Should Hallel be said on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?
Aside from the obvious socio-politico-religious aspects of this question, I would like to focus on the philosophical.
It has been argued that we today lack the capacity to institute Hallel. I commented to that, with this:
We’re little. He’s big. And when a small person praises something
tremendous, the praise tends to be insuffecient, or worse insulting.Calling the praise insulting also presumes that you know how God might react to our praise. I like to think of my God as humble God, who doesn’t think himself above accepting even the smallest praise from the smallest person, as the love and adoration from every person in every form is his life-blood.
The problem with your argument…is that you can apply it to anything people want to do. “Who are you to thank God? You and your needs are small, and his wonders are great.” Or, “who are you to supplicate to God? He is great and knows what you need and will get without your supplication.”
This is of course gets into the whole “purpose of prayer” argument. As I remember (without the time to look for a link) your attitude toward prayer is not the impact on God but rather the impact on the person. In that instance, when a person feels so compelled, there should be nothing wrong with saying words and songs of praise.
And, wouldn’t you agree, that if the decision is made to celebrate, we should at least celebrate in the manner we’re accustomed to? That means praising God for everything and doing so with the formula we are given, in this case a select few psalms of praise. (Saying a bracha is a different analysis).
As you may remember, my feeling on prayer is that it is important not for it’s possible effects on God, but rather on the one who prays. If that’s the case, then why not say whatever I feel; in this case, praise to God? Some say that because of yeridat hadorot, we can’t establish Hallel anymore. I think that’s weak. Hallel is the way Jews thank God. Is that argument suggesting that we aught not thank and praise God anymore? That after a certain point in history, nothing good enough to be Hallel-worthy will come to the Jews? That’s clearly untrue. This is our formula. Why not say it? Would creating a new prayer be any better? (I say they’re equally harmless and should be encouraged).
On the other hand, I am of the belief that the current State of Israel has no religious significance. It has tremendous socio-cultural significance, and I am a Zionist and an Israeli, to be sure. I have no problem identifying myself as Israeli. However, the modern state isn’t a theocracy, there is no implementation of a Sanhedrin, no king. This isn’t “Israel,” it’s modern Israel. (Note, the implications of this thought are widespread. It means I have no problem “giving away land.” I have no problem establishing final borders that don’t include all of Yesh”a. Maybe, on the level of principle, I wouldn’t give stuff away. And maybe as a personal matter, I don’t consider Israel the aggressor in the Six Day War (so land conquered in that war isn’t occupied, it’s Israel’s). But all that is flexible; it’s negotiable. There isn’t a problem of giving away the land of Israel, because this isn’t religiously Israel.
Taking that one step further, then, perhaps Hallel isn’t appropriate. Why celebrate a socio-cultural miracle religiously? Do people go to church on July 4th? This is a national celebration. I celebrate because of my national identity. Certainly, we should celebrate, but is it the same as the celebration we have on Chanuka? I think the answer to that question is yes.
In my opinion, the hand of God is unquestionably evident in the events that transpired in to give Israel its freedom. And this miracle, despite perhaps not being evidence of the ultimate ge’ula, still was a miracle for Jews. The same way that Jews overcame their oppressors by Chanuka, so to did the modern Israelis. And so, God deserves our thanks and our praise. We are Jews. When we are saved by God, we should celebrate like Jews. Like the Jews celebrated after Kriat Yam Suf, we should sing and dance. Like we celebrate the commemoration of another astounding military victory by saying Hallel on Chanuka, we should sing the praises of God on Yom Ha’Atzmaut.