In the book, "The Nation and the Land," HaRav Eliezer Melamed presents a comprehensive overview of the mitzvah to dwell in the Land of Israel, including laws of the Army and the Medinah.


HaRav Eliezer Melamed

[NOTE: The original Hebrew version, “HaAm V’HaAretz” written by HaRav Eliezer Melamed, Rabbi of the Har Bracha community and head of the HaBracha Yeshiva, is a part of the multi-volume “Peninei Halacha” series. The English adaption and translation by Tzvi Fishman is currently undergoing editing and proofreading. Any mistakes in the text whether halachic or grammatical are attributable to Tzvi Fishman and not to HaRav Melamed or the staff of the “Peninei Halacha” series.]






CH.1 The Mitzvah to Settle the Land


CH.2 The Exaltedness of the Land


CH.3 The Holy and the Profane in the Settlement of the Land


CH.4 The Borders of the Land


CH.5 Laws of the Army and War


CH.6 Status of Non-Jews in the Land


CH.7 The Prohibition of Surrendering Land


CH.8 Halachot of the Medinah






During the last few years, in continuing to write books in the “Pininei Halachah” series, I have devotee several volumes to complete subjects, such as books on Pesach, Shabbat, Prayer, Women’s Prayer, and Jewish Holidays. In the middle of the work, the terrible tragedy of the expulsion from Gush Katif and settlements in the Shomron fell upon us, with the destruction of vibrant Jewish communities. Therefore, I decided to put my efforts into writing a halachic overview focusing on the eternal connection between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, from the mitzvah of settling the Land, to laws concerning military service and war, Jewish Statehood, foreign minorities in Israel, and other related matters. While not professing to have included the full range of halachic exegises on this subject, I have endeavored to discuss what, in my humble opinion, are the main issues of our time.


Once again, like so many times before in our history, we have been faced with difficult and painful days in the Land of Israel. Settlements, which were established and built with a spirit of idealism and great self-sacrifice, were destroyed by the Government of Israel. Their residents were expelled in a shameful fashion, and the pain was all the more piercing in that its evil deeds were carried out by brothers who lent their hands to the wicked treachery. We can derive little comfort that these evil deeds, and the motives of those who supported them, were undertaken through ignorance, stemming from a lack of understanding of the connection between the Nation of Israel and Eretz Yisrael, and its value to the world. Therefore, in this book, I have attempted to clarify and explain our nation’s Divine mission in the Holy Land that Hashem granted to our forefathers as an eternal inheritance.


Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael to Am Yisrael to facilitate our unique task of revealing the Name of God in the world. In accomplishing this universal undertaking, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that God rules over the spiritual world. Rather, it is our task to show that God is Master of the physical world as well, the Master of the sun and the planets, the oceans and seas, Master of all peoples and countries, the Guiding Hand behind all of world history, as well as the Master of wars. To bring this great message to mankind, the Jewish People need a unique Holy Land, capable of revealing God’s mastery over both the spiritual world and the physical, in all of its most material aspects, through the down-to-earth agricultural, economical, social, political, judicial, and military doings of the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael.


To accomplish this, we must deepen our learning of Torah, and, in its light and guidance, create paths to bring perfection to the world through the establishment of Malchut Hashem (the Kingdom of God) in Eretz Yisrael. During many nights of agony, in which it was impossible to sleep because of the pain, this book was put together. May it be the will of our Father in Heaven that all of the evicted settlers will find the way to renewed life and blessing; and that out of the pain, all of us will merit to recognize how much we need the light of Torah. And out of this deeper connection to our Divine national mission, and to our Land, may we merit to witness our complete Redemption, soon in our days.


Eliezer Melamed

Har Bracha


Chapter One

The Mitzvah to Settle the Land



  1. Settling the Land – A National Mitzvah


The Torah commandment to settle the Land of Israel is comprised of two components – a general mitzvah and a personal one. The general mitzvah is incumbent on Clal Yisrael (the entire congregation of Israel, past, present, and future), and demands that the Jewish Nation as a whole conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael. The personal mitzvah obligates every individual Jew to live in the Land of Israel and to take part in its settlement.


Initially, we will deal with the first component, the commandment incumbent upon the entire nation to conquer, govern-over, and dwell in the Land. Concerning this, the Ramban wrote (Supplement to Sefer Hamitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4):


“We were commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov; and to not abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate, as He said to them, ‘You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land to you to possess it (Bamidbar, 33:53), and He said further, ‘To inherit the Land which I swore to your forefathers,’ behold, we are commanded with the conquest of the Land in every generation.”


If we examine precisely the Ramban’s words, we find that there are two aspects in the general mitzvah of settling the Land. First, Eretz Yisrael must be under sovereign Jewish rule, and not under the rule of foreign nations. However, by merely conquering the Land, the mitzvah is still not complete. The second aspect must be undertaken as well, namely, the entire Land must be settled, in order that it should not remain desolate. Clearly, the building of houses and cities in selected parts of the Land is not sufficient, since, by doing so, certain areas of the Land will still remain barren. The mitzvah is to develop all the width and breadth of the Land. As long as there are parts of  Eretz Yisrael that remain desolate, it is still incumbent upon us to plant more trees and build more houses.


The Ramban emphasizes that this commandment applies in all times. He states that in every generation, Jews are commanded to inherit and settle the Land, and points out that the mitzvah was not solely upon our exodus from Egypt.


Unfortunately, for many generations, we were in a situation of forced coercion, in exile, against our will, both physically and spiritually, and we couldn’t fulfill this mitzvah. By the grace of God, in recent generations, our situation changed, and we can now properly fulfill the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land.


In our time, Hashem’s promise to gather the exiles from the four corners of the world is a reality that we have had the great privilege to witness. Operating behind the curtain of modern history, the Master of the World has brought about World Wars and international treaties, in order to once again establish the Nation of Israel in its Land.  With miracles apparent to all, Hashem has led Israel’s armies to victories over far more numerous foes. He has rebuilt Yerushalayim and Jewish communities all over the country, repopulated the Biblical hillsides of Judea and Samaria with His children, and re-established Israel as the Torah center of world Jewry. Additionally, Hashem has blessed the reborn Jewish State with incredible agricultural, scientific, and technological advancements that have startled mankind and turned Israel into an international superpower in a few short decades.


Notwithstanding all of these obvious signs of Redemption, not all of our brothers have heeded the call and returned to our Land, and there are still those who maintain that the mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel does not apply in our time. Since there is still widespread misunderstanding over this question, it is important to review some of the fundamental opinions concerning the obligation to settle the Land of Israel today.



  1. The Mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz in Our Time


Every year at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, z’tzl, would clarify this issue in his lectures to new students.1


  1. See Rabbi Kook’s article, “Regarding the Mitzvot of the Land,” (L’Netivot Yisrael, Bet-El edition, Part 1, pgs.160-164). There, he begins by clarifying the enormity of the mitzvah, which is the only mitzvah which overrides “shvut,” whereby the Sages gave permission to buy a house in Eretz Yisrael from a gentile on Shabbat, as delineated in Gitten 8B and Baba Kama 80B, and Tosefot there (see more about shvut in this chapter, section 7).



To those who claim that the mitzvah to conquer and dwell in the Land does not apply in our time, by citing the Tosefot in tractate Ketubot 110B, in the name of a certain Rabbi Chaim, that “this doesn’t apply at this time,” Rabbi Kook would explain that these were the words of a mistaken student, as proven by the Maharit (Yorah Deah 28) and many of the foremost Torah authorities of the era.2


  1. See the Maharsha, Ketubot, there, and the Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 234. Also see the Responsa of the Rivash 387, who wrote that the mitzvah of settling the Land doesn’t only apply to the Jews who left Egypt at the time of the Exodus, but that it is a mitzvah of tremendous value to the nation, beholden on the Jewish People in all times. So wrote the Tashbetz, 3:288.



Rabbi Kook emphasized that it was impossible to divide the two sides of the commandment – the general overall settling of the Land by the whole nation, and the individual obligation of each and every Jew. Each aspect of the commandment is in force in all generations. He demonstrated that the mitzvah is derived from the Torah, for the Sages would not permit the purchase of a house in Eretz Yisrael on Shabbat, and thus violate the law of “shvut,” if settling the Land of Israel was not a commandment of the Torah.3


  1. For a more detailed discussion of “shvut” and the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz, see section 7 of this chapter.


Furthermore, the Sages stated that the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah, something they could never say if this was a mitzvah d’rabbanon (Tosefta, Avodah Zara 4,3; Sifri, Reah, 53). Even after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, settling the Land of Israel remained a mitzvah from the Torah, for this teaching of Chazal about the all-encompassing Torah value of the mitzvah was said after the destruction of the Second Temple.


Regarding the Rambam’s not having included the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz (settling the Land) in his list of the 613 commandments, which he delineates in his “Sefer HaMitzvot,” Rabbi Kook explained that this was not because it is less of a mitzvah, but rather because it has a greater value than ordinary commandments. Therefore, the Rambam didn’t include it in the list, as he explains in the introduction to the “Sefer HaMitzvot,” that it is not fitting to list the commandments that encompass all of the Torah (see also his explanation regarding commandment153, there). This matter is elucidated in detail in the book, “Am HaBanim Smeichah,” ( Ch.3: 7-10), where the author, the Gaon, Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, explains that the Rambam didn’t list the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz because it is an all-encompassing mitzvah on which the other commandments are based. Many other Torah authorities have explained things in this manner, noting the Ramban’s assertion that the commandments were given to be performed in the Land of Israel (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25), and that the majority of mitzvot can only be properly fulfilled in the Land. Others maintain that the Rambam included the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz in the categorization of other mitzvot, such as ousting the seven nations of Canaan, appointing a King, the recital of Berachat HaMazone with the blessing over the Land, in the sanctification of the new month by the Beit Din HaGadol in Jerusalem, in the prohibition of returning to Egypt, and in the prohibition against forcing a slave to leave the Land with his master.4


  1. Some authorities say the Rambam considers “Yishuv HaAretz” to be a mitzvah d’rabbonan (Rashbash and Peat HaShulchan), while the “Megillat Ester” maintains that, according to the Rambam, there is no mitzvah to make aliyah. However, it is impossible to reconcile these last two opinions with those we have noted and with the teachings of our Sages. These matters are discussed in the book of Rav Zeisberg, “Nachalat Yaacov,” Pgs. 201-246. And see at the end of this book, the explanation of Rabbi Rabinowitz on the opinion of the Rambam. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that no halachic ruling in the name of the “Megillat Ester” is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch.



It is clear that the Rambam considered Yishuv HaAretz to be a great mitzvah as he wrote in his famed Mishna Torah:


“One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city populated mostly by non-Jews; and one should not live outside of the Land, even in a city populated mostly by Jews. For regarding anyone who goes out of the Land, it is as if he worships foreign idols”  (“The Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9-12; see also, “Laws of Eishut,” 13:20, whereby a spouse can be forced to make aliyah; also the “Laws of Slaves,” 8:9; and the “Laws of Idol Worship,” 10:4 and 6, concerning the prohibitions against selling the Land to non-Jews, and against letting heathens reside in the Land).


The clear opinion of the Rishonim and the Achronim (the early and later halachic authorities) is that the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz is an obligation in our times, as stated by the Ramban, and clarified in the Shulchan Aruch (“Pitchei Tshuva,” Aven HaEzer, 75:6). HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that none of the Rishonim or Achronim disagreed with the Ramban on this matter.5


  1. This is also the opinion of HaMabit 1:139; Radbaz 2:115; Responsa Meil Tzedakah 26; Responsa Maharam Alshich 35 and 88; Maharshach 3:35; Maharit 2:20; Shlah, Shar HaOtiot, 100; HaChida, Yosef Ometz 52; Be’ur HaGra, Yoreh Deah 267 and 161; Paat HaShulchan 1:14; Avne Nezer, Yoreh Deah 454; Responsa Maharam Galante 67; Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 233-234; Mor V’Ketzia 306; Maram Shik, Sefer HaHaredim ch.1, “Mitzvot HaTiluiot BaAretz”; Minchat Chinuch, at the end of the book re: Positive Commandments listed by the Ramban, 4; Responsa Pnei Moshe 1, 5, 27; Zera Avraham 56; Petach HaDvir 3:248; Sadeh HaAretz, Even HaEzer 11; Responsa Machazei Avraham 2; see the book “Shivat Tzion” for the concurring opinions of HaRav Kalisher “Drishat Tzion,” HaRav Mohaliver, HaRav Yitzhak Elchanan from Kovna, HaAdedret, Heshek Shlomo; Yeshuot Malcho, Yoreh Deah 66; HaNatziv, Oruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 267, 129-130; Nefesh Chaya, Chofetz Chaim “Mitzvot HaKatzar” Lo Taaseh 192; HaRav Chaim Pelagi, Nishmat Kol Chai, Yoreh Deah 48; Ohr Samaoch, Igeret, l’sefer “Shivat Tzion”; Chazon Eish, Shaviit 24A and Igeret 175; Chelkat Yaacov, and others (see the books “Nachalat Yaacov” pg. 67; “Ma’Afar Kumi” by Rabbi Tzvi Glatt, English translation “Arise From the Dust” for a detailed discussion on this topic; and “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” pg.114.




  1. Individual Participation in the General Mitzvah


In its individual aspect, there are numerous levels of settling the Land, derived from the overall, general commandment that applies to the entire Jewish Nation. Every Jew who lives in the Land of Israel participates in the mitzvah of settling the Land. Just by his very presence, our control of the Land is strengthened. One who dwells in a relatively desolate area, such as the Negev, or the Arava, acquires a greater portion in the mitzvah of settling the Land, for through his presence, the breadth of the Land is populated and not left barren.


Those who settle in Judea or Samaria, fulfill an even greater mitzvah, for their presence plays a double role. First, it strengthens Jewish sovereignty in areas that the Arabs want to make Judenrein. Secondly, it transforms desolate mountainsides into flourishing Jewish settlements. And if the community is located in an area yet to be settled, which, inevitably, our enemies claim for themselves, the mitzvah of living there is even greater. As our Sages have said, “The Land of Israel is acquired through suffering” (Tractate Berachot 5A). Concurrent with this is their teaching, “The greater the pain, the greater the reward” (Avot, 5:23). This is especially true concerning the supreme mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel.


The commandment to settle the Land is unique. By merely living in Israel – especially in an area that is strategically important to settle – a Jew fulfills a mitzvah. In contrast, regarding all other commandments in the Torah, in order to fulfill them, a specific action must be taken, such as putting on tefillin, giving tzedakah, or praying. But concerning the commandment of settling the Land – one fulfills the mitzvah merely by residing in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, anyone who merits to live in the Land of Israel, and all the more so, in a community located in Judea or Samaria, his mundane, everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, and even each and every breath he takes – all are elevated through the exalted mitzvah of settling the Land.


Those who live outside of Israel, and donate money towards the settling of the Land, are partners, in a certain sense, in the general mitzvah. Their share in the mitzvah is through their money, however, and not with their bodies. Also, residents of Israel who support the communities in Judea and Samaria have a share in the general mitzvah of settling those holy places. The more support they show, the greater their mitzvah.



  1. The Individual Mitzvah to Settle the Land


In addition to the general mitzvah that the Land of Israel remain under sovereign Jewish rule, there is a mitzvah for each and every Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael. This is a commandment of the Torah, as it says, “And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it, for I have given you the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar, 33:53).


The Ramban states: “In my opinion, this is a positive commandment of the Torah, enjoining them that they dwell in the Land and possess it, because it was given to them, and that they should not despise the inheritance of Hashem. Here we are commanded with this mitzvah, for this verse is a positive command,” (Ramban on the Torah, there).


As we noted, all of the poskim (arbitrators of Torah law), both Rishonim and Achronim (early and later authorities), decide the law in this fashion, on the basis of the Ramban, that the precept of conquering and dwelling in the Land applies in all generations – and all agree that it is a commandment of the Torah (See, Pitchei Tshuva, Even HaEzer, Section 75, sub-section 6).


The Ramban clarifies this point in his halachic treatise, “Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam,” regarding Positive Commanment #4, where he unequivocally states:


“And the proof that this is a Torah commandment is this: They were told to go up in the matter of the Spies, ‘Go up and conquer as the Lord has said to you. Don’t fear and don’t be discouraged.’ And it further says, ‘The Lord sent you from Kadash Barnea saying, Go up an possess the Land which I have given you.’ And when they didn’t go up, the Torah says, ‘And you rebelled against the word of God, and you didn’t believe in Me, and didn’t listen to My voice’” (Devarim, 9:23).


Therefore, even when the entire Land is completely ruled and populated by a millions of Jews, from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates, the mitzvah for every Jew to live in Israel still remains intact.


Even in times when the non-Jews ruled the Land, and, seemingly, the addition of one extra Jew living there would not help the general cause, nevertheless, the individual mitzvah for every Jew to live in Israel remained in force. As our Sages of the Talmud said: “At all times, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, and even in a city where the majority of its residents are idol worshipers, and not live outside of the Land, even in a city populated mainly by Jews, for anyone who lives in the Land of Israel is similar to one who possesses a God, while one who lives outside of the Land is similar to one who has no God, as it is written, ‘To give you the land of Canaan, to be unto you your God’” (Tractate Ketubot, 110B; See also Tosefta, Avodah Zara 5B).


As mentioned, the Rambam, in the Mishna Torah, also cites this as the halachah, stating: “One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city populated mostly by non-Jews; and one should not live outside of the Land, even in a city populated mostly by Jews. For regarding anyone who goes out of the Land, it is as if he worships foreign idols” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:12).


The great connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel is highlighted by a story in the Midrash Tana’im (Sifri, Re’ah 53). In the period after the destruction of the Second Beit HaMikdash, when the Romans ruled over the Land with terrible cruelty, and many Jews left the Land due to persecution and famine, there were also a few Tana’im who wanted to leave the Land. The Midrash relates that Rabbi Yehudah ben Batera, Rabbi Matya ben Charesh, Rabbi Chananiah, the son of the brother of Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Natan, left the Land of Israel. Arriving at Paltia, they remembered Eretz Yisrael, and looking back, their eyes filled with tears and they tore their garments. They cried out the verse, “For you shall pass over the Jordan to go in and possess the Land which the Lord your God gives you, and you shall possess it and dwell in it” (Devarim, 11:31-32). Then they said, “Settling the Land of Israel is equal to all the commandments in the Torah,” and they turned around and returned to Eretz Yisrael.


Even though, in times when non-Jews ruled the Land, when we weren’t able to fulfill the general mitzvah as defined by the Ramban, that “the Land be in our control, and not in the control of another nation,” nevertheless, every Jew who lived in Israel at the time, also fulfilled, to a certain extent, the general mitzvah as well. For his mere presence in the Land helped guard the linkage between the Nation of Israel and its Land throughout the long years of exile. Additionally, his dwelling in the Land served as the foundation for future Jewish settlement and eventual Jewish sovereignty. If his actions and intentions were directed towards this lofty national goal, such as the students of the Vilna Gaon, who immigrated to Israel with selfless devotion, building its ruins in order to further the Final Redemption, in addition to fulfilling his own personal obligation, he truly participated in the general mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz as well.


There are some later Torah authorities who wanted to say that the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz is a mitzvahkiumit” and not “chiuvit,” meaning that someone who lives in Israel performs a mitzvah, but that there is no mitzvah for Jews living in the Diaspora to make aliyah. This is the approach taken by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in “Igeret Moshe” (Aven HaEzer, Part 1, 102). However, this is not the understanding of the Rishonim and Achronim, as noted above.


In my humble opinion, the reason why most Diaspora Jews did not come to live in Israel during our long exile from the Land, is not because aliyah isn’t an obligation, but because they feared that they wouldn’t be able to survive because of economic problems and dangers on the way. Thus, to their way of thinking, they were exempted from the mitzvah, due to the difficulties involved.  And while on many occasions this claim was grounded, nonetheless, we learn otherwise in the “Kuzari,” the universally recognized classic on Jewish faith by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi. The scholarly treatise relates the story of a heathen king who seeks out a Rabbi in his quest to discover the true religion and the right path in serving God. When the king of Kuzar asks the Rabbi why the exiled Jews don’t return to their cherished and holy homeland, the Rabbi replies with deep shame:


“This is a severe reproach, O king of the Kuzars. It is the sin which kept the Divine promise with regard to the Second Temple, ‘Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion’ from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, while the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and subjugation, and unwilling to leave their houses and their business affairs. The words, ‘I have put off my coat’ (Shir Hashirim, 2-4) refer to the people’s slothfulness in consenting to return to Israel. The verse, ‘My beloved stretches forth his hand through the opening’ (there) may be interpreted as the urgent call of Ezra, Nechemiah, and the Prophets, until a portion of the people grudgingly responded to their call. In accordance with their unwillingly disposition, they did not receive full measure. Divine Providence only gives a man as much as he is prepared to receive – if his receptive capacity be small, he obtains little, and he receives much if it be great. Were we prepared to meet the God of our Forefathers with a pure mind, we would have found the same salvation as our Fathers had in Egypt. If we say, ‘Worship at His holy mountain – worship at His footstool, He who restores His glory to Zion’ (Tehillim, 99:9), and other words to this effect, this is but as the chattering of the starling and the nightingale. We do not realize what we say by this sentence, nor by others, as you rightly observe, O prince of the Kuzars” (Kuzari, 2:24).


Furthermore, at the conclusion of the book, when the Rabbi decides to set off to live in Israel, the king tries to dissuade him, arguing that since the Shechinah no longer is manifest there, what is there to gain? The Rabbi answers:


“The visible Shechinah has indeed disappeared, because it does not reveal itself except to a prophet, or to the chosen people in the chosen place. This is what we look forward to in the verse in our prayers, ‘Let our eyes behold when You return Your Shechinah to Zion.’ As regards the invisible and spiritual Shechinah, it is with every born Israelite of virtuous life, pure heart, and upright mind before the Lord of Israel. The Land of Israel is especially distinguished by the Lord of Israel, and no function can be perfect except there. Many of the laws of the Torah do not apply to those who live outside of the Land. The heart and soul are only perfectly pure and immaculate in the place which is known to be specifically selected by God. Thus the longing for it is awakened, for the sake of selfless motives, especially for him who wishes to live there, and to atone for past transgressions, as the Sages teach, ‘Exile atones for sins,’  especially if one leaves his country to go to the place of God’s choice. The danger such a person risks on land and sea does not come under the category of ‘You shall not tempt the Lord’ (Devarim, 6:16), since this verse refers to risks which one takes when traveling with merchandise in hope of gain. He who incurs even greater danger on account of his ardent desire to obtain forgiveness is free from reproach if he has made an accounting of his past deeds and is satisfied to spend the rest of his life in seeking the favor of the Lord” (Ibid, 5:23).


Thus, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi makes clear the exalted value of dwelling in Israel, and the mitzvah to live there, even when the Shechinah is not visibly manifest in the Land, and even when there are dangers on the way.




