– Author: Rav Dan Cohen


If our mouth were as full of song as the sea, and our tongue with singing like the multitude of its waves, etc. (Taanit 6b)

As we enter the 72nd day of Indepence of the State of Israel, we should feel a sense gratitude and joy as we see our state develop and grow stronger from year to year.

One of the most important historical testimonials that highlight the unique era that we are living in, is the testimony of Rabeinu Moshe ben Nachman the Ramban, who in his old age left Spain the land of his birth and made Aliyah to the land of his forefathers. The Ramban sent a letter to his family describing the reality in Jerusalem. This letter is nearly 800 years old. He wrote[1] as follows:

“I write this letter in Jerusalem the holy city, for it is abandoned and desolate. The principle is that more holy a place, the greater is its destruction; and Jersulaem is more desolate than everywhere, and the land of Judah is more desolate than the Galilee.Yet with all its desolation it is very good….”

And Israel is not within it….only two brothers who are painters, who buy their paint from the ruler, and another few people join them in their house for a minyan on Shabbat. We encouraged them and found a delapodated house with marble pillars and abeuatiful dome, and we acquired it as a shul, for the city is abandoned and anyone who wants to take a delapodated house does so.

For many people come to Jerusalem frequently,men women and children from Damascus and Tzova and all the Galilees to see the place of the temple and cry over it.”

When the Ramban came to Israel he struggled to find a minyan, and yet in our times there is no city or town that does not even have one shul. Let us imagine the joy that the Ramban would have felt had he seen the multitudes of shuls and yeshivot.

Similarly we cannot fathom what it means when he states that the city is abandoned, and desolate. What has happened to the prophecy of Yirmiyahu who states that the city shall be plowed over? Jerusalem is filled with beautiful homes and buildings and packed streets, and visitors come from the four corners of the world to visit her.

This introduction is meant to entrench in our hearts the magnitude of the miracle that we have merited in the last few genrations, and not recognize and be thankful of Hashems miracles. One of the brachot that were instituted by the Geonim and was the prayer of many in the diaspora was the brach “yiru einenu:

“יִרְאוּ עֵינֵינוּ וְיִשְׂמַח לִבֵּנוּ וְתָגֵל נַפְּשֵׁנוּ בִּישׁוּעָתׇךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ בֶּאֱמֶת בֶּאֱמוֹר לְצִיּוֹן מָלַךְ אֱלֹהָיִךְ ה’ מֶלֶךְ ה’ מָלָךְ ה’ יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד”

“let our eyes see and hearts be joyous, and our souls merry through your salvation, our true King as i…

Being cognitive of the providence of Hashem, it is obligatory for us to discern the correct way to thank our Creator for all the good He has bestowed upon us. In this article we will try and understand what is the essence of the tefilat Halel and we will try and clarify whether it is His will that we also recite this tefila on Yom Haatzamut.

In this article I do not intend to give a halachic ruling, and it is known that this is a very contentious issue amongst the poskim[2], and different sects have different approaches. I do think it is appropriate to note the decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. At the inception of the creation of the state the Chief Rabbinate ruled that Halel should be recited without a bracha. The main argument was to take into consideration those opinions who held that we do not have the authority to institute Hallel with a bracha. When the State was 26 years old, the Chief Rabbinate again gathered and ruled that one should recite Halel with a bracha.

The poskim that hold that on emust recite Hallel with a brach rely on the opinion of the takana of the Sages that we will clarify further on. The Poskim who argue bring varied reasons why this parallel is not applicable. In this article I am not going to list all the different claims and counter proofs[3]. Rather I will focus on major claim being that one cannot recite Hallel with a bracha unless it was a miracle for the entire people of Israel.

I am focusing on this claim for three reasons. Firstly it is a claim mentioned by many of the Rishonim whilst the other claims are mainly from the Achronim. Therefore its halachic weight is greater and needs more attention, and in-depth study. Secondly by examining this claim we will also glean greater insight into the nature of Hallel itself which is part of which this essay is about. Finally by clarifying this one claim, it is able to decide all the other doubts raised by the Achronim.

There are two main opinions in the Rishonim. We will examine both and see how they relate to the question of Yom Haatzmaut.

