Every year, many questions are asked about Yom Haazmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Here are some samples and brief answers to help us get into the exalted spirit of the day.



Question:

Is the State of Israel really the great redemption for which the Jews have been praying for two thousand years?



Answer:

YES!!! The Shmoneh Esrei (Amida) prayer includes the entire vision of the Jewish resurrection of statehood. Among our requests, we appeal to G-d to redeem us from our state of depravity in the Exile and to rebuild the nation in Israel. For two thousand years the Jewish People were overwhelmed by persecution, poverty, hunger, epidemics, and national disgrace. Today, thank G-d, since the return of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, the situation of the nation is far more positive. An incredible blessing has been bestowed on the Jewish People in our time ? health, prosperity, the national return to Eretz Yisrael, the upbuilding of Jerusalem, and the rebirth of our Land. Photographs taken sixty years ago depict Israel as a land of deserts and swamps. Today, the Land is bursting with new life. Rabbi Kook would exhort his students to simply open their eyes and see the miraculous rebirth taken place all over the country, from the agricultural bounty, to the building of Yeshivot, to the great military might. Obviously, this is all G-d's Hand, bringing His children home to the Promised Land. This is what is meant when we pray for G-d to allow us to witness the return of His Divine Presence to Zion ? that we should see in the day-to-day rebuilding of Israel the gradually unfolding actualization of our prayers.



Question:

Can the secular State of Israel be the manifestation of the Redemption as envisioned by the Prophets?



Answer:

Once, a young Torah student wrote to Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav, asking this very same question. He answered that there were many periods of spiritual decline during the First Temple, such as King Yerovam, the son of Navat, who set up idols in Dan and Bet-El; King Ahaz, who closed all of the study halls; King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who killed all of the Prophets and banned the worship of G-d. In addition, Herod, the rebuilder of the Second Temple, murdered all of the rabbis, save one, whom he merely blinded. Yet both the periods of the First and Second Temple are considered by everyone as redemptions from the exiles which preceded them. In contrast, during the seventy years between the First and Second Temples, even though Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi abounded; great Torah scholars like Baruch ben Neria and Ezra upheld the light of the Torah; and great leaders like Mordechai and Daniel inspired the nation ? this was a time of exile.



Question:

How can rabbis today make a new holiday with special holiday prayers like Hallel on Israel Independence Day.



Answer:

This question has been addressed at length by many halachic authorities, such as Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi Yehuda Gershoni, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah, Rabbi Meshulem Roth, and others. Their responses are compiled in the book, "Laws of Independence Day and Jerusalem Day," by Professor Nachum Rackover.



Rabbi Meshulem Roth wrote: "Behold, there is no doubt that this day which was established by the State and the members of the Knesset, who were chosen by the majority of the congregation, and by the majority of the great rabbis, to celebrate it in the entire Land in memory of the miracle of our salvation and freedom ? it is a mitzvah to commemorate it by making it a joyous day with the recital of Hallel."



Rabbi Menachem Kasher stated: "That everyone who says Hallel on this day in accordance with the great rabbis is certainly doing a great thing."



As we say at the end of the Yom Ha'azmaut prayers, "Just as we merited the beginning of the redemption, so may we merit the completion of this redemptive process," speedily, in our day .



-------------------------------------------------------------

Rabbi David Samson is one of the leading English-speaking Torah scholars in the Religious-Zionist movement in Israel. He has co-authored four books on the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook available on-line at RabbiKookBooks.com. Rabbi Samson served as Rabbi of the Kehillat Dati Leumi Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, and teaches Jewish Studies at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Institutions.