When God chose the Jewish people to be His special Nation, He also chose Eretz Yisrael to be His special Land.  And He intended for His special Nation to keep His commandments in His special Land.  This is stated explicitly many times in last week’s parashah.


by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman [https://toratzion.com/]

Twice a day we recite the second paragraph of Kri’at Shema, taken from this week’s parashah.  By the age of twenty, we have said it well over 10,000 times!  If we have paid any attention to what we’ve been saying, we know that it talks about the blessings we will receive if we observe God’s commandments and the punishments we will receive for transgressing them.  But if we look a little deeper – at the Midrash and the commentaries – we will find that it also contains the most compelling argument for aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.

The Torah states:  – Take heed for yourselves, lest your heart be seduced and you turn aside and serve other gods and bow down to them.  Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and He will stop up the heavens so there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will quickly perish from the good Land that the Lord gives you (11:16-17).  Immediately following these verses, the Torah commands us to wear tefillin, teach our children Torah, and affix mezuzot to our doorposts.  Seemingly, there is no connection between these sections.  However, Chazal and practically all of the commentators think otherwise.  Midrash Sifrei (Eikev 7) states:

You will quickly perish: Even though I [God] exile you from the Land to Chutz LaAretz, be distinguishable through the mitzvot, so that they will not be new to you when you return.  This can be compared to a king who became angry with his wife, so she returned to her father’s house.  He [the king] said to her, “Continue to adorn yourself with your jewelry, so that they will not be new to you when you return.”  So too, the Holy One Blessed be He said to the people of Israel, “My children, be distinguishable through the mitzvot, so that they will not be new to you when you return.”  For Yirmiyahu said,  – Set markers for yourself (31:20), this refers to the mitzvot which make the Jews distinguishable.

It is clear from the language of the Midrash and the context in which it is stated (the juxtaposition between exile and mitzvot such as tefillin and mezuzah) that the Midrash is referring to all 613 mitzvot.  That is, whenever a Jew performs mitzvot outside the Land of Israel, even mitzvot that do not depend on the Land, he is merely “practicing” for when he eventually returns home (we will elaborate on that in a minute).  But just in case you are doubtful and think that the Midrash is referring only to land-related mitzvot, Rashi adds four crucial words (in Hebrew): “Even after you are exiled, make yourselves distinguishable through mitzvot; don tefillin and make mezuzot, so that they will not be new to you when you return…”

What exactly is this Midrash saying?  Is it saying that we do not really have to keep the mitzvot outside of Eretz Yisrael (God forbid)?  Absolutely not!  The Mishnah in Kiddushin (36a) dispels any such thought: “Any mitzvah that depends on the Land applies only in the Land; and [any mitzvah] that does not depend on the Land applies both in the Land and outside the Land…”  So what does the Midrash mean?  I believe that Rabbeinu Bachya explains it best:  “This means that even though we perform the mitzvot in Chutz LaAretz and they are personal obligations, to be kept everywhere, our Sages z”l teach us that their main fulfillment is only in the Holy Land.”

When God chose the Jewish people to be His special Nation, He also chose Eretz Yisrael to be His special Land.  And He intended for His special Nation to keep His commandments in His special Land.  This is stated explicitly many times in last week’s parashah.  For example: Behold, I [Moshe] have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord my God commanded me, to do so in the midst of the Land to which you come to possess it (4:5); The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you shall perform them in the Land into which you are crossing to possess it (4:14).  See also 5:28 and 6:1.

It is so obvious that the mitzvot are meant to be kept in the Land that when God threatened the Jews with exile He was “afraid” that they would say, “OK, but once we are exiled there is no reason to keep mitzvot anymore.”  Therefore, HaShem said, “It is true that the main fulfillment of the mitzvot is in Eretz Yisrael, but I command you to continue observing them in the Diaspora, so that you do not forget how to do them when you eventually return home.”  In other words, we observe mitzvot in Chutz LaAretz for practice, but we are obligated (mi’deOraita – biblically) to do so.