  1. Conquering the Land and “Pikuach Nefesh


We have a general rule: “You shall live by them (the words of the Torah) and not die by them” (Yoma 85B). The Torah was given to Am Yisrael in order that the Jews live by it, not die by it. According to this rule, the well-known halachah was established that “Pikuach nefesh nullifies the Shabbat.” That is to say, Shabbat is desecrated in order to save a life. For instance, although driving a car is forbidden on Shabbat, it is permitted, and even a mitzvah, to drive a dangerously-ill person to the hospital for emergency treatment. Furthermore, not only is the Shabbat desecrated for pikuach nefesh, so are all of the mitzvot. Therefore, if non-Jews were to order a Jew, under the threat of death, to do something that involved transgressing a commandment from the Torah, he should do it and not put his life in danger, except for three major transgressions: idol worship, illicit sexual relations, and murder. If someone said to him, “Kill your friend, or we’ll kill you,” he should be ready to be killed, rather than kill someone else. On the other hand, if they told him to worship a certain idol, or else they would kill him, he must be ready to give up his life and not sin. This rule also applies to illicit sexual relations. For all the other mitzvot, however, one should not sacrifice his life (Sanhedrin 74A).


All this concerns commandments incumbent upon the individual. However, pikuach nefesh does not apply to the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, which is a general mitzvah of Clal Yisrael. From the mere fact that the Torah commanded us to conquer the Land, we must be ready to endanger our lives, for there no war without casualties, and the Torah does not expect us to rely on miracles. Rather, the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land, which is incumbent on the nation, requires complete miserut nefesh and self-sacrifice (Minchat Chinuch 425, 604; Mispat Kohen 143; Igrot Ra’ayah, Sect. 3, 944). This was the case in the days of Yehoshua and David, as well as during the establishment of the Second Temple; and later, at the time of the Maccabees and the Hashmonite kingdom, and in the days of Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochva.


The rule of “and you shall live by them” applies even to general mitzvot. However, with regard to the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, since the commandment also pertains to the general populace, the fate of the entire nation, and not just individual soldiers, must be considered. Therefore, in a case where military defeat is highly likely, and, God forbid, we are likely to lose parts of the Land that we already possess, thereby threatening the life of the entire nation, in such a situation, there is no mitzvah to go to war to conquer the Land. However, when there is a good possibility that we will be victorious, even though it is clear that a number of us will lose our lives, we are commanded to fight for the Land, and at the very least, to defend the Land already in our possession.


I must mention here, that any nation that is not willing to fight with a spirit of self-sacrifice for its country, exposes its sons and daughters to dangers from neighboring enemies. For any nation which cannot mobilize its sons to fight for its homeland, will, in the long run, be conquered. Therefore, the mitzvah to fight for the Land of Israel with a readiness for self-sacrifice corresponds to the universal understanding of war, where soldiers are called upon to fight for their countries, even though many may die. Consequently, one who fights for the defense of Israel’s borders fulfills two holy commandments – settling the Land, and defending the Jewish People from its enemies.6


  1. See “Torat HaMedinah” by former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, pgs.33-34, which clarifies that the mitzvah incumbent upon individuals to fight for the Land, with the readiness to die in the battle, is operative when there is a good chance of winning. This is learned from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zachai, who ordered the Jews to surrender to Rome’s overpowering legions when he saw there was no chance for victory (Gitten 56A). Thus write Rabbi Avraham Shapira, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi Dov Lior, in “Nachalat Yaacov” pg.398, note 18. See there, also, the chapter devoted to this matter, pgs.392-422, where many other authorities agree to this principle. See the discussion, there, whether the dwelling in Israel itself overrides pekuach nefesh, and the conclusion that since the twin aspects of the mitzvah, to conquer and to settle, go hand-in-hand, the settlement of the Land also demands a willingness to give up one’s life in its performance, with supporting sources from “Kaftor v’Perach” and Magen Avraham in his commentary “Ziyat Raanan,” to “Yalkult Shemoni” 247, 292, and the Natziv. This was the spirit of the early Zionist pioneers who immigrated to Israel and often died of malaria in drying the swamps and cultivating the land, and the spirit of meserut nefesh displayed by the settlers of Yesha during dangerous times. In my humble opinion, there is a big difference between conquest and defense, and settlement. The Torah did not invent the notions of war and settlement – rather it commands us to conquer our Holy Land and to settle it, in the natural way of the world. Therefore, at times of war, when a nation fights to save itself from conquest and destruction, soldiers are expected to risks their lives so the nation can live in security. In contrast, settlement must be conducted under normal civilian conditions, and day-to-day life cannot be rooted in constant danger. The willingness to risk one’s life in the mitzvah of settling the Land must be weighed according to the accepted norms of the time and place. In the early days of Zionism, when the vicissitudes of the times made life difficult for most everyone in the world, and most especially the Jews, the pioneers could be expected to risk their lives in settling the Land. However, today, when living conditions have improved, and people are more accustomed to the luxuries of life, and the need and spirit for self-sacrifice has diminished, the settlers of Eretz Yisrael are not expected to risk their lives without limit, but only according to the ordinary risks that brave-hearted people are willing to bear in making a living, or in traveling to places where a certain amount of danger exists.




  1. The State of Israel


On the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, 5708, according to our counting from the Creation of the World, when the establishment of the State of Israel was declared, the Jewish Nation, after two thousand years of exile, merited to return to its homeland, and to once again fulfill the general Torah commandment of conquering and settling the Land. As a result of the declaration, and the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over parts of the Land, we began to fulfill the mitzvah that Eretz Yisrael be in our control, and not in the control of another nation. Although, before the establishment of the State, every single Jew who lived in the Land of Israel fulfilled the individual mitzvah of settling the Land, nevertheless, the essential, general aspect of the mitzvah, that the Land be ruled by the Jewish Nation, and not by a foreign one, remained unfulfilled. Even in times when there were many Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, as long as the Land was under foreign rule, we were not able to actualize the general, national mitzvah.


Correspondingly, we find that the Sages decreed that one who sees the cities of Judea in ruins says: “Your holy cities have become a wilderness,” and he must tear his garment in mourning. The general rule is that even if the majority of residents in those cities are Jews, as long as sovereignty of the Land is in the hands of gentiles, they are considered to be in ruins, and one must tear his garment upon seeing them. If, however, they were under Jewish rule, even if the majority of its inhabitants were non-Jews, they are not considered to be in ruins, and one does not tear his garment (Beit Yosef, Bach, Orach Chaim, 561:2).


Every year at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, ztz’l, would emphasize that on that first Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day), we merited to fulfill the general Torah mitzvah of settling the Land. One year, at the Yom HaAtzmaut festivities at the Yeshiva, one of the guest Rabbi’s delivered a speech, saying there was great value in the establishment of the Medinat Yisrael, for since then, many yeshivot were created, and it became easier to keep Torah and mitzvot. Therefore, he concluded, we must be joyous and thank Hashem for the establishment of the State. Our Rosh Yeshiva and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah, rose and made a special point of emphasizing that the very essence of the establishment of the State was, in itself, a tremendous holy event, it being one of the greatest mitzvot in the Torah, and through it, without doubt, other important mitzvot would be fulfilled, like enhancing the learning of Torah, for, as our Sages teach, the fulfillment of a mitzvah begets another mitzvah in its wake. In summary, the establishment of the State of Israel, in and of itself, is of great consequence, and not just as a means to perform other mitzvot. Furthermore, the creation of the State and the blossoming of the country’s desolate areas, are important stages in the Redemption of Am Yisrael.7


  1. See “Pininei Halachah – Zemanim,” 4:2, by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, explaining that the renewed Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael with the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, and the ingathering of the exiles in our era, are harbingers of Atchalta D’geula, the beginning of the Redemption, as described by our Prophets and Sages. In addition, on Yom Haatzmaut, we thank Hashem for having saved us from our surrounding enemies. After the War of Independence, Medinat Yisrael served as a refuge for all persecuted Jews, saving many lives, and the very existence of the Jewish State raised the honor of Israel in the world. See there further, 4:5-7, regarding the recital of Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut, a day of salvation for Am Yisrael, freeing us from foreign rule and rescuing us from our enemies.


For many generations, against our will, we could not fulfill this all-important commandment, for we lacked an army and the weapons necessary to conquer our Land and establish Jewish sovereignty over its borders. It follows that the creation of Israel’s nascent military brigades before the declaration of Statehood, and their strengthening and consolidation in the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, allowed us to fulfill the mitzvah of conquering the Land. Consequently, the Israeli army is a mitzvah in itself, in its being the means of fulfilling the Torah commandment to settle the Land, in addition to the commandment of saving Jews from their enemies. And so it will be until more peaceful days arrive, when the prophetic vision will be fulfilled:


And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Yaacov; and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Yeshayahu, 2:2-4).



  1. The Status of the Mitzvah


As we have already noted, our Sages, of blessed memory, have stated, “Settling the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah.” Although the Chachamim have said the same regarding a few other commandments, nevertheless, from a halachic standpoint, settling the Land of Israel is superior to all the other mitzvot, for it is the only one which we are commanded to fulfill with miserut nefesh (self-sacrifice), in conquering the Land and defending it from her enemies (as has been clarified in section 5 of this chapter). 8


  1. Mitzvot that are said to be equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah are the mitzvah of brit milah (Nedarim 32A); tzedakah (Baba Batra 9A); tzitzit (Shavuot 29A); tefillin (Menachot 43B). Also about Shabbat (Yerushalmi Nedarim 3:9); gemilat hasidim (Yerushalmi Peah 1:1); and in several places regarding the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. Nonetheless, only the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land demands the willingness to give up one’s life, giving it a higher halachic standing. Even regarding the three principle prohibitions that we must be willing to be killed over and not commit – murder, idol worship, and forbidden sexual relations – and over all mitzvot in a time of gezerat malchut (when the gentiles enact decrees compelling us to violate the Torah in order to sever us from our faith), all of these situations should be avoided l’chatchelah if at all possible. However, in order to conquer Eretz Yisrael, we must be ready l’chatchelah to set off to war and risk our lives in the battle.


Additionally, it is the only mitzvah which nullifies the rabbinical prohibition of “shvut” on Shabbat. While, this is not the appropriate place to explain in depth the details of shvut, suffice it to say that the Sages enacted fences to the Torah, in order to prevent transgression. The fences concerning the laws of Shabbat are called shvut. In an effort to strengthen these restrictions, the Sages declared that even in a situation where a conflict arises between the fulfillment of a precept from the Torah and the prohibition of shvut, which is a rabbinic enactment, one should not fulfill the commandment from the Torah, for if people transgressed the restrictions of shvut, they would eventually come to transgress Shabbat completely.   Consequently, if a brit milah falls out on Shabbat, and, in order to fulfill the mitzvah, the circumcision knife must be carried in an area where the Sages forbade carrying on Shabbat, the brit milah is postponed in order not to transgress the shvut which they established.


Furthermore, in order to prevent the possibility of desecrating the Sabbath, the Sages determined that if Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbat, the shofar must not be blown, to prevent a person from carrying it in the public domain, thereby transgressing a Torah prohibition. Similarly, if the first day of the holiday of Succot falls on Shabbat, the Sages forbade the waving of the lulav, in order to prevent the four species from being carried four cubits in the public domain, transgressing  a Torah prohibition. In the cases cited, the Torah commandments of blowing the shofar and waving the lulav are nullified because of the rabbinical prohibition of shvut.


Only for one commandment, settling the Land of Israel, did Chachamim cancel the prohibition of shvut. If a Jew has the opportunity to purchase a house in the Land of Israel from a non-Jew on Shabbat, he is permitted to make the transaction, telling the non-Jew to write the contract for him on Shabbat, which is normally forbidden, and to show him where the purchase money is located. We are not talking here about saving the entire Land, but rather the redemption of one single house. In order to make the purchase possible, the Sages permitted the transgression of their rabbinical prohibition, something they did not permit concerning any other precept (Orach Chaim, sect. 306, paragraph 11).9


  1. In other matters, only the slightest of prohibitions, “shvut d’shvut,” were permitted, as clarified in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:5. See also Baba Kama 80B, and Gittin 8B, and Tosefot, there. See also, Pininei Halachah, Shabbat, Vol.1, 16:3.




  1. Honoring One’s Parents and Settling the Land


I am sometimes asked: What is the halachah concerning a situation where a young person wants to come on aliyah, while the parents are in total disagreement? Considering the important mitzvah of honoring ones parents, is it proper to listen to them and remain in the Diaspora, or does the mitzvah of settling the Land take preference?


The halachah teaches that a child is not required to obey his parents if their wishes contradict any other commandment from the Torah – not even a rabbinical ordinance. Additionally, if parents tell a child to transgress a mitzvah from the Torah, or demand that he not fulfill one, it is forbidden to listen to them, for they are also commanded to honor God and to fulfill the Torah’s precepts (Shulchan Aruch, Yorah De’ah 240:15).


Consequently, since there is a mitzvah to live in Israel, a youth should not heed the objections of his parents, and must move to Israel, even against their will. This is especially true concerning the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael, which our Sages have declared equal in weight to all other mitzvot in the Torah (Sirfri, Re’ah 53. See also, Responsa of Maharam from Rotenburg 79; Mabit 139; Pitchei Tshuva, Even Ha’Ezer 75:6; Yichavei Da’at 3:69). The son, of course, should attempt to appease his parents in a pleasant and respectful manner, explaining the great value of his aliyah, both personally and for the nation.


Similarly, one who desires to live in a community in Judea or Samaria, in order that the Land be under our control, and not under the control of non-Jews – and his parents are worried, demanding he live somewhere else – since it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, he does not have to listen to them. He should, of course, attempt to assuage their apprehensions in the most loving and respectful way.




  1. Disagreements Between Husband and Wife


Under normal circumstances, when a husband and wife disagree about where to live, one side cannot force the other to move, because any move creates difficulties and problems. However, if they live in community that is populated mainly by non-Jews, one spouse can force the other to move to a place where the majority of residents are Jewish (these laws are detailed in the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75).


This is the case when both living locations are outside of the Land of Israel, or when both are within Israel. But in the Diaspora, when one spouse wants to move to Israel, the law is on his or her side. It does not matter whether it is the husband or the wife – in either case, according to the halachah, the one who doesn’t want to move to Israel must acquiesce and go, and the Beit Din (Jewish Court) has the authority to enforce this ruling. Even if the couple lives in a Diaspora community that is mainly Jewish, and in Israel, they will have to live in a place whose residents are mainly non-Jews, nevertheless, the mitzvah of settling the Land overrides this concern. If, in spite of the halachah, one side wants to remain in the Diaspora and refuses to make aliyah – and this lead to a divorce, Heaven forbid – since the blame rests on the partner who refuses to move to Israel, the Sages have determined that he (or she) must forfeit all ketubah rights. In other words, if the husband is the one who refuses to move, he must grant his wife the entire ketubah payment; and if the wife refuses to move, she loses her entire ketubah money (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75:4).


Thus, once again, we see the magnitude of the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz. Even though, in every other instance, the halachah guides the Rabbis to make every effort to guarantee shalom bayit (peace in the home), when shalom bayit conflicts with the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel, the mitzvah to settle the Land takes preference.




  1. Leaving the Land of Israel for an Important Reason or Trip


One of the basic questions in the laws of settling the Land is: What is the exact definition of the mitzvah? Does it mean that a Jew should make Israel his, or her, permanent residence, but that it is not obligatory to live there all the time? Or does it mean that one should be in the Land constantly, fulfilling the mitzvah with every breath one takes? The question of whether it is permissible to leave the Eretz Yisrael for the sake of a short trip or vacation is dependent upon this halachic definition.


Basing his ruling on the Talmud (Avodah Zara 13A), the Rambam wrote that it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael at all times (Laws of Kings 5:9), except to learn Torah, to get married, or for business. Yet even in these cases, upon concluding ones mission, the person must return to Israel, “for to live permanently outside of the Land of Israel is forbidden.” Additionally, if there is a severe famine in the Land, it is permissible to leave for a longer period. But even in the case of a severe famine, midat chassidut (the saintly way of behavior) is to remain in the Land. Many Gedolei Yisrael behaved in this manner, just as God commanded our forefather, Yitzhak, of blessed memory, in the time of a famine, ordering him to, “Dwell in the Land” (Bereshit, 26:2).


Thus, there are two levels to the mitzvah of settling the Land. First is permanent dwelling, where ones’ residence is in Israel, and only in the case of a severe famine, where it is impossible to survive, is it permissible to reside temporarily outside of the Land. In our times, thank God, there isn’t a shortage of food in our country, and therefore, it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael in order to dwell permanently in the Diaspora.


The second definition is that a person’s presence in the Land should not be whimsically nullified. Nevertheless, it is permissible to leave Eretz Yisrael, for a limited time, for reasons of livelihood. Similarly, a man who can’t find a wife in Israel is permitted to leave the Land in order to seek out a spouse, and then to return to live here. And a person who wants to learn Torah from a specific Torah scholar in the Diaspora is permitted to leave on the condition that he plans on returning. However, in recent times, the majority of Torah scholars live in Israel, and consequently, there is almost no reason to leave the Land in order to learn Torah elsewhere. Frequently, rabbis and teachers from Israel are requested to teach Torah, or explain the importance of aliyah, to Jewish communities in the Diaspora, and this is permitted, and even a praiseworthy mitzvah. It is also permitted to leave the Land for medical reasons. Likewise, one is permitted to leave for a short time to visit ones parents and family, if they live outside the Land.


Regarding vacations, according to many halachic authorities, it is forbidden to leave the Land for a leisure trip, for, as we have learned, only in cases of great need, such as learning Torah, livelihood, or marriage, did the Sages permit leaving the Land, and not for pleasure excursions (so it seems from “Mishpat Kohen” 147; and so is it stated in “Yichvei Da’at” 5:57).


Nonetheless, a more lenient ruling can be found regarding vacation journeys, for if the trip is less than a month, and one has a return ticket, the purpose of leaving is entirely different than in the times of the Talmud and the Rambam. In those days, one who left the Land went for a very long period, for travel time alone took several months. Additionally, because of the difficulties involved in travel, there was the added apprehension that the voyager might not return to the Land.


Furthermore, the Sages permitted leaving the Land to attend to situations that usually required extended periods of time to accomplish. In the case of marriage, first one had to find a woman, get to know her, and then get married. Similarly, one who left to learn Torah had to sit in a yeshiva with his teacher for months, and often years. Thus, the discussion in the Talmud pertained to a lengthy departure, with the possibility of not returning at all. The Sages were not speaking about short absences, and, consequently, short trips are not forbidden, for there is no obligation to be in the Land of Israel every single second. Therefore, a short trip of less than a month to chutz l’aretz is possible. Especially when the trip possesses some type of mitzvah value, such as meeting with Diaspora Jews to bring them closer to Judaism and Israel, or to learn skills that will enhance a person’s ability to contribute to the building of the country upon his return.


Nevertheless, though it is permitted to depart from the Land of Israel for a short trip, certainly, it is highly praiseworthy to remain in Eretz Yisrael at all times. Every second that a Jew is in Israel, he fulfills the mitzvah of settling the Land. In addition, the essence of the mitzvot is when they are fulfilled in the Land (See Sifre, Devarim, 11:18, and Rashi and Ramban, there. Also, Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25, where he states: “For the essence of all the precepts is that they be performed in the Land of Hashem”). Therefore, one who leaves Eretz Yisrael loses a significant portion of the value and reward of the mitzvot he performs. Thus, it is meritorious to be in the Land of Israel at all times.10


  1. Among the authorities who take a stringent approach, forbidding vacation trips outside of the Land, are Yehavei Daat 5:57; “Oseh Lecha Rav” 8:49; HaRav Kook, Mishpat Kohen, 147; HaRav Goren, “B’Mishnat HaMedinah” pg.31; HaRav Dov Lior, “Eretz Tziltzal Knafiam”; HaRav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, there. Halachic authorites who are lenient include HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, “B’Eretz Chemda,” Vol.1, 1:10, who permits a person to temporarily leave the Land if he has any reason to, but otherwise, no. This is the opinion of Shevet HaLevi 5:173; and HaRav Shlomo Dikovsky, “Techumim” Vol. 20. In my humble opinion, in light of what I wrote above, if the prohibition to leave the Land is even for an absence of an hour, then it is forbidden to cross a border even for a distance of 100 meters to buy inexpensive vegetables. Those who hold to a lenient position, however, also hold that it is a mitzvah to stay always in the Land, since the essence of the commandments is when they are performed in the Land, as Chazal stated, Sifre, Ekev 37; Rashi, Devarim11:18; Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook related that the Chofetz Chaim stated that the value of a precept performed in Eretz Yisrael is 20 times greater than its value in Chutz l’Aretz. It is reasonable to assume that if a person must temporarily leave Israel for some justifiable reason, the commandments he performs in the Diaspora retain their full value, but if he leaves the Land without good reason, his mitzvah performance will be affected negatively. Furthermore, there is often a more serious concern with excursions to Chutz l’Aretz, when the traveler finds himself in a place where it is difficult to keep the commandments, and the damage this causes can be great indeed.




  1. Loving the Land


The Torah teaches us to appreciate the “good Land” and to thank God for its bounties, as it says:


For the Lord your God brings you into a good Land, a Land of water courses, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a Land of wheat, and barely, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil, and honey; a Land in which you shall eat bread without scarceness; you shall not lack anything in it; a Land the stones of which are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass. When you have eaten and are satisfied, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good Land which He has given you” (Devarim, 8:7-10).


Quite often, we don’t pay attention to the simple meaning of these verses from the Torah. Their basic lesson is to love the Land of Israel, and to thank Hashem for giving it to us.


The Talmud relates that when Rabbi Abba would reach the border of Eretz Yisrael, he would kiss its stones, due to his tremendous love for the Land (Ketubot 112A and B). Rabbi Chiya bar Gamda, in his great love for the Land, would roll around in its dust to fulfill the verse: “You will arise and have mercy on Zion: for it is time to favor her; for the set time is come. For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Tehillim, 102:14-15).


Accordingly, the Rambam writes: “The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace her stones, and roll in her dust, as the verse says, “For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10).


One could ask: Why did the Rambam relate these stories in the Mishna Torah, his opus of halachah? What law do we learn from the fact that the great Torah scholars of Israel kissed the dust of the Land and hugged its very stones? Seemingly, the proper place for such stories would be in a book on agaddah or mussar, and not halachah. Rather, we learn something very important from this halachah – that we have to love the Land of Israel. It is not enough to live in Israel and understand its great worth; we must also enthusiastically cherish our good and Holy Land.




  1. Praising the Land and the Prohibition of Speaking Against It



As we will learn in Chapter Three, the sin of the Spies stemmed from their lack of love for the Land, as it is written, “They despised the cherished Land; they did not believe His word” (Tehillim, 106:24).  Consequently, they spoke disparagingly about her, as it says, “And they spread an evil report of the Land which they had spied on for the Children of Israel, saying, The Land which we have gone to spy it out is a Land that eats up its inhabitants” (Bamidbar, 13:32).


