Tachanun on Erev Yom Haatzmaut  

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism הרב צבי יהודה קוק בהנחת אבן הפינה לשילה. יושב מימינו ישראל אלדד
הרב צבי יהודה קוק בהנחת אבן הפינה לשילה. יושב מימינו ישראל אלדד

Rav Tvi Yehudah Hakohen Kook once related this story:  

"I was asked by a Gadol (famous Rabbi) why the Chief Rabbinate declared that this country should not pray the Tachanun prayer during the Minchah (afternoon) service on the day before Yom Ha'atzmaut( Israel Independence Day). He understood that on Friday afternoon, with Shabbat following, and on Erev (day before) Yom Tov we omit Tachanun, as the Kedusha (holiness) of those days spills over to the day before . As such, the day before is not fit for a prayer of anguish that begins: 'I am exceedingly distressed'- and continues in that vein with Tehillim Perek 6 (Psalm 6). But 'since the Yom Haatzmaut is not a day of Kedusha, but merely a day of הלל והודאה (praise and thanks) to the Lord for giving us Jews our own country'- he didn't understand why the [Israeli Chief] Rabbinate declared not to say Tachanun the day before(assuming there being no holiness to spill over to the preceding day).

"I replied: What do you mean, there is no Kedusha to Yom Haatzmaut? We are living the קץ המגולה , the revealed Redemption, as the prophet Ezekiel foretold: ' You, mountains of  Israel, your will grow your branches and bear your fruit for my NATION ISRAEL , as they return, for I am with you' (Ezekiel 36; 8-9). We believe in the holiness of these Words of G-d as we reveal their reality in our historic times. We believe in the holiness of our meriting to fulfill the מצווה דאורייתא (Torah commandment) to live in Israel (Yishuv ha'aretz)! The Mitzvah of מלחמה , battle for this land! The Mitzvah of maintaining an armed forces for Israel! The Mitzvah of כיבוש ישראל , conquering the land of Israel!  

"So certainly we don't say Tachanun on Erev Yom Ha'atzmaut "(Ki Ayin b'Ayin Yiru, page 165).             

Rav Yaakov Levanon adds:

"Just as the founding politicians - Ben Gurion, Rav Zerach Varhaftig et al - had the courage despite all the dangers and odds, to declare the founding of the Jewish State of Israel -so we, via the power we were granted by the Almighty to differentiate between Israel and the nations of the world (כח המבדיל בין ישראל לעמים),  rise up, are rejuvenated (קמנו ונתעודד)and declare the name of the Lord on this, our Independence. We are commanded in our Holy(Kadosha) Torah to be an independent, sovereign nation living in this, our Holy Land; and thus on the fifth day of Iyar, 148, the State of Israel arose and was brought into being"(ibid, page 167).      

We recently read the parshiot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, as its name implies, deals with matters of holiness.

Rav Matis Weinberg explains that holiness has to do with partitions, mechitzot. Partitions define where a person belongs, and where he does not belong. Thus, in Acharei Mot, Nadav and Avihu violated the partitions of the Tabernacle, going where they did not belong. Similarly, the parsha deals with banishing the Sair La'Azazel, the Yom Kippur scapegoat, from the boundaries of civil society to the desert of the demons of evil. The parsha thus also deals with bringing a sacrifice outside its legal partitions of the Tabernacle.  

Both Parshiot deal with incest. This is because the partitions of Kedusha define not only where I belong, but what I am permitted to relate to- and by Divine Law (chok) a person is not allowed  intimate relationships with his roots. Roots include the Holy of Holies, the inner source of all Kedusha in Creation- which one must not cavalierly enter it at any time. One is not allowed to eat blood because blood is a universal root of animal existence. As the nation branches out to life outside the Holy Tabernacle, and individuals (peratim) develop outside(out of the partitions) of basic life forms, then one is allowed to form relationships. A man may not be intimate with mother, sister, etc. – nor form intimate, homosexual  relationships with another possessor of XY genetic roots ; one must branch out, distance himself from his roots and join G-d in His diverse, explosive Creation.

All this is implied by Mechitzot, partitions, of Holiness.

This Omer period of the Jewish calendar also stresses the idea of peratim, the details of Creation, uniting into a Klal, a national entity. As Rav Weinberg puts it, Omer culminates in Shavuot and the Malchut( Kingship/sovereignty of the Almighty, Israel and King David) because that is another "chok" (law) of our existence. All systems, from the biological individual to business corporations to nations, consist of peratim self-organizing into a system. Each system is a Malchut.

Our nation is unlike any other. The other nations self-organized out of simple survival instinct and circumstances of history. Rav Levanon: We, the עם הנצח, the eternal holy nation, were commanded by the Torah of the Lord to form a Nation of Israel.

One corollary of this is an ancient controversy in the time of the Second Temple. The Rabbis held the opinion that the Omer sacrifice is a public one and cannot be brought from private funds. The faction called Tzedukim (Saducees) philosophically were against the idea of Klal, and permitted the Omer to be brought to the Temple from private, prati, monies.  

