Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

How do we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut ?

I was not planning on writing a blog, but as usual, I am always troubled about how we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut? Maybe, I should call this a guide for the Perplexed. What should be such a simple thing, is so complex is beyond my understanding.

The issues go deeper than just saying/singing Hallel with a blessing or not. In our street in Jerusalem, we have a balcony/courtyard Minyan and the discussion of Hallel came up. Some of the Hareidi neighbors had not given too much thought to this as the Haredi Shuls or Community have ignored this.  So, we have a large part of Am Yisroel who does not show public recognition of the Gift and Miracle that God has allowed us to return to our land after 2000 years. Trying my best to be politically correct here. The less I write the better.

So this morning, as usual, I turn on that modern TV to look at the news – by that I mean I open up Facebook, and what pops is what Rabbi Alex Israel who wrote a post titled “Redemption and Reality and the Incongruity of our Yom HaAtzmaut Liturgy”.  I quote an extract.

“But personally, what disturbs me far more is the fact that the prayers do not match the religious ‎sentiments that I want and need to express on Yom Haatzmaut. This is a Tefilla that limps and is ‎incapable of bringing me to religious heights.‎

We leave Yom Hazikaron in a heightened state of emotion, and with a great sense of anticipation. ‎We want to thank God for many things: For the gift that is Statehood, sovereignty, for the victory of ‎six wars against our enemies, for our daily safety, for the ingathering of the exiles, and the ‎fulfillment of so many biblical prophecies; for our national pride, for our beautiful land which is ‎also the land of the Tanakh, a land of Covenant, of Divine presence, the land of our ancestors, kings, and prophets, and the scholars of the ‎Mishna. We want to be thankful for the renewal of Jewish culture, for the revival of the Hebrew ‎language, for the broad expression of religion and Torah learning here, all government-supported, for the sheer joy of belonging, of a Jewish country. ‎And I’m just getting warmed up. ‎”

So, I am still looking for ways to inspire some unity in my little balcony minyan of barely 10 men, so I search on the Internet – How do we celebrate Yom Ha’aztmaut ?

So, I get distracted by politics and philosophy. And what comes up is a featured article from the Forward. “Can we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with the threat of impending annexation? “ not exactly what I am looking for, But in the interests of the greater Unity of am Yisrael, I have to kook to see what is troubling these Jews, They are concerned with the conflict of Democracy and Jewish identity. And for us now living in the world of Covid19, we have been exposed to a lack of Democracy and totalism.It is not pretty. Maybe for our good, but there are definitely imperfections.

So, what is the message here? In the article, Ilan Roth wrote “ To those of us on the left, a political and territorial separation from the Palestinians, the other national group with whom Jews share the land, is the only way for Israel to retain its identity as a Jewish and democratic state for the remainder of our lifetimes and those of our children and beyond. Annexation presents the real risk of making that separation impossible to meaningfully achieve”

Well, am a big leftist, I want Unity, I want peace in the Land, I want everybody to be prosperous, healthy, and content with their lot. If the government  (and people) acts for the good of the people, and democracy is modified a bit, so be it, but to separate between Jews and Jews, Jews and Arabs, (and Christians) is not the way forward. Note the pun in the word Forward. Maybe they should change the name of their publication to backword.

Anyway, back to the present and the saying Thank you to God for the Gift of the Land and the State of Israel.

For Rabbi Alex Israel, his message is that Hallel is the ideal Prayer. I add, especially when sung from the heart in the Carlebach Tradition. For a deeper understanding of the passion for Israel of  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach – see the featured video.

But this is still, not enough, so going back to Google, I come across the following  which is a philosophical discussion about Guela, Redemption, and the bumpy ride of the establishment of the State. While this makes interesting reading, I was looking for something juicy and came across the following story.

As they say, a story reaches our soul and heart.

The Talmud tells of the love that our Rabbis had for Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel:  “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Chanina would remove rocks from the roads, so that no one would be damaged by them and thereby have a complaint against the Holy Land”(Ketuvot 112a).

There was a great Talmid Chacham( Torah scholar) in the last century, Rabbi Yissachar Tamar, who wrote the book  Alei Tamar, a commentary on the Talmud  Yerushalmi. Regarding the above Gemara, the Alei Tamar brings the following story about the hassidic Rebbe of Sadigur (Alei Tamar, p.69, on Tract. Sheviis , Chap.4 Halacha 7) :

“Every Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the Rebbe made his way to the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. There he would join the other congregants praying Hallel (Thanksgiving prayers, Psalms 113-118) with great joy. After the services, the Rebbe would join the dancing throngs outside in the streets, clasping hands and dancing with enthusiasm and happiness. It was always obvious that the Rebbi of Sadigur felt a special joy on Yom Haatzmaut.

One year, one of his hassidim got up the nerve to have a personal audience with the Rebbe and question him about his Yom Haatzmaut behavior. The answer he got tells us how many light-years ahead of his contemporaries, and some of ours, stood the Rebbi of Sadigur:

‘In March,1938, the Nazis (may their name and memory be blotted out) swallowed up Austria, and entered Vienna. Their first move was to accomplish the degradation of the Jews, and as the Rabbi of the Jewish community, they chose me, giving me a big broom and had me sweep the streets of Vienna. As I did that work, I prayed: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), may it be Thy will that I merit to take a broom and sweep the streets of Eretz Yisrael’.

‘Obviously, it is not fitting for your Rebbe to be seen in the streets of Tel Aviv sweeping in front of everybody. So, on Yom Haatzmaut I get up at 3 am, take a big broom and with great שמחה (happiness) I sweep the streets of my neighborhood.

After sweeping in Vienna, the Nazis יש’וזכרם  (may their name be blotted out) shoved  a Nazi flag in my hands and made me climb to the top of a tall building and plant their swastika atop the roof. As I climbed, I turned to the Creator and said:

‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may I yet merit to wave the flag of Israel in a high spot in the Land of Israel’. And so I plant on my roof the flag of Israel on Yom Haatzmaut, with happiness and התלהבות (burning enthusiasm), thanking the Lord that He accepted my prayers’.

To this the Alei Tamar adds: “May those who love His Land hear this, understand the issues, and add to his wisdom”.

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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