<I>Yom Ha'atzmaut: Shehechiyanu....</I>

Who with a heart cannot feel moved enough?

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch
"Baruch shehechiyanu v'kiymanu v'higianu laz'man hazeh." - "Blessed be He that kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time[, to the actual fulfillment of this mitzvah]." So blessed Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook on Yom Ha'atzmaut, as he describes in L'Tokef Kedushato Shel Yom Ha'atzmaut (quoted by his students Rabbi Tzvi Tau in Ki Ayin B'Ayin Yir'u, pages 122-149, and Rabbi Avihu Shwartz, B'derech HaTorah HaGoelet, pages 219-225). The mitzvah that Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook was talking about was the Ramban's counting of yishuv v'kibush ha'aretz, settling, conquering and ruling over the Land of Israel, as one of the 613 commandments of the Torah.

As Rabbi Kook wrote: "We have now reached the main chapter of the fulfillment of this lofty mitzvah, a mitzvah of the many and of the tzibur (public), mitzvat Yisrael, a commandment of the Nation of Israel, which 'obligates each one of us that we not leave this land in the hand of others besides us, as our hand must be sovereign over this land, and our rule be established over her.' (Ramban, 13th century)."

Rabbi Tau explains what Rabbi Kook meant by mitzvat Yisrael. Yisrael refers to both the Land and the People of Israel. This mitzvah of yishuv ha'aretz not only falls on the Nation to fulfill, as it cannot be done to the fullest by individuals only, but it builds the Nation. By conquering our Holy Land from non-Jewish interlopers, we stop being seen on the stage of history as mere individual Jews and Jewish communities, but reappear on the world scene as the Jewish Nation. And the phenomenon of Jews as a nation can only occur in this Land.
Who cannot view that declaration of 5 Iyar, in 1948, as nothing short of a miracle?

In explaining why we have an obligation to recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu and the Hallel (which requires a miracle), Rabbi Kook wrote: "V'higianu, because the Almighty sustained us until this time of Redemption (Geulah); v'kiymanu, and he brought us to the kiyum, the fulfillment, of the divine mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Higianu - He brought us through all the numerous and dreadful sacrifices of Jewish history, via all the miracles and wonders that were revealed in our military and diplomatic battles, to this season and to the kiyum of this mitzvah. The greatest of all these miracles, and the pele hap'laot (the most wondrous of these wonders), and the base and root of all this that our Lord has shown us, is the main issue of today: the declaration of the decision that Medinat Yisrael has come into being and risen on its feet. For today has begun, arisen and stood up the independence of our rule over the Land of our Fathers, the legacy of our inheritance . As the Gemara (Pesachim 68b) says: 'It is this day that causes all this' courage of gevura (might), this strength of spirit of our public figures, who gathered this 5th day of Iyar in that house of dreams in Tel Aviv, proclaiming to the entire world and its countries that the State of Israel now exists."

I might add: Who with a heart cannot feel moved enough - after 2,000 years of churban, wanderings, libels and degradations, tortures and murders, Inquisitions and Holocausts - to say Shehechiyanu? Today, the delegitimization continues, that Jews do not deserve their promised Land as their State; and we are cursed with spineless leaders who not only not m'kayem this mitzvah as described by the Ramban, but even invite Goyim to rule over our Land. Who cannot view that declaration of 5 Iyar, in 1948, as nothing short of a miracle?

Furthermore, Rabbi Kook describes how the "courage of gevura and the strength of spirit of the public figures was as one with the lofty spirit of gevura of our holy fighting men and women, in all their different divisions, who were moser nefesh (displayed self-sacrifice) in holiness al kiddush HaShem, His Land, His Nation and His Torah. This spirit of gevura flows from the source of the neshama (soul) of Kenesset-Yisrael."

Rabbi Tau explains that just as there is a nefesh (soul), ruach (spirit) and neshama (Godly essence) to an individual, so too for a nation. And the nefesh-ruach-neshama of Yisrael as a new nation was born on that day. Even though many had no consciousness of acting for kiddush HaShem and His Torah, the very existence of Am Yisrael includes also its inner spirit, so all those acting for the establishment of the Nation of Israel were also acting for kiddush HaShem and His Torah. And the birth of this nefesh-ruach-neshama on the 5th of Iyar is a miracle no less, obligating hearts that feel it to say Shehechiyanu and Hallel.

Rabbi Tau ends his treatise with a discourse by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Shemoneh Kevatzim 7, 201) explaining that all those whose hearts were moved by this spirit of mesirat nefesh ("and miracles occur in the merit of mesirat nefesh al kiddush HaShem" [Berachot 20a]) have the zechut, the merit, of "esek bi'Geulat Yisrael," taking part in the Redemption of Israel. This includes all those who took part in the return of the exiles, the establishment of the State (an ongoing process) on its Land, the continuing story of the making of this Nation, and the enterprise of the flowering of Eretz Yisrael. All of which, he adds, is described in Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 36:22-32 - " And I will bring you to your Land... and put My Spirit in you [first the return, then repentance]... and I will make it so that you follow my statutes... and I [finally] will be your God."

