Celebration Obligation

7 May

How many of us would dream of missing a Pesach seder?

How many of us would just skip lighting Chanukah candles?

We have grown to understand that celebrating the exodus from Egypt and the victory of the Maccabees are not just invitations to make a party – rather, they are national obligations, part and parcel of our Jewish identity.  In other words, these are a couple of examples of the rituals that Jews do, because they are a part of being Jewish.

Now you must realize,  these two celebrations are very different in terms of their origination.  While the celebration of Pesach comes to us from the Torah itself, the celebration of Chanukah was a rabbinic creation.  In fact, we know from a variety of sources that it did not catch on right away.  The Books of Maccabees, ancient books describing the events of Chanukah, seem to have been written to elaborate on the miracle of the Chanukah victory, and to convince Jews in Israel as well as those living in the Diaspora that this event was worthy of celebration.  For instance, the second Book of Maccabees was originally written in Greek about 40 years after the events it recalls, and was most likely designed to encourage Egyptian Jewry, particularly the large population in Alexandria, to adopt the observance of Chanukah. 

My feeling is that we are at just about that same stage as regards Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

The Talmud, regarding the establishment of the mitzvah of reading the Megillah on Purim (another rabbinic innovation), asks:

Our Rabbis taught: ‘Forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses prophesied to Israel, and they neither took away from nor added anything to what is written in the Torah, with the exception of commanding the reading of the Megillah’. How did they derive it [from the Torah]? — R. Hiyya b. Abin said in the name of R. Joshua b. Korha: If for being delivered from slavery to freedom we chant a hymn of praise, should we not do so all the more for being delivered from death to life? (Megillah 14a) 

According to the great posek of Pressburg, the Chatam Sofer (1762-1839), when the Talmud teaches something based on a kal vechomer – that is, where the Torah instructs us to do something in a certain  case, then all the more so should that same thing be done in an even more serious case – and then the observance, the new one that is being legistlated as a result of the kal vechomer – is to be considered a TORAH OBLIGATION – not just a nice idea. [Yoreh Deah 233]

In other words, practically speaking, just as it is incumbent upon us to make a seder and sing hallel on Pesach, based on the fact that the Torah OBLIGATES us to celebrate our redemption from Egyptian slavery, all the more so, when our lives were spared from the evil decree of Haman,it should be obvious that we are OBLIGATED IN THE SAME WAY to read the megillah and express our thankfulness for our salvation.

Today, it our OBLIGATION to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut.  This is the way we need to approach it.  For this day marks Jewish independence from foreign rule – the first time in 2000 years!  It also marks the establishment of a Jewish homeland, a refuge for Jews worldwide – the State of Israel provided for and continues to provide for the safety and well being of Jews worldwide…millions of Jews today owe their lives to the establishment of this State….for this reason along we must consider ourselves OBLIGATED to celebrate this day…to say words of hallel, and to make the day into a celebration.

Tomorrow morning, our family will be hosting a seudah chagigit – a holiday meal – at our home.  Together with other friends who have made aliyah and made Israel their new home, we will offer a toast to the miracle of the State of Israel, and join together in recollection of what an incredible modern-day miracle we are all privileged to be a part of. 

We will do this not only as an excuse to get together and eat, but as an OBLIGATION, as we do our part to establish Yom haAtzmaut as the a full fledged Yom Tov, no different than Purim and Chanukah.

Chag Sameach!

A RABBI FOR ALL OCCASIONS…..Please visit my new website at www.rabbimorey.com






2 Responses to “Celebration Obligation”

  1. Helene Meyer Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 2:11 am #

    Chag samaech , I like your story/commentary about the obligation to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut.

    Helene Meyer

  2. Henri Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    So after you finish Shivim Panim, how about a graduate series on how the Rabbis changed the commemoration of holidays in Judaism?

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