The Conquest of the Land of Israel  

An in-depth analysis of the mitzvah to conquer the Land of Israel - to expel non-Jewish inhabitants, to settle the Land and to keep it under Jewish Sovereignty.

Conquest  – a disgraceful word or a praiseworthy word?

An in-depth halachic analysis of the mitzvah to conquer and settle the Land of Israel.

By Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Tzuriel, former mashgiach at Yeshivat Shala’avim. Author of many Torah treatises and expert in the writings of Rabbi Kook. He was well known for his mastery of the Oral and Written Torah and his ability to quote a gemara or halacha on the spot.

Chapter 1 – Rashi’s Opinion
Chapter 2 – Ramban’s Opinion
Chapter 3 – Ohr Hachaim [Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar]
Chapter 4 – Rambam’s Opinion, and the Opinion of the Responsa Avnei Nezer (Soktzov)
Chapter 5 – Ramak’s Opinion [Rabbi Moshe Kordovero] and Chesed L’Avraham
Chapter 6 – The Warning of the Sages on the Essential Need for Conquest and an Explanation of the Severe Penalty if we Do not Carry This Out
Chapter 7 – The Opinion of the Responsa of the Rivash [Rabbi Yitzchak Ben Sheshet] and the Responsa of Yeshuot Malko
Chapter 8 – The Opinion of Master Authority Rabbi Kook
Chapter 9 – The matter of the ‘settlers’ in our times, and the opinion of the Caphtor Vapherach, and Zayit Raanan [the comments of the author of Magen Avraham]

The heads of the government in our days are declaring their commitment to the “Disengagement” (that is to say the removal of the Jewish population from territories of the Land of Israel, in order to transfer their lands to Gentiles). The rationalization for this in their mouths is that it as if possible, a moral consideration, “enough of the conquest!” This magical word is commonly spread out among our nation from the time of the Yom Kippur War [5734] and no  appropriate response has been heard from most of the rabbis of the Land of Israel. Their silence to the claim, “enough of the conquest!”, brought about that even Torah observant Jews were taken in by this negative demagoguery. Part of the rabbis [even of the famous among them] took hold of silence out of fear that they would be found guilty by the secular judicial system of inciting “racism”. And some of them were silent for they didn’t learn the topic well and quite simply thought that the commandment regarding the Land of Israel is only to live there and not in its essential nature, the conquest of the Land in order to remove the Land of Israel from Gentiles. Now therefore also among the community of Rabbis that highly  honor the name of Rabbi Kook, part of them did not protest with full force against these heretical plans of “Disengagement” and “Convergence
Our predecessors said: “A little light pushes away a lot of darkness”. Let this article help, G-d willing, to clarify this topic in a clear and precise way. And in accordance to the words of our teacher Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, of blessed memory, that when he sought to educate concerning an important fundamental principle, he would continually repeat the explanation of it again and again and he would say: “Let us review what was initially taught.”