The sources for reciting Hallel in the Talmud:

The first source we will look at is the Gemara in Psachim. The Talmud states[4] as follows:

The Sages taught: This hallel, who initially recited it? Rabbi Eliezer says: Moses and the Jewish people recited it when they stood by the sea……Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i says: Deborah and Barak recited it when Sisera stood against them (see Judges 4–5)……Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya says: Hezekiah and his company recited it when Sennacherib stood against them…. Rabbi Akiva says: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah recited it when the wicked Nebuchadnezzar stood against them (see Daniel 3)…. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili says: Mordecai and Esther recited it when the wicked Haman stood against them…

And the Rabbis say that hallel was not established for any specific event, but the Prophets among them instituted that the Jewish people should recite it on every appropriate occasion, and for every trouble, may it not come upon the Jewish people. When they are redeemed, they recite it over their redemption.

We find a second major sugya in Masechet Erc hin 10a-b. There the Gemara states as follows:

Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: There are eighteen days a year on which the individual completes the full hallel: The eight days of the festival of Sukkot, including the Eighth Day of Assembly; and the eight days of Hanukkah; and the first festival day of Passover; and the festival day of Assembly, i.e., Shavuot. And in the Diaspora, where a second day is added to each Festival due to uncertainty over the precise date, there are twenty-one days: The nine days of the festival of Sukkot; and the eight days of Hanukkah; and the first two festival days of Passover; and the two festival days of Assembly, i.e., Shavuot.

The Gemara asks: What is different about the festival of Sukkot, that we say hallel every day, and what is different about Passover, that we do not say hallel

every day, but only on the first day? The Gemara answers: The days of the festival of Sukkot are distinct from one another with regard to their additional offerings, as the number of bulls offered changes each day of Sukkot (see Numbers 29:12–38). Since each day is unique, the full hallel is recited on each day. By contrast, the days of Passover are not distinct from one another with regard to their additional offerings (see Numbers 28:24), and therefore the full hallel is recited only on the first day, which is the first day on which the additional offerings for a Festival are sacrificed.

The Gemara objects: On Shabbat, which is also distinct from the other days of the week with regard to its additional offerings, let us say hallel. The Gemara explains: Shabbat is not called an appointed day in the Torah, and hallel is recited only on days that are referred to in the Torah as appointed days (see Leviticus 23:4), which are days of rejoicing.

The Gemara objects: On the New Moon, which is called an appointed day, let us say hallel. The Gemara explains: The New Moon is not sanctified with regard to the prohibition against the performance of labor, and hallel is recited only on a day that is sanctified, as it is written: “You shall have a song as in the night when a festival is sanctified” (Isaiah 30:29), which indicates that a night that is sanctified as a Festival, which includes a prohibition of labor, requires song, but one that is not sanctified as a Festival does not require song. The Gemara objects: On Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, which are called an appointed day and also are sanctified with regard to the prohibition against the performance of labor, let us say hallel. The Gemara explains: Hallel is not recited on those days due to the statement of Rabbi Abbahu….The Gemara objects: But what about Hanukkah, which has neither this or that, i.e., there is no special offering on it, nor is labor prohibited, and yet one says hallel. The Gemara explains: Hallel is recited on Hanukkah not because of its status as a Festival, but because of the miracle that occurred on those days.

A final sugya we need to learn is the gemara in Taanit[5] which states

Rava said: That is to say that the hallel recited on a New Moon is not required by Torah law but is a custom.

As Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: On eighteen days a year, the individual completes the full hallel. And they are: The eight days of the festival of Sukkot, including the Eighth Day of Assembly; the eight days of Hanukkah; the first Festival day of Passover; and the Festival day of Assembly, i.e., Shavuot. And in the Diaspora, where a second day is added to each Festival due to uncertainty over the correct date, there are twenty-one days, and they are: The nine days of the festival of Sukkot, including the last day, known as the Celebration of the Torah, the eight days of Hanukkah, the first two days of Passover, and the two Festival days of Assembly.

