How Ami Magazine Convinced Me to Celebrate Yom Ha-Atzmaut


The editorial in Ami did not promote such celebration, of course. It provided an original and thought-provoking reason to celebrate its non-celebration, so to speak. Survivors of the Holocaust would naturally take great comfort in seeing the creation of the State as a Divine Hand reaching down to comfort the bedraggled remnant of the Jewish people. It took principled courage, claims the author, to resist what he calls “the comforting interpretation of Jewish history.” Survivors refused the convenience of such an interpretation of the events around them out of fealty to their religious convictions, which had no room for a secular state replacing the yearnings of the Jewish soul. (You can and should read the original, which is posted here.)

The implication is that those who continue to ignore Israel’s Independence Day act in the same spirit today. “It [Yom Ha-Atzmaut] was celebrated last week throughout the world by countless Jewish people, though not by many in the Orthodox Jewish community. Yom Ha-Atzmaut is generally either ignored or treated with disdain by most Orthodox Jews.”

The piece has generated vigorous discussion. Is it true that most Orthodox Jews ignore Yom Ha-Atzmaut? Do not a majority of Jews who accept the Thirteen Principles of Faith, i.e. the Rambam’s definition of who is an “insider,” in fact celebrate the day? (We should probably accept the author’s protestation that by “Orthodox” he meant “charedi,” and was guilty of poor word choice, but not malice.) Is it true that “subsequent…military action stirred additional rabbinic opposition to Zionism, and was seen as proof that the Zionist idea was, from a perspective of Jewish tradition, illicit from the start?” Wasn’t this just the reaction of Satmar and Brisk, and in fact rejected in all other Torah circles? Can the position of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik be reduced to nothing more than seeing the State as “a buffer against assimilation,” while dismissing “the idea that its creation was in any way associated with the concept of redemption?” Does Rav Kook merit any attention at all? Did the author ever see the newsreels of Novemeber, 1947 (the reaction to the UN partition vote), with circles of charedim and secular Jews dancing together in unbridled joy? They don’t really support the conclusion of a wholesale charedi rejection of the State. Nor does the signature of R Itche Meir Levin on Israel’s Declaration of Independence, nor all of those who did mark the first few anniversaries of the Declaration with joy and thanks to Hashem.

I will leave to others to develop those objections, and turn to one that I believe may be the most serious flaw in the editorial. Even if the facts would have been as the author has them (and I do not believe that this is the case), they would have little relevance to us today.

Yom Ha-Atzmaut is not a celebration of secular Zionism, or any kind of Zionism. It is the celebration of the coming into existence of an independent Jewish community – no, nation – in the land that is ours. Israel is the largest Jewish community in the world. Its continued existence, its thriving against all odds, is a gift from Heaven. It can, should, must be appreciated as an enormous chesed from HKBH, Who allows us to live in our holy Land and work again to slowly build up a Jewish nation. How can we fail to acknowledge the incredible saga, past and present of rov minyan and rov binyan of the Jewish people? What do we do to ourselves when we stand to the side as literally millions of Jews celebrate in their own way (even if not the way we would have designed such celebration), and we do not feel their simple joy of being Jewish? What damage to we foist on future generations of our people, as we propagate division and dissension by not smiling at them and saying “Chag Sameach,” even if it is not mentioned in Parshas Emor?

The author cited Rav Soloveitchik, and I will do so as well. Among other things, I admired (albeit from a distance, since I never attended YU) two elements in his life and thought that are actually intertwined. The first is that he was capable of changing his mind. He was an Agudah firebrand at one point, but he jumped ship. That doesn’t happen to gedolim in our revisionist biographies; it does happen to real people.

The second is his finding that halacha has its protocols of psak, which determine how to decide between competing positions. History, he said, is what sometimes determines the outcome of hashkafic debates. In the debate over the significance of the Jewish State, history was machria that it is significant.

This is not dependent on the ideology that is called Zionism. Many years ago, I heard a young rosh yeshiva argue that all of us were like the Japanese soldiers who remained holed up on Pacific islands many years after the end of World War Two, still keeping guard at their posts. They were living a war that had already ended. There was a war for the heart and soul of the Jewish people between secular Zionists and those faithful to Torah. Secular Zionism lost that battle! We in the Torah community should have declared victory and moved on! We now have a country of our own, and we should take our places in its development, without fear of supporting an ideology that died a long time ago. Yom Ha-Atzmaut is not about ideology today – it is about the privilege of having a place where we need bow to nothing but Hashem. Recall the words of the Rambam (Chanuka 3:1) writing about why Chanuka was important: “Jewish governance returned to for more than two hundred years, till the churban.” Those two centuries were presided over by rulers a good deal more evil than the people sitting in Knesset.