Chapter 1 – The Opinion of Rashi
    In three places the Torah commanded that we do not give the Gentiles a holding in the Land of Israel [except if he has the status of a Ger Toshav [a resident alien by the standards of the Torah. See the conditions for this in the words of Rambam, Laws Concerning Idol Worship, the end of chapter 10].
[A] “And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Plishtim{Philistines} and from the desert to the river. For I will put in your hands the residents of the land and you will drive them before you. Do not make neither with them or their gods a treaty. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they cause you to sin to me… for they shall be to you as a hazardous obstacle. [Exodus 23:31-33].
[B] “For you are crossing over the Jordan to the Land of Canaan, “And you shall expel all the inhabitants of the Land from before you, etc., etc. And you shall expel from the Land and live in it, for to you have I given the Land to take it exclusively” [Numbers 33:51-53].
[C] “When G-d your L-rd brings you to the Land where you are going there to evict from within it, then many nations shall be uprooted before you – the Hittites, Girgashites, etc. etc. You shall utterly  annihilate them, you shall not make with them a treaty, and you shall not grant them any compassion. Do not intermarry with them, your daughter you shall not give to his son and his daughter you shall not take for your son. For they will lead your son from following me” [Deuteronomy 7:1-4].
Is the above stated prohibition directed only at the seven nations ( The Canaanites, the Hittites, The Emorites, etc.) or does it also apply to the rest of the nations of the world? Ohr Hachaim on Number 33:52 explained that it is dealing with all the nations of the world. And one can bring a proof for this from the Rambam for when he deals with the prohibition , “do not grant them any compassion” or “do not intermarry with them,” it is clear to all that the verse deals with all the nations of the world, and not just the seven primary nations that are specified in scripture. And already the Torah giant Rabbi  Kapach (Hilchot Issurei Biah chapter 12 piska 2) explained why Rambam ruled here in accordance with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, “to include all that lead astray” (tractate Kiddushin 68b).
Let us return to the second quotation that we have brought [On Number 33, 53-55]. There the commandment is “And you shall expel them”. Rashi explains there: “And you shall expel the inhabitants from the land” and then “you shall dwell in it”, you will be able to sustain yourself within it. And if not, you will not be able to sustain yourself within it”. And so, too, Rashi said on a separate occasion in verse 52, that the Hebrew word Vhorashtem means: “And you shall ‘expel.’ Behold, Rashi teaches, that the essence of the mitzvah is expulsion by itself. However, “and you shall dwell within it is just reward and payment for fulfillment of the commandment of expulsion.”
And in truth the words of Rashi originate in Sifri at the beginning of Parshat Re’ey, “For you are passing over the Jordan to come to exclusively take the Land by expulsion, etc … and you shall  expel from it and dwell in it.” There the sages worded their view in the following way: “As a reward for expulsion, you will dwell”, end of quote. That is to say in order to be successful and to settle in the Land of Israel, this is a result and a reward for the main body of the mitzvah of expulsion.
Rashi repeated his position in his explanation to the Gemara of Gittin 8b. There it is brought that a Gentile that sells  his field or house to a Jew, if the sale was on the Sabbath, the sages permitted, a Jew to tell a Gentile to write a bill of sale. That despite the fact that usually a Jew should not request from a Gentile to do for him forbidden labor on Sabbath. The term used by the Gemara is: “on account of the settlement of the Land of Israel the rabbis didn’t make a rabbinical decree”. Rashi on this phrase adds, “to expel the gentiles [nicknamed in censored texts as star worshippers] and to settle Jews in it”. Now his words are astonishing. What did Rashi add to the words of the Gemara? Rather in the Gemara it implies that the commandment is that the Jew settles in this house or this field. However this is not so. Rather (according to Rashi) the main commandment is to remove the gentile from his ownership of the property or the house. And this fits in with his words in his commentary on the Torah (as stated above).

Chapter 2 – The Opinion of Ramban

    However Ramban (in his commentary to Numbers 33:53) disputes Rashi’s opinion and holds that the settlement of Israel in the Land of Israel is not just a reward, but rather is a commandment not less than the commandment of expulsion. And so too in his words in his critiques of Sefer Hamitzvot of Rambam [Maimonides] he establishes that there are two parts to this commandment. [A] “We shall not abandon it [our Land] in the hand of others from the nations of the world, nor to desolation, etc., etc. Behold we have been commanded to conquer in all generations”. [After he deals at length with this for a total of 28 lines, he passes over to the second section, where there he deals with the subject in just 8 lines, as will be brought later on].

[B] “And I say that this commandment that our Sages praised profusely, which is the dwelling in the Land of Israel, that all that go out from the Land and who dwell outside the land, should be considered in your eyes as an idol worshipper, all of this is from this positive precept that we are commanded to take exclusive control of the Land and to dwell in it. If so, it is a positive commandment for all the generations which obligates all individuals from this aspect, even in the time of exile”. [end of quote]
[As a side point, there were those that explained that the commandment of the conquest is only the responsibility of the community, for they are capable of conquest. However, seemingly this is not correct. For in each and every place that a person sows seeds and plants or establishes for himself a house, he saves the land from desolation. And this action is included in the beginning of the first section from his words which explain the Hebrew word Vehorashtem – take exclusive control. And more than this, in the same place that the Jew dwells, by default the Gentile does not dwell there; and by this he also removed that place from the hand of others. And by this also the individual fulfills in a limited way  the commandment of conquest].