Here we see how Eretz Yisrael is distinguished from all other lands. For the prohibition of lashon hara, speaking with an evil tongue, applies solely to people, in order not to cause them grief. There is no prohibition to speak lashon hara about trees or rocks, for they feel no sorrow. However, concerning Eretz Yisrael, it is forbidden to speak lashon hara about it, for one who speaks negatively about her denies the Torah, which praises the Land. He also prevents the revelation of the Name of God in the world, which is revealed only through the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael – the Holy Land. The punishment for speaking against the Land is particularly severe. Even the Jews who received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, who were called “the generation of knowledge,” were  harshly punished for speaking lashon hara and despising the Land. Death was decreed upon their generation, and the entry of the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel was delayed forty years.


Thus, it is told in the Talmud about the great Amoraim who would make every effort to prevent the Land of Israel from being seen in a negative light (See Ketubot 112A). If Rabbi Chanina, while walking in Eretz Yisrael, saw a stumbling block in the road, he would remove it. Rashi explains that he would clear roadways and repair obstructions because of his love for the Land. He would always seek out things that needed to be corrected, so that no one would speak badly about her roads.


Similarly, when they were conducting a Torah class outside, Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi would be careful to seat their students in the most comfortable place. In the morning, when it was a little cool, they would seat them in the sun. Towards the afternoon, when the sun became hot, they would seat them in the shade – so that no one would complain about Eretz Yisrael or about its climate.


Today, it is contingent upon us to rectify the sin of the Spies by praising the Land of Israel, and by thanking God for the wonderful present which He bequeathed to our fathers and to us. This is particularly applicable in our generation when millions of Jews, through the kindness of God, have merited to immigrate to Israel, build families, and settle the Land – something which was denied to generations of righteous and holy Jews in the past. Therefore, we are obligated to constantly praise Eretz Yisrael, to cherish her landscapes, to beautify her open stretches with trees and flowers, to rebuild her highways, and to construct attractive and comfortable homes. We must also constantly repeat the words of Yehoshua and Calev, who stood up against all the evildoers and said, “The Land is very, very good” (Bamidbar 14:7), thus countering and rectifying the deep blemishes left by the sin of the Spies. Consequently, more Jews will be inspired to make aliyah, and fewer will leave her borders, thinking to find a better life elsewhere.


We will finish this topic with the words of our teacher, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (Igrot Riyah, Letter 96): “The foundation of the exile, and the baseness which continues to proliferate in this world, stem from the lack of understanding of Eretz Yisrael, its sublime value and wisdom, and from not rectifying the sin of the Spies who spoke disparagingly about the Land. We are called upon to do the opposite – to speak her praises and herald her magnificence and glory, her holiness and honor. We can only hope  after all our praises, that we merit to express even one iota of the proper transcendental desire due to “the land of delight,” to the splendor of  her illuminating Torah, to the genius of her illuminating wisdom, for the Divine Inspiration which prevails upon her.”



  1. Settling the Land by Developing the Country’s Economy


We have previously learned that the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz entails that the Land of Israel be conquered by Am Yisrael and placed under Jewish rule; and that the Land be settled in its entirety, so that it not remain in desolation. As the Ramban wrote in delineating the mitzvah: “And not to abandon it to other nations, nor to leave it desolate, as He said to them, ‘And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land, and dwell in it’” (Supplement to Sefer Hamitzvot, Positive Commandment #4).


The “Chatam Sofer” wrote that the work of cultivating the soil in Eretz Yisrael, in order to bring forth her holy fruits, is part of the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz (Chidushim to Tractate Succah 36A). In relation to this, the Torah commanded, “That you may gather in your corn” (Devarim, 11:14). In addition, we have seen that Boaz, who was the leading Torah authority of his time (Gadol HaDor), would sow the threshing floor by himself all night, not worrying that it be considered bittul Torah (a neglect of Torah learning). Just as one cannot say, “I will not put on tefillin because I am engrossed in Torah study,” so too, one cannot say, “I won’t harvest my grain because I am engrossed in Torah study.” The “Chatam Sofer” added that it is possible that all trades and crafts which assist in settling the Land are an integral part of the mitzvah.


In this regard, the Land of Israel is unique, for outside of the Land there is no mitzvah to plant trees and develop the economy. Rather, people work and engage in farming to earn a livelihood. In the Land of Israel, at the same time that a person is working at a job, he or she is also performing the exalted mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz. Even someone who already has a livelihood is commanded to plant fruit-bearing trees and help the economy to develop.


For Eretz Yisrael is the Holy Land. Even its material aspects are infused with holiness. Therefore, anyone who assists in its physical building, development, and prosperity, enhances its holy aspects as well.



  1. Planting and Growing Fruit Trees


The planting of fruit-bearing trees is central to the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz. Through the planting of trees, the Land is settled, it gives forth its holy fruits, and does not remain desolate.


Our Sages, of blessed memory, stated (Vayikra Rabbah 25:3): “It is written, ‘You shall walk after the Lord your God’(Devarim, 13:5). Behold, is it possible for one of flesh and blood to follow after the Holy One, Blessed Be He? It is also written there, ‘and cleave unto Him.’ Can one of flesh and blood cleave to the Divine Presence? Rather, it means to walk in His ways and cleave to His virtues. Just as in the beginning of Creation, the Holy One Blessed Be He engaged Himself with planting trees, as it is written (Bereshit, 2:8), ‘And the Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden,’ likewise, when you enter the Land of Israel, engage yourselves first with the planting of trees. This is what is the Torah commands, ‘And when you shall come into the Land, you shall plant all manner of trees for food’” (Vayikra, 19:23). From this we learn that one who plants trees in the Land of Israel cleaves to the virtues of God.


There are two benefits in the planting of trees. First, it is a long-term investment. Generally, people tend to invest in transient things. Therefore, the Torah teaches us to first invest in the Land in a permanent way, similar to a farmer who first plants trees, as a long-term measure, before beginning to plow and sow his fields. This causes us to be more “rooted” in Eretz Yisrael. Secondly, by planting trees, the Land brings forth its holy fruits, which provide us with sustenance – in addition to the many mitzvot which are fulfilled through them, such as trumot, ma’asrot, and orlah.


Rabbi Natan Shapira, a student of the Ari HaKadosh, asked the question, “Why, when our forefathers were in the desert, did they merit to eat the “manna,” which was a miraculous and Heaven-sent food, but when they entered the Holy Land, the manna stopped?” After all, in the Land of miracles, the miraculous manna should have continued! He answered that the desert, and lands outside of Israel, are impure places, whose fruits are not capable of receiving holiness. Thus, it was necessary to provide Am Yisrael with the miraculous manna from Heaven so they would not defile themselves by eating earthly foods. Guarding their holiness in this manner, they could receive the Torah. However, in the Land of Israel, which is the Holy Land, kedushah (holiness), is revealed in nature itself, via its holy fruits, and therefore, it was no longer necessary to provide them manna miraculously from the Heavens. Rabbi Shapira’s companion, Rabbi Moshe Zachut, observed that the holiness of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael are even superior to that of the manna, for through their consumption in holiness, a great tikun (rectification) and a birur (clarification and spiritual uplifting) are accomplished, rectifying the fallen level of physical reality caused by Adam’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit in Gan Eden (see the book “Tov Ha’aretz” by Rabbi Natan Shapira).


Similarly, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, z’tzal, explained that the unique holiness of Eretz Yisrael is the kedushah that is revealed through nature. Although the Divine Presence which followed us into exile has the ability to reveal holiness in opposition to nature, this, however, is an incomplete kedushah. The task of Am Yisrael is to reveal complete kedushah in all facets of life, and this can only be achieved in Eretz Yisrael (Orot HaTechiya, 28).12


  1. “The kedushah in nature is the kedushah of the Land of Israel, whereas the Shechinah which descended to the galut along with Israel, is the ability to establish holiness in contrast to nature. However, the holiness which conflicts nature is not a complete holiness…” (Orot HaTechiya 28).


This highlights the superiority of “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” for when the Torah is lived in its fullness in Eretz Yisrael, it reveals the word of God in all areas of life, the spiritual and the physical, from the exalted celebration of the Festivals in Yerushalayim, to the down-to-earth building of cities and the planting of trees. Only when kedushah appears in this holistic manner, can perfect faith in God’s Providence over the world be universally achieved.














Chapter Two

The Exaltedness of the Land



  1. The Foundation of Faith


As we learned, Chazal declared, “The settling of the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all of the commandments in the Torah” (Tosefta, Avodah Zara 4,3; Sifri, Reah, 53). In the Torah, it is written, “It is a Land which the Lord your God constantly cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim, 11:12). And the Sages said, “Anyone who lives in the Land of Israel is similar to one who has a God; and anyone who lives outside of the Land is like one who does not have a God” (Ketubot 110B). They also said, “One who lives outside of the Land is similar to an idol worshipper” (ibid).


This calls for an explanation. Why do the Torah, and our holy Sages, of blessed memory, place such supreme significance on the Land of Israel? What is its great importance to Israel’s faith, to the point where the Sages said that one who lives outside of the Land is similar to an idol worshipper?


Firstly, one must understand that the basic sin of idol worship is that it separates the world into different domains. Back in the beginnings of history, seeing the various powers of nature in the world, people came to the conclusion that each separate power had its own source. They concluded that a variety of gods existed, each one governing over a particular realm, a god of the sun, a god of the moon, a god of the winds, a god of the oceans, a god of the harvest, a god of fecundity, and the like. Thus the essential philosophy of idol worship brought about a great division in the world, the division between spirituality and materialism, or what is occasionally thought of as the separation between good and evil.


We learned in Chapter One (section 14) that Eretz Yisrael has the unique Divine property of revealing holiness in the physical world. Since outside of the Holy Land, a Jew can reveal holiness only in the realm of the spiritual, he must relate to the material world with a certain estrangement. In the Diaspora, it seems as if the word of God can be revealed only through spirituality, in the yeshiva and synagogue, and not in the realm of the material and physical. This sad state of affairs shatters the unity of God. There is no greater affront to the emunah (faith) of Israel than to say that the Almighty can only be revealed in the spiritual realm of life – as if to say the physical realm exists without Him, and even in opposition to Him! Therefore, a Jew who lives outside of the Land, in a place where faith is revealed only in the spiritual realm, is compared to one who serves idols and doesn’t have a God, for Hashem is One, Master of all realms of existence, both the good and the evil. Thus a Jew living outside of Israel, in unholy lands where division reigns, is not properly connected with the One and only God, who sustains the heavens and the earth, the spiritual as well as the physical.


In contrast, the special virtue of the Land of Israel is that it is the Holy Land. Even though it is a physical, geographical entity, it possesses a unique Divine kedushah (holiness) where it is possible to reveal the unity of God within the physical. Hashem created the Holy Land for this purpose. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, to build houses and plant trees, because in Israel, all of these things are holy. Because of its holiness, the Land itself has a Sabbatical year (shmittah). Concurrently, the fruit of the Land of Israel is holy, and in its Sabbatical year, we are commanded to abandon our ownership over our fields, that they be available to everyone. And during the other six years, we are commanded to separate the tithes of trumot and ma’asrot from our produce, and give the priestly portions to the Kohanim and Leviim.


Through our sanctification of the Land of Israel, its fields and its fruit, the unifying faith is revealed, which is the essence and foundation of Judaism, as we say in our prayers every morning and evening: “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Devarim 6:4). Hashem, the One and only Creator, is Master over the entire world, the heavens and the earth, and everything therein. Our task is to cleave to God in all the realms of life, as our Sages have said concerning the verse, “In all your ways know Him” (Kohelet, 3:6): “This is a small verse upon which all of the Torah depends” (Berachot 63A).



  1. Clal Yisrael in the Land


The unity of our faith is also expressed by the revelation of the word of God by the clal (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present and future). Amongst the nations of the world, there are great, righteous individuals. However, their righteousness and religious devotion is restricted to their personal lives.  There is no nation amongst the goyim who can inspire its citizens to serve God in a national way. For this purpose the Jewish Nation was chosen, for it was Divinely created as a holy clal. The entire nation is holy. Even if it transgresses, its Divine holiness remains unblemished.  This unique national holiness serves as a beacon of light to mankind, revealing the word of God to the world, when an entire nation, with its differing groupings – intellectuals, laborers, TzaddikimKohanim, Levi’im, and all the tribes of Yisrael – all of them together live a holy life of Torah in Eretz Yisrael. This is the exalted kedushah of the clal which exists only in the Jewish nation, and which can only be revealed in the Land of Israel, as it says, “Who is like you, the Nation of Israel, one nation in the Land” (Shmuel 2,7:23). The Zohar explains that specifically in the Land of Israel is the Jewish Nation called “one nation,” and not anywhere else (Zohar 3, 93B. See also Rabbi Kook’s Orot, “Ma’halach Ha’Ideot,” Ch.2; and Ikvei HaTzone, the article “Daat Elohim,” pg.131).


Similarly, we find that all of the “clalli” (all-encompassing) mitzvot of the Torah are fulfilled only in the Land. For instance, the appointment of a Jewish king, judges, policemen, and the enlistment of soldiers in a Jewish army, can only take place in Eretz Yisrael.  Also all of the special communal laws concerning the Kohanim and the Levi’im, whether it be the forty-two Levites cities, the six cities of refuge, the trumot, ma’asrot, challah, and the other gifts given to the Kohanim – all are commandments which pertain to them only in Eretz Yisrael. Above all, only in the Land of Israel is it possible to establish the Beit HaMikdash, where the main revelation of the Shechinah and the Kingdom of God appear in the world, as we say in our daily prayers, just before Yishtabach: “For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. Deliverers shall go up to Mount Zion to judge the hill country of Esav, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. The Lord shall be King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One and His Name be One.


Just as complete faith in God’s unity is revealed by Clal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, similarly, prophesy, which is the highest spiritual level man can reach, is dependent on Clal Yisrael, for a prophet can prophesize only for the sake of the Nation of Israel (see Rashi on Devarim, 2:17). There were individuals who were worthy of prophesy, but their generation was not, and therefore the prophetic spirit did not rest on them (Sotah 48B; Sanhedrin 11A). In addition, prophesy can be revealed only in Eretz Yisrael, or for her sake, for only in the Land of Israel does the holiness of the clal serve as a suitable transmitter (Mo’ed Katan 25A; Eicha Rabba Pitcha 24; Mechilta, parshat Bo,paragraph 1; Kuzari, 2:14).


Thus we see that essential and monumental foundations of Torah, such as the unity of Hashem, the manifestation of a holy nation on earth, the completeness of the commandments, the Beit Hamikdash, and prophecy, are all dependent on Eretz Yisrael.




  1. Existence in the Land and in the Diaspora


The existence of Am Yisrael is dependent on its connection to God. In contrast, the historic foundation and development of all other nations occurred naturally, whereby individuals and groups with common goals came together for reasons of economic stability, survival, and defense. Only afterwards did they search for a common ideology and faith. In contrast, the Nation of Israel was created through a Divine fiat during the miracle-filled Exodus from Egypt and the Divine Revelation which took place upon our receiving the Torah – all with the ultimate goal of entering the Land of Israel to live a life of total emunah in faithful adherence to the commandments of God.


We find, therefore, that emunah is the life and raison d’etre of the Jewish Nation, and Eretz Yisrael is called “the Land of life” (Aggadot D’Rebbe Natan 34,10; Tanchuma, Parshat Vayetzei 23), for only here can emunah be completely revealed. In the Diaspora, because of its quality of separation and division, it is impossible to reveal the unifying faith. Consequently, a danger exists outside of the Land that any attempt to connect to the Holy One Blessed Be He will deviate in the direction of idol worship, as the Sages have stated, “Anyone who lives outside of the Land is like one who serves foreign gods” (Ketubot 110B).


Therefore, Jewish life outside of the Land of Israel is called galut, which means a temporary and un-natural situation of exile that has no value in and of itself, but which is rather only a state of waiting, anticipation, and preparation to return to the Land of Israel (as explained by the Maharal in “Netzach Yisrael,” Ch.1).


Seemingly, according to this understanding, there is no reason to fulfill the mitzvot in the Diaspora. However, we were commanded to keep the commandments in the exile, in order that we would be accustomed to them when we returned to the Land. As Chazal explain, “Although I send you out of the Land to the Diaspora, excel yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot, so they won’t be new to you when you come back. This is similar to the parable of a king who got angry at his wife, and sent her away to live in her father’s house. The king said to her, ‘While you are there, wear your jewelry, so that when you return, they won’t be new to you.’ Thus God said to Israel. ‘My sons, excel yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot, so that when you return, they won’t be new to you.’ This is what the prophet, Yirmiyahu, said as the Jews went into exile (Ch.31:20), ‘Set up way marks for yourself,’ these are the mitzvot that distinguishes Israel in the galut’” (Sifri, Parshat Ekev 37).


On the verse, “And you shall place my words…” (Devarim, 11:18), Rashi explains, “Even after you are sent out (of the Land), distinguish yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot – lay tefillin, place mezuzot on your doorways, in order that they won’t be new to you when you return.” Thus, we see that the fulfillment of the mitzvot in the Diaspora is to insure that upon our return to Israel, we will be able to perform them in all of their completeness in the Land (see Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25).


If the Jewish Nation attempts to exist outside of the Land without being connected to Eretz Yisrael, even when it strives to be religious, it is doomed to failure, and in the long run, it will assimilate amongst the goyim. All of the Jewish Nation’s survival in the galut is dependent on the depth of its connection and yearning for Eretz Yisrael. As our teacher, Rabbi Kook wrote:


“The concept of Judaism in the Diaspora will only find true strength through the depth of its involvement in Eretz Yisrael. Only through its longing for Eretz Yisrael will Diaspora Judaism consistently receive its inherent qualities. The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina; whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself” (Orot, 1:1).



  1. Revelation of the Torah in the Land


The main revelation of the Torah is in the Land of Israel. As we have learned, a prophet can only receive prophecy in, or for the sake of, Eretz Yisrael. Even the main revelation of the Oral Torah is in the Land of Israel, for, as the Rambam states, “The great Beit Din in Jerusalem is the foundation stone of the Oral Torah. The judges there are the pillars of instruction, sending out law and justice to all of Israel” (Rambam, Laws of Mamrim, Ch.1:1). Seventy-one elders sat in the Beit Din HaGadol, which was called the Great Sanhedrin. The Torah gave them authority to set enactments and make decrees, and all Israel must obey by their instructions, as it is written (Devarim, 17:10): “Since this decision comes from the place that God shall choose, you must do as they tell you, carefully following their every decision” (see Ramban’s explanation there). It is a positive commandment to obey their instructions, and one who refuses violates a negative precept (Rambam, ibid, 1:1-2). After the Beit Din HaGadol ceased to exist, the authority of the Sages was marred, and only as a temporary measure did they make enactments and decrees. Furthermore, the Beit Din Hagadol had the absolute authority to determine the law in disagreements between the Sages, preserving the unity of the Torah. Nevertheless, without the Beit Din HaGadol, differing opinions abounded, and the light of the Torah diminished, to the point where the Torah world was divided into numerous streams (Rambam, ibid., 1:4).1


  1. See the book, “HaTakanot B’Yisrael,” Part 1, pg.29 that the Torah prohibition not to turn away from the instructions of the Rabbis (“lo tasur”) applies only to the Beit Din HaGadol which presided in the Lishcat HaGazit of the Temple. Others maintain that the prohibition of “lo tasur” also applies to the edicts of the Amoriim. If this is the case, it is certain that they limited their enactments to matters indispensible to the wellbeing of the nation. See “Orot HaTorah” 1:3.


Not only were the questions of Clal Yisrael, which the Beit Din HaGadol debated, dependent on the Land, but even the private matters of individuals, such as fines, punishments, cases involving the death penalty, and other laws of the prat (individual) were dependent on the Land of Israel. For the authority of the Sages of Israel to judge all halachic matters of Torah is dependent on the ordination that Moshe Rabbeinu gave to his students. They in turn ordained their students, and in this manner, rabbinic ordination (smeichah) passed from generation to generation. Only in the Land of Israel is a rabbi permitted to ordain his student by granting smeichah (Rambam, Laws of Sanhedrin, 4:4). Thus, approximately three hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, when the evil decrees increased, and the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael dwindled greatly, to the point where most of the Beitai Midrashim (study halls) were closed, the ordination of rabbis ceased. Even though in Babylon at that time there were great Torah scholars and prestigious institutions of learning, it was impossible to continue rabbinic ordination, which can only be granted in Eretz Yisrael. Since that period, rabbis no longer have independent authority to judge Torah laws. Rather, without rabbinic ordination, they are only permitted to address matters that they are compelled to judge in order to maintain the wellbeing and proper conduct of the nation (Gittin 88B; Baba Kama 84B; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 1:1, 2:1). Thus, from the institution of smeichah, we see that the existence of the Torah is dependent on Eretz Yisrael.


Furthermore, the calculation of the new moon, and hence of the months, years, and the dates on which the holidays fall, can only be done in the Land of Israel. This was performed by witnesses who would go up to Yerushalayim to testify before the Bein Din that they had seen the new moon. When the Sages saw that foreign rule over Israel threatened to disrupt the line of smeichah, they sanctified for all time the calendar which we use today (Rambam, Laws of Sanctifying the Month, 5:3). The entire existence of these calculations are dependent on Jews living in the Land, as it is written (Yeshayahu, 2:3), “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (see also Berachot 63A). The Rambam writes that if there was a period when no Jews lived in the Land, God forbid, the entire calculation of the months would be null and void, along with all the Jewish holidays. However, God promised Israel that the Jewish Nation would never perish, and consequently, there were always Jews living in the Land, and in their merit, the months and holidays continued without interruption (Rambam, Laws of Sanctifying the Month, 5:13; Sefer HaMitzvot, positive mitzvah 153; Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 234).


This is what the Sages meant when they said, “Ever since Israel was dispersed from her place (the Land of Israel), there is no greater bittul Torah (nullification of the Torah) than this” (Chagiga 5B). Therefore, it is clear that anyone who learns Torah in Eretz Yisrael merits a special blessing, as Chazel stated, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabba 16:4). They also said, “The air of the Land of Israel makes one wise” (Baba Batra 158B). In the Land of Israel, the inner depths of the Torah are revealed. Thus, most of the Torah esoteric secrets, as found in the holy Zohar and the writings of the Arizal, were revealed in the Land. It is precisely through the deeper levels of Torah that the unity of the Torah is revealed. Therefore, the Talmud teaches that the Sages of Eretz Yisrael are pleasant with each other in their dealings in halachah (Sanhedrin 24A).



