yomzYom HaZikaron: The Sacred Privilege of Awareness

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

I never knew anything about Yom HaZikaron when I was living in America. The 4th of Iyar had no relevance to my life. I lived by the American calendar not the Jewish calendar. But thank G-d, since coming home to our nation’s divinely ordained biblical inheritance, my mind knows, my heart knows and my soul knows the date and if I ever forget, the sirens that pierce the airwaves (one at 8PM and one at 11AM) remind me of the sacred privilege of Yom HaZikaron awareness.

Yom HaZikaron is a special day set aside as a time of remembering the fallen soldiers of Israel, as well as the civilian victims of war and terrorism. It is a precious day that offers national solace to the memory of the fallen, as well as communal support to the families. Unlike America, where it is a day of shopping and play, here in the Holy Land, the character of the day is like a 24-hr fast from all public places of entertainment. All businesses, schools and stores are closed. All radio and TV station broadcasting is devoted to stories and songs dedicated to the fallen of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is officially observed for all of those who fell since 1860 when Jews were first allowed to live outside the city limits of Jerusalem in what was then known as “Palestine.”

One of the many commemorative  practices that take place during the 24 hour period is the scroll of names that is broadcast by government-owned television stations. The names of the fallen are scrolled on the screen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date of deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about 3 seconds each…..3 sacred seconds to remind us of the life they gave up for a cause they believed in with their very life.

My heart is especially heavy this year as the holy date approaches, for who would have imagined last year in 2015, what we would be faced with, as the high holidays arrived and terrorism reared its ugly, ferocious, beastly head. The losses are so fresh and so real and so painful. When one is close to the source of suffering, it is more intense and impactful.

I believe every Jew, wherever they may be, owes it to their nation to mark their calendar with the date of YOM HAZIKARON AND TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF THE SACREDNESS OF THE DAY. This day bears a message for every Jew as to the debt of gratitude they owe to those who gave their lives in the fight for reclaiming our sovereignty in our G-d given land.

In a telling article written by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in a pamphlet entitled, “Zionism, A Challenge to Man’s Faith,” she lays out the truth about what it is like to be a citizen of the State of Israel, on the line, as she tells the following story:

In the Holy City, I met a woman who related a tale which reflects the agony of Zionism in the 20th and now 21st century. The woman of Jerusalem had a son named David who was 20 years old. She had a sister, who lived in New York, who had a son the same age named Chaim. Chaim, the American cousin came to Jerusalem for a year of study. Then suddenly, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Both boys were in synagogue together praying side by side. David, still wrapped in his talit (prayer shawl), without pausing for food or water, ran to answer the call of his people. He bid farewell to his cousin, his mother, his father, and to his young bride. He felt he had no choice but to go forth to defend his people.

The following day, the mother in Jerusalem, received an emergency call from the United States. “Please, please, a near hysterical voice called across the great ocean…Where is my Chaim? Please do not let him do anything rash…you must find him and get him out on the first plane to safety. We are sick with worry. I want him home!” The mother in new York was overcome with fear…and somehow in her agitation forgot to ask about David….her sister’s son…the son of Jerusalem, whose heart at that very moment was pierced by a shell in the Golan….(Northern Israel).

TWO SISTERS…TWO MOTHERS…TWO SONS

The Rebbetzin then writes the following:

The story haunts me. It leaves me no peace…For indeed, if the land of Israel has been given by G-d as an inheritance to all Jews, then by what right do we in the United States go to sleep in security, knowing that our sons are well and sound, while our sisters lie awake with a gnawing fear gripping their hearts…asking the question, “Where is he now?” …whispering a silent prayer, Hashem, Almighty G-d watch over him…”

The Rebbetzin continues:

No matter how much the American Jew has given and will give on behalf of Israel, he will never equal the sacrifice of those who live there and offer their very lives for the land.

No Matter how much the American Jew continues to give, he will never be able to justify the fact that he belongs to the generation that was given Jerusalem yet opts for New York or Los Angeles.

