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|The Mitzvah Of Living In Israel|
|Written by Tzvi Fishman|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2011|
In your answer regarding leaving the Land of Israel to visit the graves of Tzaddikim, you made it clear that the number one place for a Jew to live is in the Land of Israel. But what about a Jew who was born and lives in the Diaspora? Does he have a Torah obligation to make Aliyah and move to Israel?
A story is told about Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, how as a small child in Russia, he would hand out sticks to his friends and parade them around the yard like soldiers on their way to the Land of Israel. Years later, after he had made Aliyah to Israel and become the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, an important rabbi arrived on a visit from Poland. Rabbi Kook insisted that he guard the scholar's passport during his stay. When he returned it, the document was stamped with a certification of Aliyah from the official authority registering him as a resident of the country. The rabbi accepted Rabbi Kook's action and remained in Israel, and in that way he was saved from the Holocaust in Warsaw (See the book, "Torat Eretz Yisrael," Chapters 7-9, for an in-depth discussion on the subject of Aliyah).
At the conclusion of the answer concerning temporary departures from Eretz Yisrael, we mentioned the teaching of our Sages that dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah, 28). While several other mitzvot are also considered in this category, like Shabbat, Torah study, tzitzit, and brit milah, just as every serious Jew exerts himself to perform these, he should certainly also strive to perform the all-encompassing mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. True, packing up one's family and one's belongings, and moving to the Land of Israel is a mitzvah of gigantic proportions, dwarfing all other mitzvot, but the capability of raising ourselves to this exalted level of Emunah (faith in G-d) is our genetic heritage from our forefather, Avraham, who was commanded by G-d to leave his country, his homeland, and his father's house, and journey to the holy Land of Israel, the only place on the globe where the nation of Israel can fulfill its Divine mission of bringing the word of G-d to the world.
Rabbi Kook taught that it was not an accident that when the Jews left Egypt, before entering the Land of Israel they had to kill the King of Heshbone. The Hebrew word "Heshobone" means to make an accounting. Rabbi Kook said that in order for a Jew to come to Israel to live, he first must kill all of his accountings, deliberations, reasoning, and worries, whether about learning a new language, or making a living, or serving in the army, and simply come with a firm faith in G-d.
When someone wrote Rabbi Kook, asking if it was a mitzvah to settle in Israel, Rabbi Kook answered, "I am amazed at the question. How can one possibly have a doubt about this fundamental principle? We plainly see throughout all of the Torah, the Writings, and the Oral Torah, the immeasurable devotion to Eretz Yisrael, to its settlement, its acquisition, and its building. And he continued his lengthy 24-page response by citing hundreds and hundreds of verses from the Torah, Scriptures, and the Talmud expressing the Jewish People's eternal bond and commitment to Eretz Yisrael ("Hazone HaGeula," Pgs. 10-34).
The Ramban (Nachmonides) writes that the commandment to settle the Land of Israel is a positive mitzvah of the 613 commandments of the Torah. He explains that we are commanded with two duties: first, to possess the Land through conquest, and secondly, to dwell in the Land:
The Ramban continues: "In my opinion, this is a positive commandment of the Torah, decreeing that they should dwell in the Land and possess it, because it was given to them, and they should not despise the inheritance of Hashem. And the proof that this is a commandment is this: They were told to go up (to the Land) in the matter of the Spies, ‘Go up and conquer as the
L-rd has said to you. Don't fear and don't be discouraged.' And it further says, ‘And when the L-rd sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the Land which I have given to you.' And when they didn't go up, the Torah says, ‘And you rebelled against the word of G-d, and you did not believe in me and did not listen to My command'" (Devarim, 9:23. Ramban, ibid).
This ruling was confirmed by all of the early (Rishonim) and later halachic authorities (Achronim) as set forth in the "Pitchei T'shuva," Even HaEzer, Section 75, Sub-section 6.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen would often explain that the Ramban clearly determines that conquering and living in the Land of Israel is the milchemet mitzvah of the Torah. This precept continues in every generation, and the Ramban emphasizes this three times in his "Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam," Positive Commandment #4:
"This is what our Sages called "milchemet mitzvah"...and don't err and say that this precept is the commandment to vanquish the seven nations...This isn't so...This Land is not to be left in their hands, or in the hands of any other nation, in any generation whatsoever."
"Behold we were commanded with conquest in every generation."
"This is a positive commandment which applies in every time."
The Ramban also emphasized that the commandments only reach their full value when performed in Eretz Yisrael, saying, "The essence of all of the precepts is that they be performed in the Land of Hashem" (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25).
So central is the Land of Israel to the true and proper observance of the Torah that Jewish Law rules concerning a husband and wife living in the Diaspora, that if the wife wants to move to Israel and the husband does not, then the Jewish Court forces him to grant her a divorce and give her full divorce payment as set forth in their Ketubah marriage contract. If he wants to go on Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and she does not, then she must agree to a divorce with no Ketubah payment (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 85:3).
In summary, as Rabbi Elazar Azkari writes in the "Sefer Haredim,"
May it be the will of the Almighty that all of our brothers and sisters still lingering in the lands of the exile will speedily hear the call of the Torah, the Prophets, and our holy Sages, and hurry home to the Land of Israel.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 November 2011 )|
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