  1. The Land of Israel and Our Forefathers


With all that we have learned about the exalted level and value of the Land of Israel, it is no wonder that the first mitzvah that our forefather, Avraham, was commanded to fulfill was to journey to the Land of Israel, as it says, “The Lord said to Avram, Get yourself out of your country, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the Land that I will show you” (Bereshit, 12:1). For only there, in the Holy Land, can the Nation of Israel reveal the word of God, in its entirety, to the world, as it is written, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Bereshit, 12:2-3). Included in God’s eternal covenant with Avraham, our forefather, was the gift of the Land to him and his offspring, “For all the Land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever… Rise and walk the Land, through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you” (Bereshit, 13:15-17; see also, Bereshit, 15:7, and 17:8).


Our forefather, Yitzhak, possessed a unique level. Unlike his father, he did not merit to make aliyah. Rather, that he was born here. He was also the first Jew to be circumcised on the eighth day, as commanded by the Torah. Therefore, he was completely holy. This finds expression in the “Akeida,” when he was brought up on the altar as an olah timimah (a perfect sacrifice). Therefore, he was given a special Divine order – to remain in the Land, in spite of a severe famine, as it says, “And the Lord appeared to him and said, Do not go down to Egypt. Dwell in the Land that I shall tell you of. Sojourn in the Land, and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your offspring, I will give all these lands, and I will keep the oath that I swore to your father Avraham” (Bereshit, 26:2-3).


The life of our forefather, Yaacov, was more complicated. He had to deal with an evil brother and was forced to flee from the Land. However, because of his trials and tribulations, we learn the depth and eternity of Israel’s connection to Eretz Yisrael. Already when he escaped from his brother, Esav, God said to him in a dream after the vision of the ladder, “I will give to you, and to your descendants, the Land upon which you lie. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south; and in you and your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. I am with you and  will protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this Land” (Bereshit, 28:13-15. See also, Bereshit, 35:12; and 46:4).


Towards the end of his life, Yaacov was forced to go down to Egypt, to reunite with his son Yosef, who had been appointed second in command to the king. When he was about to die, he called his son Yosef, asking not to be buried in Egypt. Even though Yosef could have arranged an extremely honorable burial in Egypt, Yaacov requested that his body be returned to Eretz Yisrael, to the gravesite of his fathers in the Cave of Machpela. His concern was so great, he had Joseph take an oath, and was still not at ease until he spoke about it again with the rest of his sons. Thus, after his death, his children fulfilled his wish and led a great funeral procession on a long journey to the Cave of Machpela in Hevron. Just as their father had hoped, in honoring his final request, they understood that Eretz Yisrael was their eternal homeland, the place to which they would return after the exile in Egypt had ended (Bereshit 17:29-31; 48:21; 49:29-32).


Similarly, Yosef HaTzaddik, requested to be buried in the Land of Israel, and he too made his sons swear that when they were redeemed from Egypt, they would carry his bones with them, returning him to their homeland, in order to be buried in his inheritance in Eretz Yisrael (Bereshit, 50:24-25).


This heritage of love and attachment to the Land of Israel, which the sons inherited from their fathers, always remained in their hearts while they were in Egypt. Through the example of the Patriarchs, in their lives, and in their deaths, the connection to Eretz Yisrael became imbedded in us like a genetic blueprint. In Egypt, in spite of the hard slavery we suffered, we always knew the day would come when the Lord of our fathers, would redeem us, returning us to the Promised Land. In fact, the entire purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was to return to the Land of Israel, as is written, “I will bring you into the Land, which I swore to give to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am the Lord” (Shemot, 6:8).




  1. The Sin of the Spies


The Jewish Nation transgressed two dreadful sins in the wilderness – the sin of the Golden Calf, where they made the figure of a molten calf and bowed down to it; and the sin of the Spies, where they followed the advice of the Spies who discouraged them from journeying on to the Land of Israel. From a number of aspects, the sin of the Spies is more severe than the transgression over the Golden Calf, when Jews did not completely disclaim God and Moses. Rather, they erred, thinking that after Moses failed to return from Mt. Sinai, God Himself would cease from watching over them. They felt they had to find a substitute means to communicate with Hashem, via a god who would mediate between them. Since they did not entirely reject God, He forgave them. However, concerning the sin of the Spies, they denied God’s ability to assist them in conquering the Land from its giant inhabitants. They also betrayed their main mission, for which the world was created, and for which the Nation of Israel was chosen – to reveal the Divine Presence in the world, through the holy life of the Jewish Nation in the Land of Israel. Therefore, the sin of the Spies was not forgiven. Death was decreed upon them and upon all those who heeded their evil speech against the Land. Only Yehoshua, the son of Nun, and Calev, the son of Yefune, merited to enter the Land, in reward for having risen up in rebuke of the sinners.


The night that the people cried in the wilderness, rejecting the Promised Land, was the eve of the ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av). God said: You cried for no reason; therefore I will set for you a crying for generations (Sanhedrin 104B). At that very time, it was decreed that the Beit HaMikdash would be destroyed years later on that very same day, and that the Nation of Israel would be exiled from its Land.


The question arises: what was the actual sin of the Spies? They believed that the people, just freed from bondage in Egypt, lacked the ability and strength to conquer the seven fierce nations residing in Canaan. In their opinion, if the newly-formed nation persisted to fight, they would be defeated and face the possibility of total extinction. If so, they had an ethical obligation to warn the people about the apparent danger, for the preservation of the Jewish Nation postpones the mitzvah of settling the land. Even though they were mistaken in their evaluation of the situation, for in fact, Israel could have conquered the Land, nevertheless, since the Spies seemingly spoke out of deep concern, in order to save the nation from defeat and extinction, there was no need for them to be punished so severely – rather, they should have been praised for the national responsibility they exhibited.


However, their sin was that they did not love the Land of Israel and understand its viatl significance to the nation. Not having a passionate love for Eretz Yisrael, when they saw the difficulties in conquering it, their hearts fell, and they began to invent excuses and reasons why it was impossible to go up and possess it, until finally they lost all faith, as it says, “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Tehillim,106:24) In contrast, Yehoshua and Calev, who cherished the Land, declared, “The Land through which we have spied out is an exceedingly good Land” (Bamidbar, 14:7). In spite of the difficulties, they believed that, with God’s help, it was certainly possible to conquer the Land, rallying the nation with the call, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are surely able to overcome it” (Bamidbar, 13:30).


Judging from Hashem’s fierce anger against the Spies, it became clear that Yehoshua  and Calev were right. Had the nation listened to them, the entire generation would have been saved and would have merited to enter the Land immediately. Ironically, the Spies, who professed to be concerned about the welfare of the people in discouraging them from fighting, what was in their eyes, an unwinnable war, they themselves caused the death of their brethren in the desert.


The Spies believed that life in the wilderness was on a higher level than what it would be for them in Eretz Yisrael, because with the manna, the well of Miriam, and the protecting Clouds of Glory, they didn’t have to worry about securing their material needs, since everything was miraculously provided for them from Heaven. Thus they came to despise the cherished Land, where they would have to work for a livelihood and take up arms against the fierce whom giants they had encountered there. The “Baal HaTanya,” the first great Admore of Chabad, explains that the Spies didn’t want to journey onward to Eretz Yisrael, because they didn’t want to deal with the down-to-earth, physical necessities involved in conquering a land and settling its borders. They wanted to keep the Torah as a spiritual discipline alone, without the need to convey its messages through physical deeds and mitzvot. “However, in truth, they were mistaken, for the essence of the mitzvot is to perform them specifically in Eretz Yisrael. See how Chazal emphasized (Sotah 14A) how many prayers Moshe petitioned before Hashem, begging for permission to enter Eretz Yisrael, not in order to eat its fruits, but rather to perform the mitzvot that are dependent on the Land” (Likutei Torah, Shelach, 38:2). This is because the observance of the commandments in the Land of Israel is the greatest Sanctification of Hashem, bringing a great illumination into the world, much more than via spiritual means alone.


Similarly, in recent generations, when an awakened desire to return to Zion and rebuilt the Land began to beat in the hearts of Jews around the world, leaders rose up seeking to discourage people from joining the movement, with strident claims about the insurmountable dangers awaiting them in the Land, including famine, plague, and bloodthirsty Arabs. They also blamed the Zionists for kindling a spirit of Israeli nationalism which would prevent Jews from winning equal rights in the countries of their dispersion, where they were trying to be accepted a full-fledged citizens in order to end generations of persecution. But alas, it soon became clear that in Zion there was a refuge, while the Jews who remained behind in the Diaspora suffered both physical annihilation and spiritual extinction through the rampant assimilation which resulted from gaining equal rights.


This attitude of estrangement from the Land, beginning with the Spies, and continuing in Diaspora Jewry’s failure to return to Zion when the opportunity arose with the birth of the Zionist movement, also shadows the settlement of Israel today. Those who lack emunah in Hashem, and those who don’t understand the vitalness of Eretz Yisrael to the nation, and its centrality to the Torah, maintain that we don’t have the power to overcome the difficulties in its settlement, and must therefore give in to the demands of our enemies and abandon large portions of our homeland to them – a formula doomed to bring disaster in its wake, may the All-Merciful have mercy.




  1. The Settlement of the Land and the Final Redemption


The mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is so important that the wellbeing of the nation is dependent on its fulfillment. With the destruction of the Land, the national foundation of Clal Yisrael is destroyed, whereas with the in-gathering of the exiles, and the settlement of the Land, the nation is rebuilt, bringing about the revelation of God in the world.2


  1. Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin notes that it is not surprising to find a plethora of praises for Eretz Yisrael at the end of the tractate Ketubot, since all of the tractate deals with strengthening the loving connection between a husband and wife. So too, the end of the tractate focuses on the loving connection between HaKodesh Baruch Hu and Am Yisrael, which resembles the marital bond between a man and a woman, as it says: “You shall no more be called Foresaken; neither shall your Land be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hefziva (My delight is in her), and your Land be called Be’ula (Espoused), for the Lord delights in you, and your Land shall be espoused. For as a young man takes to himself a virgin, so shall your sons take you to themselves, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Yeshayahu, 62:4-5). The exile represents an estrangement between HaKodesh Baruch Hu and the Congregation of Yisrael, and the return to Eretz Yisrael is the return to the chamber of the bride, and to the renewed wedding between Am Yisrael and Hashem.


Both in the Torah, and in the words of the Prophets, the destruction of the Land, and Israel’s expulsion from it, are the harshest expressions of Divine punishment and anger. Every day, in the second paragraph of the Shema, “And if you hearken diligently…” we recite the verses: “If you hearken diligently to My commandments… I will grant you the rain of the Land in its due season… Be careful that your heart not be tempted to go astray after other gods, to worship them. For then the Lord’s anger will be directed against you, and He will shut  up the heaven  that there  not be rain, and the Land will not give forth its crops, and you will perish quickly from the good Land which the Lord gives you” (Devarim, 11:13-17)


It is also written, “A future generation of your children who shall rise up after you, along with the foreigner who shall come from a distant land, shall say when they see the punishment directed against that Land, and the plague with which the Lord has struck it, that the whole Land is brimstone, and salt and burning, that it is not sown, nor bears, nor does any grass grow on it, like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Adma and Tzevoyim, which the Lord overturned in His anger and rage – then all the nations will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this Land? What was the reason for this great display of anger?’ Then they shall answer, ‘It is because they have abandoned the Covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt… And the anger of the Lord burned against this Land, to bring upon it all the curses written in this book. The Lord drove them from their land with anger, wrath, and great fury, and exiled them to another land, where they remain till this day” (Devarim, 29:21-27).


Concerning the Redemption, it is written, “And then the Lord G-d will then bring back your exiles, and have mercy on you, and will once again gather you from among all the nations where the Lord God scattered you. Even if your outcasts be at the ends of the heavens, your Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will fetch you, and the Lord your God will bring you to the Land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it” (Devarim, 30:3-5).


Again and again, we are reminded that exile from the Land is a terrifying punishment, and that the ingathering of the exiles is God’s greatest kindness, as it is written in the Prophets,  “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of countries, and will bring you into your own Land” (Yehezkel, 36:24). “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them” (Yeshayahu, 65:21). “You shall yet plant vines upon the mountains of Shomron: the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit” (Yirmeyahu, 31:4). “And the desolate Land shall be tilled, instead of the desolation that it was in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This Land that was blighted has become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste and blighted and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited” (Yehezkel, 36:34-35). “And I will bring back the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat its fruit. And I will plant them upon their Land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their Land which I have given them, says the Lord your God” (Amos, 9:14-15). These are just a few examples of the significance of the Land, and its redemption, in the writings of the Prophets.


In addition, the Sages said: “The ingathering of the exiles is as important as the day on which the heavens and earth were created” (Pesachim 88A). And Rabbi Abba said, “There is no greater revealed sign (of the end of exile) than this, as is written (Yehezkel, 36:8), “But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people of Israel, for they will soon be coming” (Sanhedrin 98A). Rashi explains: “When the Land of Israel gives off its fruits in abundance, the end of the Exile is near, and there is no clearer sign than this” (Rashi, there).


How fortunate are we to have seen these prophecies come to pass in our time. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would urge his students simply to open their eyes and see the blossoming fruit trees and the abundance of produce arriving every day at the market from the bounty of the Land. There was no clearer sign of the Redemption than this! Furthermore, the return of our scattered people to Eretz Yisrael from the four corners of the globe, in fulfillment of the words of our Prophets, is an unsurpassed Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God in the eyes of the nations). The miraculous rebuilding and renaissance of the Land are clear proof of the Land’s eternal bond to the nation and its Redemption – and to the subsequent tikun and rectification of the world.



  1. Brit Milah and the Inheritance of the Land


A special connection exists between the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision) and settling the Land. Both mitzvot express the unique mission of Am Yisrael – to reveal the kedushah within the physical, as well as the spiritual side of life. The material world, by its very nature, is impervious to spiritual concepts. Yet this is the very essence of brit milah – to remove the orlah (foreskin) which represents the imperviousness of physical reality, and thereby allow the material side of life to become a partner with the spiritual in the revelation of God in the world. Similarly, the only physical, geographic location where it is possible to reveal the word of God, and the holiness within everyday life, is in Eretz Yisrael.


Thus, when God transformed our forefather Avraham from being a private righteous person to being a tzaddik clali, an all-encompassing, righteous person, in his new role as father of a holy nation, He made a covenant with him, assuring him that his offspring would form a nation that would be eternally connected to God, revealing His word throughout all generations. God promised him, and his seed after him, the Land of Israel, and commanded him concerning brit milah, which is like a holy seal stamped onto man’s greatest aspect of physicality. “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you, throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you, and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and your offspring  the Land where you now sojourn, all the land of Canaan for an eternal possession, and I will be their God” (Bereshit, 17:7-8).


Chazal state, “If your sons fulfill the mitzvah of brit milah, they will enter the Land, and if not, they will not enter the Land” (Bereshit Rabbah 46:9). Therefore, Yehoshua was commanded to circumcise the Israelites before the conquest of the Land, as is written, “At that time the Lord said to Yehoshua, Make flint knives, and circumcise again the Children of Israel a second time” (Yehoshua, 5:2). During the forty years that Israel was in the wilderness due to the sin of the Spies, they did not circumcise themselves due to the perils of the way. But upon their entrance into the Land, Yehoshua said to them, “What do you think, that you can enter the Land uncircumcised?” Thus God said to Avraham, “I have given you and your offspring the Land… in order that you shall guard My brit” (ibid).


An interesting, historical fact is that a nation whose sons are not circumcised is not able to settle permanently in the Land of Israel. The holy Zohar states, “Anyone who is circumcised can inherit the Land” (Zohar 2:23A). It also explains that in the future, the offspring of Yishmael would govern over the Holy Land for a long time, when the Land would be empty and deserted, because Yishmael is circumcised, and they will prevent the Children of Israel from returning to their place. But since Ishmael’s circumcision is empty and incomplete, since they do not perform the circumcision on the eighth day, and do not pull back the layer of thin skin (pre’ah), a step necessary for a person to be considered halachically circumcised, consequently, the Land under their governance will be empty and barren. In the end, Israel will merit to regain the Land, for their circumcision is complete (ibid).



  1. Shabbat and the Land


We also find a special connection between the Sabbath and Eretz Yisrael. Shabbat is the most sanctified of times, Eretz Yisrael is the most sanctified place, and Am Yisrael is the most sanctified nation. From the holiness of the Shabbat, the remaining days of the week receive abundant blessings (Zohar 2:88A). From the holiness of the Land of Israel, the entire world is nourished (see Ta’anit 10A). And from the holiness of Am Yisrael, all the other nations of the world are blessed, as it says in the Torah, “All the nations of the world shall be blessed through your offspring” (Bereshit, 22:18).


The number seven signifies the holiness that exists within nature. The six work days of the week hint at the six dimensions of every physical object – the four sides, top and bottom. The Shabbat is the inner-point of the six sides, just as it is the essence and root of the week. Therefore, the world was created in six days, and Shabbat came to give an inner spiritual dimension to existence (Maharal). Likewise, this is the essence of Eretz Yisrael – to reveal the holiness within the plane of physical reality.


In order to understand the holiness of the Land, the Sabbath must be observed. As our Sages have said, “If your sons accept the Sabbath – they will enter the Land; if not, they will not enter it” (Bereshit Rabbah 46:9). For on Shabbat, every individual is liberated from the confinement of labor, and he has the opportunity to ponder his connection to  Creation, to our miraculous exodus from Egypt, and to the Revelation of God at Sinai. Through this, every Jew can understand the significance of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torah   – God’s instruments for revealing His will in the world.


Consequently, due to the supreme importance of Shabbat, even the building of the holiest structure in the world – the Beit HaMikdash, does not nullify its observance (Yevamot 6A). The Sages learned this from the verse, “Keep My Sabbaths and revere My sanctuary. I am the Lord” (Vayikra, 19:30). Nonetheless, as we learned in the previous chapter (section 7), the laws of shvut, enacted by the Rabbis to guard the Shabbat, can be violated by one thing alone – arranging for the purchase of a house in Eretz Yisrael, due to the transcendental importance of settling the Land of Israel.



  1. Kedushaht HaAretz and Shmittah


The mitzvot of the Sabbatical year (Shmittah) and the Jubilee year (Yovel) are manifestations of the kedushah of the Land of Israel. For behold, once every seven years, in the Shmittah year, the fruits that grow in the fields of Eretz Yisrael are consecrated and made available to all – the poor and the rich alike are permitted to eat from them. In the Yovel year, after the cycle of seven Sabbatical years, in the fiftieth year, not only are the fruits holy and abandoned to all, but also the fields which were sold during that time, return to their original owners, and slaves are set free. Just as Shabbat reveals the kedushah of the week in the life of every Jew, so does the Shmittah and Yovel years reveal the kedushah in the life of the clal (see the introduction of Rabbi Kook’s “Shabbat Ha’Aretz”).


Through the Shmittah and Yovel years, we are reminded that all of the Land belongs to God, and that all of the Jewish people are His children. Therefore, it is appropriate for them to be emancipated. However, when Am Yisrael does not keep the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, they defile the Land by using her soil for their personal profit, forgetting its higher purpose. Consequently, the Land vomits them out, as the Sages said, “Because of the sin of not keeping the Shmittah and Yovel years, exile comes to the world” (Shabbat 33A). Accordingly, in punishment for not keeping the Shmittah and Yovel for seventy years, we were exiled to Babylon for the very same amount of time (Rashi on Vayikra, 26:35).


As the Sages stated, “God said: Sow for six years and leave the Land barren on the seventh year, in order for you to know that the Land is mine, and that I have given it to you as an inheritance, as the verse says, ‘When you come to the land that I give to you,’ not by your sword, or by your arrows, rather, I give it to you. Instead, they sinned and did not keep the Shmittah and Yovel years, bringing exile upon themselves, as it is written, ‘As long as it lies fallow it shall rest’” (Midrash Aggudah to Vayikra, 26:34).


While the Jewish People are in exile, unable to work the Land and misuse it for profane purposes, the Land becomes purified. During the nation’s absence, the memories of the cherished Land flood the hearts of her scattered children, and once again, our love for her, and our longing for her holiness, are reawakened. In the merit of this great yearning, we return to the Land, just as it is written in the Torah:


And I will scatter you among the gentiles, and will draw out a sword after you, your Land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then, as long as the Land is desolate, and you are in the lands of your enemies, the Land will enjoy its Sabbaths. Then the Land will rest and enjoy its Sabbath years. As long as it lies desolate, it shall rest, because it did not rest in your Sabbaths, when you lived there” (Vayikra, 26:33-35). “The Land will have also been forsaken by them, and shall enjoy her Sabbaths, while she lay in desolation without them; and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they despised My judgments, and their souls abhorred My statutes… But for their sakes, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be there God: I am the Lord” (Vayikra, 26:43-45).



  1. Freedom in the Land, Tefillin, and the Release of Slaves


When Am Yisrael is in its Land, its soul can be revealed, for the materialistic side of Eretz Yisrael does not prevent the soul from appearing. Through the revelation of its Divine soul, the entire nation is liberated. For as long as materialism is the most important value, the poor will be subservient to the wealthy, the weak submissive to the strong, and the wealthy and strong will be slaves to their lusts. However, when the soul is revealed, the essential trait of Israel’s inner freedom appears, for the people of Israel are servants of God alone. As it is written, “For to me the Children of Israel are servants; they are My servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Vayikra, 25:55). Therefore, in Judaism, there is no such thing as permanent slavery. Rather, in the fiftieth year, the year of Yovel, all slaves are freed.


Consequently, the mitzvah of freeing slaves is extremely important to our existence in the Land of Israel. A normal slave is freed after six years, while a slave who willfully continues his servitude is released in the Yovel year. This mitzvah expresses the fundamental liberty of every Jew. The failure to abide by it was also one of the transgressions which caused the king of Babylon to advance on Jerusalem, besiege the city, and eventually destroy it. When the officials of Jerusalem realized that the end was near, they finally accepted the rebuke of Yirmiahu and released their slaves. Due to this, a miracle occurred – the king of Babylon stopped his siege of Jerusalem and went off to do battle in Egypt. However, the Israelites returned to their evil ways of oppressing their slaves, and the king of Babylon returned to besiege the holy city and destroy it (Yirmiahu, 34).


There is also a fundamental connection between the mitzvah of tefillin and inheriting the Land. The mitzvah of tefillin also expresses the freedom of Israel, for the tefillin are a symbol of our absolute connection to God, and through this connection, we are liberated from the yokes of the world. Tefillin are similar to a crown for Israel. Consequently, the Land of Israel is mentioned many times in the passages inside our tefillin. In the verses of “Kadesh,” it is written, “And it shall be when the Lord shall bring you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Yebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you – a Land flowing with milk and honey…” (Shemot, 13:5). And in the verses of “V’hiya ki y’viyecha,” it says, “And it shall be when the Lord shall bring you into the land of Canaanites, which He promised you and your forefathers, and He shall give it to you” (Shemot, 13:11). The verses of “V’hiya im shemoah,” deal completely with Eretz Yisrael. And in proclamation of “Shema Yisrael,” the concept of faith in the one God is asserted, and as we have learned, this essential, unifying faith is revealed only in Eretz Yisrael.