To have witnessed 2,000 years…to have suffered the agonies of exile…to have dreamt and hoped to have been given the land only to reject it! How will the Jews in exile answer to future generations when they ask, “Where were YOU?”

The message of the day is clear….the Jewish nation owes its independence first and foremost for the miracle G-d wrought in returning us to our homeland but secondly to the pioneers, soldiers and citizens who have and will sacrifice their lives for its existence and its future.

Please take note of the day and honor the memory of its fallen and the families left behind. Also please offer special prayers for those victims still recovering.

yom hazikaronIDF soldiers participate in a memorial ceremony on the Israeli national Memorial Day, in honor of fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks. Each soldier stands before the grave of a fallen serviceman.

Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before  Yom Haatzmaut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved by the soldiers’ sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of the day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.

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Survival and Fulfillment – Thoughts on Yom HaAtzma’ut

Dynamic Torah From Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein zt’zl

Even though the Yom Ha’atzmaut national holiday is a week behind us, I wanted to share a dynamic and insightful Torah teaching from the towering religious figure named Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who left this world April 20th. I believe it can shed light on the enormous power and blessings of living as a Jew in our beloved Holy Land.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of blessed memory was born in Paris in 1933. Due to the aid of a non Jew, who went beyond the call of duty to help Jews escape to freedom, he and his family immigrated to America when he was 7 years old.  Aharon was recognized as a child prodigy of traditional Torah learning even at this tender age. Prior to his bar mitzvah, he began to attend Yeshiva. After attending Yeshiva University where he earned a BA and received rabbinic ordination, he went on to Harvard University and received a PHD in English Literature.

In 1971, he moved with his family to Jerusalem to become the revered head of a prestigious Zionist Yeshiva named Yeshivat Har Etzion, located in Gush Etzion. He became an authority on Jewish law, led the Yeshiva to great success, published books, was involved in the community and was awarded Israel’s greatest and highest award for Jewish literature, THE ISRAEL PRIZE, in May of 2014.

He was a true visionary who inspired thousands upon thousands over the years of his leadership. He was called a true Torah giant not just for his vast Torah knowledge but for his love of G-d, Torah, his family, the students, the Holy Land , all Jews and in fact all of mankind. He was an enormous source of inspiration to a wide circle of Jewry from all walks of life and his passing at age 81, left a huge void in the Jewish world especially in Eretz Yisrael. His passing has created a huge void in both Yeshiva Har Etzion, as well as the world, but his Torah and good deeds live on and vibrate throughout the Holy Land and into eternity.

For more information on Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, google his name or go to mosaicmagazine.com for a more in depth article.

May the truth and beauty of his dynamic Torah article bring greater clarity about Eretz Ha’Kodesh.

With Blessings of love and light, Ariella Bracha

 

Survival and Fulfillment – Thoughts on Yom HaAtzma’ut

by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l

The Torah describes two journeys of aliya undertaken by Avraham to reach the land of Canaan. On the first journey, described at the end of Parashat Noach, Avraham sets out of his own free will:

And they went out with them from Ur-Kasdim, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran, and dwelt there. (Bereishit 11:31)

The second journey, described at the beginning of Parashat Lekh-Lekha, Avraham undertakes at God’s command:

Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. (Bereishit 12:1)

The Ramban at the end of Parashat Noach explains (Bereishit 11:28):

His father Terach and Avraham had in mind from the day that he was saved to go to the land of Canaan in order to distance themselves from the land of the Kasdim for fear of the king. For Haran was close to them, and they were all one people and one language, the Aramaic language being spoken in both places, and they wanted to go to a people who would not understand the language of that king and his people. This is the meaning of: “And they went out with them from Ur-Kasdim, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran” (Bereishit 11:31), where their families and forefathers had always lived, and they dwelt among them, and stayed there for many days. There Avraham was commanded to do what he had intended to do, to go to the land of Canaan. He left his father, who died there in Haran his country, for he went with his wife and with his nephew Lot to the land of Canaan. This is what the verse states: “And I took your father Avraham, from the other side of the river, and led him through the whole land of Canaan” (Yehoshua 24:3). For he was commanded about this on the other side of the river, and it is from there that He took him and led him through the whole land of Canaan.