Chapter 3 – The Opinion of Ohr Hachaim [Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar]

In the divergence of opinions stated above between Rashi and Ramban, where Rashi holds that the main aspect of the commandment is to expel Gentiles from the land of Israel, Ohr Hachaim writes that the truth is with Rashi: “And it appears that the simple understanding of the text is in accordance with the words of Rashi”, since the verse concludes by saying, ‘For to you I have given the land to take exclusive control of it.’” And if the dwelling is the commandment, the verse should have stressed the main part of the commandment and said: ‘For to you I have given the Land to dwell in it” {end of quote}.

Chapter 4 – Rambam’s Opinion, and the Clarification of the Responsa Avnei Nezer

There is great importance to know what is the opinion of Rambam on this topic, for he is one of the major authorities that decide Halachic issues. Howbeit, there are a number of very important Rabbis in our generation who hold that according to the Rambam there is no Torah commandment to conquer the land of Israel or even to dwell in it, since Rambam did not count this matter in his work, “Sefer Hamitzvot”. There words are  bizarre for Rambam extensively praised the dwelling in the Land of Israel (see at length his words in Laws of the Kings, end of chapter 5). He prohibited someone who dwells in the Land from leaving it. He rules that a woman can force her husband to make aliya to the Land of Israel or else he must give her a document of divorce. In addition there is about another forty laws that are connected to the settlement of the Land of Israel at this time.

In contrast to those Rabbis that hold that there is no mitzvah in this, one should hold up the words of the “Pitchei Teshuva” (On Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer, end of siman 75) that writes: “All times are equal for the fulfillment of this commandment, and such is well explained in all the halachic authorities of the earlier and later generations”. Did he not know that Rambam omits recounting it in Sefer Hamitzvot? And so too, there is cause to bring the words of the Chazon Ish (Igrot, section 1, siman 175) that summarizes: “And the commandment of the Land of Israel has been determined by Rambam and Ramban and the rest of the halachic authorities.” Did he not know about the omission of the Rambam in the list?

Rather definitely also the Rambam has the opinion that it is a Torah commandment, and he did not list the commandment in detail because it is included within another commandment (as stated below).

Thus does the responsa Avnei Nezer explain (on Yoreh Deah, Siman 454, piska 6) That when the Torah commanded to utterly annihilate them (Deuteronomy 20:17), the Torah didn’t set it as a goal, for the sake of killing in itself, but rather to threaten them so that they would leave the Land and leave a place for the nation of Israel to dwell in it. On the contrary, Yehoshua (Joshua) the son of Nun sent letters to all the seven nations that he who wants to leave the place, they will enable him to do so. And so too, did he send letters, that he who wants to make peace with the forces of conquest, that is to say to accept upon himself the seven laws of the sons of Noah, and to be a resident alien, they will enable him to do this (explained in Yerushalmi, Shviit, chapter 6). So therefore the commandment, “you shall utterly annihilate them”, was not absolute. Rather, its goal was to provide an opportunity for Israel to sustain themselves in the Holy Land (and in the general spirit of these words did Ramban write, in his  critique #4 to Sefer Hamitzvot). And therefore, according to the opinion of Avnei Nezer, Rambam did not have to state in specific detail the commandment of the land of Israel, because it is already included in the commandment “and you shall utterly annihilate them”. Now if these words are correct, from here we see that Rambam agrees that the commandment is essentially the conquest by itself. And the dwelling in it, is just the result of this.

