Try this test. Ask 100 fellow Jews the following simple question; What’s the next Jewish holiday? I would imagine that 90 of them will answer “Shavuot” while 9 might say “Lag B’omer”. That comes to 99 wrong answers. First of all, Lag B’omer is not a holiday. While it is a very important day on the Jewish calendar, there is no Hallel and the day itself is really just a big “yahrzeit” for the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Yes, many people – hundreds of thousands, actually – make their way to his grave in Meron and Israelis all over the country light bonfires, but that does not turn the day into a holiday. Furthermore, outside of Eretz Yisrael, the only ones celebrating Lag B’omer are Lubavitch Chassidim while the overwhelming majority of Jews do little more than skip “Tachanun”.
The real answer to that question – and my guess is that only 1 out of 100 got it right is: Yom Ha'atzmaut. This year, that very special holiday will be celebrated on May 2nd – just 2 weeks after Pesach. Contrary to what you have learned, this is a major day on our calendar and one must do a lot more than just eat blue and white cupcakes.
I realize that many Rabbis will ignore this day, and some might even talk against it, but please don’t fall into that trap. This is a very special, holy day that we must thank Hashem for. Without a doubt, one must say Hallel on this day. While I follow the opinion that Hallel should be said with a bracha, there is also a Halakhic opinion that Hallel should be recited without a bracha, and I have no problem with those who follow that opinion. What bothers me very much are the ones who ignore Hallel completely, because it is not just Hallel that they are ignoring but also all the miracles that Hashem performed for our Nation.
How can we be so stubborn and so blind? How can one not see the prophecies coming true? How can so many religious Jews deny the events of the last 70 years and simply brush them off, like dandruff? How can we be so ungrateful to our Father in heaven?? Simply put, I feel that not recognizing the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a heavenly miracle is one of the greatest desecrations of G-d’s Name ever in history. We were given a gift and we threw it back in G-d’s “face”. Our people experienced a national “revival of the dead” yet we crawled back to the grave. What a horrible thing we did.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that today’s Israel is perfect but I see it as a new baby that was given, after many years, to a childless couple. How many tears did that couple shed? How many prayers did they say? How many dreams did they have and then – finally – after so many years a child is born! What joy! What praises to Hashem! But wait… the child doesn’t walk and he doesn’t talk. He can’t even add 1+1… why are the parents so happy? One word; Potential. The parents thank Hashem for giving them the gift of life and the trust and responsibility that they will turn that life into a loyal servant to the King of Kings. They look at their little baby and see the amazing potential he/she has. With the right education and values, that spitting, diaper-wearing, crying baby will turn into a full-fledged Torah observant Yid who can change the world… and they have been put in charge to make it happen. How can’t they be happy and thank Hashem???
I see the modern State of Israel as the exact same thing – but on a national level. How many tears did our people shed asking, no – begging Hashem for Him to bring us back home? How many prayers were said – when Jews meant every word – to end the bitter exile? And then, that childless nation that cried for 2,000 years, was given the gift of life. A return to Zion! Hashem put His trust in us that we would take His precious gift and turn it into the Land of milk and honey. Hashem knows that we can do it! Yes, this “child” is still an infant (what is 69 years when compared to other countries??) but what an incredible job we have done!
Consider this; there’s more Torah learning today in the State of Israel than ever before in Jewish history!! A new Jewish baby is born in Israel every 4 minutes! Biblical prophecies have come to life! Towns where our forefathers lived such as Hebron, Bet El and Shilo are replete with children, shuls, mikvas and thousands of fruit trees! A Jewish army has been established – the first in 2,000 years – where every base is kosher. A society where 97% of the male babies receive a bris, 80% fast on Yom Kippur, 90% had a seder on Pesach and where 100% of the banks, businesses, stock markets and government offices are closed on all Jewish holidays! Perfect… no, but deserving of praise to our Father who gave us this gift??? Definitely yes!!!
This is why Yom Ha’Atzmaut is a holiday – a real holiday where we dress accordingly and thank Hashem with words of Torah, prayers, song and of course, Hallel. But wait… there’s actually a second holiday after Pesach and before Shavuos and it’s called “Yom Yerushalayim”. This year, Yom Yerushalayim comes out on May 24th – one week before Shavuos. This year, we will be thanking Hashem for 50 years since His holy messengers – the IDF - liberated the city from the enemy during the Six Day War. In addition, it is also 50 years since we have control of Yehuda and Shomron! 50 years since we liberated the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights! More thanks to Hashem are necessary! Once again, we must say Hallel on this day to praise and thank our King for allowing us to enter more of His palace than before.
Dearest friends, Jews need to live with their eyes open to see the wonders of Hashem. Today’s modern State of Israel is a living, breathing miracle of the highest order. To not recognize and acknowledge the priceless gift that Hashem gave us is one of the biggest crimes we can commit. I shake when I think of the punishment that will come to those who “return” this gift to the store… Make sure you are not one of those people. On these two days – these two “Yom Tovs” – increase your Torah learning, praise Hashem with Hallel and extra prayers, dress like Shabbos and have a festive meal with wine. In that spirit, may Hashem give us Part II of His amazing gift; the Bet HaMikdash and the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. May it happen soon, in our day!
Shmuel Sackett is a founder of the Zehut party.