Volume 26 Number 60
                      Produced: Thu May 22  0:20:15 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Independance Day
         [Chana Luntz]
Yom Ha'atzma'ut as a Religious Holiday
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Yom Ha`azmauth
         [Michael Berger]
Yom HaShoah, Yom Haatzmaut
         [Michael and Abby Pitkowsky]


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 22:03:07 +0100
Subject: Independance Day

> Lon Eisenberg <eisenbrg@...>
>I'm beginning to think that perhaps the "religious" celebration of Yom
>Ha`azmauth is yet another compromise made by the left-wing religious to
>the secular element of the government (like the concept of "minimally
>kosher" that has recently been discussed).  This consists of "kvetch"ing
>what is being done into being correct (notice I didn't say it is
>incorrect, but it does seem "kvetch"ed).  The secularists decided to
>make a holiday on the 5th of Iyyar (there is probably nothing wrong with
>that), so it had to be given religious justification (why?).

You don't have to accept the view (call it left wing if you like,
although I don't know how one necessarily tells one's left wing from
one's right wing) -of the significance of Medinat Yisroel [the State of
Israel] - but perhaps it would be helpful to set out its halachic
underpinnings.  There is a view, espoused by, inter alia, the Ran - that
where a community of Jews have sovereignty over their own actions, and
are not under the domination of a non-Jewish ruler - that constitutes
malchus.  That is, where we do not have an individual from beis David
[the house of David] to rule over us, then the community as a whole
takes the "reserve powers" as it were, and is considered a king.  If you
follow this halachic line (and i believe that Rav Kook and many of his
followers do) - then the establishment of Medinat Yisroel was the
restoration of malchus [kingship] to Yisroel, in the Land of Israel.
Not that this is the ideal form of malchus, that has to wait for
mashiach ben David, but according to this view, it is a form of malchus.
Now, as we know, a melech [king] is not necessarily an eved HaShem and
shomer Torah u'mitzvos (you just have to read your Tanach to realise
that the two do not necessarily go hand in hand).  But nevertheless one
is required to give kovod [honour] to malchus (Eliyahu famously ran
before Achav, to give kovod to malchus, even though Achav was not
exactly one's ideal king), and therefore one is required to show the
appropriate kovod to Medinat Yisroel and her insitutions.

One of the classic ways of giving kovod to malchus is to honour the day
on which the king ascended to the throne.  This is done in the Tanach
etc by counting every event from the beginning of the king's reign. As I
understand it - since Ben Gurion famously made the declaration of
Independance on Yom Hatzmaut, thus declaring that sovereignty no longer
rested with the previous or any other non Jewish rulers of the land -
then that would accurately count as the day on which this particular
form of malchus began. And thus followers of this particular halachic
derech would be mandated to celebrate Yom Hatzmaut.  Even if it is not
actually the day on which the king first reigns, or was annointed, if a
king dates his reign from a particular time, one may well be obligated
to follow the date set by the king (the dating in relation to Dovid
Hamelech - and the time he spent in Hevron as apposed to Jerusalem may
illustrate this).

Even for those who do not hold that Medinat Yisroel embodies malchus -
there is unquestionably a view in halacha of respect for the kahal
[community] and its institutions, rules and regulations.  There are
numerous teshuvos throughout the ages mandating people to follow the
rules of the kahal, where they may have nothing to do with halacha - and
in some cases, surprisingly enough, where they would seem to go against
the halacha [if you want more details I can provide them, but this would
mean a much longer post than the current one].  Many have held that a
kahal holds the power of a beis din - eg for matters such as hefker beis
din hefker [which means the power to take money away from a person] and
punishment of individuals, and certainly that appropriate kavod is due.
The celebration of restoration of power to the kahal in Eretz Yisroel
can also be a legitimate reason to celebrate, and one that is required
or expected may well be halachically mandatory.

It is only if you take the view that the government of Israel is no
different to any other non Jewish government (ie falls into the same
category as the US government, whose laws you, no doubt, obey due to
dina d'malchusa dina), which appears to be the halachic position that
you have assumed, that you can say that the significance of Yom Hatzmaut
is the same as that of the 4th of July.  And even if you say that the
government of Israel operates under the same principles as dina
demalchusa dina, an individual is obligated to follow its commands (eg
give a holiday to your workers on that day etc).