On this topic, the Gemara relates: Rav happened to come to Babylonia, where he saw that they were reciting hallel on a New Moon. Unfamiliar with this practice, he thought to stop them, as he assumed that they were reciting hallel unnecessarily. Once he saw that they were omitting portions, he said: I can learn from this that they are maintaining the custom of their forefathers, i.e., they know that it is a custom, not an obligation. It is taught in a baraita: An individual should not begin reciting hallel on a New Moon, but if he has begun he should complete it.

The three sugyot describe Hallel regarding on three occaisons

  1. Halle that is recited on Rosh chodesh
  2. Hallel that is recited on the three festival s
  3. Hallel that is recited once we are redeemed from every occasion

The opinion of the Geonim

The Geonim hold that there is no connection between the Hallel recited on the festivals and the Hallell recited for every occasion. The gemara in Psachim deals with Hallel that is recited for the salvation of Israel “Geulat Yisrael” i.e the unique providence that Hashem shows his nation that brings them to salvation, and them and the world closer to their purpose.whilst the Sugya in Erchin deals with Hallel that is recited on Jewishh festivals.

The Geonim clarify that the takana of the Prophets deals with a miracle that occurred to the entire nation. The Gemara in Erchin that focused on the Hallel for the festivals stipulated that an individual can complete Hallel. One might come to the conclusion that for the Hallel recited for an occasion, as long as it is a community – this would be permitted. However the Geonim state that this is erroneous and the second type of Hallel is only recited if the miracle happened for the entire nation. These are the words of the Behag[6]:

“When the Gemara stated that an individual completes Hallel, it does not mean specifically an individual, rather as long as all of Israel are not gatheres together, it is called an individual. The fact that the gemara stated an individual, is because when all of Israel are gathered together and want to recite Hallel on every tragedy that falls upon them when they are redeemed, they recite it. Rather it is not and we learn form this that even a hundered and even many thousands as long as it does nmot include the entire nation is called an individual”

From the words of the Geonim it comes out that an individual community who experienced a miracle cannot recite Hallel with a bracha as this is not included in the takan of the prophets, as they are not “the enire Israel”. We have not found a source where an individual or community can recite Hallel other than the festivals. Similarly one cannot distinguish between an individual and community regarding reciting Hallel , on Rosh chodesh (which isnt considered a festival) and that’s is why Rav was so perturbed that they were reciting Hallel.

To understand the takana of the prohpets that we recite Hallel on a miracle that occurred to the entire nation it seems to me that the main thrust of this prayer of Hallel is to highlight and praise the Providence of the Creator over his nation and his world, and the words of the Sages are known “ptach dvarecha yair- your opening words shed light” on the nature of the Hallel. The beginning of Hallel teaches us about its essence and we open Hallel describing the redemption from Egypt.

בְּצֵאת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם, בֵּית יַעֲקֹב מֵעַם לֹעֵז: הָיְתָה יְהוּדָה לְקָדְשׁוֹ, יִשְׂרָאֵל מַמְשְׁלוֹתָיו:

הַיָּם רָאָה וַיָּנֹס, הַיַּרְדֵּן יִסֹּב לְאָחוֹר: הֶהָרִים רָקְדוּ כְאֵילִים, גְּבָעוֹת כִּבְנֵי צֹאן:

מִלִּפְנֵי אָדוֹן חוּלִי אָרֶץ, מִלִּפְנֵי אֱלוֹהַּ יַעֲקֹב: הַהֹפְכִי הַצּוּר אֲגַם מָיִם, חַלָּמִישׁ לְמַעְינוֹ מָיִם:

Hallel comes to praise the Creator who guides his nation to its destiny, therefore we focus on events that bring us closer to Geula – redemption. Events such as ytziat mitzraim, Chanukah, and Purim all fir in with this rubric and therefore require reciting Hallel.On the other hand other miracles, as great as they may have been, but were limited to a specific community do fill the requirements as they do not highlight the salvation of the entire nation,as Hallel is in essence the song of the redemption of Israel. An example of such a case is the great salvation of the Levorno community during an earthquake. The Chida notes that despite this, the community did not recite Hallel due to the reason mentioned above.

