Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) is invested with three sanctities:
1) the mitzvah of settling the Land, which is accomplished by means of Israeli sovereignty over the Land;
2) the sanctity of fulfillment of the prophetic return of Israel to its Land – which, also comprises an immense Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations;
3) the sanctity of Israel’s salvation from its enemies.
The Mitzvah of Yom Haatzmaut
However, the Torah does not prescribe exactly how to perform the holiday, since the events that led to their establishment occurred after the giving of the Torah; therefore, one who does anything to commemorate these great salvations fulfills his Biblical obligation. It was the Rabbis who determined that we read the Megillah, prepare a festive meal, send portions of food to others, and give charity to the poor on Purim, and light the candles on Chanukah.
It is a mitzvah to recite Hallel on special occasions, in order to thank and praise God for the miracles He performs on our behalf. Similarly, the Talmud (Pesachim 117a) states that after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, “the prophets among them instituted that the Jews should recite Hallel for each and every season [i.e., festival] and each and every misfortune that should ‘not’ come upon them; meaning, when they are redeemed, they should recite it upon their redemption.” Rashi explains that the Sages of the Second Temple era relied on this to institute the recitation of Hallel on Hanukkah.
Those who ignore this deny God’s benevolence , prevent good from being bestowed upon Israel, and distance the Redemption, as occurred in the days of Hezekiah, who failed to thank God for his salvation, and consequently, was not privileged to bring redemption to Israel in his era (Sanhedrin 94a).
After the victories in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, led by Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz”l, ruled that Hallel be recited with a blessing. Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l was extremely happy with this decision.
In addition to the thanksgiving prayers and festive meal, there are four levels of celebrators on Yom Haatzmaut.
On the second level are those who tour sites in which the rebuilding of the State of Israel is visible, such as national projects, museums concerning the history of the settlement of Israel, and military bases.
The fourth and highest level are those who study Torah on Yom Haatzmaut, specifically issues related to the mitzvah of settling the Land, the mitzvah to serve in the army in order to protect the nation and the country, and matters connected to the Community of Israel and the Redemption. After this, they enjoy a festive meal filled with thanksgiving and joy for the salvation we merited in the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Ingathering of the Exiles.
The Virtue of Settlements in Judea and Samaria
A: There are three reasons. 1) Judea and Samaria are located in the heart of the Promised Land, as God said to our forefather Yitzchak (Isaac) when he was forced to leave the center of the Land (Judea) because of the famine: “Sojourn in this land [the ‘Lower Plains’]” – for although the land of the Philistines is less sacred, nevertheless, it is also considered the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael. And Rashi wrote on the verse: “And Isaac sowed in that land” – even though it was not considered as esteemed as the Land of Israel itself” (Genesis 26:12).
3) The strengthening of communities in Judea and Samaria can prevent the most serious existential threat to the State of Israel – the danger of the establishment of an additional Arab state in Judea and Samaria. For if, God forbid such a state is created, its main goal will be to bring about the destruction of Israel.
With the huge funds the U.N. and the Arab states will allocate, another five million Arab refugees will be brought to Judea and Samaria from all Arab countries, and every Israeli city will be threatened with rockets and other dangers, until life becomes unbearable and most of today’s “peace” supporters leave Israel to live in other countries.
The mitzvah of procreation is a most significant commandment, because through it, the Jewish nation inherits the Holy Land. And as God said to our forefather Abraham: “For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like dust of the earth; if a man will be able to count [all] the grains of dust in the world, then your offspring also will be countable” (Genesis 13: 15-16).
And following the trial of the Akeida (the binding and near sacrifice of Yitzchak), God said to him: “I will bless you greatly, and increase your offspring like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring shall inherit their enemies gate” (Genesis 22:17).
Additionally, God also said to our forefather Yaakov: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13-14).
When Israel was about to enter the Land, despite the fact that Transjordan is part of Eretz Yisrael, the Divine instruction was to inherit only the western side of the Jordan, as explained in the Torah portion ‘Massey’. This was because there were not enough people to properly inherit the eastern side. Consequently, the plan was to first inherit the main parts of the Land, and only after population increase, to also inherit the eastern side of the Jordan (see, Ramban, Numbers 21:21).
And the price paid for not having enough Jews to settle all of the Land of Israe was that our enemies remained, and the Torah’s warning, “If you do not drive out the land’s inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle” (Numbers 33:55) came to fruition.
Similarly In Our Times
If, from the time of the establishment of the State, every Jewish family had one more child, there would be another five million Jews living in Israel today. If a few hundred thousand more Jews had made aliyah before the Holocaust, we would number more than twelve million.
It would be appropriate for our elected officials to encourage increasing the Jewish birthrate, and praise women who are privileged to raise large families. Why, among the 14 women selected to light a torch on Yom Ha’atzmaut, was not one mother chosen who is blessed with a large famil? Is this not a female accomplishment worthy of praise?
May the words of the Prophet be fulfilled in our time: “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem's streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 36:37-38).