And it appears to me an additional idea. In the commandment of “Lo Tichanem” [translated here to mean-  do not let the gentile have any holding of land in the land of Israel]. Rambam wrote a rationale for this matter: A warning that we were warned not to allow  idol worshippers to rest in our land so that we don’t learn from their denial. And he says, let He Be Blessed: “They shall not reside in your Land lest they cause you sin to me” [Exodus 23,33) end of quote for our matter of interest (“Sefer Hamitzvot”, Negative Commandment 51).
Behold if the Torah warns us not to let a few Gentiles rest among us, lest we be spoiled by their influence, how much more so is the matter to dwell among them outside the land, where we are a small group surrounded by millions of Gentiles that influence us? This line of reasoning is simple to all who learn what is written in the Torah. And it appears one can say that therefore Rambam did not count the commandment of living in the Land of Israel as a separate commandment because it is already included in this negative commandment that we live in a specific place as a united community  without the influence of the Gentiles. And not that Rambam by his own accord added this rationale for the Biblical verse, rather it is explicit in the verse itself: “lest they cause you sin to me”.
It is very interesting the words of Rambam at the end of Iggeret Hashmad [within the book, the Letters of Rambam, Rabbi Yosef Kapach’s edition, page 119]. There he fervently warns that one who is present in a city whose actions are not good, is obligated to leave there and to go to a city where the actions of her people are good. And he writes: “All this is so when they were two cities of Israel. However if the place was of Gentiles, even more so, that the Jew who is present there has to leave that place to go to a good place. And he should attempt to do so even if he brings himself to danger [on the roadways] until he is saved from that evil place where he cannot establish a fitting religious lifestyle, and he should go onward until he reaches a good place. And it already was explained by the prophets that all who dwell among the deniers are like them. for Kind David peace be unto him, said: “for I have been evicted this day from clinging to the heritage of G-d, “saying go serve other gods”. Behold he made equivalent his residence among the Gentiles as if he is serving other gods”, end of quote. [And in the continuation of his words it is explained that this is even dealing with a situation where the deniers do not force the person to do as they act].
And why should we add another source in addition to the above stated responsa of Avnei Nezer? The answer  to this is that he deals just with the aspect of conquest ( the first part of the words of Ramban in his critique of Sefer Hamitzvot, {we brought his words earlier} but we are adding a source on the residence in the Land of Israel itself (the second part of the words of Ramban in the above stated critique of Sefer Hamitzvot). The conclusion is that it is clear that Rambam included this commandment in his book on the commandments, however, he combines it with another matter, which is related to it. And Pitchei Teshuva and the Chazon Ish were correct and those that believed that Rambam omitted this commandment were not correct.
[A comment in the meantime: One should bring to the notice of those that study, that the silence of a Halachic Authority from mentioning a particular topic is not a proof that he argues on the “first one” that established this as a point of law. For there are many reasons for this. One of them is that it is difficult to encompass all the details in the Torah, especially, when in his generation, the matter has no immediate practical application. And what shall we say over the fact that the Shulchan Aruch doesn’t mention the laws of plowing on the Sabbath or the prohibition to lie or to say evil gossip? Does anyone tend to believe that the Shulchan Aruch doesn’t hold these things to be forbidden? Rather in order to be brief, this was omitted. So we will say in the mater of the conquest of the Land of Israel, there is no proof from the fact that the Halachic authorities omitted mentioning the commandment on a list.]

Chapter 5- The opinion of Ramak  (Rabbi Moshe Kordovero) and “Chesed La’avraham” (Rabbi Avraham Azulai)