There are so many reasons for a Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael, and I have tried to enumerate them throughout this book.  But when you really think about it, this is the most compelling reason of all.  For, what does it mean to be a Jew if not to keep God’s commandments?  In other religions, it is enough to just believe, but in Judaism actions are paramount.  In the above-cited Midrash, Chazal tell us that all of our mitzvot are much more meaningful when performed in God’s Chosen Land.  In essence, they are saying that all we have to do to improve our overall religiosity and relationship with God is move to Israel.

For close to two thousand years, we had no choice; we had to settle for second best – for the level of “practice.”  Nowadays, however, every Jew has the opportunity to achieve the real thing, to keep the mitzvot the way they were originally meant to be kept.  How can anyone just ignore and pass up such an opportunity?




A few weeks ago (Parashat Mas’ei), we discussed the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael from Rashi and the Ramban’s perspective.  This week I would like to focus on the Rambam’s opinion, which is connected to the parashah.

There is much debate over the Rambam’s opinion on this issue, mainly because he seems to contradict himself.  In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam fails to count settling the Land (Yishuv HaAretz) as one of the 613 mitzvot, implying that there is no such mitzvah.  Indeed, R. Yitzchak de Leon (the “Megillat Esther”), one of the classic commentators on Sefer HaMitzvot, posits that the reason the Rambam left this mitzvah out is because he holds that it does not apply during the period of exile.  The other classic commentator on this work – the Ramban – does not try to explain the Rambam’s opinion; he simply states that the Rambam was mistaken in leaving Yishuv HaAretz out of his count.

On the other hand, the Rambam’s more famous and authoritative work, Mishneh Torah (or Yad HaChazakah), is full of references to Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, as well as halachot that depend on this mitzvah.  Two quick examples:  1) “One who is buying a house from a Gentile in Eretz Yisrael may tell [another] Gentile to write a sales contract for him on the Sabbath.  For, telling a Gentile [to do work on the Sabbath] is a rabbinic prohibition, and for the sake of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael [the Rabbis] waived this prohibition…” (Hilchot Shabbat 6:11).  2) “A person should always dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city mostly inhabited by non-Jews, and he should not dwell outside the Land, even in a city mostly inhabited by Jews, for anyone who goes to Chutz LaAretz is like one who worships false gods…” (Hilchot Melachim 5:12).

These and similar statements in Mishneh Torah prompted many Acharonim (like Kli Chemdah, Chazon Ish, R. Ovadyah Yosef, Tzitz Eliezer, and more) to assume that the Rambam agrees with the Ramban that there is a mitzvah to dwell in the Land.  The obvious question, then, is: if the Rambam really holds it is a mitzvah, why did he not include it in his count of the 613?

There are many answers to this question.  Some authorities offer technical or conceptual reasons why he did not count it, while others suggest that he included it under the heading of a different mitzvah.  One example of the latter category is based on a mitzvah in last week’s parashah.  The Avnei Neizer claims that Yishuv HaAretz is included in the mitzvah of destroying the seven nations who inhabited the Land of Canaan.  After all, why else did God command us to destroy these nations, if not to dwell in the Land in their stead?  (See Parashat Shoftim, “Additional References” 20:16-17.)

  1. Sha’ul Yisraeli zt”l suggests a similar answer based on a mitzvah in this week’s parashah. The Torah states,  – When you eat and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good Land that He gave you (8:10).  This, of course, is the source for Birkat HaMazone (Grace After Meals).  The Talmud states that three separate blessings are alluded to in this verse: a blessing thanking God for providing us with food, a blessing thanking Him for the Land of Israel, and a prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  (The Rabbis added a fourth blessing – HaTov VeHaMetiv – later on.)

Before quoting R. Yisraeli’s answer, I would like to make one thing clear:  I do not claim that this is necessarily the best and most plausible explanation of the Rambam’s opinion.  R. Yisraeli’s answer has its merits and shortcomings, as do all the answers given to the question.  Nonetheless, the logic that he employs is impeccable, and the underlying concept that he develops is undeniably true, regardless of whether or not it answers the “contradiction” in the Rambam.  Please study his words with this in mind:

We find in the Torah an obligation to thank [God] for the Land [of Israel] in Birkat HaMazone (Berachot 48b)…  Thus, we are obligated biblically to be grateful to HaShem for giving us the Land as an inheritance.  And one may infer the negative from the positive.  [That is, just as we are commanded to be grateful for the Land], we are forbidden to be ungrateful [for it] and to disregard HaShem’s gift…

