ASK THE RABBI
Excerpted from the book “Ask the Rabbi” by Rabbi David Samson.
[Rabbi David Samson is Rosh Yeshiva of YTA, the Yerushalayim Torah Academy, and the founding dean of the King Solomon Academy online school. He was a longtime student of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook and taught Gemara at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva High School for over 20 years. He has served as Rosh Kollel in Bet El and the Old City of Jerusalem, and as a congregational Rabbi in Har Nof. He is author of four popular books on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, and the recent books “Contact” about Prophecy and Divine Inspiration, and an English translation of Rabbi Kook’s “Rosh Milin” on the Hebrew letters, all available at Amazon Books.]
Forward by Rabbi Samson:
Responsa literature has been a pillar of Judaism and the Jewish People since the Gaonic Period when the Jewish People in the Diaspora would ask the heads of the Torah academies in Sora and Pompadita for halachic guidance concerning the many pressing questions concerning everyday Jewish life.
These questions and answers were recorded in a corpus of books which formulated the Jewish halachic tradition as it developed throughout the ages in all of our wanderings. This body of Torah knowledge stands out as a fortress defending the Jewish People from the ever-changing situations of modern life, safeguarding the all-encompassing legal authority of the Torah, and keeping it as precise and relevant as the day it was given at Sinai.
In our age of global communication, I feel that we have broken important ground in keeping this tradition of Responsa literature up-to-date by using the internet as a new way to respond with halachic answers to many questions concerning the Jewish People the world over.
In our generation, when many of us have not yet acquired the skills to learn halacha from its source in the Written and Oral Torah, and from the Rishonim and Achronim in their original texts, this is an attempt to explain the Torah law in a pleasing, understandable fashion.
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty will assist me in spreading the teachings of Torah, as it say, “For the Torah shall come forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem,” Amen.
The Danger of Living in Israel
If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem
The Exodus – The Foundation of Am Yisrael
Carrying Firearms on Shabbat
THE DANGER OF LIVING IN ISRAEL
Several times during the year, I am invited to speak to groups of
Yeshiva students from the Diaspora whom are studying in Israel. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is “Is it a mitzvah to live in Israel in a time of danger?” Sometimes, the question takes different forms. “Is it permissible to live in settlements in Israel where there is a clear danger, for example, Hevron.” Or, “Is it permissible for my parents to visit me in Israel during an Arab uprising?”
A story is told about the Chofetz Chaim can serve as an introductory response to these questions.
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen, from Radin, was certainly one of the greatest Torah scholars of modern times. His unparalleled halachic work, the Mishna Berura, is the definitive compendium of Jewish law. In addition, his writings on good deeds and kindness, Ahavat Chesed, and his treatises on the evils of lashon hara, the “Chofetz Chaim” and Shmirat HaLashon, show his great piety and saintliness. He is known never to have spoken unfairly about anyone.
The following story is brought down by the revered Rabbi Dichovsky, of blessed memory, in his book, Neot Desha, on concluding a tractate of Talmud. In the introduction, he recounts his visit to the Chofetz Chaim in order to ask him this very same question about moving to Israel at a time of clear and present danger.
“I saw it proper to record a statement made to me by the most pious of all of the kohanim, the Rabbi of all Israel, the glory of the generation, the holy of all Israel, may he be blessed in memory, in the matter of Aliyah. I asked him about this question, and the following are the details of our encounter.
“It was the beginning of the year, 1933. There was a group of Torah scholars who had organized themselves to go together to Israel to learn Torah. I too was amongst them, but I had many doubts, because I knew that many of the great gedolim (Torah scholars) of Israel were opposed. The heads of my yeshiva were especially opposed to the idea that yeshiva students would go to Eretz Yisrael, even for the sake of studying Torah. They said that the proper conditions had not as yet been established in order to facilitate Torah study with the proper diligence in the Holy Land, to the extent that we are able to study Torah in the yeshivot in the Diaspora. Therefore, I said in my heart, that I must not ask my rabbis in this matter, for obviously the answer will be no.
“Like Rabbi Zera, who ran away from his teacher, Rav Yehuda, when he wanted to make Aliyah to Israel (Tractate Ketubot, 110B,) I decided to go and ask the counsel of the righteous man of our generation, our revered rabbi, and to receive his blessing before I departed. Therefore, just before the Day of Atonement, I journeyed to the yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim in the town of Radin, where I stayed in the shadow of this great, righteous individual. This was, as is known, the last Yom Kippur of this special tzaddik, for at the end of the year, in the month of Elul, he was taken to the yeshiva Above, may his merit be a shield to us and all Israel.
