Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy 62nd Birthday Israel!

Today's the 62nd birthday (docheh) of Israel, Yom Ha'Atzmaut. Yay.

Every year, I need to revisit the halakhic question, especially when the holiday is docheh (pushed off from its official date), of whether Hallel should be said with a bracha, without a bracha, or if we should say tachanun.

There's strong arguments about the first two (the latter is reserved for cheresh, shoteh or katan - deaf = ignoring the crucial miracle reveals flawed senses, crazy = blinded by twisted ideology, or childlike = too young to realize how earth-shaking the establishment of Israel was).

The best argument for not saying a bracha is that the miracle of YHA was incomplete. I.e. a war started immediately after the declaration of independence and that war has not stopped. This means that the halakhic appropriateness of a bracha is based on an empirical judgment: was the establishment of Israel a big enough miracle to say Hallel (similar to Purim and Hanukkah) for all of Jewry.

This past year I've been doing extensive reading about Zionism and especially anti-Zionism. And I've gotten a new appreciation for the massive miracle of the State of Israel - and how precarious a State it is. I believe Hallel with a bracha I feel a need to express my gratitude not only for the reality warping, dry bones resurrection, miracle of Israel but also for God's continuing miracle of Israel's preservation.

Israel should not, based on rules of Nature and Humanity, have been established in 1948 and should not - nuclear weapons aside - continue to exist. To paraphrase Darth Vader:"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed [nukes]. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force [Hashem]."

Maybe it's my work this semester in liturgy, TAing for Professor Reuven Kimelman. Liturgy uses physical triggers to remind us of theological truths; we use the sun rising to remind us of Creation, and thus bless the God of Creation. We use the reminder of the Exodus to remind us that God is the One Who Redeems. And in Shemona Esrei we use rain to remind us of the resurrection of the dead.

In 1945 Jews were still being rounded up and murdered all over the world. In 1946, 1947 the survivors were living in DP camps and being barred from entry into Israel. In 1948, the dream of 2000 years was fulfilled, a phoenix rising from the ashes, to provide our halakhic homeland and a worldwide protection for Jews. This is modern History's greatest miracle.