Now, it is obvious that a precondition for this gratefulness is that one should not despise the Land, but rejoice in dwelling there.  For one who chooses to dwell in the lands of Chutz LaAretz, preferring them over Eretz Yisrael, demonstrates in action that he despises HaShem’s inheritance and does not acknowledge or recognize its special qualities, upon which the Torah and Chazal elaborated

It follows that the mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is included in the Torah’s commandment of blessing [God] for the Land in Birkat HaMazone…  This explains the Rambam’s opinion…  Indeed, there is a biblically ordained mitzvah [to dwell in the Land], but it is not a distinct, positive commandment.  (Eretz Chemdah 1:1:5)

In other words, it is not enough to just say the words of bentching in order to fulfill our obligation to thank God for Eretz Yisrael.  We must also show Him, through concrete action, that we really mean what we say.  And the only way to do this is to actually pick up and move to His Chosen Land.  If not, our words are like “the chattering of a parrot and the chirping of a starling, for we say these things without proper intention,” to quote R. Yehudah HaLevi (Kuzari 2:24).

So, next time you eat a hearty meal, pay close attention to the words of thanks you say afterwards.  Hopefully that will be one of your last meals on foreign soil.



Ø It shall be, as a consequence (עקב) of your listening to these judgments and keeping and performing them, that the Lord your God will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers.  He will love you, bless you, and multiply you, and He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your Land: your grain, your wine, and your oil; the issue of your cattle and the flocks of your sheep, on the Land that He swore to your forefathers to give you (7:12-13).

If you will listen to the “light” mitzvot that a person tramples with his heel (עקב), the Lord will keep etc. [i.e.], He will keep His promise to you.  (Rashi)


The righteous R. Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asks on this:  Is it possible to say about the Jewish people that they trample underfoot some of the mitzvot, belittling them and calling them “light”?  Did our Sages z”l not teach in Pirkei Avot (2:1), “Be as careful with a ‘light’ mitzvah as with a ‘weighty’ one, for you do not know the reward given for [the respective] mitzvot”?

The Kotzker Rebbe answers:  Come and see.  Which mitzvah does a person literally trample with his heels in order to fulfill?  It could only be the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael.  Walking on the soil of the Holy Land and dwelling therein is a biblically ordained mitzvah.  However, many Jews consider this a “light” mitzvah, which can be ignored.  Therefore, the Torah here says, והיה עקב תשמעון וגו’.  If you observe properly the mitzvah that one fulfills with his heel (עקב) – by walking upon the soil of Eretz Yisrael – HaShem will likewise keep His promise to do good to you, as it says, The Lord your God will keep for you the covenant and the kindness…  (Parpera’ot LaTorah, vol. 5, p. 63)


Ø The entire commandment that I command you today, you shall be careful to perform, so that you may live and multiply, and come and possess the Land that the Lord swore to your forefathers (8:1).

The entire commandment: We must understand what this commandment is.  Furthermore, it already says,  – As a consequence of your listening to these judgments and keeping and performing them (7:12).  Why, then, is it necessary to repeat, The entire commandment [etc.]?

Indeed, Moshe understood that there is one sentiment in man’s heart that causes him to go astray…  Namely, when a person performs two or three Divine commandments that happen to present themselves – and all the more so when he adopts a particular mitzvah, [performing it] consistently and zealously – a harmful consequence arises: he neglects other mitzvot that come his way…  This affliction has spread greatly, especially among Torah Jews, [causing them] to belittle the “light” mitzvot, because they see that they learn Torah and observe most of God’s commandments…