“In spite of his great physical weakness, a Heavenly Providence was with me, and I merited to see him the day after Yom Kippur. I told him my situation, and that I had a good chance of making Aliyah to Israel as a Torah student, only I had lingering doubts if I would be able to learn Torah with the same diligence with which I was learning now. Immediately, he answered, in his famous sweetness of speech, that there was no room at all for my wariness. Why in the world would I not be able to learn Torah there with absolute diligence – just the opposite would seem to be true, for the Land of Israel, without question, was more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah. He recited the verse, ‘The gold of the Land is good,’ (Bereshit, 2:12) on which the Midrash says, ‘These (the gold of the Land is good) are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.’ (Bereshit Raba, 16:7)
“Before I could express the rest of the doubts that I harbored – especially the fear of the danger in Israel because of the children of Ishmael who were marauding violently against the Jews, for only a few years had passed since the end of the Hebron Massacre in the year 1929, which made clear to everyone the wild, bestial nature of the Ishmaelites, who with savagery and unbounded cruelty massacred Yeshiva students and showed no mercy even to the women and children – before I was able to confess all of my apprehensions, the Rabbi answered the question himself.
“In the following words of Torah, he said: ‘The holy Torah tells us regarding Ishmael that he is a ‘pere adam,’ a wild beast of a man. It is known that our Torah is eternal, and if it says about Ishmael that he is a wild beast of a man, then Ishmael will remain forever a wild beast of a man. Even if all of the cultured nations of the world will gather together and try to educate Ishmael and transform him into a cultured individual, so that he will no longer be a wild beast of a man, obviously this will be impossible in every fashion or form. They will not be able to do this through any means whatsoever, because he is not capable of being a cultured individual, for behold, the Torah testified regarding him that he is a wild beast of a man. This means that forever, for all eternity, Ishmael is by definition a wild beast of a man. Even if Ishmael will be involved in intellectual endeavor, like being a lawyer, or some similar profession, then he will be a beastly lawyer. If he will study diligently to be a professor, then he will be a beastly professor. This means that the bestiality of Ishmael will never cease.’
“Then the Chofetz Chaim let out a long, painful sigh and said, ‘Who knows what this wild beast of a man is capable of perpetrating against the Jewish people in the end of days?’
“Concluding his words to me, he said, ‘Nevertheless, fear not – there is no reason for this to prevent you from making Aliyah to the Land of Israel.’
“Then he blessed me, saying, ‘Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.’
“So I left him, and journeyed in peace to the Holy Land.”
IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM
Is listening to music allowed during the Three Weeks before the Ninth of Av, the day commemorating the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple?
During the period known as the Three Weeks before the Ninth of Av certain customs of mourning are observed in keeping with the tragic events surrounding the siege on Jerusalem, which led to the destruction of the Temple. During this time, weddings are not held, shaving is forbidden, we don’t say the ‘Shecheyanu” blessing on buying a new garment, and several other prohibitions. (1)
Regarding the question of whether a person can listen to music or not, the halachic response is based on the Magen Avraham, who states that singing and dancing are prohibited during this period. (2) The Minchat Yitzchak extends this concept to the playing of musical instruments. (3) However, a musician who makes his living playing music is allowed to play for non-Jews. (4)
Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky differs, saying that listening to music is allowed. (5) He mentions that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permitted the listening to classical music as background music. Permitted in this are listening to sad music, and religious or Hasidic type music. Also soothing music is permitted. (6) According to his opinion, these can be heard even in a live performance. The Chelkat Yaacov states that devises like radios and tapes, which didn’t exist at the time of the original rabbinic ruling, can be used to listen to music up to the first day of Av. (7) (These rules apply to the Ashkenazic communities. Sephardic communities are generally less stringent until the week in which Tisha b’Av falls.)
The reason for the various prohibitions surrounding the Three Weeks is to awaken in our hearts a deep and conscious grief over the great tragedy that befell our nation. Since the Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our Land, the Jewish People have been in a semi-state of mourning. A Psalm of King David states, “When the L-rd returns the outcasts of Zion, we will be like those who dream. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter, and our lips with joy.” (8) This means that our joy can only be complete when we return from our exile amongst the gentiles to being an independent nation in our Land.