Rabbi Schwartz adds historical light. From 1948 to 1967, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah daily recited the four chapters of Psalms that the rabbis declared the populace say during the War of Independence, for without "our Hevron and our Shechem and our Jericho" the war was not over. Similarly, he refrained from saying Hallel with a beracha, for "the Chief Rabbinate, factoring in the spiritual level of the entire nation, with its lack of belief," felt it not yet appropriate. Rabbi Kook felt that "the yeshiva belonged, with all its being, to the holiness of Yom Ha'atzmaut, but that it would show obedience and suffer because of Klal Yisrael." When, in 1974, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, following in the steps of Rabbi Meshulem Roth (Responsa Kol Mevaser, 1952, page 68), ruled that those whose hearts moved them to feel gratitude for the miracles of the 5th of Iyar should say Shehechiyanu and Hallel with a beracha, Rav Kook followed suit.

Rabbi Schwartz also notes that the following question came up in the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva: As 5 Iyar often coincides with the first Monday of the BeHaB Selichot prayers, which are mourning prayers for the Churban, what should be done? Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook had always felt that, since the Geulah process had only started, Yom Ha'atzmaut
Rabbi Kook ruled that both Hallel and Selichot be said.
was a fitting holy day for prayers of supplication for the Geulah Shleimah, the complete redemption. As such, he ruled that both Hallel and Selichot be said - a practice which over the years was dropped.

Yet, it is vital to note this p'sak (decision) of Rabbi Kook. Certainly, we dance for what was accomplished, and we pray in gratitude to the Lord for the gifts that the miracle of 5 Iyar have brought us - our country, built up physically, with all the benefits of our own government. Last year, I noted that Rabbi Aharon Soloveitchik said that this is the only place in the world wherein Halachic marriages are the only ones that can be performed within the country. There are myriad other examples, but I might add that Jewish education is government funded, with no hassles due to laws that separate church and state, as in the US.

(Cynics may note that Israel's level of funding is not optimal, but I would point out that I pay $10 a month for my daughter's 7th-grade Israeli religious public school education, about 1/70th of the tuition in a US day school. Also, for the $22,000 that my brother paid this year in Los Angeles for his 12th grader, I put a lawyer, an environmentalist and an optometrist each through three years at Bar-Ilan University, including courses such as Shulchan Aruch Even Ha'Ezer, Midrash Rabbah and Bible. Governments do supply services to their citizens, as opposed to Jewish Federations, which give maybe 2% of their budgets to education, and cut services to the old and needy if not profitable.)

That's not to say that everything is perfect here. We are just beyond atchalta d'Geulah, perhaps only at the "fourth hour" of the day of Redemption. Selichot are still in order. Examples: religious education is nonexistent for most kids. Rabbi Schwartz even mentions that Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook even had a play on words, referring to the general public education (klali with the letter kaf) as "the accursed education" (klali with a koof). In law, those who hoped for mishpat Ivri to be the law of the Land, which included Rabbi Kook and Rabbi Eliezer Waldenburg (the latter, in his book Hilchot Medinah, referred to "atchalta d'Geulah in the arising of our Medinah on part of our Holy Land, with our own independent government," page 8), have been disappointed. We even had the low point of the ex-head of the Mossad admitting last week that Margalit Har-Shefi was framed by the government and the judiciary, who destroyed her life and career in order to libel the settlement movement (i.e., what is left of Zionism). And in government and social affairs, we have the uncorrected stain of the destruction of Gush Katif, as well as daily corruption.

Finally, it is instructive to look at the above-quoted responsa of Rabbi Meshullam Roth, cited by Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Schwartz, Rabbi Tau and even Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik (Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind, page 190). He argues that from Megillah 14a, where Mordechai and Esther reasoned that "if from Egyptian slavery to freedom the Jews said shirah, certainly in being saved from death to life" shirah and even Hallel should be said. "And certainly in our case, which impacts all of Klal Yisrael, and there is both redemption 'from slavery to freedom' (we have been freed of the yoke of the nations, stand up as free men, and have furthermore attained national, governmental independence) and salvation from death (at the hands of enemies who attempt to exterminate us) to life. It is our obligation to declare a Yom Tov. And well did our leaders choose this 5th day of Iyar specifically for the main miracle - that we were brought from slavery to freedom - which occurred on this date with the declaration of our independence.... This nes (miracle) brought after it the second miracle, of our salvation from death to life , both in our war against the Arabs in Eretz Yisrael and the salvation of the Jews in the Diaspora from their enemies, which comprises the third miracle of the day - the Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the Exiles, as myriads of Jews could now make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael."