Hallel on Yom Ha-Atzma'ut 5784

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Yeshivat Hadar’s longstanding practice is to recite full Hallel on Yom Ha-Atzma’ut with a berakhah. However, this year is unlike any other year we have experienced. Why and how should we recite Hallel at a time when redemption feels so far away?

The midrash teaches that God recoils from song in a moment when Israel is in crisis, and in the face of loss of any human life: “My creations are drowning in the sea and you are going to sing?!” (Megillah 10b). How can we recite words of praise and gratitude when there are still hostages in captivity, when the region is suffering in the throes of war, and when so many innocents - Israelis and Palestinians - have tragically lost their lives?

Hallel is not only, maybe even not primarily, about celebration. Our tradition teaches that these words were given to us to recite within times of crisis, בכל צרה וצרה, when we are praying and hoping for redemption (Pesahim 117a). Over generations that encompass personal and communal crisis and tragedy, the words of Hallel hold a broad mix of emotions. These words were first recited in Egypt on the first Passover eve, before the Exodus, in the hopes for redemption. These words are recited by mourners in their prescribed periods of grief - as they will be this year with so many mourners in the wake of October 7. These words have been recited in ghettoes and concentration camps, and in times of war.

The Hallel of Yom Ha-Atzma’ut celebrates a redemption, but it is most surely also a deep prayer for a redemption that is not yet complete. At Hadar this year, we will be focusing on how, in the words of the full Hallel, “the bonds of death have encompassed us” and on our hope that God will “turn towards” our “voice and our pleas”. We desperately insist on a reality that brings safety and prosperity to all people in and around the precious, fragile, gift of the State of Israel.