Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut?

Yom Haatzmaut is among the newest addition to the calendar of Jewish holidays, commemorating the establishment of the modern State of Israel on the 5th of Iyar, in 1948 (Jewish year 5708).

Questions: Does Yom Haatzmaut earn the "holiday status" required to recite Hallel? What classical Jewish sources did rabbis consult to make this decision for their communities?

Topic #1: When do we typically recite Hallel?


דאמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יהוצדק:

שמונה עשר יום בשנה יחיד גומר בהן את הלל, ואלו הן:

שמונת ימי החג;

ושמונת ימי חנוכה;

ויום טוב הראשון של פסח;

ויום טוב (ראשון) של עצרת.

As Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: On eighteen days a year, the individual completes the full hallel. And they are:

1) The eight days of the festival of Sukkot, including the Eighth Day of Assembly;

2) the eight days of Hanukkah;

3) the first Festival day of Passover;

4) and the Festival day of Assembly, i.e., Shavuot.

  • What do Sukkot, Hanukkah, Passover, and Shavuot have in common?
  • What is missing that you would have expected to be on the list?

Topic #2: Why do we recite Hallel specifically on these holidays and not on others?


אֲמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אֲמַר שְׁמוּאֵל:

שִׁיר שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה,

מֹשֶׁה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֲמָרוּהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעָלוּ מִן הַיָּם.

וְהַלֵּל זֶה, מִי אֲמָרוֹ?

נְבִיאִים שֶׁבֵּינֵיהֶן תִּקְּנוּ לָהֶן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל,

שֶׁיְּהוּ אוֹמְרִין אוֹתוֹ עַל כָּל פֶּרֶק וּפֶרֶק,

וְעַל כָּל צָרָה וְצָרָה, שֶׁלֹּא תָּבֹא עֲלֵיהֶן,

וְלִכְשֶׁנִּגְאָלִין, אוֹמְרִים אוֹתוֹ עַל גְּאֻלָּתָן.

Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: The song in the Torah, i.e., the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15:1–19), Moses and the Jewish people recited it when they ascended from the sea. The Gemara asks: And who said this hallel mentioned in the mishna, Psalms 113–118? The Gemara answers: The Prophets among them established this hallel for the Jewish people, that they should recite it on every appropriate occasion; and for every trouble, may it not come upon them, they recite the supplications included in hallel. When they are redeemed, they recite it over their redemption, as hallel includes expressions of gratitude for the redemption.

  • This passage states that Hallel is meant to be recited to commemorate experiences of redemption.
  • Which holidays commemorate experiences of redemption?
  • Do all of the holidays above recall redemption of the Jewish people?


ראש חודש דאיקרי מועד לימא.

לא איקדיש בעשיית מלאכה, דכתיב: (ישעיהו ל, כט) "השיר יהיה לכם כליל התקדש חג."

לילה המקודש לחג טעון שירה, ושאין מקודש לחג אין טעון שירה.

The Gemara objects: On the New Moon, which is called an appointed day, let us say hallel. The Gemara explains: The New Moon is not sanctified with regard to the prohibition against the performance of labor, and hallel is recited only on a day that is sanctified, as it is written: “You shall have a song as in the night when a festival is sanctified” (Isaiah 30:29), which indicates that a night that is sanctified as a Festival, which includes a prohibition of labor, requires song, but one that is not sanctified as a Festival does not require song.

  • Why don't we say Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, according to the Talmud?
    • (the full Hallel is only recited on a "mo'ed", a festival where we refrain from labor)
  • But wait...what is the current practice regarding Hallel on Rosh Chodesh?
    • Keep this contradiction in mind - we will revisit this topic later.
  • Is saying Hallel on Hanukkah consistent with this rule?


והא חנוכה, דלא הכי ולא הכי וקאמר? משום ניסא.

פורים דאיכא ניסא, לימא!

אמר רבי יצחק: לפי שאין אומרים שירה על נס שבחוצה לארץ.

The Gemara objects: But what about Hanukkah, which has neither this or that, i.e., there is no special offering on it, nor is labor prohibited, and yet one says hallel. The Gemara explains: Hallel is recited on Hanukkah not because of its status as a Festival, but because of the miracle that occurred on those days. The Gemara objects: If so, on Purim, when there is also this factor, i.e., a miracle occurred on that day, let us say hallel. Rabbi Yitzḥak said: Hallel is not recited on Purim because one does not recite a song of praise for a miracle that occurred outside of Eretz Yisrael.

