Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hallel for Yom ha’Atzmaut without a berachah (Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook)

Yeshivat Hesder Ramat Gan published “Go’el Yisrael גואל ישראל,” several years ago. The book collects considerable quality material on Yom ha’Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, from Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, his son Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, their students, and other giant of Religious Zionism. It also offers a complete seder tefillah for Yom haAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim.

On page 300-301, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook is quoted regarding the Chief Rabbinate’s recommendation of saying Hallel without a berachah on Yom ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day:

On the Erev Shabbat preceding Yom ha’Atzmaut, a certain important man came to me and asked why our rabbis do not permit us to recite a berachah upon Hallel for Yom ha’Atzmaut. I replied to him that the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate is balanced and correct.

The enactments of the Chief Rabbinate apply to the entire community. Since, to our pain and shame, a great portion of our community does not believe in the great act of Gd which is revealed to us in the establishment of the government of Israel, and since, due to its lack of faith, it lacks joy, it is not possible to obligate them to recite Hallel with a berachah. It is like someone who sees a friend and is glad to see him, who is obligated to recite a berachah; if he is joyous, he recites a beracah. If he is not joyous, he does not recite a berachah.

Rav Maimon, whose entire being was dedicated to building Gd’s nation and portion, was filled with the joy of faith, and so he established in his synagogue to recite Hallel with a berachah. The same is true in other, similar places – the IDF and religious kibbutzim. However, the Chief, all-inclusive Rabbinate cannot enact a berachah as an all-inclusive ruling for the entire community, when the community is not ready for it.

In our central Yeshiva we had followed the ruling of the Rabbinate, for we are not a kloiz of a specific sect. We are associated with the general Jewish population centered in Yerushalayim, and since that population includes, for now, to our pain and our embarrassment, obstacles to complete faith and joy, and therefore to the obligation to recite a berachah, it is appropriate that we also act according to the ruling of the Rabbinate for the general population.

I find this explanation fascinating for many reasons, including the following:

• I’m not sure which group he means, when he speaks of those who don’t believe in the great act of Gd – does he mean those who do not believe in Divine intervention? Or those who do not believe that the State is an act of Gd?

• I wonder how many people who do not believe in Divine intervention, or who do not believe that the State is an act of Gd, daven in Mercaz haRav – and on Yom ha’Atzmaut in particular?

• I believe that his insistence on keeping the yeshiva – the bastion of his father’s Torah! – as an institution open to all, and serving all, and avoiding divisive practices even on matters we hold most dear, should be a model for all of us. This is true leadership.


  1. Just got home from Ma'ariv for Yom Ha'atzmaut and to my dismay I have to say that the shul I davened in not only said Halel - at night, but made a Bracha!

    Hard to believe that this isn't a Bracha L'vatala, although I'm told that there is a rav in Yerushalayim who rules this way (can't remember his name).

    Someone also said that Hallel at night is also the minhag at Merkaz, although I find that hard to believe and I would be very surprised if they made a bracha.

  2. Interesting. I, too, do not think this is likely at Merkaz.

    The Sefer Goel Yisrael that I mentioned in the post is a very interesting read, and in the relevant material they provide I did not notice any sort of recommendation for nighttime Hallel.

  3. Well, I am doubting my memory now...

    I *seem* to recall that we said Hallel with a b'rachah in the yeshiva. This was during Rav Tzvi Yehuda's last years. I could be wrong. In any case, it is in keeping with the instruction published by Rav Goren and Rav Yosef as the Chief Rabbis in Nisan, 5734.

    I also recall saying Hallel at night in the beit midrash, though not everyone did. That was in accord with Rav Goren's instruction in 5736. In general, Rav Tzvi Yehudah was pretty adamant about carrying out Rav Goren's instructions when he was Chief Rabbi.

    Rav Goren's approach re: Hallel at night can be found in the relevant article in Torat HaShabbat v'haMoed. Also, Rav Rackover edited a thorough anthology called Hilchot Yom HaAtzmaut v'Yom Yerushalayim which includes much of this discussion.

    Happy Yom Atzmauteinu!

  4. Hello R' Mordechai,

    Thanks for your comment. My citation comes from R' Zvi Yehuda in 1967. Perhaps he did later change practice to match Rav Goren's psak...