We previously brought a rational justification for the commandment of the expulsion of the Gentiles; so that there will be a place here for all the millions of our nation to expand and to base themselves in our Land. There is also in this a security issue. For when there are individuals of other nations present, it is just a matter of time until they awake to seek for themselves rights of ownership and will take action to take us out of this place. ” Verily they are a nation that will dwell alone”. If we will be alone, we will succeed, with G-d’s help to dwell here for many many years. But in addition to this there is an inner spiritual rationale. For the nations have a foreign culture of materialism and permissiveness. When there isn’t around us damaging influences, we can preserve our pure ways of living. This matter is hinted at in the words of the Ramak in his explanation of the Zohar (“Ohr Yakar”, section 4, page 134,141). And it is recounted by the “Chozeh of Lublin”, in his book “Zot Zicharon” [Parshat Lech Lecha,, starting with the words, Vecharot Imo]. And so too by the Admor Rabbi Elimelech Milizinsk [Noam Elimelech, Tzittal Katan, at the end of his book]. And so too by the Torah genius Rabbi Y.A. Chaver [“Siach “,Yitzchak the 5760 edition, page 138). Seven nations are parallel to the seven basic evil character attributes (Lust, Jealousy, Arrogance, Miserliness, Hatred of fellow people,  Laziness, Sadness). Our war against the presence of the nations amongst us is to destroy the bad character traits from among us.
And each and every piece of territory in all the “expanse of our Land, G-d is with us” is parallel to a certain spiritual matter. And therefore Ramak wrote there (“Ohr Yakar”, part 4, end of page 152) “and just as the Divine Presence is not fully whole, while the place of the Temple is not whole and on its proper base, so too the Divine Presence is not whole, while the Land of Israel is not in her full border, which is from the stream of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates; And those of Israel dwell each and every one of them in the portion that is fitting for him in accordance to his true lot etc. And all of them filled all of it”. end of quote for our subject. These words were brought by the book of Chesed L’Avraham of Rabbi Avraham Azulai (Maayan 3, Nahar 7) [This idea is hinted and in the words of Malbim 33:53-54].

When one examines the scriptural text, we find that the Torah commands us to conquer the entire Land, and not to make due only with a certain region of it. Thus did G-d inform Avraham, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the Land of Canaan as an eternal possession, and I will be for them as L-rd” (Genesis 17:8). And so is it recounted by Moshe {Moses} ” Remember for Avraham, Yitzchak and Yisrael your servants, that you swore to them by your name, and spoke to them, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and all this Land that I spoke of, I will give to your seed and they will inherit forever'” (Exodus 32,13). We have to make a precise deduction, why is there the addition of the word ‘all’? What is the scriptural  text lacking if this word had not been written? Rather it comes to teach that the obligation is to conquer the entire Land, from the Euphrates River to the stream of Egypt, without anything left out at all.

Chapter 6 – The Warning of the Sages On the Essential Need for Conquest and An Explanation of the Severe Penalty If we Do Not Carry This Out

When the first conqueror, Yehoshua {Joshua} brought Israel over the Jordan River, he set up twelve stones in the Jordan as testimony. And our sages of blessed memory transmitted to us the following: “Still inside the Jordan,  Yehoshua said to them: Know on account of what you are crossing over the Jordan; on condition that you expel the inhabitants of the land from before you, for it was stated, ‘And you shall expel all the inhabitants of the land from before you’. If you do so, it is well. But if not, water comes and washes you and me away” (Sotah 34a). And Rashi explains: “he made a condition with them, on condition that you expel them”. [Rashi copies these words in his commentary on the Torah  (Numbers 33,51). See there the explanation of Maharal’s, Gur Aryeh commentary].

And what is the punishment if they do not fulfill this condition? It is explicit in the Torah: “If you do not expel the inhabitants of the Land from before you, then it shall be that those that you leave of them shall be as thorns in your eyes and stings in your sides and they shall be adverse to you upon the Land that you are dwelling within it. Then it shall come to pass that as I thought to do to them, I will do to you” (Numbers 33:55,56).

“Ohr Hachaim” explains there: “And they shall be adverse you. The meaning is that not only will they hold the portion of the Land that you did not merit to take, but rather also in the portion that you did merit to take and dwell within it, they shall be adverse to  over that portion that you are dwelling in, saying: ‘rise up and go out from it!'” (on Numbers 33:55) end of quote. [And similarly did the Malbim write, verse 55]. And who does not see how this rebuke has been fulfilled in our times, when in the past, the majority of the nation condemned and disparaged someone who suggested a “transfer plan” for the Arabs and we refused with intensity. Now this trouble of the Arabic Uprising has come upon us. Measure for Measure.

What is the reason for this special punishment? Maharal explains in his book, “Ohr Chadash” (page 70 on this topic in tractate Megilla, page 11, the words starting with Rabbi Chiya) for the lack of expulsion shows a lack of disgust regarding their character traits and the attributes of the nations. “if so those things that are among the nations, that because of those things [bad character traits and lowly attributes] G-d let him be blessed, destroys them. If so they are in Israel more and more. Therefore he said, ‘Then it shall come to pass that as I thought to do to the nations, will come upon them (the Jews), heaven forbid”. And understand this very much’, end of quote.

