The halakhic significance of advancing Independence Day

Rabbi Menachem Perl of the Tzomet Institute discusses the considerations that led to advancing Independence Day when 5th of Iyar is Shabbat.

Shimon Cohen ,

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Israeli flag

The advancement of Independence Day to Thursday, the third of the Hebrew month of Iyar, in order to prevent the desecration of Shabbat (Sabbath), leads to various halakhic (pertaining to Jewish law) questions that Arutz Sheva discussed with the head of the Tzomet Institute, Rabbi Menachem Perl.

Independence Day normally falls on the fifth of Iyar - which, this year, is Shabbat.

Rabbi Perl points out that it was seemingly correct and possible to learn from the existing reality regarding “Triple Purim” (whereby, when the 15th of the Jewish month of Adar falls on Shabbat, the commandments of Purim are celebrated in “walled” cities over the 3-day period of the 14th to 16th of Adar), as occurred this year, and thus divide Independence Day events into two days, but the decision was made, in accordance with Rabbi Yaakov Ariel's position, to advance the day entirely to Thursday. This is in contrast to the position of Rabbi Goren, who believed that it was right to divide the celebrations of the day over two days.

"Rabbi Ariel wrote that the concern is twofold. If we advance the day to prevent the desecration of Shabbat and leave the recitation of the Hallel [prayer recited to praise G-d’s miracles and celebrate his salvation of the Jewish People from a certain crisis] for Shabbat, the general public will say that the religious people have created Independence Day for themselves, and this will not be good and in the future can also lead to separation of religion and state. We believe that everything, even the value of the State of Israel, stems from Torah and, being part of the people of Israel, we want to celebrate together with all the people of Israel," said Rabbi Perl.

On the question of transferring of the recitation of Hallel to another date and if there is any halakhic problem in such a step, Rabbi Perl says that the praise in Hallel is about the ongoing event that on the 5th of Iyar reached a certain climax, and it is not recited for the Declaration [of Independence, which took place on the 5th of Iyar] in and of itself. Therefore the recitation of Hallel can be moved to another date.

Friday, the fourth of Iyar, is an ordinary day in all respects, Rabbi Perl points out, and regarding the fact that Independence Day is celebrated in accordance with the position of Rabbi Ariel and not Rabbi Goren, he replies: "When there is doubt, you see what the people are doing, and the people do not always decide according to a certain halakhic arbiter. There are different processes and if the State decided in all its branches, including the Chief Rabbinate that pushed for bringing the day forward, then we brought everything forward as one package."