Avraham’s aliya began in the same way as did Herzl’s Zionist movement. There is persecution because of Jewish identity and because of adherence to God, based on faith and values, and Avraham feels the need to escape. His starting point is not the attraction and the vision of the land of Israel, but rather escape from Ur-Kasdim. Avraham makes aliya from a country of distress, from a vale of tears.

But while Avraham is in Haran, he is commanded “to do what he had intended to do, to go to the land of Canaan.” The spirit of God breathes life into his pragmatic plan. Here is the intersection between Avraham’s plan and God’s providential plan to plant him in the land of Israel. Avraham’s starting point is to run away, to survive, to exist, and this plan becomes the foundation for fulfilling the will of God. Avraham’s vision-less plan takes on flesh and bones, and the dimension of actualizing God’s will is added to it, both on the individual and the national levels.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik distinguishes between two covenants that exist between God and the Jewish people – the covenant of fate and the covenant of destiny. Avraham’s initial plan and departure from Ur-Kasdim fall into the framework of the covenant of fate. The command of “Lekh Lekha” turns the framework of fate into a framework of destiny; it turns the place that was meant to serve as a place of refuge into God’s inheritance.

We occasionally hear harsh criticism of the State of Israel voiced by some in the religious community. They claim that the state lacks a moral vision, that it is devoid of spirituality and is guided exclusively by a drive for power. A country was established that merely meets the ordinary needs met by all other countries. A state that we would have expected to be a state of vision became a state of refugees, a political asylum.

Classical Zionism indeed had the same aspiration as did Avraham when he started out – to escape from Ur-Kasdim, to provide a political refuge for the Jews, to reach a place where it would be possible to exist, to grow stronger, and to fashion ourselves into a nation. It would be absurd to say that this goal is not legitimate.

But despite the fact that Zionism’s primary goal was to establish a political refuge for the Jewish people, it should be remembered that the aspiration to achieve this goal specifically in the land of Israel drew on the yearnings of all the generations to return to the Promised Land. The Ramban says in his commentary to the beginning of Parashat Lekh-Lekha:

It is possible to say that Avraham knew from the outset that the land of Canaan is God’s inheritance, and there God would give him his portion, and he believed that “to the land that I will show you” was an allusion to the land of Canaan…

Avraham intuitively felt that the land of Canaan is God’s inheritance, and therefore he preferred it to all other places and set his eyes toward it when he ran away from Ur-Kasdim. While there is no comparison between the faith of Avraham and the faith (or lack of faith) of the early Zionist ideologues and dreamers, no Jew, after the command of Lekh Lekha, could think about the land of Israel as anything but a special country, the land of God’s inheritance. This feeling penetrates deeply even within secular Zionism.

We, believers who are descendants of believers, must understand that while it is possible that Herzl and those who followed in his footsteps viewed the land of Israel in the same way that Avraham did at the outset, there is still no doubt that their hearts throbbed with a certain sense of fulfillment of a prophetic vision, of being connected to the land of Israel as God’s inheritance. But even one who is not prepared to accept this must understand that, at the very least, even if the builders of Israel viewed the land exclusively in the framework of the covenant of fate, God adds to this framework the covenant of destiny.

We stand in constant tension between these two factors, between the consciousness that we are in need of a refuge and an assurance of our existence, and the full adherence to the vision to which God dedicated the command: “Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” We must maintain our presence in the Holy Land based on the consciousness that it is God’s inheritance, and based on a sense of mission. But at the same time, we must not ignore the other dimension – the need for a land of refuge and survival. It is clear that after the command, after the land is already “the land that I will show you,” we are incapable of viewing it in a completely secular fashion that distinguishes between religion and destiny.

