Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kookצילום: מתוך אתר ישיבת בית אל

The question is an ancient one, having arisen during the Wars of the Maccabees , and is described in Megillat Antiochus (ascribed to the Hashmonean brothers by Rav Saadiah Gaon). The setting was the death in battle of Yehudah Hamaccabi, in the battle of Elasah. This battle occurred FIVE YEARS after the date of the eight-day miracle of the original Hanukkah Menorah. That miracle happened during the rededication of the Temple, in 165 BCE. Indeed, the War against the Syrian Greeks continued for a full twenty five years after the original Hanukakh. In the words of Megillat Antiochus (quoted by Rav Tvi Tau, Emunat Iteinu, vol. 4, p. 27):

"In the battle, Yehudah was killed. The sons of Mattisyahu immediately returned to their father, who said:' Why have you come back?'

'They answered: 'Because our brother Judah has been killed- he, who was the equal of us all put together. We cannot continue this war'.

'Mattisyahu : 'I (AH: at age 83) will go out with you to battle, lest the Children of Israel be destroyed. But you: how is it that you panic at the loss of your brother?'

'Thus Mattisyahu led his sons and the nation into battle that very day, and the Lord of heaven and Earth gave the battalions of the nations into their hand. The Maccabim, slaying many- some by the sword and some by hanging- rejoiced (samchu) in the victory of Bnei Yisrael over their enemies. "

Rav Tau: " There is great pain in war, as we mourn those who lost their lives in the Kiddush Hashem of destroying Darkness and bringing the Light of the Lord into this world (a result that brings joy to the Children of Israel). However, Mattisyahu delivered a message of rebuke to his children: "You are fighting for the survival of the Nation of Israel. There is no place for panic and sadness over the loss of individuals- even if that individual is so lofty as Yehudah.

Then, in victory, וישמחו בני ישראל- - "the Children of Israel rejoiced".

Indeed, Purim is a " day of feasting and simchah " (happiness; Megillat Esther, 9,17). No such description is seen in the Shulchan Aruch about Hanukkah (although the Rambam does mention simchah on Hanukkah). The Mishnah Berurah says the difference is that on Purim, Haman and Achashveirosh threatened us with physical destruction, and so our celebration is physical, with feasting in joy (Siman 670; 2,6). Hanukkah, on the other hand, featured a spiritual threat to Judaism. However, this ignores the many stories of mass murder (Chanah and her seven sons,etc.).

In another answer, the Tallei Orot on Megillat Esther (9;17) says that on Purim the Jewish fighters lost not one Jew in a quick, two day battle, and so were entitled to rejoice fully. In contrast, the Chashmonaim had a 25 year war with countless battles, and many Jews fell; therefore, the Rabbis did not institute anything like the unbridled joy of Purim.

Thus, the question remains: with our seven-month-long war, are we to celebrate and be happy on Yom Ha'atzmaut?

Rav Tau, quoting Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, sees it differently than the Mishnah Berurah and the Tallei Orot. Quoting the Ramchal (Mesillat Yesharim chap.19), he declares that a Jew must learn to harbor both the sadness and revulsion over the horrors of war, with the simchah over the "haramat karnam shel Yisrael u'biur hatum'ah min haolam": the lifting of the splendor of Israel, and the decimation of evil/impurity from the world. Allowing both emotions in one's heart at the same time, is a very high level of hassidut ( Ramchal). Is it attainable?