A proof for this reading of the Geonim can be found in the words of Tosfot. They follow the opinion of the Geonim and write as follows: “But for the redemption of all of Israel we always recite it”. It seems that the language of the Gemara in Psachim  “Geulatan – their redemption” teaches us that it is not just a scenario where people or even a community were saved, rather it must be part of the Geula – the national redemption. This is why the Gemara chose the word Geula instead of nes – miracle or hatzala- being saved. This ties in with the beginning of the sugya that focuses on monumental historical events suc as kriat yam suf and the conquering of Eretz Yisrael.

Similalrly the language of “kol perek v perek – every stage” every episode highlights the historical importance of the event, as opposed to the word miracle.Based on this it seems clear that one recites Hallel on every important stage[7] of the redemption and not only when the final Geula happens[8]. For the redemption comes kima kima , little by little and on eneeds to thank Hakadosh Baruch for every stage. This is why we recite Hallel on Channukah even though many died in the wars, the spiritual state of the nation was very low, and according to many the majority of the nation was not in Israel. However since it was a critical point in our history in terms of our victory over the helenistic culture and maintaining the unique holy identity of the Jewish people, this was an important juncture on the road to the final redemption.

The opinion of the Rif and Rambam

The Rif[9] as opposed to the Geonim, does not address all the different sugyot. Hence there is a debate amongst the achronim in clarifying his opinion. The Rif does clarify one halacha which can shed light on his opinion in general regarding Hallel. The Rif states as follows[10]:

“תנא יחיד לא יתחיל ואם התחיל גומר הילכך אי בעי יחיד למיקרי הלל בראש חדש קרי ליה בלא ברכה ומדלג דלוגי”

It was taught an individual shall not start Hallel, but if he started he completes it. If an individual wants to recite Hallel on Rosh Chaodesh he recites it partially and without a bracha”.

The Rif understands from the end of the Sugya in Taanit that the takana to recite Hallel on Rosh chodesh only applies to the community. Only a community can recite Hallel with a bracha but an individual was not included in this takana and therefore recites it without a bracha. According ot the Rif we have to explain that the words of Chazal “Thhere are eighteen days of the year where an individual completes Hallel” in its most literal sense; meaning that only on these festivals an indicvidaul would be permitted to recite Hallle with a bracha. Other days might be permitted for a community to recite with a bracha but not an individual.This is why a community recites Hallel on Rosh Chodesh with a bracha.

IT appears that the Rif argues with the Geonim regarding the takana of the Neviim to recite Hallel. Whereas the Geonim understood that this takana only applies to all of Am Yisrael, the Rif opines that as long as it is said by a community and not an indivual alone, one would be able to complete Hallel with a bracha.

Although the Rif did not relate to this topic directly, michlal lav ata shomea hen, from the negative we hear the positive. When the Sages used the phrase “yachid” an individual, the Rif understood this very literally and therefore when there is a community one may recite Hallel..

One cannot say that this is erroneous as there are different types of Hallel and only regarding one type did the Rif make such a distinction. Meaning for 1. Festivals an individual may recite. 2. For Rosh Chodesh only a community, and 3. for a miracle – only if it happened to the entire nation of Israel.After writing this I found support for this interpretartion of the Rif in commenteray of the Rabeinu Yona[11] and the Baal Hamaor[12].However the Ran[13] understood that the Rif did not argue with the Geonim.Similarly the Chida wrote that the Rif and Rambam agree with the Geonim. Notwithstanding this, I have interpreted their opinion as I understand it in my humble opinion.

If we are correct in our understanding of the Rif, the words of the Chazal fit very well, for the Gemara did not state that we should recite Hallel on their redemption, rather we should recite Hallel, when they are redeemed from their trouble. This implies that the takana is not to praise Hashem on a complete salvation, but rather on being involved in our lives with Divine providence. Similarly this does not have to be for the entire nation as seems to be the case qoouted by Rabbi Akiva regarding Chananya, Mishael…furthermore the Gemara in Erchin described the reason for reciting Hallel on channukah is due to the “miracle”. Again this highlights the miraculous event and not necessarily a new stage in Geula.

In understanding the reason of the takana according to the Rif, it seems that the main focus of Hallel is Hakarat Hatov…giving thanks for the goodness bestowed upon us.