Chapter 7 – The Opinion of the Responsa of the Rivash [Rabbi Yitzchak Ben Sheshet] and the Responsa of Yeshuot Malko

The early great halachic authorities stressed the principle that the main commandment is conquest, and not just dwelling here.  Rivash [he died in the secular year 1407] wrote in his book (in Teshuva 101) on the matter of someone who thought that similar to the mitzvah of acquiring a field or a house in the Land of Israel, so too, simply for the sake of dwelling in the land of Israel, one can also violate a rabbinic commandment. Regarding this he answered: “He did not speak correctly in this matter. On the contrary, one who acquires a field from a Samaritan, it is a greater mitzvah, than going up to live in Israel. For going up to Israel is a mitzvah for the present hour and for himself alone. We will not permit for it the abrogation of Rabbinic based, Sabbath regulations, whether by direct actions by hand or whether by telling a Samaritan to do an act of work as defined by the Torah. But the settling of Israel is not a mitzvah for just the present hour, rather it is a mitzvah that is fulfilled for eternity and it is a mitzvah that has benefit for all of Israel; that the Holy Land does not sink in the hand of the impure. Now one cannot deduce from it [the mitzvah of settling the Land] rules for the rest of the commandments. And so too did he write this on behalf of the {viewpoint of) Ramban of blessed memory,” end of quote.
Behold he made a big division, that one who buys a field or house in the Land of Israel and takes it out of the hand of Gentiles, brings benefit to all of Israel in its entirety , and similarly a rectification for the generations, not just during the short lifetime of a person alone. And another wonderful insight we learn from his words, that he defined and called the purchase of a house, as “the settlement of the Land of Israel”, in contrast to the mitzvah of going up to live in Israel by itself.
[It appears to me that there is a source for his words in the words of the sages of blessed memory. In Sifri (end of parshat Eikev, words beginning with, “Kol Makom Asher Tidrokh”) they said, “That the Land of Israel shall not be defiled by their vile idols”. That is to say, even though (the people of) Israel is already present within the boundaries of the Land, this is not sufficient while they have not destroyed the impurity of the nations from the Land.]
One should add to what was stated above the words of the Torah Genius Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna, of the great Rabbis of Poland in our generation (in the responsa Yeshuot Malcho, Yoreh Deah, Siman, 66): “the main mitzvah is only the expulsion and the settling, as a person who does within his own personal property, to conquer the land of Israel under our exclusive control, and not for the empty arrival of the present” [at the time that the Turks ruled the Land].
Thus does the verse make dependent the Kingdom of Heaven with the eradication of idol worshippers from our Land. “G-d is king forevermore, Gentiles have perished from his Land”. (Psalms 10,16). And concerning the verse “and I will remember my covenant with Yaakov {Jacob}, etc. and the Land will I recall” (Leviticus 26,42) our sages of blessed memory noted, “the grapevine from Egypt you carry, you will expel the Gentiles and plant her” (Psalms 80,9) just as this grapevine [which is a parable for Israel] it is not planted in  large rocky area, rather we search from below it and afterwards we plant it , so too, “you will expel the Gentiles and plant her” (Vayikra 36,2). The Maharzu explains: “To the extent that the Canaanites were more and more uprooted from within it, the more Israel was successful. And they that they left remaining of them, became to Israel painful thorns”, end of quote.

