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1469: Tazri'a - Metzora 3rd of Iyar 5773 13/04/2013

The law requiring reciting Hallel as a thanksgiving prayer when somebody is redeemed (Pesachim 117a, see Rashi) was established by Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, after the Red Sea was split (see Shemot Rabba 23 on the words, "and they said, to say further" [Shemot 15:1]).

Chizkiyahu was king of Yehuda under the control of Assyria. He paid a tax to the Assyrians. When he stopped paying, Sancheriv was sent to attack and take over Jerusalem. But his army was decimated by a plague, and Yehuda once again became an independent state. Yeshayahu told the king he should recite Hallel in praise of G-d: "Sing to G-d, for He did great things" [12:5]. But the king refused, and as a result he did not become the Mashiach (Sanhedrin 94a). Why did the king refuse to abide by Moshe's decree and say Hallel? And why did his refusal cause him to lose the position of Mashiach?

The Mashiach will be the one who will repair all of the faults of the world. The first sin was eating of the Tree of Knowledge, and the second one was failure to acknowledge the good that mankind received (Rashi, Bereishit 3:12). The second of two sins is always the more serious one, and this means that the main bad deed was the failure to recognize the good that was done. The main way to mend this is to give recognition for the good. And that is what was so serious about Chizkiyahu's actions.

The true test of faith is whether a person can praise G-d even when he might have good reasons not to praise Him. In modern times we can speak of two different types of apostasy. Nonreligious apostasy is to say that the Palmach established this country and not the Holy One, Blessed be He. Religious apostasy is to say that there can indeed be no doubt at all that the country was established not by the Holy One, Blessed be He, but by the Palmach.

In the case of Chizkiyahu, we can think of three approaches why he refused to say Hallel – religious, leftist, and nationalistic.

(1) Religious – Chizkiyahu felt that achieving independence had no religious significance. It was a matter of politics and not "Torah." When he came into power, Chizkiyahu moved all the budgets from agriculture to the yeshivot. The entire land was filled with thorns and weeds (see Yeshayahu 5:6), since the king drove a sword into the Beit Midrash in order to force everybody to study Torah. The entire world of the king was Torah, there was no room for nationalism.

(2) Leftist – It is written in the Talmud that Chizkiyahu tried to make the calculations of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and not what is appropriate for a man. Therefore, when he woke up in the morning and saw 185,000 bodies of his enemies underneath his window, he remembered that when the creations of G-d are drowning in the sea it is not appropriate for the angels to sing the praises of G-d. It is true that Bnei Yisrael were wrong not to sing the praises until they had crossed to the other side of the sea (Sanhedrin 94a), but the king was taking heavenly considerations into account.

(3) Nationalistic – During the reign of Chizkiyahu, Sancheriv destroyed the kingdom of Israel. How could he recite the Hallel when so many Jews had been expelled from their homes?

The Talmud teaches us that when Chizkiyahu refused to recite the Hallel, it was recited by somebody else – by the earth, as is written, "We heard music from the ends of the earth" [Yeshayahu 24:16]. This refers to "Am Haaretz," the simple folks. Even if the leader did not sing the praises of G-d, the people in the land did so.

We have been given a great privilege, in that we recite the Hallel both at night and in the day (see the article, "In the Evening, when the Holiday Begins" on my website), that we act as the "earth" which sings the praise when others do not. By reciting Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut we are helping to repair the sin of Adam himself.

Rabbi Cherki is the head of Brit Olam – Noahide World Center, Jerusalem

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