Therefore, HaShem’s prophet admonishes [us] saying, The entire commandment [etc.], referring to the entire Torah as one mitzvah.  He commands [us to observe] all of it, so that we will not fall into the above-mentioned insanity.  Then he gives an irrefutable reason for this: so that you may live and multiply.  By saying “You may live,” Moshe means [to compare Torah observance to human life], along the lines of Chazal’s statement that HaShem instructed us to keep 365 negative commandments and 248 positive ones in accordance with the 248 limbs and 365 sinews in a person’s body.  Now, just imagine a person who has an ailment or feels pain in one of his limbs or sinews, crying out in pain, “Woe unto me!”  Would such a person be satisfied if someone responds to his outcries by saying, “You have 248 limbs, of which 247 are whole; it is unfitting to complain just because a few limbs fall ill”?  The same is true of keeping the mitzvot that correspond to man’s limbs and sinews.  When a person violates or dismisses one of the commandments, a pain arises in the corresponding limb or sinew.  And just as the health of the [other] 247 limbs does not help to eliminate the pain of the 248th, so too, [the fulfillment of] 247 positive commandments does not compensate for the omission of the 248th.  Similarly, keeping 364 negative commandments does not compensate for the violation of the 365th.

This is the meaning of [our verse]:  The entire commandment – that is… you should not lack any [mitzvah] within your capabilities.  You shall be careful to perform – meaning, both positive and negative commandments.  The reason being, So that you may live – [i.e.] one depends on the other, and when you lack one mitzvah you lack the vitality of one limb…  And multiply – meaning, by doing this nothing will prevent you from [receiving] all the blessings, and you will live and multiply.  And come [and possess the land] – here Moshe arouses the Jews in a great way.  For, who is greater in mitzvah observance and Divine service than Moshe, God’s trusted one?  Nonetheless, come and see how [his failure to keep] one [Divine command] “cost” him [the privilege of] entering the Land, and he was barred from going there even after death.  This should serve as a sign that one must keep all the commandments perfectly.  (Or HaChayim HaKadosh)


Ø For the Lord your God brings you to a good Land, a Land of water streams; springs and underground fountains come forth in the valley and the mountain, a Land of wheat, and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a Land of olive oil and [date] honey, a Land in which you will eat bread without scarceness; you will lack nothing there; a Land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will hew copper.  When you eat and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good Land that He gave you (8:7-10).

*Why is [Eretz Yisrael] called תבל (Mishley 8:26)?  Because it is spiced (מתובלת) with everything.  When it comes to all other lands, this one has what that one lacks, and that one has what this one lacks.  But Eretz Yisrael lacks nothing, as it says, A Land in which you will eat bread without scarceness; you will lack nothing there.  (Sifrei, Devarim 1)


*The author of Melo HaOmer finds the greatest praise of the Land [in the fact that] a person is satisfied with what he has there…  The Torah promises in connection to Eretz Yisrael, You will lack nothing there, [meaning], one will feel that he lacks nothing.  He will feel contented and satisfied with what God has given him.  (Hagut BeParshiot HaTorah, vol. 2, p.744)


*We say המוציא לחם מן הארץ – “Who brings forth bread from the land” [as opposed to מן האדמה, “from the ground”] because it refers to the Land of Israel.  For, the seven species that grow here [in Vilna, i.e. Chutz LaAretz] draw their sustenance primarily from Eretz Yisrael.  (That is, from a spiritual perspective, the blessing comes down for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, and then – by the way – Chutz LaAretz receives blessing, as well.)  After all, the seven species can also be found in Chutz LaAretz, but the Torah praises Eretz Yisrael for having them.  This must be because the seven species [that grow throughout the world] draw their sustenance from Eretz Yisrael.  Now, Eretz Yisrael is also praised for having bread, as it says, a Land in which you will eat bread without scarceness…  This is why we say, “Give us dew and rain” during the winter months [even in Chutz LaAretz], because if there would be no bread in Eretz Yisrael, God forbid, there would be none throughout the world…  The influence goes from Eretz Yisrael to the rest of the world.  Therefore, we say in the blessing over bread, מן הארץ – “from the land” – because it refers to the Land of Israel…  (Sefer Imrei Noam, the Vilna Gaon’s novellae on Tractate Berachot, p. 35a)


*We are biblically obligated to recite Birkat HaMazone (Grace After Meals) anywhere in the world, not only in Eretz Yisrael.  Why, then, does the Torah state that we must bless God for the good Land?  Moreover, this verse (When you eat and are satisfied…) is stated as a direct continuation of the praises of Eretz Yisrael enumerated in the previous verses.  [What is the connection?]