Citing these verses of the Psalms, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai teaches that it is forbidden to completely fill one’s mouth with mirth in this world. (9) That is to say, a Jew is not allowed to be one-hundred percent happy. Rather, even at his happiest moments, under the wedding canopy, for example, he is to remember that the Temple has been destroyed and feel the loss of our national Kingdom. This is the source for the custom of breaking a glass during the marriage ceremony. (10) The Talmud states that from the time that Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai’s student, Raish Lakish, heard his master’s teaching, laughter never again filled his mouth.
Referring to the Temple’s destruction and the exile of the Jewish nation, Jeremiah’s prophecy says that G-d is weeping, “My soul shall weep in secret for your pride.” (11) In a discussion in the Talmud, Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzhak explains that “pride” is the pride of the Jewish People which in their downtrodden state has been stripped from them and given over to the gentiles. Rabbi Nachami states that “pride” refers to the pride of G-d, which has been disgraced due to the destruction of His Heavenly Kingdom. (12)
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner explains that that fallen pride of the Jewish People and the fallen pride of G-d are one. (13) G-d cries because Israel’s national framework is shattered in exile. The Jewish People no longer have a Kingdom, an army, a judicial system, and an economy of their own. We are scattered, downtrodden and oppressed among the nations. Since the Kingdom of G-d appears in this world only through the life of the Jewish People, when we are debased, the grandeur of G-d is debased with us. Exile is the greatest desecration of G-d that there is, as the prophet Ezekiel states: “When they came to the nations into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name, in that men said of them, These are the people of the L-rd and they are gone out of His Land.” (14) The honor of G-d and the honor of the Jewish People are one. (15) Thus we mourn not only over the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, but also over the honor of G-d that has been tarnished among the nations because of Israel’s fall.
This year, may the words of the prophet come to pass: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her all of you who did mourn for her.” (16) As the Talmud teaches, “All who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to see its great joy.” (17)
- Shulchan Oruch, 551:17.
- Magen Avraham, 551:10.
- Minchat Yitzhak, Vol. 1:111.
- Pri Magadim, Ashel Avraham, 551:10.
- Tachumin 21:67.
- Responsa, Shevit HaLevi, Vol. 6:69.
- Chelkat Yaacov, Vol.1:62.
- Psalms, 126:1-2.
- Berachot 31A.
- Shulchan Orach, Orach Haim, 560:5.
- Jeremiah, 13:17.
- Chagigah 5B.
- Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Tal Hermon, Moadim, Pg. 298.
- Ezekiel, 36:20.
- Tanne debe Eliahu Rabbah, 4. Messilat Yesharim, end of Ch. 19.
- Isaiah, 66:10.
- Taanit 30B.
Should a person tear “kreah” if a settlement is evacuated, Heaven forbid, by the Israeli army?
“Kreah” is the act of rending the garment in mourning. While this custom is usually associated with the mourning over a close relative, the Shulchan Oruch states that when a person witnesses the cities of Judea in a state of destruction, he should say “ Your holy cities have become desolate,” and rend his garment.(1)
The Mishnah Berurah explains that a city is considered to be desolate when Jewish rule is uprooted from the local. The fact that Jewish houses may be destroyed or evacuated does not halachically constitute desolation which requires “Kreah.” The Mishnah Berurah quotes the Beit Yosef (Rabbi Yosef Karo) who says that “ in a case where Jews still live in the city, since the Arabs are in control, this constitutes a state of desolation.” (3)
Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook extended this concept after Jerusalem was conquered after the Six Day War. From that time forth, he stopped rending his garments upon seeing the Temple Mount in desolation, even though the Temple had not been re-established in its place. He told us that as long as the Israeli flag waved proudly over the Kotel and Jewish sovereignty was firm over the Land, “Kreah” was no longer necessary.
The law of tearing “Kreah” over a place of Jewish settlement only apply in the case that a person actually see the location before him, and that the uprooted city existed in the time of the Temple. Rabbi Avigdor Nevinsol, Rabbi of the Old City, said regarding the evacuation of Havat Maon that it is not proper to rend the garment over settlements in Judea and Samaria because we are not certain that they are located on the exact sites of the ancient cities in Temple times.
Interestingly, in cases where a person hears of a calamity affecting the whole Jewish People, he should tear his garment, even though he has not witnessed the calamity himself. (4) We learn this from King David who tore his garment in mourning upon hearing that King Saul had lost the battle in Mount Gilboa. (5) Though Jewish law does not require “kreah” over the uprooting of a settlement like Havat Gilad, Heaven forbid, every Jew should feel deep pain and anguish over any decision to evacuate Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel. May the Almighty grant our leaders the simple clear wisdom to understand the folly of this self-destruction and weakness in the eyes of our enemies.