From time to time we need to be reminded that we must not veer from the boundaries of this dialectic, neither toward excessive use of force, nor to excessive spirituality. We need a reminder that will restore for us the proper proportions and perspective. Yom HaAtzma’ut restores for us with full force and depth the consciousness that here, in God’s inheritance, we can fulfill visions, but also exist; we can realize dreams but also live.

This sicha was delivered on Yom HaAtzma’ut 5748  and originally appeared on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash and is republished here with permission.. Adapted by Yair Yaniv. Translated by David Strauss.)

FLICKERING FIREWORKS FOR FREEDOM

FLICKERING FIREWORKS FOR FREEDOM

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

fireworksFireworks have been used for hundreds of years for cultural and religious events.  In fact the earliest documented use dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. Who is not moved by the spectacle of the glittering, shimmering lights of a fireworks display with its multi-colored bursts of flames? What Jew is not moved by the Fireworks that represent the celebration of our people returning to sovereignty in our ancient homeland?  Aerial Fireworks are an extraordinary and expressive way to represent a historical event of epic biblical proportion: the miracle of our rising from the ashes of the Holocaust to build the 3rd commonwealth of our Jewish nation in the land of our Biblical inheritance. Through this miracle G-d showed us HIS compassion and the manifestation of His presence in our time.

fireworkstveria2014For me personally, each flicker of light and sparkle of color represents a Jewish soul whose flame was snuffed out before its time.  The soul did not get to shimmer and sparkle in the way it normally would have. But we, THE JEWISH NATION, carry the memory of these souls in our collective consciousness always and forever.  The precious holiday of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) brings their memory to the forefront of our consciousness and allows us to reflect upon their self-sacrifice in a powerful way.

Beautiful fireworks are one of those ways! I am flushed with pride, as I stand amidst the Jewish nation in our homeland savoring and delighting in all the ceremonies and especially the fireworks.  They are magical! I engage my imagination as each burst of light explodes and then cascades its sparks of light down to the ground. From heaven down to earth they seem to fall and with their falling, I am aroused to rise up into my own personal strength in order to do justice to the memory of those 25,664 souls and all they fought for. And so the fireworks end, and I leave them with this parting thought; their soul flame and eternal memory will always burn in the hearts of the Jewish nation, as we continue to take pride in our identity and celebrate our miracles in these days at this time through the prism of the flickering fireworks of freedom.

With love and blessings of light and freedom and profound pride in being a part of the Jewish nation in ERETZ HAKODESH, Ariella Bracha

 

  

Reflections on my homecoming, by Gavriela Dvorah Rut Weidner

On 10 July 2008, I came home. For almost five years now, I have been privileged to live in the loving embrace of my own Bayit (home), my Place, my Land, with my People surrounding me all the time.

Coming home is coming to family. Remember family gatherings? Everyone is so excited to see one another and then after a while, you can’t wait for the gathering to conclude? You begin to become impatient with one another as the walls of division that were erected by the years of separation start to come down and you are forced to relate to your family members directly, face-to-face, no falsehoods. Sometimes you can’t wait for everyone to go home!

It can be a little like that here, when coming home. First there is the explosion of excitement from seeing your family after years, a lifetime, of separation. And then the euphoria starts to slip away, as you open your eyes and begin to build the deep bonds, everlasting kesherim, with your eternal family. “Ma zeh?” “how can you eat that stuff?” “what about picking up the trash?” “what’s with the pushing, where do you think you going to go?” “hey, I have a number, don’t you see me standing here?” And, so it goes. We push and shove each other, even yell at each other, but at the end of the day, there is never any doubt about who is your family and who is your friend.

Chazal tell us that we are all one—the Jewish people—and that it is only our bodies that give us the false illusion of separation. Here, at home, there is no illusion of separation. We share everything together, as one, ish echad—simchas,tragedies, chaggim, vacations, past and future.