Of course, there are those who hold that dina d'malchusa dina does not
apply in Eretz Yisroel, and do not hold that medinat Israel constitute a
valid, halachic, kahal -or that the state constitutes malchus.  If you
take this view you rather run into the problem set out in Bava Kama
113b, regarding the permissability of using property (eg a bridge) built
by such an illegitimate authority.  The Neturei Karta, I believe, used
to have their own electricity generators, for exactly this reason,
because otherwise they would be using the stolen property of the bandits
that patrol the land.  But I have noticed that most appear not to take
this approach, and do use the services provided by the Israeli

Even if one holds by dina d'malchusa dina, in countries, such as the US,
that have a malchus shel chessed (as Rav Moshe, among others, famously
called it), there are good reasons for expressing ones hakaras hatov
[recognition of the good done to one by others] - and one conventional
way of doing so is to celebrate on the celebratory day of the kingdom in
question.  In a country where a significant slice of the earnings of the
secular inhabitants of the country goes to supporting Torah institutions
(albeit against many of their orignal owners' wishes), a little hakaras
hatov would seem to be called for.  The fact that there are more people
sitting and learning in Eretz Yisroel today than ever learnt in the
whole of Europe before the Shoah, is not only a tribute to those who are
doing that learning - it is also a tribute to those who play the
financial part in this arrangement.  And if you look at the finances -
you will see that although foreign donations play their part - what
actually allows this to take place is the financial and other support
provided by the State, ie the taxes of its inhabitants. And given that
the secular population in Israel tends to be wealthier and more numerous
than the religious population - the secular population in fact provides
the bulk of these funds and support.  And if the growth in Torah that
has occured in modern day Israel and that which made it possible is not
something to celebrate - I am not quite sure what is.



From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 16:58:56 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Yom Ha'atzma'ut as a Religious Holiday

I find it hard to understand those among us who accept the State of
Israel but question the religious significance of the 5th of
Iyyar. Without descending into a maudlin "Zionist" explanation of the
significance of the day, to me it seems self-evident that the day (and
its subsequent anniversaries) is a cause for thanksgiving to Hashem. The
fact is that after close to 2,000 years Jews became largely masters of
their own fate. Yes, it was David Ben Gurion who proclaimed the State,
but every Ma'amin (believer) should be totally convinced that history
doesn't just "happen." If a momentous event such as this occurred, it
was because Hashem so engineered events. To deny Hashem's "hand" in
history is - to my mind - tantamount to denying Hashgachah Pratit
(Divine providence).

There is an alternative explanation - that of the Satmar Rebbi (see his
"Al HaGeulah ve'al Hatemurah" regarding the Six Day War) - that all of
this was the work of Satan, and it was a way to test the Jewish People
(well, if that would indeed Chas Veshalom be the case, we've "failed"
the "test" "miserably"). I'm inclined to believe that the vast majority
of religious Jews, even the non-Zionist ones, reject that view of
current history.

I might also point out that we celebrate Purim, even though the miracle
there was also clearly a "nes nistar" - a "hidden" miracle, and the
reason we don't say Hallel is because Purim occurred outside Eretz

On the other hand, I do feel that the Nusach (text) put together for the
Yom Ha'atzma'ut evening service seems to be a hodge-podge of sources
("eclectic" may sound better). It almost reminds me of the "definition"
of a camel: "an animal designed by a committee." But that's another
topic ...

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Michael Berger <mberg02@...>
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 10:01:02 -0400 ()
Subject: Re: Yom Ha`azmauth

 Lon Eisenberg (mj 26:58) suggests that
> "perhaps the "religious" celebration of Yom
> Ha`azmauth is yet another compromise made by the left-wing religious to
> the secular element of the government" and that "[t]his consists of 
> "kvetch"ing what is being done into being correct."

 He further notes that

> After reviewing this issue, I have reached the following conclusions...
> 1. There is no religious significance to the date "5 Iyyar".  The only
>    significant event that happened that day was the outbreak of the War
>    of Independence.   That hardly is reason to celebrate being saved.

