this event. The first time that any mourning custom related to this gemara is mentioned is in the Shulchan Aruch where it says that it is the custom not to marry during this time period. Interestingly, the romans also had a custom not to marry during this time period. But, we see that if a Jew did get married during this time period he was not rebuked but only if he consulted if he should get married, the Rabbis would tell him not to.
Sources of Mourning
Interestingly, the customs of mourning are mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch Siman Tav-Tzadi-Alef (491) Seif 1-2. It mentions about our custom in mourning in light of R’ Akiva’s students’ deaths, where we don’t do weddings and haircuts. The Shulchan Aruch, Rav Yosef Karo, was a Sepharadi who lived in the 15th century. However, some communities took on the custom, some didn’t.
However, why do we mourn? One would think that counting the days to getting the Torah is a very happy occasion! Therefore, we should be celebrating as we cannot wait to receive the Torah anew! This would if anything seem to be stronger than mourning for 24,000 deaths which occurred at a doubtful time period (Rav Moshe Feinstein gives 6 date periods, and explains how some who mourn for 49 days observe 33 days somehow, do the Shloshes Yemei Hagbala factor in, etc.). Someone recently told me that there is strong basis for the 33 day mourning period to tie in, Kefirah aside, with the Crusades period. After all, first reference of mourning occurred in the medieval period, and when one looks at the Kinnos for Tisha B’Av, the dates referenced for various Crusade killings were between Nissan and Iyar. This makes sense as many Crusaders would leave to fight after the wintertime!
This makes sense as the Rambam, who for one never mentioned anything about mourning, lived during the times of the Crusades, so this Minhag apparently didn’t have enough time to be cemented in!
There were even Halachic rulings back then to recite Av Harachamim during Sefirah even though today we say it all year round.
Interesting Sources on the laws of Sefiras Ha’Omer
Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut vs. Mourning for the deaths of R’ Akiva’s Talmidim: Rabbinic Versus Secular?
There are serious Rabbinic rulings by Religious Zionists on celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut, just like there were serious Rabbinic rulings on 33 days. The main source here is due the Hakaros HaTov on the miracles of the founding of Israel. Also, Israel has been by far the largest government supporting Yeshivos and Torah learning in Jewish history!
Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut
Here’s another one: We celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut because of the miracles that occurred and therefore we give Hakaros HaTov. Do we celebrate it because of the current state or because of the events preceding it? Rabbi Howard Jachter of Kol Torah addresses this at length. Bottom line, the military victory was a palpable one. One could be assigned the rank of officer just because one knew how to use a gun, and one could be brought into battle with one bullet with the instruction to “use it well.”
There also is the story of a battalion of 4 tanks going up to the top of a hill, giving off the illusion that more tanks were waiting, scaring off the enemy. Oh, and how about the one with the piper cub planes and dropping coke bottles since the had no ammunition? There are tons and tons of stories of these miracles, most if not all undoubtedly true.
Anyways, “Rav Ovadia [Yosef] notes that although we are profoundly disappointed at the overall spiritual level in Israel, we should appreciate the incredible growth of Torah study and observance in many sectors of the population. He writes that Israel has become the world Torah center. We add that today almost all very serious Halachic questions are referred to the great Halachic authorities in Israel for adjudication. This constitutes a sea change relative to the situation that existed in America only two decades ago.”
What can I say? Rav Ovadia’s right! There is a LOT to say about the amount of Torah study that is in Israel. Also, the government funding provided there for Torah study is unprecedented. That alone has a lot of merit.
Personally, we can also thank Gd for the state of Israel since, while there are terrorist attacks, blatant anti-semitism is now “put at bay” a lot more now than in the past. Long gone are the days of pogroms where Gentiles raped and pillaged freely with nowhere to go. Now, there is somewhere to run to in case we ever need.
The miracles that Israel has undergone the past 64 years plus the positives that Israel has done for Yiddishkeit (not forgetting the produce of Israeli food, the ingathering of exiles, etc.) would therefore seem to overshadow the controversial events of Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion (who at least kept to traditions), whom few today blink an eye about. Or, for that matter, the many Yemenite Jews that were subjected to crimes caused by secular Zionists, such as being subjected to 7 day work-weeks and their children being kidnapped, then having their simanim (peyos) chopped off, to name a couple.
Comparing it to Chanuka, there are those that say that the 1948 war was a major miracle, and there are those that say that the Chanuka miracle was better than the 1948 war miracle plus subsequent ones. This part is left to ones perception and what the miracles mean to them.
Saying Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut
In terms of saying Hallel, Quoting Rav Ovadia Hadaya (Teshuvot Yaskil Avdi O.C. 10:7), Rabbi Jachter states that saying half-Hallel is controversial as Israel’s security situation is unstable. However, Gedolim like Rav Meshulem Roth (Teshuvot Kol Mevaser 21) say Hallel with a Bracha, and others like Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 6:O.C. 41), Rav Aharon Soloveitchik (Gesher, Yeshiva University, 1969), and Rav Yitzchak Herzog (cited in Teshuvot Yabia Omer 6: O.C. 42) say only Half-Hallel.
Rabbi Yushe Ber (Yosef Dov) Soloveitchik from Y.U. though is a tricky character. Many attribute him to saying half-Hallel. However, I have personally heard Rav Abba Bronspigel Shlit”a of Landers state numerous times that when he sat in “The Rav’s” shiur, he was told a number of times that “he doesn’t know why people put into his mouth that he authorized saying half-Hallel. He never did so. People are putting words into his mouth.” Who knows for sure?
My Own Personal Hakaros HaTov
For a lot of my material I have to profusely thank Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner for a lot of the material provided here, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu for providing me with the life experiences to help shape my own personal world view on this matter.
Interesting Material on Yom Ha’Atzmaut
- Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi – Zionism and the history of Israel: http://www.divineinformation.com/videos-english/zionism-and-the-history-of-israel-2/
- Al Hanisim for Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim: http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/34-featured/297-al-hanissim-for-yom-haassmauth-and-yom-yerushalayim
- Yom Ha’Atzmaut – a day deserving of celebration – Rabbi Eliyahu Safran: http://www.ou.org/life/israel/yom-haatzmaut-a-day-deserving-of-celebration-eliyahu-safran/