Israeli Independence Day, Sefirah, and Halachic Loopholes

I just finished listening to an interview with Rabbi David Brofsky, author of an outstanding new book on the laws of all of the Jewish holidays called Hilkhot Mo’adim: Understanding the Laws of the Festivals (thank you to for the link).  I really like the style of this author, something which I hope to go into detail about in the future.

There were some excellent, thought-provoking points brought out by Rabbi Brofsky in this interview:

  • Regarding Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), the manner of observance of the holiday or even the holiday itself, both of which are subject to ongoing divisive disagreement) is relatively insignificant.  The important issue to address is, in general, how to view and appreciate the events of 1948 and 1967 and their impact on Jewish history.
  • The underlying idea of the special laws and customs dealing with the Three Weeks and Tisha B’av is very different than the concept of the customs of the Sefirah period (like not getting haircuts, making weddings, and listening to music).  The Three Weeks observances focus on mourning for a loss, where as the Sefirah observances are focused on introspection in preparation for Kabalat Hatorah (Receiving of the Torah) on Shavuot and particularly regarding rectifying the failure of the prematurely deceased students of Rabbi Akiva who did not treat one another with the appropriate degree of respect.  (Sefirah does also contain an element of mourning due to the fact that several massacres occurred during that period during the Crusades.)
  • Some Halachic procedures that look like and sometimes actually are loopholes, like the sale of chametz before Passover or the sale of the land during a Sabbatical year in Israel, instead of shedding a poor light on the Halachic system actually show its pragmatism, practicality, and ability to flexibly adapt itself to circumstances.
  • The cycle of holidays of the Jewish calendar contain so many varied and complex underlying ideas and messages.  If a person invests time in studying these themes, the observance of these holidays has the potential to uplift a person in an intense, spiritual way.

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