Regarding Recital of Tahanunim on July 4th
by: Rabbi Moshe Shamah
As the Tur and Bet Yosef bring down from Rab Netrunai Gaon (OH:131), the custom of the congregation reciting Tahanunim after the amida was originally "reshut", optional. This explains how many congregations through the centuries canceled Tahanunim in various situations. As the custom has continuously evolved, today we do not say Tahanunim on any calendar day with a significant Jewish happy occasion or commemoration, such as Rosh Hodesh, the whole month of Nissan, Lag B'Omer, the 15th of Ab, etc. Neither are Tahanunim recited when there is in the synagogue a b'rit mila or when the mohel, sandak or father of the baby boy is present or a bridegroom on his marriage day or even within the seven days of his marriage. In the past several generations in our community the custom developed to waive Tahanunim for the occasion of a Bar Misvah, even when the boy was not yet thirteen, an application not widely found in previous times.
The 4th of July is a significant and happy commemoration for the Jewish people. It is the day the United States officially declared itself an independent nation, one based on the principles of equality, justice and freedom and on the view - as stated in the Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776 in Congress, that: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...". These are concepts which were inspired by the spirit of the Torah. This was a great event in human history and influenced movement throughout the world toward universalizing these noble notions. To some extent, the revolution wrought by the Torah in the days of old took a giant step forward.
In addition, we the Jewish people greatly benefited directly from these developments, being able to practice our religion freely as was rarely, if ever, allowed in other times and places. The writings of our great sages and rabbis throughout the many centuries of our dispersion are filled with descriptions of persecutions, expulsions and evil doings of tyrants and despots toward Jews and Judaism. In the past, even when freedom of religion was permitted it was only at the whim of the ruler of the time, not institutionalized in the legal code of the host nation as was done in the Bill of Rights of the United States, as the follow through of the Declaration of Independence.
Jews all over the world should be appreciative of the monumental happening of July 4, 1776. American Jews particularly should express their happiness and gratitude for the Declaration of Independence and the great equality and freedom they enjoy in some way. Those congregations and rabbis who deemed it appropriate to cancel Tahanunim on July 4th are praiseworthy for this decision.
Mr. Al Azar informed me several years ago that many years ago Hakham Matloub Abady, a"h, was posek halakha not to recite Tahanunim on July 4th. Mr. Azar said he heard it directly and clearly from the rabbi on a number of occasions in the course of a number of years. He prayed in the minyan with the rabbi which did not recite Tahanunim specifically because it was July 4th.
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