Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Haatzmaut
To dedicate this lesson

Is Our Joy Complete


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Seemingly, we might ask: How can we celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut whole-heartedly, when thousands of our people have paid a terrible price for our independence – the soldiers who were killed, their families, those who were wounded, victims of terrorist attacks, etc.?

Moreover – the state of Israel today is not yet the realization of all our dreams. So much more is needed in order for us to be "a light unto the nations", before Israel fulfills the ideal of living according to Hashem's word. Indeed, it sometimes seems that we are moving in the opposite direction, and thus delaying the process of complete redemption! How then can we declare a day of joy on Yom Ha'Atzmaut?

An answer can be found in the Talmud (Tractate Berachot, 59A), which states that a person whose father died leaving him an inheritance must say both the Bracha "ברוך דיין האמת" ("Blessed be the True Judge"), over the father's death, and "שהחיינו"[1] because of the inheritance. This is the Shulchan Aruch's[2] ruling, and the Rashba[3] explains that naturally one would prefer his father to remain alive – and not receive the inheritance - but since death has occurred, one should thank Hashem for the good – even when it comes intermingled with the bad. The Bracha of "She'Hecheyanu" does not require joy, but rather benefit, although there is sorrow mixed in with it.

Our lives are a blend of good and bad. Only seldom are we able to find undiluted good – each event includes some degree of sadness. Even at weddings, as the bride and groom stand under the Chuppah, at the height of their joy – we are reminded that the new home they are beginning to build cannot be complete while Jerusalem, the Temple has not been rebuilt. - "אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני" "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…". Thus, although the State of Israel has not achieved perfection, and despite the heavy price we have paid for Israel's very existence – we are certainly obligated to thank Hashem for all the good he has granted us.

An example of this attitude can be found in the story told by R' Avraham Danzig in his book "Chayei Adam" ,(קנה, מא) about a gunpowder explosion which occurred in the courtyard of his home, killing numerous people, injuring many others and wrecking surrounding houses. Nonetheless – many people were spared (including all R' Avraham's family members), and consequently he declared that day as a day of thanksgiving every year.

The State of Israel – Salvation for Klal Yisrael
In addition to the joy of the victory over our enemies in the War of Independence, the founding of the State of Israel had a tremendous impact on the situation of Klal Yisrael – physically and spiritually. Our victory affected not only the Jews living in Israel; it also enabled the rescue of Jews all over the world (Holocaust survivors in particular) – who could now cease their wandering and find sanctuary in their Homeland.

Spiritually, there can be no doubt that the existence of Israel significantly reduced the terrible worldwide plague of assimilation. It also enabled the establishment and growth of a great spiritual center in Israel – affecting the whole Jewish world.

To this we can add a more fundamental argument: The founding of the State does not only mean that Jews are able to live here in peace and quiet. The biggest miracle is the re-establishment of a Jewish sovereignty. Even though we have not yet achieved the ideal of a state conducted according to the Torah – we must say Hallel, praising Hashem for the return of our sovereignty. This obligation is proved by the Rambam's[4] attitude towards saying Hallel on Chanukah. We know that during the Hasmonean period (especially towards its end), the spiritual situation was at a dangerous low. Nevertheless, the Rambam rules that Hallel must be said on Chanukah because "sovereignty returned to Israel for over two hundred years." Despite the fact that during these years there were terrible periods - physically and spiritually – the Rambam includes them in the "Sovereignty of Israel", and sees them as a reason for saying Hallel[5]! If this is his point of view concerning the days of the Hasmoneans – how much more so today[6]!

The Days of Sefira (Counting of the Omer) as a Process
Yom Ha'Atzmaut occurs between Pesach and Shavuot, between the Exodus from Egypt and Matan Torah. It is a period of gradual progress; not everything is perfect. There are obstacles to overcome before reaching full salvation. On our day of joy, the Day of Independence, we do not turn a blind eye towards the shortcomings we see in our country, nor do we forget the ever-present shadow of grief over the price paid for our state's existence. On Yom HaZikaron we remember the soldiers who gave their lives and the victims of terror – and from there we forge on to celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut. The shortcomings we see and our sorrow are not supposed to prevent us from feeling deep joy and gratitude to Hashem. We should look reality in the eye, see clearly and appreciate the enormous miracle of the State of Israel, and express our thankfulness with praise and glory to Hashem![7]
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