Chapter 8- The Opinion of Master Authority Rabbi Kook

There is a question. Why are we not accustomed to bless a blessing over the performance of commandments (“who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us”) regarding immigration to the Land of Israel. Rabbi Y. L. Maimon (the first Minster of Religious Affairs for the State of Israel) investigated this question and in his article that was printed by the Mossad Harav Kook in the end of his edition of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried. And there at the end of the article (page 427) related that he asked this question to the great genius, master authority, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. Now the master authority answered: “The commandment of dwelling in the Land of Israel is just the start of the commandment. However, the continuation of the commandment and its completion is as Ramban wrote ‘that we are commanded to take exclusive control of the Land that G-d Let He be Blessed, gave to our forefathers and not to leave it in the hands of others from the nations nor to desolation’. And this is the fundamental goal of the commandment to settle the Land of Israel, to redeem the Land from the hands of strangers and foreigners and to conquer it; and also to sustain it and to make it blossom and to restore its barren places and to build its ruins. Now since this is dependent on external factors; behold it is as Rashba wrote (responsa part 1, siman 18) that we do not recite a blessing upon a commandment that is not entirely dependent upon the doer. And because of this they did not establish a blessing over the commandment of the settling of the Land of Israel”, end of quote.

Many times, Rabbi Kook wrote pamphlets and letters in order to  strengthen the hands of the Jewish National Fund and to redeem our ground from the hands of the gentiles. And thus he wrote in (Jewish Year) 5694: “Our Sages of Blessed Memory made a number of enactments to bring about the return of land to the hands of Israel [see there where he specifies some of them]. Therefore when the Jewish National Fund, its main activity being to purchase strips of land in Israel, to take them out of the hands of the gentiles and to bring them into the hands of Israel, behold this is within the category of the commandment to conquer Israel, which is equivalent in worth to all the other commandments of the Torah. And the proof [to this] is that according to the primary law, the Torah even obligated us to engage in this by means of war. And by natural ways, in a war there are continually threats to peoples’  lives. And all the commandments of the Torah it is written concerning them, ‘And you shall live by them’, which is not so regarding the conquest of the Land of Israel. And though we currently do not have any dealings with the conquest by war, however, conquest by means of property acquisition, which is within our ability to perform, behold we are obligated to exert ourselves with all our strength to engage in this, with a holy energetic flame of service of G-d let him be blessed, in the heart of the wholeheartedly faithful of Israel” (Otzrote Haraaya, 5762 edition, section 1 page 519, which copies from Chazon Hageula, page 222).
And again he declared: “The truth of the matter is that all that was done until now, is considered like a drop in the sea regarding  wide territories of the Land, that we are obligated to make an effort to redeem these areas at all time and to bring them into the holiness of Israel:. (there, part 2, page 457; copied from Chazon Hageula, page 220).
It is fitting to bring here the testimony or Rabbi Shmuel Mirsky (the editor and commentator to the Shealtot of Rabbi Achai Gaon) regarding the wondrous expression of our Master Authority. The story is brought briefly in Likutei Haraaya (of Rabbi Neria, part 1, page 74)  And in its entirety it is brought in Oheiv Yisrael Bikdosha (of Dr. Yehoshua Beeri, part 5, pages 135. And the words were copied in Otzrote Haraaya, 5762 edition, part 1 pages 63,64 and see there pages 255,441). And this is a quote:

Once I visited the Rabbi close after my wedding. This was in 5690 (1930)  after the first pogroms in Jerusalem. The Rabbi was sitting at the head of the table and tractate Ketuvot was open in front of him and he was absorbed in thought.

“I was weighing in my mind how to turn around the conversation to the question of current events, and then suddenly I saw one man sitting there and this man took out a document and addressed the Rabbi, saying: ‘Many say that if our Rabbi would reveal his opinion now, the opinion of Torah, and write openly that we don’t have a desire to conquer the land and to establish within it a Hebrew State, rather we just wish to dwell in it in front of G-d, as our  forefathers the guardians of the walls” for eternity [did], then the religious Islamic heads would also call for peace and the pogroms would stop and innocent blood would no longer be shed in our Holy City of Jerusalem’.

