I Don’t Get It!

There are a lot of things I don’t understand. No one article like this could contain even a tiny fraction of the items in that list, but I would like to share one thorny conundrum which I just can’t get my head around. Here it is: Why don’t all Chareidim say Hallel on Yom Yerushalayim?

The Talmud teaches that Hallel should be recited when God saves the Jewish people from great dire circumstances (Pesachim 117a): Nevi’im enacted to say it at every festival and every time Yisrael is saved from distress (TZARA). Elsewhere, the Talmud records that Yeshayahu chastised Chizkiyahu the king for not singing Hallel when the Assyrian army at the gates of Yerushalayim was destroyed by disease. Actually, the Talmud says that Chizkiyahu would have become the Mashiach if only he had sung the Hallel for this salvation (Sanhedrin 94a). 

Of course, there is much splitting of hairs over what his true mistake was, but it’s clear that too much Hallel (unless it becomes daily) is not the problem. The clear disaster is not showing sufficient praise to God for Divine largesse.

So, again, I ask: How can any religious Jew not sing Hallel on Yom Yerushalayim? The clear intent of the overwhelming Arab military might was to destroy Israel. President Nasser was very clear: In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The national aim: the eradication of Israel. Cairo radio was equally adamant: This is our chance Arabs, to deal Israel a mortal blow of annihilation, to blot out its entire presence in our holy land (May 19, 1967) & The Arab people is firmly resolved to wipe Israel off the map (May 22, 1967). The Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al Assad: I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation (May 20, 1967).

Plus, there was no sign of support from any organization or nation. When Nasser demanded that the UN peacekeepers leave their posts in the Sinai Peninsula on May 16, 1967, they started leaving THREE DAYS later. They barely had time to pack. The UN put up no objections or delaying tactics, even though the Arab armies surrounding Israel were mobilizing. So much for dedication to peace.

The situation was so dire that Israel dug over 10,000 graves in secret, and over 14,000 extra hospital beds were set up around the country. At a meeting with generals two days before the war, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said: Let us not forget that and not see ourselves as Goliath-like. With unarmed and ill-equipped fists – we have no strength. It is therefore no wonder that Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin was so depressed that he actually relinquished his post for a day in May of 1967.

And then came the Miracle!! In six glorious days, the threat was destroyed. Yerushalyim was again united. HAR HABAYIT B’YADEINU! Time to say HODU L’SHEM KI TOV! KI L’OLAM CHASDO! But not many Chareidim say it. I don’t get it. How could the circumstances be any clearer?

Again, it reminds us of Chizkiyahu: He did not sing SHIRA; he will not be MASHIASCH. And Yeshayahu wailed: From the ends of the earth we hear songs, “Glory and honor to the Righteous One,” But I say, “I waste away, I waste away. Woe to me! The treacherous deal treacherously, Indeed, the treacherous deal very treacherously.” (Yeshayahu 24:16). The prophet mourned the lost opportunity of not thanking God for the rescue, and the ‘treachery’ (B’GIDA) of those who didn’t thank God.

In this recent flare up in Gaza, the Chareidi community asked for prayers during the difficult situation. I was sent one of these requests quoting from perhaps the best known Lithuanian Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Gershon Edelstein. It pleads for the ‘zechyos’ (ZECHUYOT, merits) which will save the Jewish people. These include davening and reciting TEHILLIM. Fine, and my minyanim did that. But the letter did not mention to recite prayers for the soldiers on the front. I guess that we should thank God for the 861 launched projectiles which didn’t hit Israeli populated areas, but shouldn’t there be some gratitude for the 371 missiles shot down by the IDF? Shouldn’t we at least mention the young men and women who risk their lives for our protection?

Isn’t HAKARAT HATOV, gratitude, an overriding trait in Judaism? Short answer: YES! Isn’t KAFUI TOV, ingratitude, amongst the worst possible character flaws? Same answer. I don’t get it.

Look, there are Halachic issues which are complicated and require careful analysis, like Shabbat elevators (which seem to be evil according to Chareidi press releases). But there are also no-brainers: Like saying thank you.

Could someone, please, explain to me the rationale of not thanking God for the Six Day War, when clearly not saying Hallel for a salvation is a big no-no. Since no one feels an extra ‘thanks’ to God is a problem, wouldn’t the MACHMIR (stringent) position be to err on the side of ‘nice’?

I just don’t get it.

In conclusion: Thank You, God. Thank You, God! THANK YOU, GOD for saving us and allowing us to again worship in the Old City, and for blessing the efforts of our brave, selfless soldiers to keep us safe! Amen! Is that so hard or controversial?

About the Author
Born in Malden, MA, 1950. Graduate of YU, taught for Rabbi Riskin in Riverdale, NY, and then for 18 years in Efrat with R. Riskin and R. Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Spent 16 years as Educational Director, Cong. Agudath Sholom, Stamford, CT. Now teach at OU Center and Yeshivat Orayta.
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