When I left kollel, I was an anti-zionist kana’i. I’m not sure if there is much of the old-style Zionism left to oppose. Today, there is only the reality of a world in which, as the Satmar Rov once said, “When they say Zionist, they mean us.” Like it or not, that exasperating, poorly governed, socially divided patch of land is seen by the rest of the world as identical with world Jewry. I support the State not because of speculative ideology, but because of the certainty that I want to defend Yidden. For many years, I felt jealous of those who could celebrate on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, who could share the thanks, the concerns for the future, and the joy. My previous training left no room for it. Gradually, I made some room. (I don’t say Hallel, because I am not bowled over by the arguments to do so. I do say tachanun, and don’t see any contradiction. I attended the local Consular affair, but left deliberately before the musical entertainment, because of Sefirah.) But I always looked over my shoulder, feeling a bit uncomfortable. As a yeshiva-trained Jew, did I belong there?

Ami’s piece was so wrong, that I now have reason to shake off the discomfort. That is important, because when you cannot bring yourself to sincerely join in the aspirations, dreams and joy of other Jews, it becomes so much easier to write them off as “the other.” It bcomes that much easier to see yourselves as the only legitimate emissaries of G-d. From there, you and your friends can spiral out of control, taking over neighborhoods and schools contemptuously, or wearing Auschwitz uniforms in Kikar Shabbos.

Faced with the choice of celebrating with people whose religious outlook I do not share, or accepting an outlook that is too narrow and off-putting to be true, I will go with the former.

Thank you, Ami, for making life a bit less worrisome.

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Dr. E
3 years 6 months ago

There are many American Mechanchim and Roshei Yeshiva who engage in collective cognitive dissonance. They reinforce themselves by stating that they are “standing firm to our Torah ideals and Hashkafos, even when that’s not popular”. If it were just this instance of lack of hakaras hatov, we might all actually believe that. But, this stance also fits into a whole mindset of entitlement within a one-way relationship of not giving back in other ways (except if one considers merely being on the roster of a Yeshiva “giving back”). Unfortunately, many of our youth in the Bais… Read more »

Charles Hall
3 years 6 months ago

In my earlier comment I cited a recent English translation of Kol Dodi Dofek by David Z. Gordon. I should also mention there is also another, earlier, English translation, by Prof. Lawrence Kaplan, published under the title *Fate and Destiny: Fate and Destiny: From Holocaust to the State of Israel”. Prof. Kaplan is well known for his intelligent comments in the Jewish internet and although I have not read his translation it should be very safe to assume that it would be an faithful treatment of The Rav’s thought.

Dovid Begoun
3 years 6 months ago

Rabbi Adlerstein,
Thank you so much for having the “guts” to say something that a lot of us feel. I just came back from Israel, and was there during Yom HaAtzmaut. This was the first time I was there since I was a Kollel yungerman and I was so conflicted. My “training” taught me not to celebrate, my heart and mind told me that this was an awesome day. I got home and saw the headline on the front of AMI and hoped that this would provide me with a license for accepting the day as a positive one. Unfortunately… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago


I guess you never met Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, ZT”L or any other Telzer Rosh HaYeshiva. They never “played the nebach” or “danced Mah Yofis” to anyone – never have and never will!

3 years 6 months ago

rabbi oberstein

one could contend that the derech of the roshei yeshiva in those early years should not be seen as the correct position to take , but rather the nebach posture of a bedraggled and downtrodden haredi world that was forced to dance Mah Yofis in front of the Zionist jews , both O and not, in order to gain some physical sustenance. fast forward 30 yrs, they had both the numbers and the lucre to no longer fear to call out the Truth to the 90+ % of Jews who are hopelessly off-the-derech…

Bob Miller
3 years 6 months ago

Joe referred above to “a chauvinistic and unquestioning display of utter allegiance by American Jews”. Observing or at least taking appropriate note of this occasion is not such a display for most who do so.

If it’s not yet paradise on earth, it’s still a whole lot better than elsewhere.