Rav Tau answers: certainly. In war (מלחמת מצווה ), All Jews are uplifted to this high spiritual level. King David had his every soldier give a conditional divorce to his wife before leaving for the front, with the aim not only of preventing Agunot, but also to relieve Jewish soldiers from the burden of worry about their families at home. King David knew that war must be waged by men divorced of every personal consideration, by men involved in a רעיון יותר כללי ויותר עליון, מהלך עבודת הקודש של עם כולו- in an ideal more general/national (klal) and more elevated, in the process of the holy work of the entire Nation of Israel. Thus, in the time of war, Rabbinic leaders must infuse the nation with knowledge, strength and Simchah( joy), offering encouragement to those fighting in the horrific theaters of war:

"Rav Tzvi Yehudah would cry at funerals, and break out in tears while hugging a wounded soldier- yet a minute later, would exalt with Simchah over the Yeshua haklalit sheholecht uba'ah (the salvation of the Nation that was unfolding). When people would approach him with issues that reflected sadness and dejection, he would roar:" Shmirat Halashon! Guard your tongue!".

Rav Kook would not allow such matters to be brought up in public, and would follow ancient Mattisyahu in his rebuke: " אתם נבהלתם??- dare not panic in front of me!"

Rav Tau quotes the Kabbalistic book Seder Hayom:"Do not take the mitzvah of the holiday of Hanukkah lightly (thinking that it is merely a Rabbinic holiday, not being written in the Torah). For in this historical period, the Lord granted us much Chesed (kindness) and good, saving us from those who would kill us and do us other evils. Do not be ungrateful, to not join in the Simchah of Yisrael . On the contrary , you must involve yourself with the Redemption (Geulah) of Yisrael and comforting Israel over the accompanying sorrows".

Like the brothers Hashmonai, we mourn over the deaths of 1,400 Jews on October 7. We lament the deaths of some 500 soldiers and many civilians since this October 7 war was forced upon us. We cry because some 100 remaining hostages are not breathing freely among their brethren. However, we dare not engage in exaggerated sadness and emasculating, misplaced endeavors (encouraging another Gilad Shalit)- even more, we must rejoice in the Redemption of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

Furthermore, we know well the consequences of having too much mercy on our Arab enemies, inviting the horrors of Oslo, Arafat, PA, Hamas and the Lebanon retreat. Kiryat Shmona is a ghost-town , and similarly vast areas of the Galilee and the Gaza envelope. Just as the 25 year Chashmonei War resulted in a sovereign Kingdom in Israel, the only answer to our Arab enemy is the return to the only proven solution that led to peace in Yehudah-Shomron and Gaza and its envelope: the 25 year rule of the State of Israel, from 1967 until 1992. Had Israel followed that model, Sinwar and his ilk would have attacked Be'eri armed with rocks. It is the only way to guarantee a peace in the Middle East. All else is delusion.

I must finish with more from Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who concluded his daily prayers every day since the miraculous day of Yom Ha'atzmaut 1948, with the four chapters of Psalms that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate decreed to say during that 1948 War of Independence. His explanation: "The Arabs and their allies never stopped their war on the Jews of Israel- it continues" for these many (now76) years. Yet Rabbi Kook certainly rejoiced when it was called for : weddings, holidays, Yom Ha'atzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim. Like Mattityahu HaChashmonai, we know that Life has both joy and tears.

Rabbi Kook: " מאת ה' היתה זאת, היא נפלאת בעינינו - (Psalms 118,23)- 'this is from the Lord, it is wondrous in our eyes'. We don't understand all the hills and valleys, the ups and downs in this process of Geula (Redemption)- but be know this and are happy: in this process, Jews are partners with the גואל צדק (Goel Tzedek), The Righteous Redeemer. But Goel Tzedek means not just that the Almighty is a righteous redeemer of Israel. It means that we are partners with the Lord in the redemption of righteousness and justice in this world.

"The Geula of Yisrael is the development of Tzedek, righteousness and justice, morality and ideals; it is not just His Redemption of us, but our Geulat Hashchina, our Redemption of His Presence in this world, as we redeem Tzedek itself from the impurity of טומאה (evil, filth and pollution- such as Hamas and their allies) in this Holy Land and in this world . In this we rejoice ".

Happy Yom Ha'atzmaut .

שיהיו דברי תורה אלו לזכות פדיון נפשה של חטופה, פרל יוכבד בת רייצה מירל, אמא שלי