Hi, I’m the director of the Israel desk at the Jewish Federation in Western Massachusetts. We’re putting on a Yom Hatzmaut celebration and I wanted to ask a follow up question about music and instrumental music. My understanding is that they are allowed on Yom Hatzmaut. Is that correct? And if so, are they still allowed if the day is celebrated on a different day than the official date? i.e. this year Yom Hatzmaut falls on April 25th (Sundown) and ends April 26th (Sundown). We may schedule our celebration on the following Sunday. Would Music still be allowed? If possible would you tell us the halachic reasoning behind these decisions.
Thank you very much,
You are correct that music is allowed on the date of Yom HaAtzmaut itself, which usually falls on 5 Iyar, but not on other days during the Omer mourning period. The reason is that Yom HaAtzmaut has been officially declared a holiday by the national Chief Rabbinate, thanking G-d for the survival and victory of the War of Independence and the State of Israel which was founded 64 years ago (R.D. Lior, Resp. Dvar Chevron, Or. Ch., Ch. 529). This is similar to Chanukah candles or the Purim megilla which cannot be celebrated on other dates, because the holidays are established by the rabbis on particular dates, and the rabbis want all of Israel to celebrate as one unified nation. Nevertheless, Yom HaAtzmaut is a little different because the Chief Rabbinate originally stipulated that if the date, 5 Iyar, falls on a Fri., Sun. or Mon. (which is pretty common!) it will always be moved forward or back in order that its celebration not cause the desecration of Shabbat (Sabbath), but that was "built- in" to the original Rabbinical “Decree”, but in all other cases it cannot be moved, simply for local convenience. During the Omer mourning period from Pesach until Lag BaOmer (Iyar 18), commemorating the death of 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, the custom is not to hold parties or celebrations, especially with music (Shulchan Aruch Or. Ch. 493, and Aruch HaShulchan, ibid, 2; R. Moshe Feistein, Igrot Moshe I, ch. 166; ibid, III, ch. 87; R. Ovadya Yosef, Yechaveh Da’at, III, ch. 30 et al). The Chief Rabbinate allowed celebration and music only on the day of Yom haAtzmaut (or the aforementioned immediate days around it), as an exception to the rest of the Omer period, just as we find other similar precedents (e.g. in Moed l’chol Chai, ch. 6, R. Chaim Fallagi of Tukey allowed to shave and supersede the Omer mourning even for a local salvation of the Jewish community from danger, so how much more so for a national salvation from the attacking Arab armies who swore to annihilate the nascent State of Israel). So basically, it’s a problem to celebrate on another date between Pesach and Lag BaOmer because of the Omer mourning.
On the other hand, I am not familiar with your community and questions like this should really be posed to your local orthodox rabbi [on condition that he be Zionist, otherwise the question (for him), and the answer (for you), would be irrelevant], who, after taking into account all of the factors (such as the number of participants who would come on Sun. as opposed to Wed.; the importance of strengthening the connection with the Land and State of Israel, as well as Jewish pride; the spiritual gain of such an event who’s benefit may outweigh the custom of not hearing music and celebrations during the Omer period, etc.), may decide that it could be permitted in your particular circumstance, but in general, it is forbidden.
With Love of Israel,
Rav Ari Shvat