מָה אָשִׁיב לה’. כָּל תַּגְמוּלוהִי עָלָי:  כּוס יְשׁוּעות אֶשּא. וּבְשֵׁם ה’ אֶקְרָא:
הודוּ לה’ כִּי טוב. כִּי לְעולָם חַסְדּו: יאמַר נָא יִשרָאֵל. כִּי לְעולָם חַסְדּו:


We have seen two approaches of how to understand the takana of Hallel. The first approach is that Hallle was instituted to praise Hashem for his providence over his people and His world , bringing it closer to the final redemption. The second approach is that Hallel was intstituted to appreciate and give thanks to Hashem, and learn to give thanks to one another, and this is applicable in every situation that one feels unique providence from Hashem in ones life.

When dealing with the question whether one can institute Hallel on Yom Haatzamaut, we need to discuss this in view of both opinions.

According to the first opinion if one sees the establishment of the state as the fulfillment of the vision of the prophets, it is clear that one should recite Hallel on this Geula. However one has to discern whether this miracle occurred to the entire nation? The Poskim debate whether this criterion focuses on the fact that the miracle happened on a physical level, or whether it has importance for all of Klal Yisrael.According to how we explained the opinion fo the Geonim it is clear that it focusses on the importance to nation.Accordingly on ewould recite Hallel with a bracha eventhough the majority of the Am Yisrael was not in Israel in 1948.

According to the second opinion, it seems that the residents of Israel are obligated to recite Hallel, on the miracle that happened to them. Regarding those who made Aliyah from the Diaspora, and those living in the diaspora, there is still room to say that on should recite Hallel. It seems that even according to the this opinion, a miracle of national importance would also obligate reciting Hallel, based on a kal vachomer from a private miracle. Furthermore one could argue that many jews have been saved due to the State of Israel and therefore it is a considered a personal miracle.

יהי רצון שבכל מעשה אשר אנו עושים נזכה לראות את הטובות אשר ה’ גומל עימנו, ובמקביל נזכור שה’ מקרב אותנו תמיד לידי ייעודנו – גילוי בן דוד במהרה בימינו.

[1] Igeret printed at the end of his commentary on the Torah

[2] ברצוני להדגיש נקודה חשובה שפעמים נעלמת מהציבור הרחב. נוח לנו לחשוב שהפוסקים המורים על אמירת ההלל הינם שמחים בקיומה של המדינה, והפוסקים המורים שאי אפשר לומר הלל, אינם שמחים בקיומה של המדינה. טענה זו יש בה מן האמת, אם כי באופן חלקי ומצומצם ביותר. המעיין הישר בדברי רבותינו שדנו בשאלת חיוב אמירת ההלל ביום העצמאות יראה שהמחלוקת בעניין זה איננה מחלוקת הגותית גרידא, אלא טומנת בחובה גם כן גדרים ויסודות הלכתיים.

[3] פירוט כלל הטענות והתייחסות אליהן נמצאת בסוף סידור בית מלוכה. וכן מומלץ לעיין בשו”ת יביע אומר ח”ו סימן מ”א

[4] פסחים קיז.

[5] תענית כח:

[6] בה”ג סימן ט”ו, הלכות לולב

[7] ודלא כדברי הפסקי רי”ד בסוגיא שפירש שהכוונה היא לחגי ישראל, שהרי לשון הבה”ג לעיל מורה שכל הסוגיא עוסקת בהלל של גאולה ולא בהלל של מועדי ישראל.

[8] ראה טענה זו בדברי היביע אומר ו’, מ”א. וכן הרב ישכיל עבדי [ח”ו, י’] פסק על פיה שאין לברך על ההלל. וראה בסידור בית מלוכה שהשיב על דבריו. והנלע”ד כתבתי לעיל, שכן מוכח מטעם דברי בה”ג שביארתי לעיל

[9] רבנו יצחק אלפסי, מגדולי הראשונים, חי לפני כ-1000 שנים בתפר שבין תקופת הגאונים לתקופת הראשונים. נולד באלגי’ר וחי רוב ימיו בתוניסיה.

[10] שבת [יא:]

[11] ברכות [ז.]

[12] שבת [יא.]

[13] שבת [יא.]

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