- Shulchan Oruch, Orech Chaim, 561:1.
- Ibid, sub-section 2.
- Shulchan Orach, Yoreh Deah, 340:36.
- Moed Katan 26A.
THE EXODUS – THE FOUNDATION OF JUDAISM
What is the difference between the daily commandment to remember the Exodus from Egypt and the commandment to tell one’s children about the Exodus on Pesach night?
Before we discuss the differences, it is important to understand why our Sages gave such an exalted place to the remembrance of the Exodus. As explained in the “Kuzari,” the Exodus is the foundation of Judaism and the wellspring of our belief in G-d.(1) The actual historical experience of the Exodus, the revelation of G-d witnessed by millions of people, is embedded in the national Jewish psyche. This profound experience of
G-d’s special relationship with the Jewish People is what we are called upon to remember every day of our lives, and most especially on Pesach night.
The commandment to remember the Exodus every day is learned from the Mishna in Berachot.(2) Ben Zoma teaches that it is a mitzvah to remember the Exodus both during the day and at night, as it says in the Torah verse: “That you will remember the day you left the land of Egypt all the days of your life.”(3)
The commandment concerned with Pesach night stems from the Torah verse, “And you shall tell your son on that day saying, this is performed because of what Hashem did for me when I came out of Egypt.”(4)
The telling of the Exodus story of Pesach differs from the daily remembrance in several ways. First of all, it is a mitzvah from the Torah, and not an ordinance of the Rabbis.(5) Furthermore, unlike the daily mitzvah merely to mention or recall the Exodus, without any further elaboration, the precept on Pesach night involves transmitting, from one generation to the next, the significance and deeper meanings of the Exodus for the Jewish People.(6) And even if a man were to eat alone on Pesach night, it is a mitzvah to delve into the in-depth understanding of the Exodus.(7) Additionally, on Pesach night, an intellectual understanding is not enough – a person must emotionally feel the Exodus experience, as if he were actually departing from Egypt right then and there.(8)
Rabbi Chaim from Brisk lists other basic differences. On the night of the Seder, the commandment to remember has to be performed in an engaging and educating question and answer format. Next, on the Seder night, it is not enough to mention the simple fact of the Exodus; rather one must delve into the entire historic process. Thirdly, the rational behind the commandments of the Seder night must be explained in their relation to the Exodus.(9)
While remembering the Exodus is a pillar of our faith, we long for the day when the words of the prophet will be fulfilled: “Therefore, behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, when they shall no more say, as the L-rd lives who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but as the L-rd lives, who brought up and who led the seed of the House of Israel out of the north country and from all countries into which I have driven them, and they shall dwell in their own Land.”(10)
- Kuzari, 1:13.
- Mishna Berachot, 1:5.
- Deuteronomy, 16:3.
- Exodus, 13:8.
- Minchat Hinuch, Precept 21.
- Malbim, Artzot HaChaim, Section 1.
- Maharal, Givorot Hashem, Chapter 62.
- Shiurim L’Zacher Abba Mori.
- Jeremiah, 23:7-8.
CARRYING FIREARMS ON SHABBAT
Anti-Semitism is spreading all over America and there are reports that crazies are planning attacks against Jewish communities with targets including synagogues. My questions are:
1) Is carrying a firearm on Shabbat prohibited because it is “muktzah?”
2) Is wearing a holster containing a weapon considered impermissible carrying (as opposed to carrying a weapon in one’s belt?)
3) Presumably, one would only carry or use a firearm when
threatened or while having a reasonable belief one could be killed or maimed unless one is fully able to defend oneself. What is a reasonable belief of being threatened? Seeing a mob of rioters coming toward you? Seeing a potential attacker in the act of attacking you or someone else? Receiving a specific threat, either by mail, telephone, or in person? Seeing someone who looks threatening (i.e., someone else visibly armed or obviously hostile by his actions or words?)