  • Why do we say Hallel on Hanukkah?
  • On Hanukkah we do not refrain from labor - what happened to the criteria of being a yom tov?
    • Apparently Hallel can be recited on days that are not a yom tov, as long as the holiday commemorates a miracle performed for the Jewish people.
  • According to Rabbi Yitzhak, why do we not say Hallel on Purim?
    • In his opinion, a Hallel-qualifying miracle must occur within the land of Israel.


רב נחמן אמר: קרייתא זו הלילא.

רבא אמר...אכתי עבדי אחשורוש אנן.

ביאור שטיינזלץ: שהרי ישראל נמצאים בגלות.

Rav Naḥman said an alternative answer as to why hallel is not recited on Purim: The reading of the Megilla itself is an act of reciting hallel.

Rava said...(We do not recite Hallel because) we were still the servants of Ahasuerus.

[Steinsaltz Commentary: that behold the people Israel are found in exile.]

  • This passage adds two more possible reasons why we do not recite Hallel on Purim, what are they?
    • The Megillah counts as a form of Hallel.
    • The miracle of Purim was incomplete because at the end of the story the Jews remained in exile (in contrast, the Passover and Hanukkah miracles resulted in returning to the land of Israel and establishing a nation there).
  • In closing, what are the criteria we have gathered that are required to recite Hallel on a non yom tov day?
  1. The holiday must commemorate a miracle.
  2. To qualify for saying Hallel, the miracle must either have occurred in the land of Israel, or ended the Jewish exile from Israel.

Topic #3: Waiting For A Miracle

To fit the criteria for saying Hallel, a holiday must commemorate a miracle of redemption.

Part 1: Was gathering Jews back to a communal homeland foretold as an act of redemption?


(יב) וְנָשָׂ֥א נֵס֙ לַגּוֹיִ֔ם וְאָסַ֖ף נִדְחֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּנְפֻצ֤וֹת יְהוּדָה֙ יְקַבֵּ֔ץ מֵאַרְבַּ֖ע כַּנְפ֥וֹת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

(12) He will hold up a signal (נס) to the nations And assemble the banished of Israel, And gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

  • נס, in addition to meaning "miracle" in modern Hebrew, refers to a "signal" in biblical Hebrew.
  • How do you interpret the use of the word in this context?
  • Do you recognize this terminology from our daily prayer liturgy? [the Amidah - ושא נס לקבץ גליותינו - and hold up a sign to gather our exiled]
  • Did modern Jewish political sovereignty in Israel end the exile and fulfill this prophecy? Why or why not?
  • (Note: these biblical verses are not authoritative in making Jewish legal determinations, but were used homiletically by rabbis in arguments for establishing Yom Haatzmaut as a religious commemoration of deliverance experienced by klal Yisrael, the Jewish community worldwide.)


(מז) הוֹשִׁיעֵ֨נוּ ׀ ה' אֱלֹקֵ֗ינוּ וְקַבְּצֵנוּ֮ מִֽן־הַגּ֫וֹיִ֥ם לְ֭הֹדוֹת לְשֵׁ֣ם קָדְשֶׁ֑ךָ לְ֝הִשְׁתַּבֵּ֗חַ בִּתְהִלָּתֶֽךָ׃ (מח) בָּר֤וּךְ־ה' אֱלֹקֵ֪י יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל מִן־הָ֤עוֹלָ֨ם ׀ וְעַ֬ד הָעוֹלָ֗ם וְאָמַ֖ר כָּל־הָעָ֥ם אָמֵ֗ן הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃

(47) Deliver us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, to acclaim Your holy name, to glory in Your praise. (48) Blessed is the LORD, God of Israel, From eternity to eternity. Let all the people say, “Amen.” Hallelujah.

  • How do the words of this Psalm connect the gathering of Jews back to the land of Israel to deliverance of the Jewish people and offering praise to God?

Waiting For A Miracle, Part 2: Israeli statehood was accomplished through political and military means; can we consider this human accomplishment to be a "miracle"?


מתיב רב ששת: רועה שהיה רועה, והניח עדרו ובא לעיר, ובא זאב וטרף ובא ארי ודרס...

אומדין אותו: אם יכול להציל, חייב.

ואם לאו, פטור.

ואמאי? נימא ליה: אי הוית התם, הוה מקיים בי: (שמואל א יז, לו) "גם את הארי גם (את) הדוב הכה עבדך."

משום דאמר ליה: אי הוית חזית לאיתרחושי לך ניסא, הוה איתרחיש לך ניסא כר' חנינא בן דוסא, דמתיין עיזי דובי בקרנייהו.

