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Interestingly, in a different responsum, Chatam Sofer criticizes the celebration of the hilulla (yahrzeit) of R. Shimon b. Yochai on Lag B’Omer in Tzefat. He claims this celebration may constitute the establishment of a holiday that is not in commemoration of a miraculous event, which even he maintains would be prohibited.

Indeed, throughout the Middle Ages and until modern times, communities have instituted their own festive days, often known as Purim Sheini or Purim Katan. R. Ovadia Hadaya (Jerusalem, 1890-1969) cites examples of numerous communities that observed their own local “Purims.”


R. Hadaya strongly argues in favor of establishing a festive day in commemoration of the establishment of the state of Israel. Similarly, R. Meshulem Roth (1875-1963), a member of the Israeli Chief Rabbinic Council, authored a responsum on this subject. He argues that it is certainly permitted to establish a festive day that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people, and that the quote from Ramban cited above referred to the establishment of a holiday without any purpose.

He writes:

Indeed, there is no doubt that that day [the fifth of Iyar] – which was established by the government and the members of the Parliament, the elected representatives of the people, as well as the majority of the great Rabbis to celebrate through the land, to commemorate our salvation and our freedom – it is a mitzvah to make it [a day of] happiness and Yom Tov and to recite Hallel.

The Talmud records the eighteen days on which one recites the full Hallel (Arachin 10a). Elsewhere, the Talmud seems to present contradictory evidence regarding the origins of Hallel (Berachot 14a; Taanit 28b). The Rishonim therefore debate whether the recitation of this Hallel constitutes a biblical mitzvah or a rabbinic one.

In addition to these eighteen days upon which the entire Hallel is recited, the Talmud mentions the custom of reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and omitting two of its psalms (Taanit 29a). This “half-Hallel” is recited on Chol HaMoed Pesach as well. The Rishonim debate whether one should recite a berachah upon reciting this Hallel or not, or whether to do so only when it is recited publicly. The custom of Ashkenazim is to say the blessing, while Sephardim omit the blessing.

While it seems intuitive that the Hallel recited on Chanukah is mi’de’rabbanan, Chatam Sofer maintains that through reciting Hallel on Chanukah or fulfilling the mitzvot on Purim, one fulfills a biblical commandment of commemorating deliverance from near death. While the Hallel recited on the festivals expresses one’s simchat Yom Tov, the Hallel of Chanukah relates directly to the miracle of Chanukah.

What is the source for this type of Hallel, and may it be recited on other occasions?

According to the passage in Pesachim (117a), the prophets instituted that Hallel should be recited on every holiday and upon the redemption of the Jewish people from misfortune. Rashi explains that an example of such redemption from misfortune is Chanukah.

To what extent does this source serve as a precedent for reciting Hallel upon being saved from danger? The poskim raise a number of issues.

First, what kind of “redemption” obligates one to recite Hallel? R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes (1805-1855), known as Maharatz Chajes, suggests that the Talmud refers only to the miracle of the flask of oil, not to the military victory, because Hallel was only instituted as a result of the miracle of the oil, which was a “nes nigleh,” blatant and apparent to all.

Some argue that the pronouncement of Israel’s independence and the ensuing military victory do not constitute a “nes nigleh,” and therefore do not qualify as deserving of Hallel according to this theory.


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Rabbi David Brofsky has taught Talmud and halacha in numerous institutions in Israel, including Yeshivat Har Etzion, Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalyim, Midreshet Lindenbaum, and Midreshet Torah V'Avodah. He writes a weekly halacha article for Yeshivat Har Etzion's Virtual Beit Midrash (VBM), and is the author of “Hilkhot Tefilla,” “Hilkhot Moadim,” and a forthcoming book on hilchot aveilut.