Before answering your question about carrying firearms on Shabbat, I would first like to relate to your concern about your safety. As you noted, there is a growing concern amongst Diaspora Jewry as a result of the marked rise in anti-Semitism that has been documented worldwide. The potential growth of this anti-Semitism into an international rampage is certainly frightening. However, when we look at this phenomenon in a historical perspective, we see that the Jewish people have suffered waves of anti-Semitism from the time of the first Semite, Abraham, when Nimrod threw him into a fiery furnace for believing in one G-d. As long as there have been Jews, there have been Jew haters.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Naftali Berlin, well known as the Natiz of Volozion, wrote a treatise on the subject of anti-Semitism known as “Rina shel Torah.” In this study, the Natziv offers an explanation for these waves of anti-Semitism. He says that anti-Semitism is the tool used by G-d to remind the Jews that they are Jews. Sometimes Jews may forget that we were created to be a special people with a Divine calling. When we forget ourselves, the anti-Semites rise up to remind us who we are. Rabbi Berlin further comments that the more we try to fit in with the gentiles, the greater the persecution will be.
Rabbi Yaacov Emden, in the introduction to his scholarly prayer book, “Beit Yaacov,” writes that “When it seems to us, in our present peaceful existence outside the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this to me is the greatest, deepest, most obvious, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.” 1
With this introduction, let’s return to your question about carrying a firearm on Shabbat because of the growing danger to Jewish communities throughout the world. First, we would like to remind our readers that one of the activities prohibited on Shabbat is carrying objects through a public domain. Because Jews were lax about this prohibition, the Sages saw a need to reinforce it by also prohibiting the handling of objects that are forbidden to be used on Shabbat. These objects are called “muktzah.” Examples are pencils, computers, or a chainsaw.
Regarding the question whether a firearm is “muktzah,” Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the first Chief Rabbi of the Army, and later the Chief Rabbi of Israel, explains in his book, “Mashiv Milchamah,” that regarding Shabbat observance, a firearm is no different than a Kiddush cup, and a holster is no different that a decorative spread used to cover the challah loaves. He maintains that a firearm is something that is needed for Shabbat observance, because it is intended for security, enabling a Jew to celebrate the Shabbat in peace. Even though shooting a gun is a form of igniting fire, something normally prohibited on Shabbat, in situations where life is imperiled, shooting a gun is a mitzvah.
Rabbi Goren states, “Behold, a firearm is meant for firing since it is a mitzvah to shoot both on weekdays or Shabbat, in instances when needed for self-defense or for attacking the enemy. And it is not meant for non-security uses (like sport or hunting) so why should it be considered an object that is forbidden on Shabbat?”
Rabbi Yehoshua Neurvert writes in his treatise on Shabbat, “Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchatah,” differs somewhat in his understanding, stating that a firearm is indeed categorized as “muktzah” since firing (ignited fire) is prohibited on Shabbat. Nonetheless, he rules that carrying a firearm on Shabbat is allowed since it has a definite value as a deterrent, discouraging enemies from attacking Jews on Shabbat. Therefore, it is needed for the observance of Shabbat. Furthermore, since carrying a firearm is a deterrent, there is no need for immediate danger in order to carry one. When the enemies of the Jews know that we are ready to defend ourselves, mobs are less likely to rise up against us.
(It is important to note that these rulings apply to communities where there is an “eruv,” a legal halachic enclosure which permits carrying objects on Shabbat.)
When this question was asked many years ago, Rabbi Meir Kahana, may G-d avenge his death, had a no-nonsense answer. Jews in Crown Heights and Boro Park asked certain American rabbis how they could prevent being mugged on Shabbat. They were told to carry ten dollar bills to give to their muggers, so they wouldn’t be beaten. Rabbi Kahana protested this response, saying, “Instead of considering the permissibility of carrying money on the Shabbat because of the need to save lives, let us consider the permissibility of carrying guns on Shabbat for the defense and welfare of our Jewish communities.”(4)
- For more on this theme, see the book, TORAT ERETZ YISRAEL, The Teachings Of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook.
- “Mashiv Milchamah,” Vol. 2, Folio 54.
- Loc cited, 20:12, subsection 28.
- “Jewish Press,” October 17, 1975, article, “A Jew Dies in Brooklyn.”
IF I FORGET THEE, OH ORLANDO!
I live in Israel and would like to take my kids this summer to Disneyworld. Is there any problem with this?
I am glad you are asking a Rabbi in regards to your question about traveling outside of Israel, a matter which many people seem to feel is unrelated to Jewish Law. On several occasions, I have discussed this question with many of Jerusalem’s leading rabbis, including HaRav Avraham Shapiro, Israel’s former Chief Rabbi.
