Today at 4pm Israel time, exactly 71 years ago, David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel.
So why are we not celebrating today? It’s all to do with Shmirat Shabbat!
The 5th of Iyar can only fall out on one of the following days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Shabbat. Therefore, in most years Yom Ha’atzmaut is actually postponed to another date.
Initially, the Chief Rabbinate ruled that when the 5th of Iyar falls on either Friday or Shabbat, Yom Ha’atzmaut should be advanced to the preceding Thursday. Subsequently, the rabbis realized that whenever Yom Ha’atzmaut fell on a Monday, the preparations for Yom Hazikaron – which would then begin on Motzei Shabbat – would inevitably result in a considerable amount of chillul Shabbat (Shabbat desecration). Therefore, the Chief Rabbinate decided that both Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut would be pushed off by one day. In other words, Yom Hazikaron would then occur on Monday, 5 Iyar, and Yom Ha’atzmaut would take place on Tuesday, 6 Iyar.
Thus, when Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on three out of its four possible days, it is either advanced or postponed.
This may appear similar to why we don’t take a lulav, blow shofar or read Megillah on Shabbat, as the Gemara tells us “Rabba said: ‘It is a decree lest one take [the lulav] in his hand and go to an expert to learn and carry it four amot in the public domain.’ And this is the reason for [not blowing] the shofar [when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat] and the reason for [not reading] the Megillah [when Purim falls on Shabbat].”
However when we look more closely, this is not the same. Chazal did not postpone the observance of the day itself; rather, they merely delayed one specific, relevant mitzvah. We shift the entire day!
But there is another case which more closely resembles our situation – namely, when Shushan Purim falls on Shabbat. The Shulchan Aruch ruled: “When the 15th falls on Shabbat, the Megillah is not read on Shabbat. Instead, its reading is advanced to Erev Shabbat. And coins are collected for Matanot Levyonim, and they are distributed on that same day. And on Shabbat, two Torah scrolls are taken out [to be read], and from the second one, we read: “And Amalek came”. And Al HaNissim is recited, but the seudat Purim does not take place until Sunday.”
Yet, here too, the essence of the day itself is not postponed. Instead, only those mitzvot which are likely to lead to chillul Shabbat are advanced or delayed. However, mitzvot which have no negative impact on Shabbat – Al HaNissim and the Torah reading for Purim – are not postponed.
The answer I believe is beautiful and speaks volumes about what Israel and the Jewish people should be.
Yom Haatzmaut is a national chag for the people. We care about the people, all the people, not just the religious ones. I am sure that the religious public would make sure that their Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations would finish before Shabbat or not to start to prepare till after Shabbat is out. However, we have to think about the nation as a whole, whether secular or religious – and to make sure that no one is being mechalel Shabbat in order to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, so we shift the entire day. Kol Yisrael areivim zeh ba zeh – all Israel is responsible for each other.
And remarkably no one has an issue with this. You would think that a largely secular population would resent their major celebration day being moved for Shabbat, maybe even call it religious coercion – but they don’t.
And I believe that could be traced back to the initial day itself..
The Gemara in Sanhedrin teaches us ‘Hakol holech achar harosh’ Everything goes after the beginning. Meaning how you start something has a real impact on the long term.
So let’s go back to that historic day – Friday 5th Iyar 5708 – today, 71 years ago. To see how it all began.
The mandate was due to end at midnight on Friday and therefore the ceremony was going to be on the Friday evening at 6pm. However, Shabbat was in that evening at 7:15pm, so Ben Gurion decided to bring the ceremony forward to 4pm to make sure all was finished before Shabbat commenced.
Think about it – the birth of our state was moved – in honour of Shabbat.
And the date of Yom Ha’atzmaut is moved – in honour of Shabbat.
Hakol holech achar harosh….
And tomorrow morning in Parshat Kedoshim we will read ‘V’et Shabtotai Tishmoro’ and my Shabbatot you shall observe – it has always been a cornerstone of our people….and always will be.
This Shabbat we reflect on 71 years of the State of Israel which began on erev Shabbat
They are being joined by our Mizrachi Shlichim in the UK as well as Chief Rabbi Mirvis, Rabbi Dweck and myself. The programme launches next Thursday night in NINE communities in Leeds, Manchester and London, then on Friday across the Jewish schools network.
And then for Shabbat, our scholars will be speaking over THIRTY communities up and down the country before they all come together for the Day of Inspiration in Kinloss and Stenecourt.
We say every Shabbat in our shuls in the prayer for the State of Israel ‘Ki Mitzion Tetzei Torah’, from Zion shall come forth Torah.
That is exactly what is happening next Shabbat and we all have to make sure we are there on Thursday, over Shabbat and on Sunday. This is too great an opportunity to miss.
71 years ago today, David Ben Gurion read out the Declaration of Independence – it took him eleven minutes and twenty seconds. When he finished he said ‘Let us stand to receive the founding document for the Jewish state.’ The next voice was not his own – he handed over to Rav Maimon, the head of Mizrachi, to finish – to say the shecheyanu blessing. When you listen to the recording you will hear the tremble in the Rav’s voice – with awe and thanksgiving he recited the bracha.