Chazal state (Berachot 6A) that even God puts on tefillin, and in His tefillin it is written, “And who is like Thy people Israel, one nation in the Land” (Dvrei HaYamim, 1,17:21).


Similar to the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz, the mitzvah of tefillin connects the realm of holiness with physical reality. Therefore, we are commanded to write the holy verses of the tefillin on parchment (claf) derived from the skin of an animal, and place them in boxes made out of animal hide – teaching us that even the animal aspects of life are connected to holiness.


Finally, like the Land of Israel, tefillin also express the special connection between Israel and God. Therefore we tie the tefillin to the head and the arm, to symbolize our total attachment to our Divine mission of sanctifying the Name of God in the world.














Chapter Three

The Holy and the Profane in the Settlement of the Land




  1. Levels of Yishuv HaAretz


With everything that a person does in life, there are levels of performance. For instance two people can conduct their married life in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect, or the marriage can be filled with strife, with each partner striving to satisfy his or her egotistical desires at the expense of the other. Similarly with driving car. A good driver keeps his car in top running condition, doing yearly tune-ups, making sure that tires are road worthy, and driving according to proper speeds and safety regulations, while another driver neglects tune-ups and highway safety and generally runs his vehicle into the ground. So too in performing the mitzvot of the Torah – there is a proper way and intention in carry out each Divine commandment, determined by a faithful adherence to the halachah, and a person’s love and joy over the mitzvah; and there is an improper way, when they are performed perfunctorily in an uninspired routine manner, without attention to the details of halachah.  This is also true regarding the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel – there are levels in its performance. A person who chooses to live in Israel, not for religious reasons, but to help build a safe refuge for the Jews, is certainly performing the mitzvah. A person who lives in Israel to take advantage of its business opportunities is also performing the mitzvah, however, in a less altruistic light, and his attachment to the mitzvah may very well waver if business conditions should falter. Someone who performs the mitzvah, not only for these two reasons, which in themselves have value, but because he wants to fulfill the word of Hashem and play a part in the Redemption of the Jewish People and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the world, he is performing the mitzvah in its most transcendental, eternal, and praiseworthy light.



  1. The Inheritance of Reuven and Gad


At first, Moshe Rabbeinu did not intend to conquer the eastern side of the Jordan River, even though it is part of the Land of Israel. His intention was to first settle the western side of the Jordan, due to its higher level of holiness. From there, he intended to strengthen and consolidate the initial settlement, and then expand the conquest to all the borders of the Land. However, before Israel reached the Jordan River, Sichon and Og attacked.  Israel defeated them, and thus conquered their territory on the eastern side of the river (See Bamidbar, 21:21-35. Also, Ramban, there, and see further in this chapter, 3:18).


When the tribes of Reuven and Gad, who possessed great herds of sheep and cattle, saw that the region was good for grazing, they approached Moshe, requesting that he exempt them from crossing over the Jordan. Instead, they asked that their inheritance fall on the eastern side of the river – also a part of Eretz Yisrael – since it was suitable for their herds.


Moshe Rabbeinu’s answer was surprisingly harsh. First, he condemned them, saying – “Why should your brothers go out and fight while you stay here?!” (Bamidbar, 32:6). Furthermore, he blamed them for repeating the sin of the Spies, who rebelled against Hashem by persuading the nation not to continue on their journey to conquer and settle the Promised Land. Their refusal to go up and possess the Land, as God had commanded them, brought about the Divine decree that the entire generation would die in the wilderness. And behold, here once again, the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menasha, were causing Israel to falter by not wanting to take part in the conquest of the Land! Because, like the Spies, their decision might bring a terrible disaster upon the nation, Moshe chastised them at length (See, Bamidbar, 32:7-15).


When Moshe finished his rebuke, the members of the tribes of Reuven and Gad answered, saying that their intention was not to evade the war, but rather they would first build enclosures for their livestock, and build cities for their children, and afterwards, go out as an advance guard in front of Israel to conquer all the Land. Only after all the tribes were settled in their respective inheritances would they return to the fertile grazing lands on the eastern side of the Jordan. Seemingly, after this generous promise, Moshe Rabbeinu should have been reconciled with them, perhaps even apologizing for his suspicions. Indeed, Moshe agreed that if they led the nation in battle, they would be blameless before God and Israel. Nevertheless, from his response, it still seems that he was concerned that they would not fulfill their words. Therefore, he once again demanded that they commit themselves explicitly, with a double stipulation, solidifying their commitment to partake in the conquest of the Land.


Ostensibly, Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction must be questioned – why didn’t he wait to hear everything that the tribes of Reuven and Gad had to say? Why did he start to rebuke them with harsh accusations without first clarifying if they were willing to participate in conquering the Land? And why, after they told him that they were ready to participate, did he continue to treat them suspiciously?


The reason is that there was a fundamental problem with their desire to inherit the eastern side of the Jordan. Their order of priorities was faulty. Their motive for desiring to inherit that specific portion of the Land wasn’t because they felt a deep connection to it, as a place where they could fulfill the unique goal of revealing the Name of God in the world. Rather, they simply were concerned about their possessions. Moshe Rabbeinu knew that when the underlying reason for settling the Land does not stem from the exalted value of fulfilling the Covenant with God, and revealing the Divine Presence in the world, their connection to the Land would be weak, and God forbid, they would lose their grip on it – a tragic outcome that we have seen in our time, when portions of Eretz Yisrael were handed over to enemies because of a flawed attachment to the Land on the part of government leaders, and a superficial understanding of  Israel’s Divine mission in being here .1


  1. 1. The tribes of Reuven and Gad also showed a flawed orientation toward their children in valuing their possessions first, as seen in their request to Moshe: “We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock, and cities for our children” (Bamidbar, 32:16). Rashi notes, on the basis of Tanchuma 7, that “They were more concerned about their possessions than about their sons and daughters, since they spoke first about their livestock and then about their children.” Moshe corrected them by placing priorities in the proper order, telling them to first “build for yourselves cities for your children” and afterwards “enclosures for your sheep” (there, verse 24).


Therefore, even after Reuven and Gad promised to be the first to go out to war, Moshe Rabbeinu remained suspicious. He knew that if they did not elevate their motives above their own private material concerns for their livestock and families, to the higher intention of inheriting the Land together with all of Israel, in order to reveal the word of God in the world, they would not be successful.


As our Sages have said (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7), there are wealthy people who don’t understand that wealth is a gift from Heaven. Instead, their craving for riches controls them, to the point where they are removed from the world, along with their wealth. “And thus you find concerning the tribes of Reuben and Gad, who were wealthy and possessed large herds. They cherished their wealth, preferring to reside outside of the Land of Israel. Therefore, they were exiled first amongst all the tribes, as it is written, ‘And he carried away the Reuveni, and the Gadi, and the half tribe of Menashe’ (Divrei Hayamim 1, 5:26). What caused this? It was due to the fact that they separated themselves from their brothers because of their possessions” (When Chazal state that Reuven and Gad chose to live “outside of the Land of Israel,” the meaning is outside of the main area of holiness of the Land, as clarified in Ch.4:5 of this book).2


  1. 2. They still had the opportunity to rectify their faulty orientation to the Torah and Eretz Yisrael after the Land was conquered and they returned to the eastern bank of the Jordan. But feeling that the region they had chosen was less sanctified then the western bank of the river, they brazenly erected an altar for themselves. (Chazal teach, “The Land of Canaan is suitable to house the Shechinah, while the other side of the Jordan is not fitting to house the ShechinahBamidbar Rabbah 7:8). Yehoshua warned them not to proceed, “However, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass over to the land of possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s Tabernacle dwells, and take up possession amongst us; but rebel not against the Lord, nor rebel against us in building an altar for yourselves besides the altar of the Lord our God” (Yehoshua, 22:19). But they didn’t take heed and were eventually the first of the tribes to be exiled.



  1. The Conquest of Jericho


The first city which Israel conquered in the land of Canaan was Jericho. In many ways, Jericho represents the essence of Canaanism. Therefore, Yehoshua sent spies to see “the Land and Jericho” (Yehoshua, 2:1). For Jericho was equal to all of Eretz Yisrael, as our Sages have said: “It (Jericho) was as formidable as all of them” (Sifri, Devarim 52), and, “It (Jericho) was equal to all of them” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 8).


All of the agricultural and botanical splendor of the Land of Israel could be found in Jericho. Originally, the entire valley surrounding Yam HaMelach (the Dead Sea) was similar to the Heavenly Garden, and therefore Lot chose to live there. However, due to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose inhabitants put their security in wealth, which they horded to the point where they became completely wicked, the fertile region they inhabited was overturned in God’s wrath and converted into a desolate desert, its fresh waters turned into salt. The only place that continued to flourish and blossom as a unique desert oasis was Jericho. All the kings of the world yearned to feast on her delicious fruits.


However, without a spiritual balance, all of the abundant, materialistic blessings of Jericho, and of the land of Canaan, can ultimately sweep man towards his physical lusts and eventually lead him to idol worship. The source of this bountiful material blessing lies in the kedushah of the Land. However, when its spiritual core is not properly appreciated and understood, the physical desires triumph, turning the tremendous blessings into even greater curses. Here, we are not talking about simple materialism, but rather, materialism that is strengthened and bolstered by great spiritual forces corrupted by man’s lusts. Therefore, the Canaanites were more abhorrent in their ways than all the other nations (Sifre, parsha Acharei 9; Maharal,“G’vurot Hashem,” Ch.4). And this is what caused the moral depravity of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.


The goal of the Land of Israel is to reveal the word of God in the world, in both the spiritual and physical realms, and therefore, the bounties of Eretz Yisrael are manifested both in its ability to facilitate prophecy, and in its “flowing with milk and honey.” However, great caution is needed in order not to be swept away after its material affluence, thus becoming estranged from its spiritual source, and consequently falling into a path of total destruction.


The stronghold of the Canaanite lure to idolize materialism was found in Jericho. Therefore, the war against the city required both physical and spiritual strategies. First, the powers of holiness had to combat the seven layers of impurity found in Canaan. Therefore, the Children of Israel encircled the city seven times – seven rings of faith – with the Ark of the Covenant leading the camp, and through the power of the blasts of the shofarot before Hashem, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Through this spiritual warfare, the path was cleared to conquer the entire Land.3


  1. Before the conquest of Jericho, Yehoshua’s messengers succeeded in influencing the prostitute, Rachav, to repent in tshuva and convert, and thus the holy spark that was in the kelipah of Canaan returned to Yisrael. Seeing the great spiritual stature of the Jewish Nation, her previous entrapment in the world of material lusts was shattered, and the powerful holy spark inside her broke free to embrace the truth, as she proclaimed, “The Lord, He is God in the Heaven above and on the Earth beneath” (Yehoshua, 2:11). Reaching lofty spiritual heights, she married Yehoshua himself, and eight prophets are numbered amongst her offspring (Megilla 14B).



  1. Jericho and Jerusalem


We can now understand why Yehoshua decreed that all of the booty from Jericho be sanctified unto God (Yehoshua, 6:17-19). He understood that Israel’s first step into Eretz Yisrael must be free of all material inclinations, in order to fix in everyone’s hearts the realization that the Land’s conquest was not for materialistic purposes alone, but, rather, first and foremost, for the purpose of  revealing the truth and Oneness of God in the world, with the building the Beit HaMikdash.


Likewise, he decreed that Jericho not be rebuilt permanently. “And Joshua charged them at that time by oath, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, who rises up to build this city Jericho: he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it” (Yehoshua, 6:26). This was to prevent the rich and fruitful city of Jericho from becoming a competitor to Shiloh and Jerusalem. This explains why many pilgrims ascending to the Beit HaMikdash would travel via to Jericho. There, they would stock up on her plentiful fruits and bring supplies of delicious food to the pilgrims in Jerusalem. In this way, the agricultural bounty of Jericho would assist in the service of God in the Holy Temple, thus illustrating that material wealth was a means and not an end in iteself.4


  1. The special connection between Jerusalem and Jericho also finds expression in the teaching of Chazal that the sound of the opening of the doors of the Jerusalem Temple was heard in Jericho; and that the sheep in Jericho would sneeze from the scent of the Temple incense; and that the women in Jericho would not have to use perfume because of the aroma of the Temple incense which hung over the city (Yoma 39B). The Raavad explains (Mishna Tamid, ch.3) that Jericho had an inner miraculous connection with Jerusalem, unlike localities even closer to Jerusalem, where the sound of the Temple doors weren’t heard, nor the fragrance of the incense noticed.


This is why the sin of Achan, who coveted the cloak of Shinar, was so severe. His theft of the conquered booty blemished the sacred goal of conquering the Land in order to establish the values of Torah and the Name of God in the world. Our Sages hinted that his actions caused the first fracture of the Kingdom, and ultimately led to the destruction of the Land, for the cloak that he stole belonged to the King of Babylon (Bereshit Rabbah, 85:14). Consequently, many years later, when the sins of Israel increased, one of Shinar’s descendents, Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon, was able to destroy the Beit HaMikdash and exile the Jews from the Land. Because of Achan’s transgression, Nebuchadnezzer was able to claim that, from the very beginning, Israel did not enter the Land for the sake of Heaven, but, rather, that Israel was like all the other nations – and just as all other nations are established and then eventually destroyed, so too with the Jews.


Consequently, in the time of king Achav, when Israel strayed after their lusts and worshipped idols, they broke Yehoshua’s pledge and rebuilt the city of Jericho, thereby expressing their craving for materialism, and their turning away from the holiness of Jerusalem. “And Achav did more to provoke the Lord, God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. In his days, Hi’el from the house of Eli (who was his minister of finance) built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Aviram, his firstborn, and set up its gates with his youngest son, Seguv, according to the word of the Lord, which he had spoken by Yehoshua, the son of Nun” (Melachim 1, 16:33-34).


The total destruction of Jericho expresses the fact that we are still unable to sanctify materialism completely. Had Israel entered the Land with the Jordan Valley intact and flourishing like the Garden of Eden, the Children of Israel most probably would have been swept-away by the abundant materialism, forgetting to ascend to Jerusalem and build the Holy Temple, God forbid.


In the future, when the world will be perfected, a river will flow from the Beit HaMikdash, and its waters will multiply and gush forth till they reach the ancient ocean – the Dead Sea – curing the salty waters, to the point where fish will swarm in it, and the desert-like stretches of Jericho and the Jordan Valley will once again become like the Garden of Eden. “And by the stream upon its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall its fruit fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because their waters have issued out of the sanctuary: and its fruits shall be for food, and its leaves for medicine” (Yehezkel, 47:12). This will be an expression of the complete revelation of the word of God, in the heavens and on earth, in unity, as it is written (Zechariah, 14:9): “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: on that day the Lord shall be One, and his Name One.”


Also, in our time, the miraculous blossoming of the Land, agriculturally, industrially, and technologically, has led way to an unholy culture of materialism and consumerism that all too often hide the spiritual bounties of the Holy Land. But this is all a part of the process of clarification that Am Yisrael must go through in returning to its true, holy essence in the Land, as Rabbi Kook  prophetically foresaw:


“We recognize that a spiritual rebellion will come to pass in Eretz Yisrael amongst the people of Israel in the beginnings of the nation’s revival. The material comfort attained by a percentage of the nation, convincing them that they have already completely reached their goal, will constrict the soul, and days will come which will seem to be devoid of all spirit and meaning. The aspirations for lofty and holy ideals will cease, and the spirit of the nation will plunge and sink low until a storm of rebellion will appear, and people will come to see clearly that the power of Israel lies in its eternal holiness, in the light of God and His Torah, in the yearning for spiritual light which is the ultimate valor, triumphing over all of the worlds, and all of their powers” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah, 44).



  1. The Nation Requests a King


The prophet Shmuel is considered the greatest prophet after Moshe Rabbeinu, and in a certain sense, our Sages said (Tractate Ta’anit 5b) that Shmuel was equal to Moshe and Aharon, as it is written, “Moshe and Aharon among his priests, and Shmuel among those who call upon His Name” (Tehillim, 99:6). The Divine Providence of Hashem in the miraculous life of Israel in the wilderness was revealed through the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. Shmuel continued to reveal the guidance of God in Israel’s everyday life in Eretz Yisrael. In the merit of Shmuel’s tremendous activities, traveling all over the Land, teaching Torah with incomparable devotion, the nation was aroused to return to God. This brought great blessing, for, through the strength of Shmuel’s leadership, after many years of Philistine domination over Israel, a re-spirited Israel was able to overcome them, returning the cities they had captured from Israel, and the Philistines never re-approached the borders of Israel all the days of Shmuel (Shmuel 1, Ch.7).


When Shmuel became old, and his son’s didn’t follow in his ways, all the elders of Israel convened and said to him: “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”


Shmuel was not pleased: “But the thing displeased Shmuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Shmuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Shmuel, Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the deeds that they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, and to this day, in that they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so they also do to you. Now you must hearken to their voice: nevertheless you should solemnly forewarn them, and relate to them the customary practice of the king that shall reign over them” (Shmuel 1, 8:4-9).


Shmuel obediently warned them about the great power given to the king, which is liable to lead to tyranny and corruption. “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Shmuel, and they said, No, we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (ibid, 8:19-20). Shmuel still hoped that Hashem would prevent the nation from choosing a king, but God told him to listen to their request. Dutifully, he started the process of choosing a suitable ruler, which led to the appointment of Shaul, who, due to his modesty, had hidden himself amongst the baggage of the camp. “And they ran and they fetched him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upwards. And Shmuel said to all the people, Do you see him who the Lord has chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, Long live the king” (ibid, 10:23-24).


Afterwards, Nacash, the Ammonite, came to reign over the inhabitants of Yavesh Gilead. Shaul rallied the nation and defeated Nacash’s army in battle, winning the nation’s esteem. “Then Shmuel said to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. And all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Shaul king before the Lord in Gilgal; and there they made sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Shaul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly” (Shmuel 1, 11:14).


Suddenly, in the middle of the great festivities, the Prophet Shmuel broke out with a harsh and stunning rebuke. At first, he addressed the nation, saying: You requested a king, and behold, I listened to you and appointed one. I have walked before you from the days of my youth until today. Tell me, in front of God, and in front of your king, for all of my life, have I ever once received from any of you any personal amenities for my devoted service?! Have I ever taken a bribe from one of you?! Have I ever treated anyone of you wrongfully?! Everyone responded: God forbid! You never treated us wrongfully, nor did you ever take anything from anyone. Then, Shmuel continued his scorching rebuke, reminding them how God always acted kindly with them, and how they, time after time, strayed after foreign gods. When disasters befell them because of their sins, they would return and scream out to God, and He would save them. Now, all of a sudden, they rejoiced in the new king they had chosen, as if, in his merit, they had been saved from their enemies. Shmuel continued to reprimand them, saying that if they truly feared God and served Him, they and their king would survive. But if they did not listen to the voice of God, His hand would be against them and against their king (Shmuel 1, 12:1-15).


Not content that his message had been implanted in the hearts of the people, Shmuel continued, saying: This is the season of the wheat harvest, is it not? I will call out to Hashem, asking Him for thunder and rain, in order that you realize just how grave your request is for a king.


So Shmuel called to the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Shmuel. And all the people said to Shmuel, Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, lest we die. For to all our sins we have added this evil, to ask for a king for ourselves. And Shmuel said to the people, Fear not: you have done  wickedness, yet don’t turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart, and turn not aside, for then you will go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. The Lord will not abandon his people for His great Name’s sake, for it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will teach you the good and right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart, for consider the great things which he has done for you. But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (ibid, 12:17-25).


Seemingly, one can ask: why did Shmuel suddenly get angry at them? He had already agreed to appoint a king, so why did he rebuke them now? Because their request for a king was not for the sake of Heaven, and he knew that in the end, the kingship would be destroyed, and Israel would be exiled from its Land. This is the nature of all physical things – they are fated to end. Only the Nation of Israel is eternal, for our roots are Divine. If, however, the request for a king stems solely from materialistic motivations, for militaristic needs, or to be like other nations, in the end, everything will be destroyed. Therefore, Shmuel directed his rebuke to the people in an effort to prevent the future disaster.


And, indeed, in the end, the kingdom of Shaul collapsed. Shmuel, heeding God’s order, appointed the humble shepherd, David, to take the place of Shaul, commanding him to prepare for the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, in order to establish the superiority of holiness above all other matters. And indeed, David set out to rectify the imperfection rooted in the materialistic orientation of the nation. Uncomfortable with living in a palace while the Ark of the Lord remained in a sanctuary made of curtains, King David gathered the materials needed for the Temple’s construction. However, the prophet, Natan, told him that his son, who would follow him to the throne, would build the Beit HaMikdash in his place (Shmuel 2, Ch.7).


Indeed, King Shlomo fulfilled his father’s dream and built the Holy Temple. He even quickened the construction, completing the House of God in seven years, whereas it took him thirteen years to finish his own palace. This was very significant, for the king’s palace in those times included all of the governmental agencies, similar to the present-day offices of the government and the Knesset together. King Shlomo hastened the completion of the Beit HaMikdash in order to teach the nation that it preceded all other affairs of the kingdom.


Nevertheless, the original blemish was not completely rectified – Shmuel’s fear was fulfilled. After King Shlomo, the original desire for a king similar to other nations returned, and when service of God did not remain the central focus of the people, the nation’s iniquities increased. The kingship became corrupt, and lacking a moral compass, the nation strayed from the Torah until the Temple was destroyed, the Land was razed, and Israel was exiled to Bavel. Only the spiritual heritage of the prophets remained to safeguard the nation.



  1. The Reward of Settling the Land – Omri and Achav


The mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is so great, even evildoers who engage in its building receive great reward. As Tanna D’bei Eliyahu said: “Once, I sat before the Sages in the great Beit Midrash in Jerusalem, and I asked them, why was king Omri different from the other kings? While the kings before Omri did not merit inheriting their kingdoms to their sons, three of Omri’s offspring continued to sit on the throne. They said: we haven’t heard the reason. I said to them: my friends, Omri merited to seat three kings on his throne because he built a big city in the Land of Israel” (Eliyahu Rabbah, Ch.9).


Athough Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than all those who preceded him (Melachim, 1,16:25), the merit of building the Land of Israel stood in his behalf, allowing him to seat three of his offspring on his throne, a feat matched by no other king of Israel. Omri achieved this in spite of the fact that he didn’t build the city with the pure intention of fulfilling the mitzvah of settling the Land, but rather for the personal motive of strengthening his kingdom. As Omri said – just as Jerusalem belongs to the kings of Judea, so shall the city of Shomron belong to the kings of Israel. Although there was a significant flaw in his motive for building the city of Shomron, nevertheless, since he built up the Land, three of his offspring became kings after him, Achav his son, and Achaziyahu  and Yoram, the sons of Achav).


