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Yad Peshuta and Hallel

August 22, 2013

When our study group reached Maimonides’s laws of Megilla and Purim, I had the privilege to speak to Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich concerning Maimonides’s view of the propriety of saying Hallel on Hanukka and Purim and any day that may fit their template. 

When the Purim miracle occurred, the Rabbinic consensus was to establish an eternal holiday of thanksgiving, but the classic Hallel, psalms 113-118, was deemed inappropriate because “we were still servants of Ahasuerus” (Megilla 14a) and Hallel should mark a deliverance resulting in national independence. However, praise was still proper, so the inspired people who lived at that time wrote the Megilla, whose reading on the holiday is a form of Hallel. (ibid.)

When the Hanukka miracle occurred, the sages at that time should ideally have found new inspired individuals to compose a new form of Hallel for the new holiday, but there was no one who could, so the sages fell back on the classic Hallel, which was in any event appropriate for the occasion, as the miracle had resulted in Jewish national independence in the land of Israel. (Although Rabbi Avigdor Miller claimed that the sages established the holiday because of the of “their rejoicing at the demonstration of the Shechinah in their midst” brought about by the Miracle of the Lights, and tried to downplay the miraculous military victories, his position does not seem to fit with the earlier sources

Therefore, when the State of Israel was established, the rabbanim should ideally have found men of inspiration to compose a new song of thanksgiving, but because no one stepped up, they once again fell back on the classic Hallel, which in any event was appropriate for the day. 

As I became older, I realized that there were no real halachic arguments against reciting  Hallel on Independence Day. On the contrary, if one recites Hallel on Hanukka, then he must, by qal wahomer, recite it on Independence Day, as all of the reasons for reciting it on Hanukka also apply to Independence Day, and eventhough what ever we had gained at Hanukka has been already lost, we are still enjoying the benefits of Israeli independence. Rabbi Rabinovich says that he has always recited the complete Hallel with a blessing on Independence Day, and that practice seems to fit with the sources in the Talmud as understood by Maimonides and the other classic Rishonim, and many of the Aharonim who did not live to see the establishment of the State. I would argue that if one declines reciting Hallel on Independence Day then he should also decline on Hanukkah.

I similarly claim that if one reads the Megilla on or about Purim, then he should, by qal wahomer, also recite Hallel on Jerusalem Day, which has all the advantages of Purim plus the fact that the miracle happened in the land of Israel (Arachin 10b) and that we were still an independent people after that. If one does not recite Hallel on Jerusalem Day, then he should not be reading the Megilla to mark Purim.

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