By definition the Modern Orthodox does not make chumras (stringencies) for itself. Generally, modern orthodoxy is about being an observant Jew without all of the social and communal obligations that have been invented over the years to separate from secular world. Even though they are just as religious and in some cases more religious than their black hat brethren, Modern Orthodox Jews are really not taking on extra chumras and being really strict on things, except for two holidays which are not even biblical. Thanksgiving and Israeli Independence Day.
Why are so many Modern Orthodox Jews always so strict with those two day’s which are nowhere in near importance as so many other days and things which seemed to get pushed to the wayside. Is their strictness in celebrating Thanksgiving and Yom Ha’atzmaut just a response to the black hat bretherens mistreatment of these days, or is it vital in their quest for mixing Judaism and modernity?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against celebrating either of these days, but I am definitely not machmir about it. I am working on Thanksgiving (cooking for those people who are off – we call them the 1% these days) and I generally don’t remember Yom Ha’atzmaut, though I think that if I lived in Israel and had more a connection to the land and history surrounding the day I may actually come to realize its significance.
I remember the arguments and discussion in yeshiva around Thanksgiving time. Everyone would chime in about whether their family had a meal or not. The Rabbis would say that every day is a day of thanks, which was a kind of segway into why we don’t do Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut. Funny how Thanksgiving Day and Israeli Independence Day could be directly related in the yeshivish world.
I grew up having a meal on Thanksgiving, but we never really celebrated it b’shita, it wasn’t out minhag. We went to a meal because Thanksgiving meals rock the boat. You get to eat this awesome meal and you don’t have to dress up or bench (I have noticed that we only really benched on shabbos as kids) and then afterward you get to watch a movie. I kind of wondered what having a heavy midday meal and watching TV had to do witrh giving thanks for our great Nation, but I never really asked. Hallel, like many of the Modox say on Yom Ha’atzmaut would be more fitting for a true Jewish thanksgiving day celebration.