The mitzvah of settling the Land is also connected to the unity of the nation, and in the times of Achav, there was peace between the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. Yehoram, the son of Yehoshufat, the king of Judah, married the daughter of Achav, and the kings of Judah and Israel joined together in war against their enemies (Melachim 1, Ch. 22). Thus Chazal said that the generation of Achav worshipped idols, but nevertheless, when they went out to war, they were victorious because they did not speak loshon hara (evil speech), meaning that they were united. The generation of Shaul, on the other hand, acted according to the Torah, but, nevertheless, when they went out to battle, they lost because they spoke loshon hara, a sign of division (Devarim Rabba, 5:10; Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Pe’ah, 1:1). Accordingly, it is stated in Sifri (Bamidbar, 42): “Shalom (unity) is so great, that even if Israel worships idols, yet there is shalom amongst them, it is as if God said, ‘The Satan cannot harm them,’ as it is written, ‘Efrayim is joined to idols; but let him alone’ (Hosea, 4:17) Their unity in defending the Land brought them victory over their enemies. But when they are divided, it is said about them, ‘Their heart is divided; now they shall be found guilty’” (ibid, 10:2).


Although Achav sinned and transgressed all of the prohibitions in the Torah, nevertheless, because of his national patriotism and achievements, he is considered to have honored the Torah.5


  1. See Sanhedrin 113A, that after Chiel, cohort of Achav, built a city and named it Jericho, the curse of rebuilding the city took the lives of his children. When Achav complained about the punishment, and impudently exclaimed that he himself had worshipped idols in every place and still rain had fallen, Eliahu swore that no more rain or dew would fall.


Thus, it is told that when Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, overcame Achav and placed Shomron under siege, he demanded to receive all of Achav’s money, gold, women and children as tribute. Since Achav thought there was no way he could win in war, he surrendered, and agreed to give everything he owned to the king of Aram. However, when Ben Hadad demanded the “cherishment of his eyes,” which our Sages said was Achav’s sefer Torah, he refused (Sanhedrin, 102B). The honor of the nation, expressed in the honor of the Torah, was so dear to him, he was prepared to wage an unwinnable battle – as long as the honor of Israel was not debased by giving the Torah over to the enemy. Since this was a crucial decision in which many people were likely to die, Achav did not want to decide by himself; therefore he discussed the matter with the Elders. They supported his decision not to hand over the holy Torah scroll, and thus disgrace the honor of Israel. This united display of  national pride, symbolized in upholding the integrity of the Torah, awakened Divine intervention, and a prophet, in the name of God, appeared to Achav, advising him how to win the war. Thus Israel went out to battle and dealt Aram a serious blow. Once again, the following year, when the prophet came to warn him that Ben Hadad was planning to attack again, Achav prepared his army properly, and Israel once again defeated Aram (Melachim 1, 20:1-30). His fierce pride for the honor of the nation drew down the Heavenly blessing that paved his path with success.




  1. Without Emunah, the Love for the Land and Nation Lack Value


One must understand, however, that the merit derived from the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, and the unity which stems from nationalistic sentiments, cannot last forever. Since Omri sinned in idolatry, and his son, Achav, was a bigger sinner than all the kings of Israel before him (Melachim 1:16:30-33; 21; 25), as were his two sons, their relationship to the nation and the Land grew weaker and weaker, until, in the end, disasters befell all of them.


This is exactly what happened to Achav. Due to his alienating himself from God and the Torah, his nationalistic principles also weakened. After he was successful, with the grace of God, in defeating Aram, instead of killing Ben Hadad, Achav had mercy on him. Signing a pact with him, he sent him free. The prophet came and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, Because you have let go out of your hand a man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people” (Melachim 1:20:42).


The abandonment of God also led to an ethical deterioration, as was acutely expressed in Achav’s relationship with Navot Ha’Yizraeli. Achav coveted his vineyard, and when Navot refused to sell it, false witnesses were brought to testify against him that he rebelled against the king. In consequence of their testimony, Navot was executed, and Achav claimed his vineyard. God then commanded Eliahu, the prophet, saying: “Arise, go down to meet Achav, king of Israel, who is in Shomron. Behold, he is in the vineyard of Navot, where he has gone down to possess it. And you shall speak to him, saying, Thus says the Lord, Have you killed and also taken possession? And you shall speak to him, saying, Thus says the Lord, In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Navot shall the dogs lick your blood, even yours” (there, 21:18-19).


The disasters that befell the house of Omri stemmed from their proclivity towards idolatry. Achav continued to sin even more than the kings who preceded him. He abandoned the Torah, drifted towards idolatry, married Izevel, wicked daughter of the king of Sidon, and established a sanctuary and altar for Ba’al in the Shomron (there, 16).


Refusing to listen to the rebuke of the prophets, he destroyed the altars of God. When the prophets continued to rebuke him, he murdered them, until only Eliahu remained  (there, 19:10). Therefore, a severe and disastrous decree fell upon the house of Omri and Achav, as God said to Eliahu, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you arrive, anoint Haza’el to be king over Aram; and Yehu, the son of Nimshi, shall you anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha, the son of Shafat, of Avel-mehola, shall you anoint to be prophet in your place. And it shall come to pass, he that escapes the sword of Haza’el shall Yehu slay; and he that escapes from the sword of Yehu shall Elisha slay” (Melachim 1, 19:15-17). After a few years, Achav himself was killed in war against Aram (ibid, 22:34-38).


However, as long as they possessed the merit of settling the Land, and a sense of national responsibility, they were victorious in war, and still could have repented, thereby nullifying the impending decree. But they remained steadfast in the stubbornness of their hearts, and, as time went on, their feelings towards the nation and the Land grew weaker. Before long, the dreadful events that were decreed upon them were fulfilled, as Scripture records: “And when he (Yehu) came to Shomron, he slew all that remained to Achav in Shomron, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the Lord, which he spoke to Eliahu” (Melachim 2, 10:17).



  1. Aliyah in Recent Generations


Throughout all the years of exile, the Jewish Nation continued to yearn for its homeland. Notable figures amongst the giants of past generations, such as Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the Rambam, and the Ramban even fulfilled the mitzvah of yishuv haaretz and made aliyah to the Land of Israel. However, the time of the final Redemption had not come, and the Jewish People also did not repent completely. Consequently, the Jewish community in the Land was not able to strengthen itself and become self-sufficient. In the face of economic hardship and physical danger, it was nearly impossible to sustain any kind of normal continuing settlement.


Approximately two-hundred years ago, a new awakening of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael began. Rabbi Chaim ben Atar, the leading rabbi of Morocco, author of the commentary “Ohr HaChaim” on the Torah, immigrated to Israel. In his writings, he expressly states that his aliyah represented a “bringing closer” of the Redemption (see also his commentary on Vayikra, 25:25). After this, in the year 5637, the foremost student of the Maggid from Mezrich, the Admore, Rebbe Menachem Mendel from Vetibsk, came on aliyah, accompanied by three hundred followers. This represented the foundation of the Hasidic community in Eretz Yisrael.


However, the Torah giant who spoke most explicitly about immigrating to the Land of Israel, and its rebuilding, was the Gaon Rabbi Eliahu from Vilna, also known as the Vilna Gaon, or the Gra. On numerous occasions, he spoke to his students emotionally, saying that the Redemption would be quickened only through the ingathering of the exiles and the building of the Land. He furthermore stressed that only through the resettlement of Eretz Yirael would we be saved from the terrible trials and tribulations inherent in the birth pangs of Mashiach. The Gaon foresaw what was likely to happen to the Jews of Europe. He himself began the journey to Israel, parting from his family after writing a stirring will and testament. However, from the Heavens, he was instructed to return. Nevertheless, he continued to encourage his students to immigrate in order to rebuild the Land.


In the year 5669 (1809), approximately ten years after the Vilna Gaon passed away, the first group of his students arrived in Safed, led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel from Shklov. About two years later, Rabbi Israel from Shklov, author of the “Pe’at HaShulchan,” also found his way there. Joining them were Rabbi Hillel from Shklov, and other Torah scholars, craftsmen, and farmers. Many of the pioneers settled in Jerusalem; others in Safed, and in budding agricultural communities. Although they faced dreadful difficulties, they nevertheless drew inspiration from the words of their great Rabbi, the Gaon of Vilna, concerning the supreme importance of the mitzvah to settle the Land. Thus, from one generation to the next, their settlements continued to grow, forming the core of the Ashkenazi “Old Yishuv.” From their ranks stemmed the builders of the first neighborhoods outside the walls of Jerusalem, and the neighborhoods of the “New Yishuv,” such as Petach Tikva. From a few hundred righteous Jews who immigrated to thousands. Unfortunately, the myriads of religious Jews living in the Diaspora failed to follow in their footsteps, and the difficulties and persecutions of the exile continued to increase.


Approximately fifty years after the aliyah of the students of the Gra, two outstanding Torah scholars of the generation, students of Rabbi Akiva Eiger – Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher and Rabbi Eliahu Gutmacher – began to encourage mass immigration to Israel, in order to build the prophesized Jewish Kingdom in Eretz Yisrael. In the wake of their incentive, aliyah increased. However, the nation was still far from reaching the over-all goal of its prayers for a massive ingathering from the distant corners of the galut, and consequently, the trials and tribulations of exile reached ever-alarming proportions. In addition to a frightening rise in anti-Semitism, Jews began to abandon the Torah, and many chose to assimilate in the Diaspora.


Tens of years later, a number of Gedolei Yisrael from Eastern Europe, including Rabbi Shmuel Mohaliver, Rabbi Mordechei Elishberg, and the Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (HaNatziv), arose and began to encourage aliyah to Israel within the framework of the “Chibat Tzion” (Lovers of Zion) movement. At that time, many Jews had already left the way of Torah and mitzvot. These Torah giants agreed to work together with the leaders of Jews who were not “especially meticulous” in guarding the commandments – for the sake of settling the Land. Their endeavors brought about what is called the “first aliyah” (circa 5642). The majority of new immigrants were religious, if not top caliber Torah scholars like the students of the Gra. Nevertheless, there were important Torah personalities amongst the new pioneers, such as Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Yaffe, who became the rabbi of the new community of Yehud. Even though the nascent settlements continued to grow, the great majority of Diaspora Jews still did not heed the call to return to Zion.


In Europe, anti-Semitism grew steadily, as did the number of Jews who strayed from the faith. Many of those who left the Torah hoped that by leaving Judaism, and assimilating amongst the goyim, their troubles would cease. Anti-Semitism, however, continued to spread. Some of the Jews who tried to assimilate, like Binyamin Zev Herzl, realized that Jewish nature was unique and inescapable. Only through the establishment of an independent Jewish State in the Land of Israel would it be possible to save the Jews from the menace of anti-Semitism. Spearheaded by Herzl, the Zionist movement rapidly spread throughout Europe. Originally, some Gedolei Yisrael supported them. This led to the formation of the “Mizrachi” movement. But there were other respected Gedolim who opposed the Zionist movement, mainly because they feared that many Jews would be swayed to follow the non-religious lifestyle of its secular leaders.


The widely discussed concept of Zionism, combined with growing anti-Semitism, aroused larger numbers of Jews to support the growing drive to settle the Land, and to establish a Jewish State. Nonetheless, the majority of Jews, whether religious or not religious, did not participate in the Zionist movement.


Only after the Holocaust did the necessity of establishing an independent Jewish State in the Land of Israel become clear to almost everyone. Myriads of refugees from Europe and Arabic lands immigrated to Israel, and thus the State of Israel arose and began to develop, accompanied by Divine favor and the great self-sacrifice of the Jews who returned to the Land.



  1. The Essential Return to Holiness


On numerous occasions, Hashem has knocked on the door of Knesset Yisrael to arouse us to return to our Land. If only we had heeded the call of the Gaon from Vilna and his students, who knows how many pogroms and disasters could have been averted? If the masses of Jews who stood upon an abyss of unspeakable persecution and murder had followed the urgings of visionaries like the holy Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, and the political leader, Zeev Jabotinsky, who knows how many lives could have been saved? Additionally, the nation’s connection to the Torah and mitzvot would have remained stronger, for multitudes of Jews would have witnessed how, through the merit of the Torah and its call for a national return to the Jewish homeland, multitudes would have been saved.


The abandonment of the Torah largely stems from the feeling that its adherents are remnants of the past. The entire world is busy building new technologies and innovations, while Judaism seems concerned with mere survival under harsher and harsher conditions. If only we had dedicated ourselves in redeveloping the nation in Eretz Yisrael, in line with the grand vision of the ingathering of the exiles, then the resettlement of the Land, in accordance with the words of the Prophets, would have filled the hearts of our people with wonder and brought wanderers back to the fold. All of the talented Jews who went astray and gave their strengths to foreign nations in the fields of science, culture, politics, economics, and art, not to mention marrying out of the fold, would have invested their energies here in the Land of Israel, for the sake of their own Jewish nation and homeland. The Jewish State would have been established earlier — not due to trials and tribulations, but through allegiance to the Divine instruction of the Torah and the vision of the Prophets. Even the conflict with the Arab population would have been negligible, for had we arrived to the Land in overwhelming numbers, the whole situation of Arab emigration to “Palestine,” which has taken place over the last few generations, would have been forestalled.


After the aliyah of the students of the Gra, the Jews of the Diaspora had a number of opportunities to seize the opportunity. While there were those who came, the vast majority tragically remained in galut. Only after the Holocaust did greater numbers awaken to the call of settling the Land. In response, as if magically, the long barren wastelands of Eretz Yisrael awakened to those who came back to her, abundantly yielding her fruits to her children who returned from afar.


History has proven that those who were active in the settlement and rebuilding of the Land of Israel over the last few generations, whether religious or not, participated in a miraculous renaissance of the nation and the Land. From the Heavens, it became more and more clear that the time had come to return to the Land. The State of Israel flourished in unprecedented ways, while assimilation in the galut swelled to staggering proportions. Many of those who pioneered in the building of Eretz Yisrael merited distinction, despite the fact that they did not always act for the sake of Heaven, and occasionally even placed their undertakings in conflict with the Torah’s goals for the nation. As time passed, the words of the prophet, which the Gaon from Vilna and his students would constantly mention, became ever more real: “For in the mountain of Zion and Jerusalem  there will be a refuge” (Yoel, 3:5).


Nevertheless, the merit of this precious mitzvah is not eternal. Without faith in God, and adherence to the Torah and mitzvot, we cannot continue to settle the Land with proper holiness and devotion, and calamities are liable to occur. As our teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, related, on numerous occasions he heard his father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, weep and say, “I fear the words of our Sages are coming to pass concerning the three generations before the coming of the Redeemer, about which it is written, ‘You have grown fat; you have become heavy; you are covered with flesh.’  This implies that due to a lack of devotion to holiness, the spirit of defilement and corruption increasingly grows, and consequently, the calamities of ‘the birth pangs of Mashiach’ come to pass.”


Our prayer is that we be able to return to, and reconnect with the holy, Divine, Torah injunction of settling the Land, as was the goal of the Gaon from Vilna, his students, and their disciples, and dedicate ourselves to building the State of Israel in the light of the Torah and its teachings, and thereby merit the final and complete Redemption, speedily in our days. Amen.






























Chapter Four

The Borders of the Land



  1. The Promised Borders


The mitzvah of settling the Land applies to the borders that God promised to Avraham Aveinu, as it is written, “In that day, the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying, To your seed have I given this Land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Prat” (Bereshit, 15:18).


It is also written, “And I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea even to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the river, for I will deliver the inhabitants of the Land into your hands, and you shall drive them out before you” (Shemot, 23:31).


The Children of Israel were also commanded, “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain; turn and take up your journey, and go to the mountain of the Emori, and all the places near it, in the plain, in the hills, and in the lowland, and in the Negev, and by the seaside, to the land of the Kena’ani, and the Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Prat. Behold, I have set the Land before you – go in and possess the Land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, to give to them and to their seed after them” (Devarim, 1:7-8).


The borders are also delineated in the following two verses: “Every place whereupon the soul of your foot shall tread shall be yours, from the wilderness to the Lebanon, from the river, the river Prat to the uttermost sea shall be your border” (Devarim, 11:24); and “Every place that the soul of your foot shall tread upon, that I have given to you, as I said to Moshe, from the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Prat, all the land of the Hitti, as far as the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border” (Yehoshua, 1:3-4).


It must be understood that there is a substantial great difference between the promised borders, and the borders that Israel occupied during the times of the Second Temple. Concerning the mitzvot that are dependent to the Land, such as trumot, ma’asrot, shmittah, and challa, these precepts apply to the regions that we actually settled during the times of the Second Temple, for those places were sanctified regarding the commandments that are dependent on the Land. However, the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz applies to all the promised borders, which are considerably larger. Accordingly, it is written in the book “Kaftor V’Perach” (ch.10): “Behold, the holiness and superiority of the Land applies from the time it was given to the holy forefathers, and not from when it was conquered….”


In his book, “Chesed L’Avraham,” Rabbi Avraham Azuli (grandfather of the Chida) wrote (Spring  3, River 7): “Just as the Shechinah is not whole as long as the Beit HaMikdash is not complete in its place, so too, the Shechinah is not whole as long as Eretz Yisrael is not complete in all of its boundaries, which span from River of Egypt till the great river, the river Prat (Euphrates); and the Shechinah is not complete until Israel dwells, each and every person, in his deserved inheritance, according to his true portion,”




  1. The Southern Border – The River of Egypt


We have learned from the verses (Bereshit, 15:18; and Bamidbar24:5) that the southern border is the River of Egypt (Nahal Mitzraim). There are differing opinions where this is. According to the majority of Rishonim and Achronim (early and later halachic authorities), Nahal Mitzraim is the eastern tributary of the Nile River, at the northern tip of the Suez Canal. This is the opinion of Rashi, Rambam, Tosafot, Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, Tosafot Yom Tov, and the Gaon of Vilna. According to other poskim, Nahal Mitzraim is Nahal El Arish. This is the opinion of the “Kaftor V’Perach,” in the name of Rabbi Sadiah Gaon, the Radbaz, and seemingly, the Even Ezra.


Between those authorities who maintain that Nahal Mitzraim is the eastern extension of the Nile, at the head of the Suez Canal, there are two opinions concerning the southern part of the Sinai Desert. There are those who say that the entire lower half of the Sinai Peninsula is part of Eretz Yisrael, including Rashi and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi in the “Kuzari” (Ch.2:14 ). Others say that it is not a part of Eretz Yisrael, as seems to be the opinion of the Rambam. Nevertheless, according to all the differing opinions, it is clear that all of the Gaza Strip is within the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael.1


  1. Authorities who consider Nachal Mitrayim as being Nachal El Arish include: Kaftor V’Perach, ch.11, 263; Even Ezra, Bereshit, 15:18; Radbaz, part 4:30. Seemingly they say that the border extends continues on to at least Eilat, as it says, “I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea even to the Sea of the Pelishtim, and from the desert to the river” (Shemot, 23:31). Authorities who maintain that the border is the Suez Canal, and that all of the Sinai Penisula is a part of Eretz Yisrael, include: Rashi, Shemot, 23:31; Kuzari, 2:5, 4:3; Tosefot Yom Tov, Taanit 1:3. Authorities who maintain that Nachal Mitrayim is the Suez Canal, but that the southern portion of the Sinai Penisula is not a part of Eretz Yisrael, include: Rambam, in whose opinion the boundary line is the line that extends straight from Eilat to the tributary of the Red Sea that is connected to the Suez Canal. In the Laws of the Sanctification of the Month, 18:16, he wrote that it is the latitude line 30. In the Responsa of the Rambam, 127, he wrote that it is the latitude line 31, situated between the two other opinions, where Eilat is situated. According to Targum Yonaton, it seems that Nachal Mitrayim is the Nile, Bereshit, 15, and Bamidbar, 34:5; also Targum Yerushalmi, there; Tosefot Eruvin15A; Rabbi Eliahu Mizrachi, Bamidbar, 34:5; Radak, Yehoshua, 13:3; HaGra, Yehoshua, 15:10. In all of the opinions, the Gaza Strip is included in the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, not only in the Givulot HaHavtacha (Promised Boundaries to the Forefathers), but also within the boundaries in the conquest of the Land in the days of Yehoshua. This region was in the inheritance of the tribe of Yehuda, as it says, “Aza with its hamlets and villages, to the wadi of Mitzrayim, and the Great Sea being its border” (Yehoshua, 15:47).

One can also say that after Israel conquered half of the Sinai Penisula in the milchemet mitzvah of the Six Day War, everyone would agree that it all became a part of Eretz Yisrael, as is stated in Sifre, Devarim 11: “From the wilderness – the wilderness is not your border, but if you conquer it, then even the wilderness is within your border…” This seems to be the understanding of the Ramban, there. This is the opinion of Mishpat Kohen, that when there is no king, the entirety of the nation takes the place of the king. With the boundaries promised to the Forefathers, permission from the Beit Din  is not needed to conquer them. However, outside the borders of the Land, permission is needed from the Beit Din, since this is not a milchemet mitzvah. But if the war is for self-defense, as in the conquest of the Sinai, this is a milchemet mitzvah, and even without approval of the Beit Din, the conquered region becomes sanctified. See Tzitz Eliezer, part 10, section 1.





  1. The Northern Border


The northern border begins, in the west, from the Mediterranean Sea near Mount Hor (Hor HaHar), as it is written, “And this shall be your northern border, from the great sea you shall mark out your frontier at Mount Hor; from Mount Hor you shall mark your border to the entrance of Hamat, and the limits of the border shall be to Zedad, and the border shall extend to Zifron, and its limits shall be at Hazer Enan; this shall be your northern border” (Bamibar, 34:7).


The question is: Where is Mount Hor located?


There are four opinions:


  1. According to Tirgum Yonaton (Bamidbar, 34:7), Mount Hor is the place called Tavrus Umnus, north of the 36th latitude line.
  2. According to “Kaftor V’Perach,” it is the place called Akra, located on the 36th latitude line.
  3. According to the Rambam, the northern border is the 35th latitude line (Laws of Kiddush HaChodesh,11:17), beginning from the western side in the place called Banyas (See Teshuvot HaRambam 137, where he wrote that according to Chazal, it is called Amnas or Samnus. It is clear that his intention is not to the place we call the “Banyas” today, which is located at the bottom of the Hermon).
  4. According to the Radbaz ( 4: 30) and Rabbi S. Serlio, Mount Hor is located slightly south of Tripoli, at the place called Batrun.


From Mount Hor, the northern border continues eastward until Nahar Prat, the Euphrates River.





  1. The Eastern Border


The eastern border of the Land of Israel, according to the Rambam, is located a six or seven day walk from Jerusalem, the distance of three longitude lines from Jerusalem, continuing from the Euphrates in the north till after the 30th latitude line in the south.