In general, a Jew should always live in the Land of Israel. (1) The Rambam states that a person is permitted to temporarily leave the Land in order to marry, learn Torah, for business, or to rescue Jewish property from the gentiles, and then return to Israel. (2) With a smile, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would often tell his students that since there are an abundance of fine Jewish women in Israel, and since Israel is now the Torah center of the world, these two reasons for temporarily leaving the Land are no longer relevant. Today, with the great economic strides forward which Israel has made in the last few decades, with the kindness of Hashem, parnassa is also available in almost all fields of endeavor.
I once asked Rabbi Kook if I could return to America to visit my parents in Maryland, in accord with the ruling in the Mishna Berurah that one is permitted to leave Israel “for business purposes and to visit a friend, which is considered a mitzvah, in contrast to just touring which is forbidden.” (3) Rabbi Kook answered that this ruling in the Mishna Berurah was very difficult to understand, since in his understanding of the Rambam, only those life-depending mitzvot like finding a wife, Torah study, saving Jews and making a livelihood are strong enough reasons for leaving the Land.
The Shulchan Orach emphasizes the prohibition of traveling for pleasure outside the Land in no uncertain terms by saying, “One is not allowed to leave the Land of Israel in order to go touring.” (4)
Some of the reasons behind this prohibition can be learned from the Talmud which states, “It is not permitted to leave the Land of Israel for the Diaspora.” (5) The Rashbam explains that by leaving the Land, a Jew cuts himself from the many commandments that can only be performed in Israel. (6) The Ramban explains that the main fulfillment of all of the commandments (not only those which are dependent on the Land) occurs when they are performed in the Land of Israel. (7) Thus in leaving the Land, a Jew is falling in the level of his mitzvah observance. Our Sages teach that outside of the Land, the commandments are imposed as a way of reminder, so that they we will know how to keep them when we return to Eretz Yisrael. (8) Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook heard from the Chofetz Chaim himself that a commandment performed in Israel is twenty times greater than the same commandment performed outside of the Land. (9) He taught that the intrinsic holiness of the Land itself uplifted a Jew’s observance of Torah to sublime levels unattainable anywhere else. (10)
Often Rabbi Kook would recall the Sifre that states: “It is related that Rabbi Eliezar, the son of Shamua, was walking together with Rabbi Yochanan, the shoemaker, on their way (out from the Land of Israel) to the city of Nitzivim, the city of Rabbi Yehuda ben Batara, in order to learn Torah from him. When they reached Sidon, they remembered the Land of Israel. They lifting their eyes toward Heaven, wept profusely and tore their garments, proclaiming the verse, `And you shall inherit them and dwell in their Land.’ They immediately stopped their journey and returned to their homes, saying ‘The dwelling in Israel is equivalent to all of the commandments of the Torah.’” (11)
Interestingly, when I asked Rabbi Shapiro if I could lead a group of students on a tour of the Sinai Peninsula to Mount Sinai, he answered, “Of course. After all it is a part of the Land of Israel.” So too, in the years when traveling to Jordan was safe, Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Bet-El, encouraged his students to take field trips there, since Jordan is also a part of Biblical Israel.
In light of the above, leaving the Land of Israel should not be seen as a vacation, but rather as a punishment for those who disobey the will of G-d. The exile (having to leave the Land of Israel) was the ultimate punishment decreed on the Jews, superseding even the destruction of the Temple, may it be rebuilt soon in our time.
These comments should be the basis of an Israeli’s decision where to plan his summer vacation. Certainly, a person’s natural orientation should be a great love and longing for the Land, like the love of our ancestors, “The greatest of all Rabbis would kiss the borders of the Land of Israel, and kiss its boulders and roll upon its dust, as it says, ‘For your servants sought after its stones, and its dust they shall love.’” (12)
Nonetheless, if there are extenuating health or psychological reasons for a visit outside of the Land, as well as other possibly justifiable reasons, a Rabbi should be consulted.
Rambam, Laws of Kings, 5:12.
- Ibid, 5:9.
- Mishna Berurah, 531:14
- Shulchan Orach, 531:4.
- Baba Batra 81A.
- Rashbam, there.
- Ramban, Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Mitzvah 4.
- Sifre, Ekev, 11:18. Also Rashi, Deut. 11:18. Also, Ramban, there.
- Torat Eretz Yisrael, The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook,
- Lights on Orot, Eretz Yisrael, Chapters 1 and 2.
- Sifre, Reah, 28.
- Rambam, Laws of Kings 5:10.