ונימא ליה: נהי דלניסא רבה לא הוה חזינא, לניסא זוטא חזינא.

Rav Sheshet raises an objection from a baraita: In the case of a shepherd who was herding the animals of others, and he left his flock and came to the town, and in the meantime a wolf came and tore an animal to pieces, or a lion came and trampled one of the flock...the court estimates with regard to him: If he could have rescued his animal, he is liable. If not, he is exempt from liability.

Why is the shepherd exempt? Let the owner say to him: Had you been there, the following verse would have been fulfilled for me: “Your servant smote both the lion and the bear” (I Samuel 17:36). The Gemara answers: This is because the shepherd could say to the owner: If you were worthy of a miracle occurring to you, a miracle would have indeed occurred to you as it did to Rabbi Ḥanina ben Dosa, when his goats brought bears impaled on their horns. The Gemara asks: And let the owner say to him: Granted that I was not worthy of a great miracle, but of a small miracle I was worthy.

  • This passage was cited by Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Kook (leading thinker of Religious Zionism) to classify Israel's establishment as a modern miracle, and by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (author of comprehensive studies of Jewish law) to justify reciting Hallel on the holiday.
  • The shepherd who neglected his duty says: my presence would not have made a difference; I would have been outmatched by the killer lion.
  • His master said: You would have been outmatched, but the biblical David, an outmatched servant, also prevailed against a lion and a bear. Perhaps you would have defeated the lion in a miracle.
  • What do you make of the use of miracles in legal arguments to determine liability for damages? Can this legal definition of miracle be applied in other categories of Jewish law? How would you describe the Talmud's characterization of a large versus a small miracle?

OUR LINGERING QUESTION: Why would a man defeating a lion constitute a miracle?


אבל הכא שלא היה שם;

דלמא, אי הוה התם, היה בו רוח וגבורה ודעת להלחם, והוה מקיים ביה "גם את הארי כו'":

But in this case he was not there, perhaps if he were there, he would have had in him a spirit and courage and knowledge to fight them, and the verse would have been fulfilled through him.

  • The Talmud establishes that the shepherd could only have won the fight through a miracle. According to Tosafot (medieval commentaries on the Talmud, written in Germany, Italy, and France during the 12th to 14th centuries), what miraculous transformation would have led him to victory? In other words, what makes this scenario a miracle?
  • How do the Talmud and Tosafot imply that miracles can be a partnership between God and human beings? What part of the miracle comes from God and what comes from human beings?
  • Is there a connection between miracles and fulfilling a biblical verse?

Topic #4: Can we establish new holidays based on new miracles of redemption?


(ג) יש מתענים ג' ימים זכר לתענית אסתר:

משנה ברורה תרפ׳׳ו:ח׳

(ח) יכולים בני עיר לתקן בהסכמה, ובחרם עליהם, ועל הבאים אחריהם, לעשות פורים ביום שנעשה בו נס.

(3) There are those who fast three days for the fast of Esther.

Mishnah Berurah 686:8

The people of a city are permitted to establish, through consensus, and impose on threat of excommunication, a [new] Purim for themselves and those that come after them, on a day in which a miracle occurred [for them].

  • What power do we have to establish new holidays according to the Mishnah Berurah (19th century commentary on Shulchan Aruch)?
  • What role does God play in the miracle of Purim?
  • How do the Mishnah Berurah, the Purim story, and the story/commentary on Bava Metzia work together to validate miracles carried out by human hands?


שו"ת קול מבשר חלק א סימן כא ד"ה (א) הנה
(א) הנה אין ספק שהיום ההוא (ה' אייר) שנקבע על ידי הממשלה וחברי הכנסת (שהם נבחרי רוב הצבור) ורוב גדולי הרבנים לחוג אותו בכל הארץ, זכר לנס של תשועתנו וחירותנו, מצוה לעשותו שמחה ויו"ט ולומר הלל.

ואף ציבור שבעיר אחת או יחידים שקובעים עליהם יו"ט לעצמם על נס שנעשה להם, חייבים לקיים עליהם ועל זרעם והבאים אחריהם עד עולם.

ואף שהולכים לעיר אחרת להשתקע חייבין לקיים היום ההוא.