After five years, I am still awed each day when I see that I am here, home, in the Land of my Fathers, my eternal inheritance from Borei Olam. And even after all this time, I am still presented with the most profound experiences to remind me of how blessed I am to be home. As you probably know, here in Eretz Israel, we blow a siren for 2 minutes to mark the entrance of our most profound days—Yom HaShoa, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. This year, I was traveling from the Holy City of Tzfat to the Holy City of Tiveria, where I live, just before the start of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day). At precisely 8 pm, the siren blew, our bus pulled over to the side of the road, all passengers disembarked, including the driver (or got up from their seats), and stood outside. All along the road, you could see other travelers, out from their vehicles, standing in silence, in honor, in memory, in unity.

Only here, at home, do we slip away from the false illusion of separation and feel the truth of oneness. Why wait for this experience? Come home now. We so very much miss you.

Three Levels of Holiness of Yom Ha’atzmaut, by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

A Song of Praise for Israel Independence Day

From Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Three Levels of Holiness of Yom Ha’atzmaut

Q: Is ‘Yom Ha’atzmaut’ (Israel Independence Day) a sacred day, or is it merely a question of nationalism, unrelated to Torah andkedusha (holiness) as the haredim claim? Isn’t the fact that the government and judicial system are not committed to keeping Torah and mitzvot a reason not to be happy on Yom Ha’atzmaut?

AYom Ha’atzma’ut is crowned with three sanctities: 1) the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, settling the Land of Israel. 2) The realization of the words of the Prophets, and Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations, and 3) and the act of being saved from the hands of our enemies.

Therefore, despite significant weaknesses and occasional wrongdoings by Ministers and Prime Ministers, all the same, our joy and thanksgiving for Yom Ha’atzma’ut remains the same, for all three sanctities of the day are still relevant.
Settling the Land

When the establishment of the State of Israel was declared, the Jewish Nation once again merited fulfilling the Torah commandment of yishuv ha’aretz, whose fundamental point is Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, as it is written: “Clear out the Land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the Land to occupy” (Numbers 33:53). The Hebrew word used in the verse for ‘clear out’ — ‘horshetem’,is defined as ‘kibush’ (conquering) and ‘ribonut’ (sovereignty). The word ‘v’yeshavtem’ (‘live in it’) means to settle the Land, and not leave it barren.

Additionally, it is written in the Torah: “When you have occupied it and you live there” (Deuteronomy 11:31). This is howNachmanides (Ramban) defined the mitzvah: “We were commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and not abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate” (Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvoth of the Rambam, Positive Commandment 4. It is also clarified in Beit Yosef and BachO. C. 561,M. A. 1, M. B. 2, that the determination of ‘destruction’ is contingent on sovereignty).

Sanctification of Hashem and the Beginning of Redemption

The establishment of the State removed the disgrace of exile from the Jewish people. Generation after generation, we wandered in exile, suffering dreadful humiliation, pillage, and bloodshed. We were an object of scorn and derision among the nations – regarded as sheep led to the slaughter, to be killed, destroyed, beaten, and humiliated. Strangers said to us, “You are hopeless.” That was a terrible situation of ‘Chillul Hashem’ (desecration of God’s name), because we are named after HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and when we are degraded, His name is desecrated among the nations (see, Yechezkel 36).

Furthermore, the Prophets of Israel prophesied in the name of Hashem: “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Yechezkel 36:24). “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them”(Yeshayahu 65:21). “You will yet plant vines upon the mountains of Shomron: the planters will plant, and shall enjoy the fruit” (Yirmeyahu31:4). And there are several similar verses. However, after so many years passed without the word of God coming to fruition, the desecration of Hashem’s name in the world increased, and the enemies of Israel concluded that there was no chance the Jews would ever return to their Land. Even our Sages particularly stressed the absolute miracle of the Ingathering of the Exiles, to the point where they said:“The Ingathering of the Exiles is as great as the day upon which the heaven and earth were created” (Pesachim 88a).

And behold, the miracle occurred – Hashem fulfilled His promise! This was an enormous and awesome Kiddush Hashem, which intensified during the Six Day War when we liberated Jerusalem and the holy cities of Judea and Samaria.