This leads to two modern controversies in this country. In 1982, Rav Drukman engaged in a debate against MK Yossi Sarid in the Knesset.  Sounding like Minister Miri Regev circa 2019, Rav Drukman denounced the Knesset giving public monies to the play "The Patriot". In the play, Israel was portrayed as a society of murderers of Arabs, comparable to Nazi Germany ;

Rav Drukman: "Does freedom of speech mean liberty to unbridled, chaotic license to shame and slander (הפקרות השתוללות וביזוי)?"

Yossi Sarid,   speaking like a Tzeduki of old : "For me, there is only one entity at the top of the pyramid: Man, the individual (הפרט), his destiny, his future, and foremost, his life. For you, at the top stands the Medina, the State."         

Rav Drukman: "No. At the top of the ladder is G-d and His Divine values. The goal of the individual man (prat) is the realization and actuation of those Divine values. Throughout all generations the Nation of Israel gave its all for those values of Truth- and also in our days, ever since we returned to this, our Holy  Land, we continue to give our all , including life itself, for the Klal: for the Nation of Israel, for this Medina (country), and for these Divine values". (Hineni, pages 156-157)

One last modern bugaboo has been the conscription to the Army of those who learn Torah. Governments have fallen over the issue, and it is still in today's headline as PM Netanyahu strives to form a coalition. In Simcha Raz's biography of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, he describes that even in 1948 the issue nearly tore Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in two. Rav Tzvi Yehuda, the Nazir Rav David Kohen, and Rav Raanan were for leaving a handful of Torah learners in the Yeshivah, and the rest to go to a war of survival. Rav Charlap was against. Rav Shaar Yashuv Kohen, not yet a Rav and decades later Chief Rabbi of Haifa, wanted to send a group from Mercaz into the embattled Old City, with a plan to fight eight hours a day, learn eight hours and sleep/eat eight hours. Rav T.Z. Kook: "We are fighting for our foothold in this Holy Land and in Jerusalem the Holy City. This is certainly a מלחמת מצווה, a war which is mandated by Divine command of the Torah".

After the foundation of the State, for decades there was an annual Yom Haatzmaut military parade- and Rav Tzvi Yehudah went to every one. He explained:

|The Torah does decry the attitude: 'My ability and the strength of my own hand has accumulated all this wealth and success for me' (Devarim 8; 17). But only if we separate the Almighty from the world of action, then this material wealth and strength constitute a sin. On the contrary-it is our obligation to succeed (חובה עלינו לעשות חיל), but to attribute that success the Hakadosh Baruch Hu ( he Holy One) . We must recognize that it is the Lord , our G-d who has give us this Koach (strength) and this success, As men of faith we stand on this Independence Day and appreciate this material success, including our Army- and proclaim to the world that it is all G-d's."    

As every tank passed, he proclaimed: "אשרי העם שככה לו Fortunate is the Nation that has it thus, fortunate is the Nation that Hashem is its Lord" (Simcha Raz, Mashmia Yeshua, pages 270-272, 283).

In the same vein, a story from Rav Shlomo Riskin:

In the late 1970's and early 80"s , Rav Riskin was Rav of the Lincoln Square Synagogue. He already had plans to build Efrat, and to that end he spent every summer in Israel in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim-  which happens to be next door to Rav Drukman's Mercaz Shapiro. In "Listening to God, Inspirational Stories for my Grandchildren" (published by Maggid Books, 2010), Rav Riskin tells a marvelous story of how Rav Drukman got up from a hospital bed after a heart attack to intercede with PM Menachem Begin to save the whole project of Efrat, which was cancelled by cabinet order in the planning stages( page 313). Interestingly , Rav Drukman tells the same story in his autobiography, Hineni, from his perspective (page 143).

However, it's another story that touches on the Torah learner conscription story. One summer, Rav Riskin was in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim and he went with his friend Yehudan Noiman to attend a funeral in Kfar Chassidim. Also at the funeral was the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch, who caught sight of Noiman and verbally attacked him:

"So that's you, Yehudah- who once attended Ponovitch Yeshiva and was known as Yudke iluy( Yehudah the genius). Did Rav Shach give you permission to leave the Yeshiva to join a kibbutz? You too could have been a Rosh Yeshiva. The letters Rav Shach wrote to you not to leave will serve as prosecuting attorney in the heavenly tribunal before G-d after your passing in 120 years".  

Yehudah Noiman was not intimidated .:"The kibbutz that I helped build, the guns thait I use in the wars that I fought, and the souls of the many Jews whose lives I protected - they will be my defence attorneys. And they will win the day and exonerate me before G-d."

"I didn't remain the same Yudke that I was in the Yeshiva. I changed. I saw the changes in history. I saw what our generation demanded. I think I even saw what G-d expected of me. I looked around myself at the ravages of the Holocaust. I understood that our era demanded that the Kibbutz, and the battlegrounds of war, had to serve as the infrastructure for the establishment of the Jewish State, the first Jewish State in close to two thousand years. I didn't remain the same because Jewish history didn't remain the same. You remained the same. You didn’t change" (pages 307-308).   

Rav Riskin concludes:  "G-d is the G-d of history. 'I will be what I will be, Ye-Ho-Va'. He will bring about change. The old must be renewed and the new must be made Kadosh, sanctified with holiness. That's what Rav Kook taught. That's what Yehuda Noiman was expressing".  

Yom Haatzmaut kadosh vesameach.  Happy Israel Independence Day.