3 years 6 months ago

Rabbi Adlerstein, I honestly think that you missed the point of the Ami editorial. I’m glad that you’re happy that Israel exists. There are, however, a significant amount of Jews who have other opinions about Israel. The editorial didn’t put forward an opinion about Israel; it explained that the contempt poured out on those who either opposed or were cool in any way to the formation of the state might actually be misplaced. It wasn’t a courageous position to love Israel in 1948 or 1967.
Ever listen to Rabbi Mordechai Gifter’s speech after the Six-Day War? You might not agree with… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago

Kol Hakavod and Yasher Koiach! This reminds me of the fact that (many years ago) when I was a student in Bais Yaakov High School (outside of NY), our school had an assembly every year on Yom Ha’atzmaut so that our principal z’l, could deliver a speech about Why We Do Not Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. The assembly always began with an impromptu rendition of Hatikvah started by some of the girls(when the principal was not present, he never came at the beginning because we started every assembly with singing our school song and Ani Ma’amin), followed by our… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago

Rabbi Adlerstein,

I don’t think there is anyone that I agree with more than you. I enjoy your perspectives and thank you for sharing them.

Ronnie Sieger
3 years 6 months ago

As usual, well thought out and written article by Rabbi Adlerstein.

Charlie Hall
3 years 6 months ago

Anyone who implies Rav Soloveitchik z’tz’l was anything other than an enthusiastic Zionist is either an ignoramus or is falsifying The Rav’s torah. Nobody who has read *Kol Dodi Dofek* could possibly think that. A few years ago it was translated into English by David Z. Gordon; I highly recommend it.

3 years 6 months ago

Well said. It seems like you are following in the footsteps of the Rav, turning from the haughty position of fealty to absolute da’at torah (in the face of the holocaust etc.) to the rational understanding of the facts of jewish history (including Israel), as explained by R’ Rakeffet-Rothkoff [available at yutorah as Rav_Yosef_Dov_Halevi_Soloveitchik_an_Agudist] May you be a more vocal leader for our community, as the religious modern orthodox community is sorely lacking a voice as an alternative to the charedi leadership, someone willing to question and hone general “orthodox” positions set forth by the more charedi-ized leadership of US… Read more »

Sarah Shapiro
3 years 6 months ago

Bless you Rabbi Adlerstein, and Rabbi Frankfurter, for speaking your truth.
G-d willing, maybe the rest of us will have the courage to say what we really think.

Etana Hecht
3 years 6 months ago

I read through the Ami editorial, and felt such shock and deep sadness that this is how a representative of the Yeshivish (and supposedly open-minded) world feels. I also had numerous online arguments practically begging right-wingers to simply acknowledge and be grateful that we have our Land- after that, this article was TRULY a breath of fresh air!

It’s so beyond my scope of understanding how any Jew that calls themselves frum can possibly just ignore the anniversary of such a turning point in our Jewish history. The mere fact that the government paved our roads, picks up our garbage… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago

I’m not sure if its the editorial or your paraphrase of same, but the notion that the survivors resisted any religious interpretation of the rebirth of Israel because of religious convictions is pretty dubious. For most religious people it was simply a sense of conservatism, which opposes new innovations, subsequently justified by halachic arguments. Seems to me conservatism is a good and healthy instinct, but the creation of Israel [like the similar battle over Hebrew, another lost cause] was a case where they should have made an exception.

Brief note to Rabbi Obsertein – in bemoaning that the position of Ami… Read more »

david a.
3 years 6 months ago

I grew up in a (modern) chassidish milieu and saying hallel on Y’H was simply not on our radar, let alone with a brocho. until I heard Rabbi Sholomo Goren ZT”L, staying at his nephew’s house while visiting Canada, remark on this topic….not an exact quote, but to the effect …. My goodness, the Shulchan Orech provides for a brocho when you buy a new suit. That changed my mind.

joel rich
3 years 6 months ago

The Lord works in mysterious ways – perhaps Ami magazine exists only to bring you completely over to the “right” side :-)

Baruch Gitlin
3 years 6 months ago

Excellent article! I went from not acknowledging Yom HaAtzmaut to celabrating it for more or less the same reasons you describe. To me, this day is an opportunity to thank God for what he has given us, and the ideology of Zionism or the current state of the Israeli government is all quite irrelevant to that bsic point. I do say Hallel, but to me, whether or not one says Hallel or Tachnun is far from the main point – the main point is acknowledging that the day marks something special for the Jewish people, something that requires hakarat hatov.

Derek Saker
3 years 6 months ago

Another thoughtful and illuminating article by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.
How welcomingly to see the blossoming of independent thoughts and perspective on profound issues in our Torah world – to issues too often either considered taboo or where a different perspective was seen as almost blasphemous.

Personally I have always found the tremendous lack of Hakaras Hatov (tangible and publically expressive) by vast elements of Torah world to a people and system called “Israel” (imperfect as it is)
as a terrible Chilul Hashem at best.

