Menachem Mendel

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The Ninth of Av as a Day of Celebration

Moshe Benovitz of the Schechter Institute has a thought provoking post about Tisha B’av and Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Both the Bible and rabbinic literature do single out a number of days, and one day in particular, as the day on which to celebrate the restoration of the land of Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem to the Jewish people. But this day is not the day on which the Jews enter the land or recover their sovereignty over it; it is the day, or days, on which the Jews lost their sovereign presence in the land of Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem. According to both Biblical prophecy and rabbinic tradition, when the redemption arrives, it is to be celebrated on the Ninth of Av and the other fasts commemorating the Babylonian exile, the very days which had hitherto been set aside as days of mourning.

Israel is a modern nation, and as such it can and should decide when and how to celebrate its national day. Religious and secular Israelis and Zionists alike ought to join together in celebrating Yom Ha’atzma’ut in any or all the beautiful ways which have come to mark the day on which Jewish sovereignty in Israel was restored: ceremonies, parades and Bible contests; hikes, picnics and barbecues. Religious people should of course be grateful to God every day, and especially on the anniversary of Israel’s independence, much as they are especially grateful to God on their wedding anniversary and other joyous occasions without specific religious ritual.

Nonetheless, the Jewish tradition does not seem to consider the day on which Israel’s sovereignty is restored as the day set aside for religious celebration of the end of exile and the onset of redemption. The traditional view seems to be that making much of this day would undermine the notion that Israel’s sovereignty in its own land should be thought of as the norm, rather than something to get excited about. The days the tradition has set aside to give thanks for the restoration of the norm are the very days that hitherto marked the breach in the norm. It would therefore seem that ritual marking the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – including Hallel – should be reserved for the days of joy and gladness ordained by the Lord of Hosts for this purpose: the Ninth of Av and the other mo’adim tovim of Zechariah 8:19.

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