There are those who claim that the Euphrates River is the eastern border, and continues until Yam HaParsi, the Persian Gulf (Otzer Nechmad on the Kuzari.)2


  1. The Rambam states that the sighting of the new month must be in Eretz Yisrael, which extends the length of a 6 or 7 day walk from Jerusalem, which is 3 longitude lines from Jerusalem (Laws of Sanctifying the New Month 11:17). However, if only 3 longitude lines are figured, then a few dozen kilometers are missing in order to reach the Euphrates River. Therefore, it must be explained that the distance of 6 or 7 days is the distance from which the witnesses who spotted the new moon may come, while the border of Eretz Yisrael continues a bit further, since the border must reach the Euphrates, as many poskim maintain. Therefore, the line of the border must be bent a little toward the northeast in order to reach the Euphratis. According to the Kaftor V’Perach, it is possible that the northern border extends in a straight line from west to east all the way to the Euphrates. Targum Yonaton, agrees, and from there it at least continues with the river until reaching the third longitude line from Jerusalem. But the line doesn’t continue further with the Euphrates until the Persian Gulf because the Euphrates designates the northern border, and not the eastern. This is what Rabbi Avraham, the son of the Rambam, writes in his commentary to Shemot, 23:31. Also the Kuzari, 2:14; and Tosefot Yom Tov.

However, in the Otzer Nechmad on the Kuzari, it is written that the Euphrates River is the eastern border until the Persian Gulf, and the Ramban and the Ritva seem to agree regarding Gittin 7B, as brought in the name of the Gaon, Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Hisdiah of France. This is also the sense of Divre HaYamim 1:5:9; and the Radak, there. This is also appears in the book of Rabbi Yisrael Ariel on the borders of Eretz Yisrael. (I would like to note my gratitude to Rabbi Chaim Steiner, with whom I learned these rulings.)




  1. The Order of Inheritance and the Status of the Eastern Side of the Jordan



Given the greater inherent kedushah of the western side of the Jordan River, Moshe Rabbeinu intended to conquer it first, and only afterwards, to settle the eastern bank. Therefore, as we learned in Chapter Three, as the Jews approached the Land of Israel, Moshe Rabbeinu did not endeavor to conquer the land of Sichon and Og. Nonetheless, it is clear in God’s promise to our forefathers that the eastern side of the Jordan is within the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, as it is written, “In that day, the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying, To your seed have I given this Land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Prat” (Bereshit, 15:18),  and as it was told to Israel after the Exodus from Egypt, “And I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea even to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the river, for I will deliver the inhabitants of the Land into your hands, and you shall drive them out before you” (Shemot, 23:31). Following the explanations of our Sages, a careful study of biblical maps shows that the eastern side of the Jordan is indeed Eretz Yisrael according to the Torah’s descriptions.


In spite of this, Moshe’s plan was to first conquer and settle the western side of the Jordan, and from there, they would eventually expand the settlement to the eastern side as well (Ramban, Bamidbar, 21:21). It was only after Sichon and Og rejected Israel’s proposal of peace, choosing to war against them, that the Jews conquered their land. After the tribes of Reuven and Gad requested to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan, Moshe reluctantly agreed, on the condition that they first participate in conquering the holier, principal portion, located on the western side of the Jordan (see above, Ch.3:1).3


  1. From the events in the episode of the tribes of Reuven and Gad, who wanted their inheritance on the eastern bank of the Jordan River (Bamidbar 32), we learn that the initial plan was for everyone to first enter the western portion. From the foundation of having conquered the area containing the principle holiness of the Land, they would later spread out to the eastern side of the river. Also, from the yearnings of Moshe Rabbeinu enter the Land, it seems that until they reached the western side of the Jordan, it wasn’t considered as having entered the main part of the Land.

One should also consider, we learned in the Torah (Bamidbar 34), where the borders of the Land are detailed, that the northern border begins in the west at Hor HaHar, the location of which is divided into four opinions (see above, section 3). There, the poskim do not extend the border to the Euphrates River, but from a point before that the border begins to descend toward the Kinneret. Why is it not stated that the borders reaches the Euphrates? The Malbim explains that the Torah mentions the word “lechem” (“for you”) several times in designating the borders (Bamidbar 34), until stating, “this will be the Land for you,” in order to hint that this is merely a temporary border for them alone, in their time, since the borders of the Land will expand as they did in the days of David, Shlomo, and Herod, when their kingdoms stretched until the Euphrates. And this expansion is certainly true regarding the future as well (Malbim, there). Since we were still a relatively small nation, we were commanded to conquer what was in our power to achieve on the western bank of the Jordan. Thus the Torah states, “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you shall increase in numbers and inherit the Land” (Shemot, 23:30). It may be possible to learn from this that when it is in our power to settle a portion of the Land, we should initially favor the western side of the Jordan. During the long exile, Jews returning to the Land did just this, seeking to gain a portion on the western bank of the Jordan, in Jerusalem, Hevron, Shechem, Aza, Tzfat, Tiberias, and the like.


Regarding the different levels of holiness on the west and east banks of the Jordan River, Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach wrote that the level of kedushah and the presence of the Shechinah are greater on the western bank (Tashbetz 3:200). Additionally, the teaching of Chazal that anyone who is buried in Eretz Yisrael is considered to be buried underneath the Temple altar, thereby atoning for his sins, is speaking about the western side of the Jordan (Ketubot 111A). Similarly, concerning their statement that in the merit of Eretz Yisrael, a couple who had not been blessed with children outside of the Land, could expect have children upon making aliyah, refers to the western side of the Jordan. Chazal also said, “The Land of Canaan is holier than the other side of the Jordan; the Land of Canaan is suitable for the dwelling place of the Shechinah, and the other side of the Jordan  is not suitable for her dwelling” (Bamidbar Rabbah 7:8). In other words, it is impossible to erect the Mishkan permanently on the eastern side of the Jordan. However, concerning the mitzvah of settling the Land, there is no difference between the eastern and the western side of the Jordan. Therefore, regarding a couple who live outside the Land, the husband or wife can force his or her spouse to make aliyah to live on the eastern side of the Jordan. However, one cannot force a marriage partner to move from the eastern side of the Jordan to the western side, for concerning the mitzvot that are dependent on the Land, the eastern side of the Jordan is equal to the western side.4


  1. As we learned, both sides of the Jordan River possess the same status in regards to the commandments, and it states, “The mitzvah of Biur applies in three lands (regions)” (Shve’it 9:2), in Yehuda, the other side of the Jordan, and the Galilee. Also, “In three lands, the leap year is enacted, in Yehuda, the other side of the Jordan, and the Galilee” (Sanhedrin 11:2). Authorities disagreed concerning Bikurim – in the Mishna Bikurim 1:10, Tanna Kamma says that Bikurim are brought from the fruit of the other side of the Jordan, for this is also “your Land.” Rabbi Yosi disagrees, for, although it is considered Eretz Yisrael, it is not included in the expression “a Land flowing with milk and honey.” Rabbi Shimon concurs, for they must be brought from the Land “that You gave me,” excluding the other side of the Jordan which you took for yourselves. The halachah is like the Tanna Kamma that we bring bikurim from the other side of the Jordan.

Regarding the Golan, some say it is a part of the Galilee, and its holiness is like the Land on the western bank of the Jordan, for the other side to the east of the Jordan continues from the Kinneret to the south, but that the Golan is a part of the Galilee.   



















Chapter 5

Laws of the Army and War



  1. The Mitzvah to Serve in the Army


It is a supreme mitzvah from the Torah to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. The foundation of this obligation is based on two general mitzvot – each of which, in certain ways, is as important as all the mitzvot put together. First, the mitzvah of saving Israel from the hand of her enemies, and second, guarding the Land of Israel in order that it be under Jewish sovereignty.


          Saving Israel:


If a Jew in danger, we are commanded to come to his assistance, as it says, “Do not stand aside when trouble befalls your neighbor” (Vayikra, 19:17). To do this, one must be ready to undergo a certain level of risk. How much greater is the obligation to save all of Israel when they are in danger. As our Sages have said in the Mishna, “Anyone who saves the life of a Jew, it is as if he saved an entire world” (Sanhedrin 4:5). Therefore, a soldier who participates in the protection of the entire nation, how much more so is he saving entire worlds.


This is clearly a milchemet mitzvah, as the Rambam has written: “Which is a milchemet mitzvah? The war against the seven nations (conquering of the Land of Israel), the war against Amalek, and saving of Israel from those who rise up against her” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:1). The mitzvah of going to war obligates each individual to be willing to place himself in danger – way beyond the danger we are commanded to enter while saving an individual Jew. According to all authorities, in order to save the life of a Jew, or a number of Jews, one is not commanded to enter into a situation where one will likely be killed. However, in times of war, when soldiers must endanger themselves in order to win the battle, one must be ready to enter a situation where the chances of losing one’s life are greater than being saved. Rabbi Kook explained that the rule of “and you shall live by them,” where we learn that pikuach nefesh (saving life) overrides all the commandments in the Torah, does not apply in times of war, because the laws of the  community (tzibur) are different from the laws of the individual, and for the sake of preserving the community, individuals must be ready to sacrifice their lives. (See, “Mishpat Kohen” 143). In light of this opinion, it is written in the responsa, “Tzitz Eliezer,” that the rule of the Mishna that “your life becomes before the life of your friend” does not apply in wartime, “rather all those involved in the war, together, are obligated to sacrifice their lives for their fellow brothers. This is also included in the rules of the laws of the community, and in the realm of government leadership and regulations” (loc. cited, 13;100. See, “Tzava K’Halachah,” Ch.15).


          Conquering the Land


We are commanded to inherit and settle the Land of Israel, in order that the Land be under Jewish sovereign and settled by Jews in its length and breadth. This mitzvah is equal to all the other commandments together (Sifrei, Reah, 43). This precept nullifies individual concerns of pikuach nefesh, for we are commanded to conquer the Land, and the Torah does not expect us to rely on miracles. Since there are casualties in all wars, it is obvious that the mitzvah to conquer the Land obligates us to endanger our lives for it (Minchat Chinuch 425: 604; Mishpat Kohen, pg. 327, and see Ch.1:4 in this book). Certainly, we must fight in order to protect the parts of Eretz Yisrael that are already in our possession. For many generations, we lacked the ability to organize and build a military force, and therefore we were “onus” and incapable to fulfill the mitzvah. But, with the grace of God, over the last few generations, this capability has returned to our hands, and with it, the obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of conquering the Land.


In this discussion, I have listed first the foundation of saving the Jewish Nation before the mitzvah of settling the Land, similar to Yoav ben Zruriyah, the head of the army in the times of King David. When the battle became fierce and his soldiers needed to be strengthened against the enemy, he mentioned saving the nation before settling the Land, saying, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people, and for the cities of our God; and the Lord will do that which seems right in his eyes” (Samuel 2, 10:12).




  1. The Injunction Not to Fear


Generally, we fulfill all of the commandments as individuals. Even though Israel is responsible for one another, and the supreme intention of all the mitzvot is to fulfill them “in the name of all of Israel,” nevertheless, a mitzvah is an individual obligation, and is fulfilled on an individual basis. However, when it comes to the mitzvah of serving in the army, the individual, to a great extent, nullifies his individuality, and merges himself with the clal. Accordingly, everyone fights together as one, for the sake of Clal Yisrael.


Possessed with this understanding, the individual soldier is capable of not fearing the dangers of war. If one weighs the mitzvah as an individual, when going into battle, a soldier is likely to fear. Indeed, in everyday life, one must be cautious of placing oneself in danger. In doing so, a person fulfills the mitzvah of guarding over one’s life. This is the basis for the halachah that pikuach nefesh overrides all the commandments in the Torah (except for idol worship, murder, and forbidden licentious relations). However, in a time of war, every Jew must elevate himself above and beyond his personal existence, and see himself as a part of Clal Yisrael, as a representative of the Nation of Israel, which has been Divinely designated to sanctify the Name of God in the world. In this manner, he can overcome the natural emotion of fear and fight courageously.


Thus wrote the Rambam: “And as [the soldier] engages in battle, he should trust in God who saves from times of danger, and know that he is waging war for the sake of the unification of God’s Name in the world (Yichud Hashem), and he should not think of his wife nor his children. Rather, he should erase their memory from his heart, and he should turn his attention away from everything else to [concentrate on] the war. Whoever begins to think of these other matters during battle and thus unnerve himself, he transgresses a negative precept, as it says, “Hear O Israel, you draw near today to do battle against your enemies; let not your hearts be faint, and do not tremble, nor be terrified because of them, for the Lord God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies to save you” (Devarim, 20:3-4). Furthermore, he should feel as if all the blood of Israel is hanging on his throat” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 7:15). And if he wasn’t victorious, and didn’t fight with all his heart and soul, it is like he spilled the blood of all his brothers, as it is said, “lest his brother’s heart melt like his heart” (there, 20:8). Behold it is clearly stated in the Prophets, “Cursed be he who does the work of the Lord negligently, and cursed be he who keeps back his sword from blood” (Yirmeyahu, 48:10). And everyone who fights with all his heart, without fear, with his only intention of sanctifying God’s Name, it is promised that no injury or evil will befall him, and he will merit to build a distinguished house in Israel, and it will be an everlasting merit for him and his children, and he will be rewarded with life in the World to Come, as it says, “For the Lord will certainly make my master a sure house, because my master fights the battles of the Lord, and evil has not be found with you all of your days… the soul of my master shall be bound in the bond of life with the Lord your God” (Shmuel 1, 25:28-29).



  1. The Mitzvah to Enlist in the Israel Defense Force


The purpose of the Israel Defense Forces (Tzahal) is to save Israel from her enemies and to fulfill the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land by insuring Israeli sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, it is a mitzvah for each and every Jew who is called upon to enlist in the army. Despite the fact that anyone who serves in the army fulfills this duty, there is a tremendous difference between the value of the mitzvah fulfilled by combat and military support soldiers who put their lives on the line, in contrast to non-combatant soldiers.


One cannot learn otherwise from the soldiers of King David, who, in guarded the camp, were awarded an equal share of the spoil with all the soldiers, as it is written, “But as the share of he who goes out to the battle, so shall his share be that remains by the baggage – they shall share alike” (Shmuel 1, 30:24). In that case, even those who “remained by the baggage,” guarding the camp, were combat soldiers. Since it was necessary to assign soldiers to watch the camp and its gear, and since enlistment in the army was, to a large extent, voluntary and based on the lure of receiving booty, no one would have agreed to watch over the camp if his share was going to be less.  Additionally, even those who guarded the camp exposed themselves to danger, for at that time, the rear was closer to the war front, and enemy soldiers would constantly attempt to attack the camp in order to destroy the supply lines and win the battle. Thus, the role of the soldiers who stayed behind to guard the camp was important and filled with risk.


Today, however, the majority of non-combatant soldiers do not participate in situations of danger and military conflict, and consequently, the level of the mitzvah they fulfill is much lower than those who serve in combat units. The general rule concerning non-combatant soldiers is that the more the soldier contributes to the defense of Israel, the greater his mitzvah is – and there are non-combatant soldiers whose contributions are enormous.


King David’s decision to allocate booty equally between his troops does applyto combat soldiers, regardless of which units they serve in, for they are equally important for the war effort. However, a soldier from an elite commando unit who is frequently called upon to risk his life for the Jewish nation merits greater blessing – the greater the effort, the greater the reward (Avot,5:23).


Already at the initial stages of enlistment and basic training, a soldier fulfills this great mitzvah. The fact that our enemies know that Israel has a strong army deters them from attacking us. Therefore, the mere enlistment and training of soldiers assist in Israel’s defense and facilitate the mitzvah to settle the land. Sometimes, however, deterrence is not sufficient and we must go to war. In such a case, the value of the mitzvah is multiplied, and every soldier must be ready to sacrifice his life accordingly.


Although many people have justified complaints about how Tzahal is manipulated for political ends, this does not alter the mitzvah to serve in the army. For even if all the criticisms are true, and Tzahal is misused, even against the people of Israel themselves, as happened with the expulsions from Gush Katif and the Shomron,- without the Israel Defense Forces, our enemies would rise up to destroy us. Furthermore, it can be argued that the Nation of Israel never possessed a perfect army without operational failures and ethical blemishes. Occasionally in our history, our army had more problems, and sometimes less. Nevertheless, the mitzvah to fight for the nation and the Land always remains in force, and during the times when we didn’t have the defend us, terrible persecutions befell us. Therefore, when criticism is due, it must be expressed, in order to rectify the problems. However, all of the criticisms do not nullify the fundamental mitzvah of serving in the army.


  1. Are Torah Students Required to Serve in the Army?


The mitzvah of learning Torah does not override the mitzvah of serving in the army in order to rescue Israel from her enemies. The Torah permits certain soldiers to return from setting off to war, such as one who built a house and did not consecrate it, or planted a vineyard and did not harvest it, or became engaged but did not marry, but this is in regards to a “milchemet reshut” (a non-obligatory war for economic gains). However, in a “milchemet mizvah,” a war to conquer the Land of Israel, or to rescue Israel from an enemy, “everyone goes out, even a groom from his wedding room and a bride from her wedding canopy” (Sotah 44B). This is also how the Rambam ruled (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 7:4).


The students of Yehoshua ben Nun and King David went out to war and were not concerned about bittul Torah. As for the angel’s reproof of Yehoshua (Joshua) for being guilty of bittul Torah (Megillah 3A), that was because at night, when they weren’t occupied with the war, they didn’t study Torah. In regards to fighting in the war itself, they weren’t accused of interrupting their learning.


We have seen, however, that when Amsa needed to enlist soldiers, and he came to the Chachamim and found them studying Torah, according to the halachah, he could not enlist them (Sanhedrin 49A). In that case, the war was a milchemet reshut which does not override Torah study. However, when there is a need to enlist Torah students for a milchemet mitzvah, to rescue Israel from her enemies, one is obligated to close the Gemorot and go off to war. Concerning what is written in the Talmud, that Torah scholars do not need protection (Baba Batra 8A), the Gemara is not speaking about war, but rather the prevention of theft. But when the Nation of Israel requires protection from enemies, it is a mitzvah to come to her rescue, as it says, “You shall not stand on the blood of your neighbor” (Vayikra, 19:17). As far as pikuach nefesh is concerned, when a commandment must be violated to save a life, the mitzvah is first incumbent on the gedolim (Mishna Berura 328:34). Although it is stated in the Gemara, “Talmud Torah is greater than saving lives” (Megilla 16B), the meaning is that its value is greater, but from the aspect of one’s obligation, when there is a mitzvah that cannot be fulfilled by others, every mitzvah overrides the command of Talmud Torah – all the more so in regards to the mitzvah of saving Israel from its enemies.


Nevertheless, concerning students who are capable of becoming outstanding talmidei chachamin for the sake of Clal Yisrael, our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, ztz’l, ruled that as long as the army does not need to enlist them, it is better that they defer their induction, and continue to ascend in Torah study, learning in order to teach Torah to the nation. In this way, they would make a decisive contribution to Israel’s spiritual wellbeing, in addition to its defense and settlement of the Land, which are both enhanced by the learning of Torah, which brings blessings to all aspects of the nation. Rabbi Kook emphasized that this allowance only had value if the learning was conducted with great honor due to the soldiers who physically fulfilled the mitzvah of saving Israel and settling the Land, at the risk of their lives, for only in this way could their learning contribute toward lifting the spirit and valor of Clal Yisrael.




  1. Modesty in the Army


There is a section in the Torah that deals with Israel’s military camp, which must be holy and pure: “When you go out to encamp against your enemies, keep yourself away from every evil thing. If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chances by night, then he shall go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: but it shall be, when evening comes on, he shall bathe himself in water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again. You shall have a place also outside the camp, where you shall withdraw yourself: and you shall have a spade among your weapons, and it shall be, when you will ease yourself outside, you shall dig with it, and shall turn back and cover your excrement: for the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you, and to give up your enemies before you; therefore your camp shall be holy: that He sees no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you” (Devarim, 23:10-15).


In general, the Torah demands that a military camp in Israel must be free of “every evil thing,” that is to say, from all the sins mentioned in the Torah, including the sins which are considered especially evil, such as idolatry, incest and murder (Sifri, there). Since the Torah used the term “dvar ra,” we learn that one must be careful not to commit sins through speech, especially the prohibitions of cursing G-d and lashon hara (ibid). Our Sages have said, “Anyone who speaks lashon hara brings about transgressions which can lead to idol worship, incest, and murder” (Archin 15B).


More specifically, the Torah demands that Jewish soldiers must be cautious concerning issues of modesty, this being the explicit meaning of “dvar ra.” Soldiers must even be careful not to think impure thoughts, as the Talmud states: “The Rabbi’s have taught regarding the injunction, ‘V’nishmarta m’kol dvar ra,’ that one should not think about impure things during the day, lest he come to pollute himself (with a nocturnal emission) at night” (Avodah Zara 20B). This is the meaning of “mikre lilah,” in the verse, “uncleanness that chances by night,” which is derived from the word “keri,” meaning an accidental emission of seed. This is also emphasized at the end of the portion regarding a military camp, “therefore your camp shall be holy: that He sees no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you.” The main intention of this verse is to caution one from engaging in sexual fantasies, not to mention forbidden acts, God forbid. Included in this is the warning against obscenity and immodest clowning (latzanut), for these prohibitions are connected to both speech and illicit sexual matters. From the warnings of our Sages, we have learned that obscene speech and latzanut are likely to cause Jews to die (see Tanchuma, Ki Tayzay 3).


A number of reasons have been mentioned concerning this special commandment, and all of them are words of the Living God. The Torah itself explains: “for the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp.” The soldiers of Israel are the cherished sons of the Holy One Blessed Be He, and His Divine Presence, the Shechinah, watches over them in order “to deliver you, and to give up your enemies before you.” The military camp of Israel, what we call Tzahal today, has a holiness similar to that of the Sanctuary, and therefore, soldiers keep themselves in a sanctify state, just like the Priests who serve in the Temple. If there be sexual wrongdoing in the military camp, God removes His Divine Presence from amongst us, Heaven forbid. Chazal explain that soldiers are in greater need of Divine assistance, for Satan brings accusations against sinners in times of danger, and therefore, soldiers must be especially cautious in these matters.


The Ramban mentions the well-known fact that soldiers in military camps are prone to all kind of transgression. Pressured with the mental and physical stress of difficult training, and the dangers of war, they look for ways to break the tension, and the easiest way to do so is by engaging in levity, cursing, and illicit sexual behavior. Additionally, the demand to risk one’s life in battle causes a disruption of the conventional framework. Suddenly, the terrible act of killing someone is permitted. Unexpectedly, a soldier reveals within himself mental and physical powers he never knew he possessed, and if he is not careful to restrain himself, these powerful life forces can be swayed to negative directions. Therefore, the Torah makes it a point to warn soldiers to keep away from all immoral wrongdoing.


Aside from this, when a man is with his family, he restrains himself more from illicit sexual matters. In contrast, when he goes to the army, all the conventional fences are shattered, and the likeliness of transgression and licentiousness grows. There is also a tendency that in occupying themselves with military matters for the general sake of the nation, soldiers will come to disregard individual mitzvot, such as guarding ones speech and not fantasizing about sexual transgression. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that our army camp must be holy, and that specifically, because of its holiness, we will be victorious in battle.