“When the Rabbi heard these things he was shaken and as he was looking at me he said in a trembling voice, ‘How is it possible that it entered a man’s heart a thought of sacrilege like this against G-d and his nation, that I would sign this? Is it not, that in the merit of building and conquering the land that we will be delivered! After these words the Rabbi arose from his place and expelled the man from his presence. Never had I seen our Rabbi in such an emotional state.” {end of quote}

Chapter 9 – The matter of the ‘settlers’ in our times, and the opinion of the Caphtor Vapherach, and Zayit Raanan [the comments of the author of Magen Avraham]

When we discern all these true words stated above, perhaps we should pin the trouble of the Disengagement (And the new trouble of the “Realignment Plan”) upon the sin, that not only did we not fulfill the commandment of conquest, rather we have ceased from even asking for it or to understand the matter.
Now specifically the men of strength who do his word, those courageous people, who are called “settlers” that lived many years under the shadow of vile terror threats – they are those who are redeeming the honor of the nation. And against those that err and ask: “behold we can fulfill the settlement of the Land of Israel by dwelling in the rest of the parts of Israel? Why then should they endanger their lives to live by the border, in a place so close to the Arab populations?” We will answer with the words of the mighty Torah giant, Rabbi Ashtori Haparchi (Parshat Yitro, “To the lovers and preservers of my commandments”) Rabbi Natan said there: “they that dwell in the Land of Israel and sacrifice their lives on account of the commandments”. Now these are the words of Rabbi A. Haparchi in his work, Caphtor Vapherach (chapter 10, page 36): The love is the self sacrifice on account of the commandments or on account of the settling of the Land of Israel. And the words need an explanation:

Blessed be G-d, we found the explanation in the words of the author of “Magen Avraham” (on the Shulchan Aruch) in his work “Zayit Raanan”, which is a commentary on Yalkut Shimoni. In his explanation of the above stated source in the Mechilta (in Parshat Yitro) he explains: “those that dwell in the Land of Israel, for in the Land of Israel there were harsh decrees and they could have fled to outside of the land. Nevertheless, they sacrificed themselves on account of the settling of Israel. Which is not the case for those that dwell outside the Land in a place with harsh decrees, that he is guilty of wanton disregard for his life that he did not leave and go to another state. However, they [of Israel] sacrificed their lives regarding the dwelling in the Land of Israel itself and did not abandon her.
Now there is no room to suggest that “the settlers live in another place in the Land of Israel, such as, Tel Aviv, etc”. For we have brought previously the words of Ramban that the commandment is the conquest, not to leave the Land of Israel in the hand of strangers nor to desolation. That is to say it is not just a law upon the individual but also a law upon the object, not to leave any place in the Land of Israel  without our control. And similar  to the righteous individuals in the time of Rabbi Natan, so too are the settlers of our days who have risked their lives on account of this precious commandment.
Now regarding the difficult question why specifically they are those that suffered the troubles of  the expulsion, and not others that neglected this mitzvah, already our predecessors answered this. Ramchal (“Derech Hashem”, Part 2, chapter 3 section 8) suggested that sometimes the righteous suffer in order to save the rest of our nation. One also has to take into account that behold the Land of Israel is acquired through suffering (tractate Brachote 5a). By means of these sufferings, the Land of Israel is acquired for us (this is explained “Kol Hator”, chapter 1 section 7 the ways of the beginning of the redemption in a practical way). Furthermore one should take into account that there are sufferings that are a trial for a person, if he will continue in his way that he has clarified for himself  based upon the principles of the Torah. This is called “sufferings of love”. And within all this is the ancient question of bad things befalling the righteous person, of which even Moses our master had difficulty concerning this. However, despite the suffering, one should not cast doubt on the correctness of their path.


The Rabbinic Genius Rabbi Y.M. Harlap taught (in the introduction to Beit Zevul, part 1) that for all practical or ideological questions, it is possible to find the solutions in the words of our Sages of blessed memory. With the help of heaven we have explained here the concept of the “conquest of the Land of Israel” that is not disgraceful (as the completely ignorant hold). Rather it is very praiseworthy and it is the essence of the commandment. However we don’t have currently a Torah observant government and therefore we don’t have the capacity to fulfill this commandment in it its simple way. However, that which has already reached our hand, by means of our victory in the Six Day War, certainly we don’t have permission to nullify our possession in our Land. Upon all Rabbis and Torah Scholars is the duty to publicize and educate and influence in order that we all know what is the demand of the Torah. And if the concept would be more clear in our own eyes, there is hope that we can also influence our errant brothers. “Not upon you is it to finish the work, yet you are not the son of a free man to neglect it”.



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