This process of the Ingathering of the Exiles and making the desert bloom, received a tremendous boost with the establishment of the State of Israel – the beginning of the Redemption. As Rabbi Abba said: “There is no clearer sign of the Redemption than this verse: ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are soon to come”, upon which Rashi comments: ‘When Eretz Yisrael gives forth its fruit in abundance, the End will be near, and there is no clearer sign of the Redemption.” (Sanhedrin 98a).

Salvation of Israel

On Yom HaAtzma’ut, the Jewish people were delivered from bondage to freedom; from subjugation to the empires of the world – with all that entails, to political independence. This also resulted in a veritable salvation from death to life. Until then, we were unable to defend ourselves against our enemies who pursued us. From that day on, thanks to the kindness of God, we defend ourselves, and win battles. True, all our enemies who rise up to destroy us have yet to be eradicated, but in consequence of the establishment of the State, we have our own army, thank God, and have the strength to fight back, and even win.

And although more than 20,000 holy souls have been killed in wars and terrorist attacks since the creation of the State over sixty years ago, just a few years beforehand, during the horrific Holocaust, more than six million holy Jews were killed in the span of five years – more than three hundred times the amount! This is the difference between living in our own land and being able to defend ourselves, and not having the means to do so.

That day brought about a salvation for Diaspora Jews, as well. They now have a country that is always willing to absorb them, one that even works on their behalf in the international arena. Before the State was established, the complaints of Jewish citizens around the world against the murderous, anti-Semitic persecutions that raged in many countries were usually disregarded. After the founding of the State of Israel, however, even the most evil regimes were forced to take into consideration Israel’s actions on behalf of the Jews living in their midst. Even Communist Russia had to relent and allow the Jews to leave from behind the Iron Curtain, something that was unimaginable before statehood.

Did the Zionist Movement Cause Secularism?

Q: Some people argue against celebrating Yom Ha’atma’ut because, in their opinion, the Zionist movement caused the abandonment of Torah and mitzvot.

A: This claim is libel. The truth is the exact opposite – thanks to the Zionist movement, or specifically, on account of the aliyah toEretz Yisrael that followed as a result of its activities, the Jewish nation was saved – both physically, and spiritually.

Secularism was caused by many reasons – mainly because of the difficulty in dealing with enlightenment and modern society.Aliyah to Israel was not the source of the problem, but rather, the solution. Had we woken up to this fact earlier, we would have been able to save more Jews – both in a physical and spiritual sense.

Let’s compare the situation of the Jews who made aliyah to Israel, as opposed to those who remained in chutz l’aretz (Diaspora): Among those living in Israel, approximately 25% are religiously observant, and in addition, over 30% define themselves as being traditional. Even most secular Jews keep certain mitzvot – such as marriage, circumcision, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Hanukkah. In contrast, amongst the Jews who remained in Europe, the majority were murdered in the Holocaust, while those remaining under Soviet rule were forcibly distanced from keeping Jewish tradition – to the point where most of their descendants eventually married non-Jews.

And from a Jewish perspective, those who emigrated to America and England are no better off. Most of the young people are assimilated, less than 10% are religiously observant, and the connection to religion of those considered ‘traditional’ in America, is on the same level as the secular Jews here in Israel.

Let’s take the Jews of North Africa, for example. The situation of those who immigrated to Israel is immeasurably better off than those who remained in the Diaspora. Amongst those emigrating to France, the assimilation rate has reached over 60%, whereas in Israel, over 70% are religiously observant or traditional.

Demographically, as well, all of the Jewish communities in chutz l’aretz are dwindling due to intermarriage and a low birth rate, while the number of Jews in Eretz Yisrael is constantly growing.

The Mitzvah to Establish Yom Tov on a Day of Salvation

It is a mitzvah to establish a Yom Tov (holiday), to rejoice and praise God, on a day Jews were delivered from distress. This is what prompted the Rabbis to establish Purim and Hanukkah as eternal holidays. Even though it is forbidden to add mitzvot onto those already written in the Torah, nevertheless, on a day in which Jews were delivered from distress, it is a mitzvah to fix a day of joy and thanksgiving.