Kol Mevaser 1:21, R' Meshulam Roth (1875-1963)

(Israeli Chief Rabbinic Council)

There is no doubt that this day (5 Iyar) that was set by the government and the members of the Knesset (who represent the majority of the population) and the majority of the great rabbis to celebrate in all the land as a memorial to the miracle of our salvation and freedom, it is a mitzvah to make it into a day of rejoicing as on a holiday and to say Hallel. And even a community in one city or a few individuals who establish a holiday for themselves in commemoration of a miracle that was done to them are obligated to maintain that holiday for themselves and for their descendants in future generations for all time. And even if one goes to a new city he is obligated to celebrate that day.

  • How does Rabbi Roth justify reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut?
  • How does he employ the sources we have looked at to make his argument?

Topic #5: If reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut is a custom, can we say the blessing?

Reciting the blessing for Hallel includes stating that we were commanded by God to recite Hallel on this day, but we recite Hallel on days that are not on our original list. Do we say this blessing when reciting Hallel out of custom rather than out of law (commandment)?


רב איקלע לבבל, חזינהו דקא קרו הלילא בריש ירחא.

סבר לאפסוקינהו.

כיון דחזא דקא מדלגי דלוגי, אמר: שמע מינה מנהג אבותיהם בידיהם.

תנא: יחיד לא יתחיל ואם התחיל גומר:

On this topic, the Gemara relates: Rav happened to come to Babylonia, where he saw that they were reciting hallel on a New Moon. Unfamiliar with this practice, he thought to stop them, as he assumed that they were reciting hallel unnecessarily. Once he saw that they were omitting portions, he said: I can learn from this that they are maintaining the custom of their forefathers, i.e., they know that it is a custom, not an obligation. It is taught in a baraita: An individual should not begin reciting hallel on a New Moon, but if he has begun he should complete it.

  • How does this passage classify the practice of reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh?
    • It is a custom but not a law.
  • Why does the passage insist that someone who begins Hallel should complete it even if it is not the law?
    • Inherited custom is a valid reason to recite.
  • The passage seems to suggest that some recite an abbreviated Hallel and some recite a complete Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. What are possible reasons for each practice?


סדר התפלה והלל בר"ח ובו ז סעיפים:

(ב) וקורים הלל בדילוג בין יחיד בין צבור וי"א שהצבור מברכין עליו בתחלה לקרא את ההלל (ואם בירך לגמור א"צ לחזור) ...והיחיד אין מברך עליו ויש אומרי' שאף הצבור אין מברך עליו לא בתחילה ולא בסוף וזה דעת הרמב"ם וכן נוהגי' בכל מלכות ארץ ישראל וסביבותי':

הגה ויש אומרים דגם יחיד מברך עליו (טור בשם

הרא"ש ור"ת) וכן נוהגין במדינות אלו

Order of Prayer and Hallel on Rosh Chodesh (7 Seifim)

(2) And we recite Hallel in skips, either as individually or publicly. And there are those who say that the public bless over it in the beginning to recite Hallel, and if he blessed to complete, he does not need to go back...And an individual does not bless over it. And there are those who say that even the public does not bless over it, not at the beginning nor at the beginning, and this is the position of the Rambam, and we are accustomed with all the kingdoms of the Land of Israel and its surrounding areas.

Gloss: And there are those who say that also an individual blesses over it (Tur in the name of the Rosh and Rabbeinu Tam). And we are accustomed to do this in these countries.

  • What is the difference between the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch main text (typically the Sephardic practice) and that of the gloss (the Mapah, representative of Ashkenazic practice)?
  • Based on our sources, would it be appropriate to recite a blessing for Hallel when reciting out of custom rather than out of law? Why or why not?


Rabbinic opinions and local customs vary from community to community, and diverse Jewish legal arguments have been published alternatively supporting and denouncing the practice of Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut. Ultimately, the validity of reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut depends on whether the establishment of the modern State of Israel can be considered a miracle of redemption for the Jewish people. There is documented halakhic precedent to consider the end of the Jewish exile and return to the Jewish homeland a modern miracle, validating the practice of communities who recite the full Hallel on this day with a blessing.

  • Which arguments and sources did you find most compelling for reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut? What did you find the least compelling?
  • Based on the sources we looked at, do you think there is a Jewish legal basis for reciting the full Hallel with the blessings on Yom Haatzmaut? What sources can be used to either support or oppose the conclusion?
  • Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook taught his students to say Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut, but argued that some blessings are subjective, and those who do not believe that Israel's establishment was a miracle for the Jewish people can decide not to say Hallel. Since arguments have been made for and against Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut, what are the implications for diverse interpretation and practice regarding the holiday? What is good and bad about validating this type of pluralism/disjunction within Jewish practice?
  • Are there additional events that you might argue are miracles meriting a new "Purim" according to Jewish legal sources?