Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut is a mitzvah! Every Jew should rejoice over the State of Israel.
But we all know Jews. There are the Zionists, and non-Zionists, and Religious Zionists. To say Hallel on Yom Ha’Aztmaut or not to say Hallel? To recite it with a beracha or without the beracha?
Let’s also factor in that Yom Ha’Atzmaut takes place during the period of the Omer, when we limit our rejoicing. How can we sing and dance to celebrate Israel when we’re supposed to be limiting our happiness?
Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut would seem to be more complicated than we think.
Let’s be clear. The State of Israel is a miracle. It behooves us to celebrate the day religiously, and that means Hallel with a beracha.
It’s really very simple. It is just like Chanukah.
Here is what the Rambam says about Chanukah (Laws of Chanukah 3:1-3):
“During the Second Temple Period, when the Greeks ruled, they issued decrees against the Jews, denying their faith, and did not permit them to engage in Torah and the commandments…And the sons of Chashmonai, the Kohanim Gedolim (High Preists), prevailed, and killed them, and saved Israel from them, and appointed a king from among the kohanim. And Jewish sovereignty was restored for more than two hundred years, until the destruction of the Second Temple.”
Chanukah was a political and military victory that restored Jewish sovereignty. Its celebration is a religious obligation. We light candles each night and give thanks to God by joyously saying Hallel with a beracha.
Ba-yamim ha-heim ba-z’man ha-zeh – What happened in those days is being experienced in our own time as well. We need to learn from the lessons of Jewish history and apply them to our own experiences. We celebrated the miracle of Chanukah then. Today, we have just as much of a reason to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
To quote the late, great Rabbi Yehuda Amital of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel:
What better authority could we seek than the Rambam, who views the fact that Jews achieved some level of independence in their own country as one of the reasons for the holiday of Chanukah?…If those two hundred years of Jewish sovereignty give added significance to the miracle of Chanukah, then the ingathering of the exiles, which is taking place before our eyes, is surely of no less significance!
Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrates the restoration of Jewish independence after nearly 2,000 years of exile. That is reason to celebrate. It is a reason to party like it’s 165 BCE!
After the last blue and white cookie or falafel ball is eaten, let’s keep celebrating the miracle of the State of Israel. With all of its complexity, Israel is a beacon of light illuminating our lives and the lives of Jews everywhere.