The author of Sidduro Shel Shabbat explains this verse beautifully (end of vol. 1).  It is well known that the act of eating generally causes a person to become engrossed in the physical pleasures and defilement of this world.  “A person rebels against God only when he is satiated” (Sifrei on Devarim 11:16).  Therefore, it is difficult to have proper concentration when reciting Birkat HaMazone.  The produce of Eretz Yisrael, however, is different.  The food of the Holy Land does not draw a person into the pleasures of this world as much, and when he eats to satisfaction, he is able to fulfill the mitzvah of You shall bless the Lord with greater ease.  It is as if the blessing bursts forth from his heart by itself…[1]

Perhaps we can add another explanation based on the idea (stated above) that Eretz Yisrael is the place best suited for the task of sanctifying our physical actions.  After all, every action related to social welfare, which is – seemingly – voluntary, is considered a mitzvah in Eretz Yisrael, for it is included in the commandment to settle the Land.  Furthermore, there is a long list of agricultural mitzvot that apply only in Eretz Yisrael (terumot, ma’arot, bikurim, leket, shichichah, pe’ah, etc.).  Now, one of the major reasons given for the mitzvah of Birkat HaMazone is that the blessing sanctifies the act of eating and reminds the eater that he should utilize the energy gained from the food for the service of HaShem…  Therefore, it is clear that Birkat HaMazone is especially relevant in Eretz Yisrael, more than any other mitzvah.  Over such food that has been sanctified long before it was eaten (through the fulfillment of the land-related mitzvot) it is certainly fitting to recite a blessing and serve HaShem.  (R. Yoel Scwartz, Tzion Beit Chayeinu, vol. 1, pp. 47-48)


Ø Hear, O Israel, you are crossing the Jordan today, to come and dispossess nations that are greater and mightier than you…  You must know today that the Lord your God… will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, and you will drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has spoken to you.  Do not say in your heart, when the Lord your God casts them out from before you, saying: “Because of my righteousness the Lord brought me in to possess this Land, and because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord drives them away from before you.”  Not because of your righteousness and the uprightness of your heart are you coming to possess their Land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God drives them out from before you, and in order to fulfill the word that the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya’akov.  You must know that the Lord your God does not give you this good Land to possess it because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people (9:1-6).

Do not say in your heart:  After warning them not to think that “My strength and the might of my hand made me [succeed in war]”… Moshe told them not to think that HaShem did all this for them because of their righteousness.  Rather, He did so only because of the wickedness of these nations.  Now, this explains why these nations will be destroyed, but it does not explain why Israel will take possession of the Land.  Therefore, he explains further, Not because of your righteousness, [meaning, not because] you are righteous in deed, and not even because of the upright heart that you may have.  Rather… you will possess the Land only because of [God’s] oath to your forefathers, for your sin cannot nullify the gift that He gave to your ancestors, for He gave it to them under oath

One could ask: Behold, it says [above], – Because the Lord loves you (7:8), showing that [the One in] Heaven loves them; and HaShem only loves the good, for His soul despises the wicked and he who loves violence (Tehillim 11:5).  If so, they should inherit the Land also by virtue of their righteousness [not only because of HaShem’s covenant with the Patriarchs]!  The answer is: Above, [Moshe] speaks to the Jewish people as a whole, while here he is rebuking that particular generation, which rebelled against HaShem from the day it entered the Wilderness [see verse 7].  (Ramban)


*In these verses, Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to emphasize and establish that the gift of Eretz Yisrael was not given to the Jews by virtue of the good deeds of any particular generation.  Rather, it was a gift to the Jewish collective (Klal Yisrael) – that is, to all generations.  This way, Moshe wanted to encourage those generations that lacked good deeds and inform them that they were capable of acquiring Eretz Yisrael, despite [their deeds].  (Chiddushei HaRim, quoted in Itturei Torah, vol. 6, p. 68)


Ø And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the Land that I have given you,” you rebelled against the word of the Lord your God, and you did not believe Him, nor did you heed His voice (9:23).

See Parashat Shelach; ???


Ø The Lord said to me, “Arise, go and journey before the people, that they may come and possess the Land that I swore to their forefathers to give to them” (10:11).

According to Rashi and other commentators, this verse refers back to Shemot 32:34.  See Parashat Ki Tisa, “Divine Favor.”


