Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Day My Rebbe Said Hallel

This morning I was the Shaliach Tzibur in the mainstream Chabad Shul. And although they do not recognize the Halachic validity of the establishment of the State and do not alter the Teffila in any way, I did not say Tachanun. It probably raised a few eyebrows but there were no protests… no bang on the table with a loud ‘it’s not our Minhag’. It’s true that most of the people who attend this early morning Minyan are not Lubavitchers. But it is their Shul and I want to publicly express my gratitude to this group of people for their understanding and tolerance of my breach in their Minhag HaTeffila.

How could I say Tachnun today? It would be the height of Chutzpah to not recognize this day of Yom Ha’Aztamaut and the great Chesed that HaKadosh Baruch Hu did for His people 61 yeas ago on the 5th of Iyar .

Through Nisim and Niflaous - miracles and wonders – He enabled us - the Jewish people to regain control of our land for the first time since the destruction of the Holy Temple 2000 years ago! The immediate benefits to all Jews should be obvious. The embers of Auschwitz had not yet cooled down when this happened. Jews were for the first time in 2 millennia able to ‘return to our ancestral home’ without any pre-conditions.

Jews all over the world no matter how oppressed had a place to go that would welcome them. No one could better appreciate this fact more than Holocaust survivors who had no lace to go after the war. Many of their original host countries continued their anti-Semitic Pogroms. Just prior to Israel’s existence the British Mandate who had control had all but closed the doors to them even after the war!

That period in history still moistens my eyes when I think about it. The UN approving the partition of Palestine, and the moment that Ben Gurion declared it the State of Israel- I will never forget it. Nor will I forget the immediate recognition of Israel by President Truman.

What has happened since is no less a miracle. There has been an explosion of Torah unlike any other era since the days when the Beis Hamkikdash existed. The numbers are staggering. There are more people learning more Torah with greater Hasmada than anywhere on the planet. The religious communities there are thriving. Growing exponentially with time. It is evident that without the State, there would not be the kin of Torah learning or Torah lifestyle that exists today – certainly not in the massive numbers it has.

One of the things that really bother me is the lack of recognition by the Charedi community of this great event. Even if they do acknowledge it a bit - their antagonism against the State so supersedes it that any gratitude they may have gets entirely lost. They never miss an opportunity to bash the Israeli government and in the process bring up every claim they ever had against it. It is almost as if they would rather see it fail – God forbid!

I realize of course that they do not want to see it fail. Many of them live in Israel and benefit greatly from it. No country in the world gives Charedi institutions the kind of financial aid that Israel does. No country in the world that is under constant enemy attack would exempt an entire class of people from serving in the military so that they can sit and learn Torah. And through the good graces of God and His Agent - the Israeli Defense Forces - in no country in the world has Torah flourished like it has in Israel.

How significant is the flourishing of Torah in Israel?

There is s story told about Rabbi Oscar Fasman and the Rogachover Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Rosen. Rabbi Fasman who was the founding President of HTC decided to travel to Europe and Israel (I think it was in the 1930s) to consult with all the Gedolim about his Yeshiva. The last Gadol he saw in Europe was the Ragachover. After his meeting the Ragatchver asked him where he was going next, Rabbi Fasman said ‘Eretz Yisroel” whereupon the Gaon said (in Yiddish) ‘ Eretz Yisroel?!’ ‘They don’t know how to learn there!’

By the time I was in high school the Torah world in Europe had successfully transplanted itself to the United States. The US was quickly becoming the world center of intensive Torah study. Israel was still relatively small in that respect. Yes - there were many famous Yeshivos – with new ones being established constantly - but the numbers by far were here. That has all changed now. Israel’s Torah learning has swelled both in number and in quality beyond that of the United States. It wasn’t until Israel became a State that this was able to happen.

How can any religious Jew of any stripe not have Hakaras HaTov for that? How can any religious Jew not recognize that this is a day of celebration? That today’s Israel is a gift from God? How can one ignore it and say Tachanun on a day where thousands of Jews all over the world are celebrating it?!

Holocaust survivors understand this – even the Charedi ones. They know what having a Jewish State means. My wife’s Uncle lost his entire family and was a victim of medical experimentation that caused him to become sterile. He was a devout Gerrer Chasid and was very close to the Gerrer Rebbe. He davne’d in a Ger Shtiebel everyday of the year except Yom Ha’Atzmaut. On that day he Davened with Mizrachi so he could say Hallel. Most Holocaust survivors no matter how Charedi can appreciate that even if they do not do it themselves.

And it isn’t only Torah that is flourishing. Israel has done cutting edge work in the fields of science and technology. It has had major achievements in medicine. It has produced Nobel Prize winners in many fields. A simple list of all the major achievements in Israel would fill up an entire post.

Rav Ahron Soloveichik - a Gadol in his own right - was a man who was respected by the greatest Gedolim of the 20th century. It was because of him that Rav Moshe Feinstein took on the Chumra of eating only Yashan. Rav Ahron said Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. He knew there were miracles involved in the State’s founding and that they are ongoing. I think ALL the rest of us should recognize that fact too and in some way express gratitude on this day.