This to an entity that has and continues to plough hundreds of millions of dollars year… Read more »

Chana Siegel
3 years 6 months ago

Bless you, Rav Adlerstein! We don’t have to agree on all the details of Zionism, the theory or of Israel, the modern state (which I personally view as a large, disfunctional family, but my own). It is a pleasure and a challenge to realize that we *do* agree on the necessity of gratefulness to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe for allowing the Jewish State to exist, and for us to be present and involved in our history at this time.

3 years 6 months ago

Awesome, and right on target. To extend advice I received in a chosson’s class. If the klal forever continues to fight about the issues of the past, how can we ever move on. The State is a fact and the different segments of the Jewish people are married to each other, with all of the brachos and issues that follow from that. We should all enjoy and propogate the brachos, and deal with the issues, but with a realization of the importance of Shalom bayis. And we should always present a united front to the neighbors and the rest… Read more »

Bob Miller
3 years 6 months ago

Some of our smug brothers have gone beyond, “every Orthodox Jew ought to think exactly as we do” to “every Orthodox Jew already does think exactly like we do”. It’s easy to think this way while living in enclaves. The definition of Orthodox can be revised as needed to support the point.

Lawrence Kaplan
3 years 6 months ago

Bravo, R. Adlerstein, for a great article. Perhaps the time may even come when you’ll drop the Tahanun!

3 years 6 months ago

Over thirty years ago I left the Mir in Yerushalayim to learn in a hesder yeshiva, but still could not bring myself to say Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut. One year my parents were vacationing in Israel and I jokingly asked my Father A”H if he had said Hallel that morning. My Father, a holocaust survivor who gave the daf shiur at the gerrer shtiebel in Flatbush said: “Why not? I davened at a minyan where they said Hallel, and HKB”H needed to be thanked for what he gave us.”

I’ve said Hallel ever since.

Dr. E
3 years 6 months ago

I think that Rabbi Adlerstein’s sentiments resonate with many, who although they may not celebrate Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Hazikaron with Hallel and Tefillah Chagigit, are fed up with naysayers who year-after-year use the date to pontificate, in a transparent attempt to somehow earn brownie points.

The Editor is trying to pander to the readership (advertisers and Rabbanim from whom a “cherem of the magazine would be devastating) by validating what has emerged as the prevalent position of the Yeshiva world on Yom Haatzmaut and Zionism. The truth is that for much of the readership of the magazine, the connections… Read more »

3 years 6 months ago

Boy, Rabbi, God sides with Zionists. But then God sides with Muslims, and communists. And Fidel! Keep God out of it, for Pete’s sake. A group of people wanted a state, they went to war, and won. Period. This is not based on zealotry. But rationalism. Suggested reading, the writings of Yeshayahu Liebowitz and The Rav Thinking Aloud. Ami you got my vote for saying it the way it is.

L. Oberstein
3 years 6 months ago

I found this article most enlightening especially when I followed the links and came across an article by Rabbi Elazar Muskin entitled: “When Unity reigned: Yom HaAtzmaut 1954” about how the rosh yeshiva of Telshe yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, participated in a Yom HaAtzmaut event and wrote favorably about Israel when he defended his position.
The world has indeed changed over the generations.The late Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Moshe Horowitz, once told me that the generation of Rav Aaron Kutler and the Satmar Rov held to their opinions and were not afraid to publicly state their views.… Read more »

Rachely Schloss
3 years 6 months ago

Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein, for the beautiful message.
Coming from and fully embracing Religious-Zionist ideology (and there is such a thing), some overtones are a little difficult for me (“that exasperating, poorly governed, flawed patch of land”), but am grateful for overall statement.
Yom Ha’atzmaut for me is all about sovereignty, a million times over and the breathtakingly apt Perek 107 in Tehillim, which we say on Leil Chag Ha’atzmaut (before the Hallel with a bracha :)).

3 years 6 months ago

Kol HaKavod – this article said much better than many others the simple reality of celebrating TODAY’s reality.

I would add that Rav Eliyahu KiTov, in the sometimes-censored chapter of Sefer HaToda’ah on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, cited the opinions for and against the state and its implications for geula, and presented his own very clear statement that bottom line, we have to have hakaras ha’tov for Hashem’s giving us the Land, and (in his words) we should daven for the souls of anyone who cannot feel this hakaras ha’tov.

Menachem Lipkin
3 years 6 months ago

Wow, just wow. Hopefully, more people will be likewise motivated by Ami’s unfortunate editorial!