Thursday, May 12, 2005

Are you wearing blue and white today?

Typical, but no one I know wants to have a deep and insightful Yom Haatzmaut conversation about the meaning of Zionism in 2005, the success of the state, or anything like that. Apparently, I live among the stupid people.

All anyone seems to care about is this: Should we say tachanun? Should we say Hallel? With a broacha? Without a bracha?

So let's have at it.

Tachanun: Don't say it, especially if you're a Hasid. Why? Because Hasidim, typically, take every possible excuse to avoid saying this prayer. They don't say it at mincha. Many won't say it on Friday or Sunday. They skip it on important yartzheits. Lubovs, in fact, skip it on the day their Rebbe was released from jail. So why not skip it on the day that every Jew in the world was released from jail?

We non-Hasidim should skip it, too. There are old sources that recommend skipping tachanun on market days, and other days of public celebration. On a day when most of the Jews in the world are celebrating, Tachanun seems inappropriate.

Hallel: Don't say it. I think it's presumptuous for an ordinary person to go around praising God whenever he feels like it. We're little. He's big. And when a small person praises something tremendous, the praise tends to be insuffecient, or worse insulting. Could any of us non-physicists adequately praise Einstein or Newton? Or course not. It would be a joke.

Moreover, if you say Hallel (with a brocha anyway) you are saying that you are 100 percent certain that Yom Haatzmaut was a miraculous act of God. Happy as I am to have Israel in Jewish hands, I can't read God's mind. I'm arrogant, yes, but not arrogant enought to say that I know God's plan. To me abstaining from Hallel is a demonstration of humility.

Finally, I think a full hallel (with a brocha anyway) is a tremendous error. “God is not happy at the downfall of the wicked. ... When the angels tried to sing songs of praise to God at the Red Sea, God silenced them: ‘My handiwork, my human creatures, are drowning in the sea and you want to sing a song of praise?’” (T.B. Megillah 10b) For this reason, we say a half-Hallel on the last six days of Pesach. And how many Arabs died on Yom Haatzmaut related events? It seems to me that if we can temper our Pesach celebrations out of respect for the people who enslaved us for 210 years, we can, likewise, recognize the humanity of the Arabs on Yom Haatzmaut, as well.

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