Ø You shall keep all the commandments that I command you today, so that you will be strong and come and possess the Land into which you are crossing over to possess it, and so that you will lengthen your days on the Land that the Lord swore to your forefathers to give to them and to their descendants – a Land flowing with milk and honey (11:8-9).

See Shemot 3:8, Kedoshim 20:22-24; Ki Tavo 26:8-9.


Ø For the Land into which you go to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt that you left, where you would plant your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden.  But the Land into which you cross over to possess it, is a Land of hills and valleys; from the rain of heaven it drinks water. A Land that the Lord your God seeks out; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year (11:10-12).

Our Rabbis taught:  Eretz Yisrael was created first, and the rest of the world was created afterwards, as it says,  – Before He had made the Land and [its] environs (Mishley 8:26).  The Holy One Blessed be He waters Eretz Yisrael by Himself, while He [waters] the rest of the world through an agent, as it says,  – Who gives rain upon the Land and sends water upon the environs (Iyov 5:10).  Eretz Yisrael drinks rain water, while the rest of the world drinks from the leftovers, as it says, Who gives rain upon the Land…  Eretz Yisrael drinks first, while the rest of the world [drinks] last, as it says, Who gives rain upon the Land…  This is similar to a person who makes cheese: he takes the food and leaves over the refuse.  (Ta’anit 10a; see Chiddushei HaRashba)


Also see Parashat Devarim, “To Be Close To God”; Parashat VaYeitzei, “The Palace of the King.”


Ø So that your days and the days of your children will be multiplied upon the Land that the Lord swore to your forefathers to give them, as the days of the heaven upon the earth (11:21).

They told R. Yochanan that there were elders in Babylonia.  Astounded, he said, “The verse states, So that your days and the days of your children will be multiplied upon the Land, [implying that longevity] does not [exist] outside the Land!”  When they told him that [these elders] come to the synagogue early in the morning and stay there until late at night, he said, “That is what helped them [live long].”  (Berachot 8a)


* In order to multiply your days… as the days of the heaven upon the earth:  That is, so that you may be privileged to live here, in this temporary existence, as one who lives in the World to Come.  When you dwell on the Land, you will live a true life, like life up in heaven (a heavenly life), as they say, “You will see your world during your lifetime.”  (HaKetav VeHaKabbalah)


Ø For if you will keep all these commandments… the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations that are greater and mightier than you.  Every place where the sole of your foot will tread will be yours – from the Desert and the Lebanon, from the river, the Euphrates River, until the Last Sea will be your border.  No man will stand up against you; the Lord your God will place the fear and dread of you upon the entire Land where you will tread, as He spoke to you (11:22-25).

Every place where the sole of your foot will tread…  Apparently, this implies that the Jews are permitted to conquer any place [they want], not just Eretz Yisrael.  But you must understand what this means.  Any place upon which the sole of their feet tread, even outside the borders of Eretz Yisrael, will assume the status of Eretz Yisrael, in terms of the laws that depend on the Land.  The choice, however, is theirs.  If they so desire, they may go and conquer [these places], and if not, they should not conquer them.  But from the Desert and the Lebanon until the Euphrates River is obligatory to conquer.

Some explain that this verse is connected to the previous one.  [First it says], You will dispossess nations that are greater and mightier than you.  Then it says, Every place where the sole of your foot will tread.  That is, do not think that you can conquer far-off places, which are outside the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, before conquering Eretz Yisrael [proper].  Rather, you must first conquer the lands of the nations that are greater and mightier than you, which are close by – within the boundaries of the Land.  Afterwards, Every place where the sole of your foot will tread – i.e., far-off places – shall be yours and will assume the status of Eretz Yisrael

The reason for this?  So that Eretz Yisrael does not remain contaminated by foreign gods, while [the Jews] go off to conquer far-off places…  (Yalkut MeAm Lo’ez)


[1] Thus, besides being the source of Birkat HaMazone, this verse is another expression of praise for Eretz Yisrael.  According to this interpretation, the verse is to be read thus: “When you eat and are satisfied (in the Land), you bless the Lord (almost automatically).  (Why so?) Because it is a good Land that He gave you.”



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