The Rabbis derived this from a logical inference (a kal va’chomer): When we left Egypt and were delivered from slavery to freedom, God commanded us to celebrate Pesach and sing praise to Him every year; all the more so must we celebrate Purim, when we were saved from death to life (according to Megillah 14a, and also explained by Ritva,ibid).

TheChatam Sofer explains (Y.D. end of 233, O.C. 208) that since this mitzvah is derived from a kal va’chomer, it is considered a Biblical commandment. However, the Torah does not give detailed instructions exactly how to observe the holiday. Therefore, one who does anything whatsoever to commemorate the salvation fulfills his Biblical obligation; it was the Rabbis who determined we read the Megillah, prepare a festive meal, send portions of food to others, and give charity to the poor on Purim, and light the candles on Hanukkah.

Establishing a Yom Tov on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate – led by two of Israel’s illustrious Torah scholars –Rabbi Herzog and Rabbi Uziel, establishedYom Ha’atzmaut as a Yom Tov. This was also the opinion of the majority of Rabbis in Israel.

Similarly, the illustrious Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth, wrote in his Responsa ‘Kol Mevaser’, that it is a mitzvah to establish a Yom Tov on Yom Ha’atzmaut, explaining this obligation based on RambanRitva, and other Rishonim and Acharonim. He clarifies that this is not in violation of bal toseef (“You shall not add”), for the prohibition against inventing a holiday refers only to holidays that do not commemorate a salvation. Based on the kal va’chomer, however, we are obligated to institute holidays that commemorate salvations.

The Custom of Israel through the Generations

This is not a new minhag (custom) introduced for Yom Ha’atzmaut, rather, this was the practice of numerous Jewish communities, who instituted days of joy in commemoration of miracles that happened to them. Many of them used the name Purim in reference to these days, such as ‘Frankfurt Purim’,or ‘Tiberias Purim’. Some communities had a custom to partake in festive meals, to send portions of food to one another, and to give charity to the poor (see Maharam Alshakar 49, M.Aand E.R. 686; Chayei Adam155:41; Yaskil Avdi, vol. 7, O.C. 44:12).

Reciting Hallel

Since one is obligated to thank and praise God for the miracles He performed on our behalf, consequently, it is a mitzvah to reciteHallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, the day we were delivered from the greatest trouble of all –that of exile and subjugation to foreigners, which caused all of the terrible decrees and massacres we suffered for nearly two thousand years.

Similarly, the Talmud states that after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, “the prophets among them enacted that the Jews should recite Hallel for each and every time, and each and every trouble– may it not come upon them! – and when they are redeemed, they should recite it [in thankfulness] for their redemption” (Pesachim 117a). Rashi explains that according to this, the Sages of the Second Temple era enacted the recitation of Hallel on Hanukkah (this is also explained in Yerushalmi Pesachim10:6, Shemot Rabbah 23:12, and Megillah 14a).

The Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth, wrote that it is a mitzvah to recite Hallel with a blessing, and this is our custom. Nevertheless, there are eminent Torah scholars who, owing to various concerns, instructed to recite Hallel without a blessing. Both of these practices are halakhically valid.

However, those who believe that one should not thank God for the establishment of the State of Israel and all the positive things which occurred as a result of it, have no halakhic basis to rely on, deny the goodness of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and are liable, God forbid, to distance the Redemption (Sanhedrin 94a).

May it be His will that as a result of our complete acknowledgement of Hashem onYom Ha’atzma’ut, we will merit the entire Ingathering of the Exiles, the building of the Land and Jerusalem, the return of the Divine Presence, the appearance of Mashiach ben David, and the building of the Holy Temple, speedily in our days.