While everyone is certainly entitled to his/her opinion, and might want
to consult a LOR, I would just like to afford some perspective on this
which we, 50 years later, might have come to take for granted.  It is
true that a war started on that day, but we cannot forget that Israeli
sovereignty also allowed in tens of thousands of Jews who were in Cyprus
and other refugee camps in Europe, many in limbo for years, who had been
waiting for permission from Britain to enter but were denied.  This is
perhaps the reason the Rabbanut included a "Kel maleh rachamim" for the
martyrs of the Shoah in the Yom Ha-atzma'ut service - while an
independent state of Israel would probably not have prevented the
Holocaust, many more who wanted to leave (while they still could) would
have had a place to go, instead of wandering around knocking on doors of
"civilized" countries begging to be let in.
	To suggest that the genuinely religious enthusiasm of those who
witnessed this "kibbutz galuyot" which was possible starting 5 Iyyar
was/is a mere "compromise" or "kvetching" is to besmirch other people's
equally legitimate religious (not political) expression and
understanding of world events.
	For a truly stirring account of this approach, go to
and click on the phrase "Yom Ha-atzma'ut" for a sicha by Rav Yehuda
Amital, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, who movingly describes the
*religious* value of sovereignty, which is what 5 Iyyar commemorates.
	None of us knows for certain the nature of the times we live in,
but the many remarkable things which have occurred over the last 50
years, particularly in terms of the protection of Jews worldover
(Entebbe, Russia, Ethiopia) should give us pause before we state baldly
that on pure "halakhic principles" 5 Iyyar has no religious
significance.  Minimally, the fact that gedolim such as Rav Herzog z"l,
Rav Unterman z"l, Rav Zevin z"l DID see these events in religious terms,
even as we might not follow their decisions, should incline us towards
greater humility.

Michael Berger


From: Michael and Abby Pitkowsky <pitab@...>
Date: Tue, 20 May 97 23:43:30 PDT
Subject: Yom HaShoah, Yom Haatzmaut

>Traditional Jewish minhagim of saying tehilim and learning mishnaos are
>eschewed in favor of the goyishe minhag of standing for a two minute
>period of silence.

I would be careful about throwing around the term "goyishe minhag" when
trying to denegrate a certain observance by the majority of Jews in
Israel.  The more that scholars are researching Jewish observance and
especially customs they are seeing how some Jewish customs have their
origins in "goyishe minhags".  The following example from the responsa
of the Ribash (14th century North Africa) is a good example.  The Ribash
was asked about the custom of visiting the gravesite everyday of the
mourning period/shiva.  The questionner denegrates the custom because it
is a "goyishe minhag", in this case an Islamic one.  The Ribash

"...And if [you want to prohibit this custom] because the Muslims also
observe it, this is not a "statute" that is forbidden because of "do not
follow in their statutes" (Lev. 18:3), because something which people do
because of its importance is not a "statute"...and even though non-Jews
do this [visit the gravesite] it is not forbidden from the prohibition
of "the ways of the Amorite" since if we were say this then we should
also forbid the eulogy since non-Jews also eulogize..."

		Responsa of the Ribash, no. 158
		cited in Shmuel Glick's "Or LeAvel" pgs. 114-15

>2. Even if we can determine an appropriate date to celebrate a "personal >yom
   >tov" (for being saved) I don't believe there is the concept of saying
   >Hallel on such a day.  I think Hallel is said to acknowledge a
   >miracle, such as on Hanukkah (and perhaps Yom Yerushalaim).  There is
   >certainly no concept of saying yom tov psukei dezimrah [holiday
   >psalms] on such a day.

What makes the miracle of Hanukkah any more of a miracle than a Jewish
State being formed after more than two thousand years of it not
existing?  And what makes Yom Yerushalayim and bigger miracle than the
founding of Israel?

>3. I don't see how those of us who lived (or whose ancestors lived) in >America
   >(or another place not in danger during the War of Independence) can
   >celebrate a personal yom tov on that day or any day chosen for such

I think that most of us would have difficult proving that our ancestors
were either in the Land of Israel when the Maccabbees were around or in
Persia with Mordechai and Esther yet this does not prevent us from
celebrating Hannukah and Purim so why should it prevent us from
celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut.

Name: Michael Menahem and Abby Pitkowsky
E-mail: <pitab@...>


End of Volume 26 Issue 60