Try this test. Ask 100 fellow Jews the following simple question; What’s the next Jewish holiday? I would imagine that 90 of them will answer, “Shavuot” while nine will say, “Lag B’Omer.” That would amount to 99 wrong answers.
The real answer is: Yom Ha’Atzmaut. This year, this very special holiday will be celebrated on May 2, just two weeks after Pesach. And contrary to what you may have learned, this is a very holy day on which we must thank Hashem and, without a doubt, say Hallel. Some people follow the halachic opinion that Hallel should be said with a beracha, while others maintain it should be said without it. I have no problem with those who follow the latter opinion. What I do have a problem with are people who omit Hallel completely – because it is not just Hallel they are ignoring but all the miracles Hashem performed for our nation since 1948.
How can we be so stubborn and blind? How can one not see Tanach’s prophecies coming true? How can so many religious Jews deny the events of the last 70 years and simply brush them off like dandruff? How can we be so ungrateful to our Father in Heaven? Simply put, I believe that not recognizing the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a heavenly miracle constitutes one of the greatest desecrations of G-d’s Name in history. We were given a gift and threw it back in G-d’s face. Our people experienced a national “revival of the dead” yet we crawled back to the grave. What a horrible thing we did.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that today’s Israel is perfect but I see it as a new baby that was given, after many years, to a childless couple. How many tears did the couple shed? How many prayers did they say? How many dreams did they have? And then – finally – after so many years, a child is born! What joy! What praises to Hashem! But wait… the child doesn’t walk and he doesn’t talk. He can’t even add 1+1… why are the parents so happy?
One word: potential. The parents thank Hashem for giving them the gift of life and the trust and responsibility that they will turn that life into a loyal servant of the King of Kings. They look at their little baby and see the amazing potential he/she has. With the right education and values, that spitting, diaper-wearing, crying baby will turn into a full-fledged Torah observant Jew who can change the world… and they have been put in charge to make it happen. How can’t they be happy and thank Hashem?
I see the modern State of Israel as the exact same thing – but on a national level. How many tears did our people shed asking – no, begging – Hashem for Him to bring us back home? How many prayers were said – when Jews meant every word – to end the bitter exile? And then, that childless nation that cried for 2,000 years was given the gift of life. A return to Zion! Hashem put His trust in us that we would take His precious gift and turn it into the land of milk and honey. Hashem knows that we can do it! Yes, this “child” is still an infant (what is 69 years when compared to the age of other countries?), but what an incredible job we have done!
Consider this: There is more Torah learning today in the State of Israel than ever before in Jewish history! A new Jewish baby is born in Israel every four minutes! Biblical prophecies have come to life! Towns where our forefathers lived, such as Hebron, Bet El, and Shilo, are replete with children, shuls, mikvehs and thousands of fruit trees! A Jewish army has been established – the first in 2,000 years – where every base is kosher. In Israel, 97 percent of boys receive a bris, 80 percent of Jews fast on Yom Kippur, 90 percent had a seder on Pesach, and 100 percent of the banks, businesses, stock markets, and government offices are closed on all Jewish holidays! Perfect? No. But deserving of praise to our Father who gave us this gift? Definitely yes!
That is why Yom Ha’Atzmaut is a holiday – a real holiday on which we should dress accordingly and thank Hashem with words of Torah, prayers, song, and, of course, Hallel. But wait… there’s actually a second holiday between Pesach and Shavuos and it’s called Yom Yerushalayim. This year, Yom Yerushalayim comes out on May 24, one week before Shavuos. This year, we will be thanking Hashem for 50 years since His holy messengers – the IDF – liberated the city from the enemy during the Six-Day War. In addition, it is also 50 years since we have control of Yehuda and Shomron! Fity years since we liberated the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights! More thanks to Hashem are necessary! Once again, we must say Hallel on this day to praise and thank our King for allowing us to enter more of His palace than before.
Dearest friends, we need to live with our eyes open to see the wonders of Hashem. Today’s modern State of Israel is a living, breathing miracle of the highest order. To not recognize and acknowledge the priceless gift that Hashem gave us is one of the biggest crimes we can commit. I shake when I think of the punishment that will come to those who “return” this gift to the store. Make sure you are not one of those people. On these two days – these two Yom Tovs – increase your Torah learning, praise Hashem with Hallel and extra prayers, dress like Shabbos, and have a festive meal with wine. In that spirit, may Hashem give us part II of His amazing gift: the Beit HaMikdash and the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. May it happen soon!