Remembering Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani

Honoring the Courage of Two Who Gave Their Lives
In The Pre-State Battle For Freedom

Commemorating the Yahrzeit of Meir Feinstein; October 5th, 1927- April 21, 1947 and
Moshe Barazani; June 20th, 1928-April 21st, 1947…… Niftar on The First of Iyar, 5707

by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

200px-MosheBarazaniToday the first of Iyar, 5773, we commemorate the yahrzeit of two heroic young men who gave their lives while fighting against the relentless Arab attacks on the Jewish residents of Israel, attacks that enabled by the British mandate betrayal of us during pre-state times. These two heroes were underground fighters for the Jewish cause who were sentenced to be hung on the gallows. Please take the time to read the words of Meir Feinstein to the British court in the attached Wikipedia article. It is, in my humble opinion one of the most powerful, soul stirring dramatic renderings of Jewish soul poetry I have ever read. I gain strength and determination from Meir’s words and thought you would too. They are of such truth and purity…rare and exquisite jewels of power and courage for us to feed upon. We need their inspiration today! They were only 20 years old when they were hung. Meir was wounded in the initial attack on the British and had his left hand amputated. Meir wanted to be a writer. He had plans for the future and a girl he loved.  Moshe worked to support his family. They both came from a family of scholars. They died for us and for the future generations of Jews.

In the book,” Lionhearts, Heroes of Israel” edited by Michael bar-Zohar in the story of Moshe and Meir by Arye Naor, titled “A Grenade between Two Hearts” he states,” Above all they both wanted the rebirth of the State of Israel, the liberation of the Jewish homeland, and the redemption of its people.”

FienshtnThe purpose of my sharing this today in addition to honoring their memory is to point out and remind us of the perilous journey of those who came before us to pave the way to allow us to live in Freedom. They did so with their Blood, Sweat, Tears and very LIVES. I believe that making ALiyah and living in our G-d given, Divine inheritance,(which is an extraordinary privilege), comes with a responsibility to become aware of those who have come before us, and the personal sacrifices they made to enable us to be here today. It is my hope that as a result of deeper awareness of the challenges, enormous sufferings and remarkable perseverance of those who came before us, it will allow us to put our own challenges into the proper perspective. The journey of Aliyah is not just a defining moment at the time we make the decision, but it continues to define us during the entire Aliyah unfolding through each and every challenge that arises.

The real truth of Aliyah in my honest opinion is all about DEFINING YOURSELF OR RE-DEFINING YOURSELF. Who am I really right now, and who do I long to become?  That’s the question for today. Moshe and Meir seemed to know so clearly who they were and what their lives were about. Their values were embedded in all their endeavors even unto the ultimate of their dying.  When Moshe’s trial began, he sat and read the Bible the whole time. When he was asked if he pleaded guilty, he got up and said the following to the judges: “The Hebrew people see you as the enemy and a foreign ruler in its homeland.  We, the people of Lehi, are fighting you in order to liberate our homeland. You will not frighten us by your hangings nor will you succeed to destroy us. My nation and all other subjugated nations will fight your empire until the end”.  90 minutes later, the judge read the verdict: You will be hung by the neck until you die.  Moshe was prepared and repeated, “You will not frighten us by your hangings.” Then he sang Hatikva until he was carried out by the police when he cried out: “To the Yishuv—be strong and of good courage.” (“A Grenade Between Two Hearts” by Arye Naor.) Meir was tried one week after Moshe. He carried the same strength and determination with him in his response to his jailers. It awes me and awakens a longing in me…. to be stronger, better.

The stories of Meir and Moshe, are deeply moving profiles of courage, service and heroism. I believe that by reflecting and absorbing their stories, we can be aroused to unite in the service of our nation in a deeper, more meaningful way. My prayer is that we be willing to move forward in strength to maximize the spiritual power embedded in our DNA like Meir and Moshe and all the other martyrs who have gone before us. I bless each of us to strengthen and preserve the unbroken chain of Torah values that resides within us so as to bring strength to our Nation and our Land. With Love, Ariella Bracha

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Barazani

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meir_Feinstein