Hallel ? When to say it and Why

... the national-religious recite Hallel because of their disposition towards the State of Israel, and the ultra-Orthodox do not recite Hallel for the very same reason. Both are relating to the issue emotionally rather than rationally; Hallel is recited to commemorate an historical event and should not be influenced by one?s ideological position.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim,

Rabbi Bar-Hayim
Rabbi Bar-Hayim
Arutz 7
During the course of my studies in the Merkaz haRav Yeshiva many years ago, I recall asking a fellow student: ?Why do you recite Hallel on Yom haAtzmaut?? He responded: ?Because we have a state.? On another occasion I asked a haredi acquaintance: ?Why don?t you recite Hallel on Yom haAtzmaut?? He responded: ?Because the State is not run according to the Tora.?

I am here to tell you that both were mistaken.

The Sources

The Talmud (TB Meghilla 14a) states that the obligation to thank Hashem by way of reciting the Hallel is derived from the song of praise?Shirath haYam?uttered by Moshe and our forefathers at the time of the splitting of the sea; the ensuing destruction of the Egyptian army saved us from a return to slavery. This is adduced as proof that Hallel would be the appropriate response to the miraculous escape from Haman?s genocidal plans: ?If for being delivered from slavery to freedom we chant a hymn of praise?should we not do so all the more for being delivered from death to life??

Thus we find the following formulation in Tractate Pesahim (TB 117a): ?The Song in the Tora was uttered by Moses and Israel when they ascended from the Sea. But this Hallel ? who enacted it? The prophets among them ordained that Israel should recite it at every important epoch and at every misfortune?when they are redeemed they recite it in gratitude for their redemption.? (See Rashi ad loc. who cites Hannuka as an example).

Salvation from slavery or death on the national scale, then, is the yardstick; where this standard is met, we are obligated to express our gratitude to Hashem. Indeed, the Hatham Sofer (OH 161; 191& 208) opines that this obligation is mandated by the Tora (min haTora).

Now let us consider Yom haAtzmaut or Yom Yerushalayim. In both cases?the War of Independence (1948) and the Six Day War (1967)?the Jewish population of Eretz Yisrael was in great peril. In both cases, on paper, the Jews should have been annihilated, as indeed they would have been in the case of an Arab victory. In both cases the victories were correctly perceived as miraculous. Clearly, the Jewish people residing in their Land had experienced a great salvation: quite literally from death to life. Clearly, then, Hallel is called for.

One could therefore be excused for thinking that it is an open and shut case. Nevertheless, the real world, as always, is more complex; the issue of Hallel on these days has become a bone of contention in the Tora world: a question not of Halakha but of outlook (hashkafa) and politics. (Some would argue that not all rabbis agree with the foregoing Halakhic analysis. This is true. The question is why.

I, for one, have not seen any convincing Halakhic counter arguments. A little known historical fact will serve to underscore this point: in 1949, one year after the State?s establishment, Hallel was recited in the two leading Lithuanian-style haredi yeshivoth in the country, Poneviz and Hevron, and in the ultra-Orthodox Zikhron Moshe neighbourhood of Jerusalem).

The truth of the matter is that the national-religious recite Hallel because of their disposition towards the State of Israel, and the ultra-Orthodox do not recite Hallel for the very same reason. Both are relating to the issue emotionally rather than rationally; Hallel is recited to commemorate an historical event and should not be influenced by one?s ideological position.

Thus, even if the State ceased to exist tomorrow we would be required to recite Hallel to commemorate these signal events of Jewish history?just as we celebrate Hannuka to commemorate our victory over the Greco-Syrians, and its concomitant deliverance, 2170 years ago, even though the Hasmonean dynasty was a relatively short-lived and far from satisfactory episode of our history.

State vs Regime

The essential problem, in my view, is an underlying lack of clarity in some people?s political thinking. In order to dispel the confusion, we must differentiate between three distinct concepts: ?state?, ?regime? and ?government?.

The Encarta dictionary defines a ?state? as ?a country or nation with its own sovereign independent government?. The state, however, is just that: a sovereign entity. The system of government, the norms and values which animate the state, are a function of the regime, defined by the COD as a ?method or system of government, prevailing system of things?.

And within the confines of such a system, governments come and go according to the popular vote (in democratic regimes) whereas the regime remains unchanged (unless overthrown).

Israel is the ?state?; the ?regime? is the present (undemocratic) system of government and the underpinning of laws and procedures currently in force; the ?government? changes from time to time?today Likud, tomorrow who knows? Thus one may identify with the state but abhor the regime. Or accept the regime but oppose the government of the day.

The national-religious Jew who feels compelled to defend and uphold the regime, despite his underlying antipathy towards its basic assumptions, is acting out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to the State. What he should say is this: ?I love the State and owe it allegiance; I oppose the current regime which is incompatible with my values as a Tora Jew, and hope to see it replaced by a more Jewish system?.

The haredi Jew who refrains from reciting Hallel does not wish to be seen condoning the regime; the current Israeli regime on the one hand, and the State which came into being in 1948, are to him one and the same. He should say: ?I thank Hashem for granting the Jewish people victory and saving us at that time; I wish there to be a Jewish State; I oppose the current regime which is incompatible with my values as a Tora Jew, and hope to see it replaced by a more Jewish system?.

Such an approach would allow all Tora Jews to work hand in hand to make Israel what it should, and must eventually, be.

May we witness the realization of Yeshayahu?s vision:

?And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning; afterward thou shalt be called The City of Righteousness, the Faithful City?.



top