Also, after the war, soldiers return home to their families, and if they abused their natural Israeli modesty and holiness, they will have caused damage to psyche and souls, and won’t be able to love their spouses in a complete and healthy fashion, for modesty and holiness are the foundations of love and family blessing.



  1. Holiness within the Army Camp


In addition to the laws of modesty which must be strictly guarded in the army, we have learned from the Torah portion dealing with the military camp that the cleanliness of the camp must also be guarded – that it be clean of excrement. Therefore, the Torah commands that a soldier who needs to relieve himself must do so outside of the camp, and afterwards, he must cover his excrement, as it says, “You shall have a place also outside the camp, where you shall withdraw yourself: and you shall have a spade among your weapons, and it shall be, when you will ease yourself outside, you shall dig with it, and shall turn back and cover your excrement”(Devarim, 23:13-15). For as long as there is excrement in the camp, it is forbidden to utter holy words, and God, who walks amongst Israel’s camp, is likely to remove His Divine Presence. Thus, in addition to guarding matters concerning modesty, we must be meticulous in the army in connection with matters of sanitation, for the whole purpose of the Torah’s command to insure that the camp be clean is to enable words of holiness, Torah, and blessings to be said there.


Our Sages teach that an angel of God revealed himself to Yehoshua, rebuking him for not learning Torah at night, when they weren’t preparing for war (Megillah 3A). Indeed, afterwards, during the night before the battle of Ay, Yehoshua learned Torah, as it says, “Yehoshua lodged that night among the people” (Yehoshua, 8:9), and, “Yehoshua went that night into the midst of the valley,” (ibid, 8:13), and the Sages said, “This comes to teach us that he lodged in the depths of halachah” (Megillah 3B).


Not every soldier is capable of achieving the level of Yehoshua ben Nun, to study the depths of halachah the night before battle. Even during army training it is not easy to learn Torah diligently. Nevertheless, every soldier must be meticulous as far as prayers are concerned, and endeavor to learn Torah whenever possible, making sure to study something every day, if only for a few minutes, in order to fortifying the holiness of the camp.



  1. Strictness or Leniency in Halachah


As is well known, there are often differing opinions in halachah – certain opinions are lenient while others are strick. Usually, the halachah is decided according to the majority, and in pressing circumstances (sha’at hadachak), we rely on the lenient opinions. Those exceedingly meticulous in their Torah observance (hamahedrin) attempt to be stringent, adhering even to the minority opinion, in order to fulfill the directives of all of the Torah authorities (poskim). The question is: How should one behave in the army – leniently or strictly?


We have seen that the Torah warns us to guard ourselves from every evil matter within the army camp, as it says, “When you go out to encamp against your enemies, keep yourself away from every evil thing” (Devarim, 23:10). There are three main reasons for this: 1) The Divine Presence dwells within Israel’s army camp. 2) Satan accuses sinners in times of danger, and therefore, especially in the army, we need to be more meticulous in our performance of mitzvot, in order to merit God’s help. 3) Army life is liable to lower the spiritual level of a soldier, and to combat this, he must strengthen his observance of the commandments and his adherence to holy character traits.


On the other hand, the Sages deferred soldiers from six things while they engaged in battle: 1) They are allowed to bring wood from anywhere without fear of stealing. 2) They don’t have to search for water for netillat yadayim before eating bread. 3) They are allowed to eat d’mai, fruits that the Sages obligated to be tithed due to their doubtful status. 4) They are not required to place food for two meals in order to make an eruv hatzerot and an eruv t’chumin. 5) They can camp out and traverse fields freely, without worrying about damage caused to the owner of the field. 6) Soldiers killed in battle are buried where they fall and needn’t be interned in a proper Jewish cemetery (Eruvin 17A). These leniencies are permitted when the soldiers go out to war. However, during training, the Sages did not sanction these six things. According to the opinion of Rabbi Herzog, even in permanent outposts, where soldiers do guard-duty on the borders, they are not permitted to do these six things (Heichal Yitzchak, Or HaChaim 47).


The Sages permitted these six things even in a situation where there is no fear question of pikuach nefesh, for in cases of pikuach nefesh, all of the mitzvot are nullified, and not only these six things. Rather, the Sages realized that if soldiers, under difficult field conditions, needed to be meticulous concerning these six things, it would cause them great difficulties, and might hinder their military performance. Therefore, they pardoned them. For example, if soldiers had to carry an additional supply of water everywhere they went in order to properly wash their hands before eating bread (netillat yadayim), and carry wood for fire, this would cause a great hindrance. And if they needed to bury every soldier who fell in battle in a proper cemetery, they might have to carry the body with them for days, and not be able to deal with the enemy. Additionally, if soldiers had to ask every landowner for permission to camp out on his property, or permission to take wood, this would pose a great inconvenience. Nevertheless, it must be noted that today, in the majority of these cases, we are not lenient. For example, since the army has transport vehicles, every fallen soldier can be brought to a cemetery, and water for netillat yadayim can easily be supplied in abundance. And since there are adequate means of communication, it is possible to previously coordinate places for camping-out without causing damage to landowners.


Nevertheless, from these foundations, we learn a basic principle. Concerning things that are liable to hinder the war effort, one should rely on the lenient opinion, similar to the Sages who were lenient in connection to these six issues. On the other hand, concerning situations that are not liable to interfere, one should be meticulous and strive to sanctify the army camp. And during training, where there is no question of immediate danger, a soldier should be even more stringent in his mitzvah observance then when he is at home, to insure the holiness of the military encampment.


  1. Military Orders that Contradict Mitzvot From the Torah


The Israel Defense Forces and its officers have the authority, given to them by elected public officials and the laws of the State, to draft soldiers into the army, in order to protect the nation and the Land. Occasionally, the need for war arises, and soldiers must obey orders – even under life-threatening circumstances.


In order to organize the army and prepare it for war, soldiers must be trained. During the training period, soldiers also must obey orders so they can learn the techniques of fighting and the disciplines of war.


However, if a soldier receives an order that contradicts the halachah, it is forbidden for him to fulfill it. Even in the days when there were kings in Israel who were chosen by prophets and the Sanhedrin, if the king gave an order to disobey a mitzvah from the Torah, it was forbidden to listen to him. The Rambam writes: “One who ignores a decree of the king because he was busy fulfilling a mitzvah, even a seemingly easy mitzvah, he is pardoned, because when one has to chose between the words of the rabbi (God) and the words of the slave (the king), the words of the rabbi come first. There is no need to mention that if the king decreed to cancel a mitzvah, we do not listen to him” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 3:9).


For example, on Shabbat, if a commander gave an order to drive a patrol vehicle to guard an area where Jewish life may be endangered, the pikuach nefesh involved makes it a mitzvah to travel. However, if he gave an order to travel for other reasons, like to transport blocks to a construction site, it is forbidden to abide. Sometimes, soldiers have doubts – maybe it is a situation of pikuach nefesh, or maybe it isn’t? In a situation like this, the order should be performed, since even a doubtful case of pikuach nefesh nullifies the Shabbat (Yoma 83A). However, after the Shabbat, the soldier should investigate the reason for the order, and if it turns out that it was not given for pikuach nefesh, he must lodge a complaint against the officer, in every way possible, in order to prevent orders that will cause a desecration of Shabbat in the future.


Once, there was an incident where soldiers received an order to travel on Shabbat in order to destroy a hilltop Jewish enclave in the Shomron which had not yet received status as a legal settlement. Since there was no question of pikuach nefesh, it was forbidden for them to travel and desecrate Shabbat in the process. In cases like these, it is also forbidden to play stupid or be scared of reprimand, for when there is no question of pikuach nefesh, a soldier must refuse to obey the order, and not to start debating uselessly that perhaps he should fulfill the order because maybe it is a situation of pikuach nefesh.


On another occasion, a battalion had to perform a training exercise starting from before sunrise and lasting until the afternoon. During the first half of the exercise, there was a long break, but the commanding officer forbade the soldiers to pray the morning prayers, claiming that a higher ranking officer was liable to appear any moment, and that upon his arrival, they would have to continue the exercise immediately. Since the soldiers knew that the second stage of the exercise would continue until afternoon, and seeing that the break had already lasted half an hour, they nonetheless decided to pray. In this case, they acted correctly, for there was no pressing reason to continue the exercise immediately, leaving no time for the morning prayers. If it was possible to wait for the high ranking officer indefinitely, then there was time to allow the soldiers to pray, for the honor due to the high ranking officer is not more important than the honor due to Heaven.




  1. Serving in Co-ed Units


According to what we have previously learned about the holiness of a Jewish army camp (section 6), it is clear that the Torah forbids the establishment of mixed-gendered units in the army; and it is forbidden for a soldier to participate in intensive military activities with women.


One should not ask: If this is the case, why is it not forbidden for a man to work in a store, or a bank, or any other place where women are present. As we have learned, in the army, we have to be even more cautious over modesty than in civilian life. In addition, one cannot compare the close and highly-charged relations created in army units to those in civilian life. Moreover, the very fact that, in civilian life, a man returns home every night to his family greatly protects him from his evil inclination. Also, soldiers are young and most often single, and therefore, the restrictions governing the interaction between men and women must be more carefully watched. Furthermore, in civilian life, one who feels that in his place of work or studies he is liable to sin, he must leave the place in order to guard his purity and holiness. In contrast, in the army, a soldier does not have the ability to leave his unit whenever he wishes, so at the outset, care must be taken to insure that men and women do not come into close contact in military bases and camps, and, all the more so, in active combat.

If someone were to say that rabbis should teach their students how to deal with their evil inclinations, we would answer by saying that anyone who makes such a statement proves that he doesn’t understand one of the important fundamentals of Judaism. The Torah does not concern itself solely with righteous individuals, but rather with the community as a whole, including those who are easily swayed by their inclinations. Therefore, restrictions were established to help guard the mitzvot, and the more fundamental the mitzvah is, the more restrictions were set around it. For example, the commandment to believe in God, and the prohibition against idol worship are so fundamental, many of the mitzvot serve as fences against idol worship (see the Rambam’s discussion of this theme in his book, “Moreh Nevuchim”). This is the path the Sages adopted – the more fundamental the commandment, the more restrictions they set around it. The issues of sexual purity, of chastity, and faithfulness and love between husband and wife, are sacred foundations of our holy Jewish nation, and therefore, many restrictions were established, in order that a husband could guard all of his love for his wife, and to enable single young men to preserve their holiness and purity. In this matter, even a person who is righteous the majority of his life is liable one day to falter, and that failure is likely to critically damage his family. As our Sages have said, “There is no guarantee against sexual transgression” (Ketubot 13B).


Clearly, it is forbidden to agree to arrangements whereby only the units in the army comprised of yeshiva students will be pious, while the rest of the camp will be unholy and filled with immodest behavior and “nakedness,” in violation of “that He sees no unclean thing in you” (Devarim, 23:15), for we have responsibility for every single Jew. Therefore, we must demand that it be possible to serve in all I.D.F. units according to the halachah. The more soldiers are willing to stubbornly fight for their right to serve in each and every unit in Tzahal, according to the Torah, without compromises, the more we will merit to have God walk in our camp, to save us, and to deliver our enemies before us.




  1. Women in the Army


Even though women are also obligated by the commandments of saving fellow Jews and settling the Land, the Torah did not command them to enlist in the army, for this is not their manner. As our Sages have said, it is not the manner of women to conquer (Yevamot 65B), and it is not the way of a woman to make war (Kiddushin 2B). Consequently, we do not find women going out to war during the period of the First and Second Temple. Although the Sages of the Mishna said, “In a milchemet mitzvah everyone goes out, even the bridegroom from his room, and a bride from her canopy” (Sotah 44B), and the Rambam agreed (Laws of Kings and Their Wars 7:4), commentators clarify that since the bridegroom left his room to go to war, the bride leaves her canopy and returns home. Others said that in a milchemet mitzvah, even the women are commanded to participate in the war effort by fulfilling tasks on the home-front, like delivering water and food (Radbaz, Tifferet Yisrael, Rashash).


We have learned that in the Israeli army, we must guard against anything that is not modest, as it says, “When you go out to encamp against your enemies, keep yourself away from every evil thing” (Devarim, 23:10)The meaning is that one must even guard himself from thoughts of sin, as the Sages explained (Avodah Zara 20B): “keep yourself away from every evil thing” – one should not fantasize during the day, and come to pollute himself at night (with a nocturnal emission).” The warning to guard against sexual fantasies is also evident from verse, “that He sees no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you” (Devarim, 23:15).  Since the Torah uses the words “ervat dvar,” the Sages learned that one must guard against obscene language and cynical clowning (latzanut), for these prohibitions are related to both speech and sexual licentiousness. And we have seen that vulgar speech and latzanut are liable to bring tragedy in their wake (see section 5; and Tanchuma, Ki Taytze 3). It is clear, therefore, that placing men and women together under army conditions absolutely contradicts the teachings of the Torah. This is also the decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel  – it is forbidden for women to enlist in the army.


Women, however, can participate in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of defending the nation against its enemies by encouraging men to enlist in the army, and in times of need, they assist by performing home-front tasks.




  1. The Mitzvah to Offer Peace


When Israel needs to go to war against a city, the Torah commands us first to call out to it with an offer of peace, as is written: “When you approach a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace to it” (Devarim, 20:10). The meaning of offering peace is an offer that it  surrender, as it says, “And it shall be if it makes an answer of peace, and opens [its gates] to you, all the people inside shall become your subjects and serve you” (Devarim, 20:11). This includes accepting Israel’s complete rule, the payment of taxes, and a willingness to provide physical assistance for all of Israel’s needs. In addition to this, the residents of the city must accept upon themselves the seven Noahide commandments (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 6:1). These are the prohibition of idol worship, the prohibition of incest, the prohibition of murder, the prohibition of stealing, the prohibition of blasphemy, the prohibition of eating the limb of a live animal, and the obligation to appoint a court system to judge righteously between man and his fellow man.


Even when Israel goes to war to annihilate Amalek, we must first offer them peace. In other words, to offer them to accept upon themselves the seven Noahide commandments, through which they are no longer considered Amalek. If they agree to this, and to be subservient to Israel and pay taxes, we don’t go to war against them. If they don’t accept these conditions, we fight them until they are destroyed (this seems to be the position of the Rambam and Kesef Mishnah, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 6:1-4. See also Ch.5, Z’manim 14:8).


This is what Yehoshua did. Before crossing the Jordan River, he sent three letters to the Canaanite inhabitants of the Land. In the first letter, he wrote: Whoever wants to escape – flee. In the second letter, he wrote: Whoever wants to make peace – let him make peace.  In the third letter, he wrote: Whoever wants to make war – we will come to fight. Indeed, the Girgashim decided to flee and went to live in Africa (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shevi’it, Ch. 6, Mishna 1; Devarim Rabbah 5:13).


If so, we can ask, why did the Gibeonites have to use trickery, pretending that they came from a distant place? (Yehoshua, Ch.9). According to the Rambam, it was because they wanted to make a covenant with Israel, and not become tributary to them. Since the Gibeonites relied on trickery, Israel was not obligated to fulfill the pact they made with them. Nevertheless, had Israel violated the oath made by their leaders, this would have been a desecration of the Name of God, and therefore, they fulfilled their part of the treaty. According to the opinion of the Riyved, the Gibeonites could have accepted the offer of peace as long as Israel had not yet crossed over the Jordan River. Afterward, however, the war already began, and they lost their chance to accept the peace offer (see the Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 6:5).


It must be pointed out that when a suspicion exists in the course of calling for peace, that the enemy will attack us and cause casualties, we should not offer them shalom.





  1. All Out War


When an offer of peace is rejected, Israel goes to war.  We are commanded to destroy the enemy army, without any hesitation or misplaced compassion. As the Torah states: “If they will not make peace with you, but will make war against you, then you shall lay siege to it [the city]. And when the Lord you God has delivered it into your hands, you shall strike down every male in it by the sword. But the women, children, and cattle, and all that is in the city, you shall take for yourself. You shall eat the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. Thus shall you do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not the cities of the nations that are here. But of the cities of these peoples, which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive no soul” (Devarim 20:12-16).


The question arises: Why did we have to kill all the males, and concerning the Canaanites, why did we have to kill everyone?


There are two essential reasons for this:


  1. A) In war, victory must be complete. If not, another war will undoubtedly occur which will put our nation in danger once again – and who knows what the outcome will be? Additionally, if the victory is not complete, we will not deter other enemies from wanting to destroy us. Everything is dependent on the accepted norms of battle. In previous times, wholesale slaughter was the way of the victors. If Israel had not behaved in that way, all of the surrounding nations would have known that it’ worthwhile to fight against Israel, for if the enemy won – great, and if they lost – not so bad because the Jews were compassionate (see Igrot Ra’ayah Vol. 1, pg. 100).
  2. B) Justice demands the exacting of punishment against the haters of Israel. What they planned to do to us, we must do to them. Israel acted this way in its victory over the wicked Haman.


If one were to ask: If we behave in such a manner, what’s the difference between Israel and the other nations? There are two differences: Israel first offers peace, and even after we win, we take revenge only according to necessity and justice – and no more.


Likewise, today, we must strive for complete victory, until the absolute surrender of our enemies, for the sake of deterrence, and in order to punish. It’s true that today, thank God, it is universally not acceptable to kill all the males, and in general, attempts are made not to hurt civilians. Consequently, we have no need to do so to our enemies. Nevertheless, we must make sure that our victory is overwhelming and painful, in order to deter our enemies, and also that their punishment be exacting, measure for measure – what they planned to do to us, we shall do to them. Beyond this, however, we should not do more.




  1. Obliterating the Wicked In War


When we go to war against the enemy who attempts to annihilate us, the goal is not only to save Israel and deter other foes who harbor the same nefarious goal, but to also eradicate the wicked and purge wickedness the world.


Ideally, we long to be charitable to all mankind. We inherited this noble trait from Avraham, our forefather, may he rest in peace, who was a beacon of loving kindness in the world through his outstanding hospitality. With unconditional love, he sought to uplift even lowly idol worshipers, inviting them into his tent and drawing them close to faith in the One and only God. Jews, by nature, are naturally compassionate and benevolent (Yevamot 79A). However, man has been given freedom of choice, and when the leader of a nation opts to act wickedly, seeking to kill us and steal our Holy Land, we are commanded to fight him, in order to punish him and his supporters.


As in the words of King David who sang: “I have pursued my enemies, and destroyed them; / and turned back not again until I had consumed them. / And I have consumed them, and crushed them, that they could not arise: / they are fallen under my feet. / For You have girded me with strength to battle: / they that have rose up against me have You subdued under me. / You have also made my enemies turn their backs on me, / that I might destroy them that hate me. They looked, but there was none to save, / to the Lord, but He answered them not. / Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did tread them down…” (Book of Shmuel 2, 22:38-43).



Indeed, King David applied not only defensive tactics, but also initiated attacks against Israel’s enemies. His army wouldn’t have been called the “Israel Defense Force,” but rather the “Israel Attack Force,” or simply the “Israeli Army.” In fighting enemies who seek to destroy us, there is no place for embarrassment, apologies, or misplaced compassion. As our Sages have taught, he who is kind to the cruel, will eventually show cruelness to the kind (Kohelet Rabbah 7:16).


One must know that whoever fights Israel is also fighting God, for Israel is His son. The Melchilta states, “Whoever attacks Israel is treated as having attacked God” (Beshalach, Mesechta Deshira, 6). Therefore, King David’s battles against Israel’s enemies are called “the wars of Hashem” (Shmuel 1, 18:17; 28:28). This is true moral bravery, to erase from the world the haters of God and Israel. For doing so, King David had the merit to establish the kingship in Israel for all generations. But he never forgot that his victories, and his great strength in battle, came from Hashem, as he concludes in his song:


Therefore I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the nations, / and I will sing praises to your Name. / He is the tower of salvation for his king: / and shows mercy / to his anointed, to David, and to his seed forever” (Shmuel 2, 22:50-51).


























Chapter Six

Status of Non-Jews in the Land



  1. Non-Jews in the Land of Israel


Two prohibitions are mentioned in the Torah concerning gentiles who live in the Land of Israel. One is a general prohibition which obligates the Nation of Israel: “Do not make a covenant with them, or with their gods. They shall not dwell in your Land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Shemot, 23:32-33).The second prohibition is directed to every individual Jew, not to sell land in Israel to a non-Jew, in order not to enable them to establish a presence in the Land, as it is says, “When the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall smite them, then you shall utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them; neither shall you make marriages with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons, and do not take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your son away from following Me, causing them to worship other gods…” (Devarim,7:2-4)


The foremost Rishonim and Achronim (early and later Torah authorities) disagreed regarding which non-Jews are included in this prohibition. Three main opinions were stated:


According to the first opinion, the prohibition, “They shall not dwell in your Land” applies only to the seven Canaanite nations, for the Torah specifically mentions them in context with this verse. However, the prohibition “not to show them mercy” (“lo tichanaym”) applies to other nations as well, in accordance with the second and third opinions (Rashi, Riyved, Smag).


The second opinion maintains that the prohibition applies at all times, regarding both  idol worshipers, and those who do not keep the seven Noahide commandments, for we are afraid they will cause Jews to sin. The prohibition does not apply to someone who does not actively worship idols and fulfills the seven Noahide commandments (Kesef Mishneh in his commentary on the Rambam, Mizbayach Adama). These are the seven Noahide commandments: the prohibitions of idol worship, incest, murder, stealing, blasphemy, eating the limb of a live animal, and the obligation to establish a court system to judge righteously all the laws between man and his fellow man.


The third opinion holds that any non-Jew who is not defined as a ‘ger toshav’ (resident alien) should not be allowed to settle in our Land or to purchase property. In order to be considered a ger toshav, a non-Jew must meet two conditions: he must abide by the seven Noahide commandments, and to believe in Lord God of Israel – including his complete acceptance of Israel’s sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael as dictated by the Torah. However, the Rambam added that when the Jubilee year cannot be observed for halachic reasons, the courts do not have the authority to accept a ger toshav. Consequently, in our time, when the Jubilee year not in effect, according to this opinion, there is no permission for non-Jews to live in Israel. The Torah wants us to establish our holy nationhood in Eretz Yisrael, and as long as a non-Jew has not officially accepted upon himself to live according to the principles of Israel’s Torah, he can have a negative influence on society (this is the opinion of the Rambam according to the Magid Mishneh and the Minchat Chinuch. This is also the opinion of the Ritva and the Natziv).1


  1. The opinion that “They shall not dwell in your Land” applies only to the seven nations is Rashi’s on Gittin 45A; Raavad, Hilchot Avodah Zara 10:6; Smog, Negative Commandments 47, 49. However, it seems that they are believe that “Lo Tichanaym” applies to all non-Jews, as in the second and third opinions. The opinion of the Rambam in Hilchot Avodah Zara 10:6 is divided. According to the Kesev Mishna, everyone who observes the seven commandments is not under the prohibition of remaining in the Land. The Misba’ach Adama agrees with this. This is in accordance with the second opinion. However, the majority understood the Rambam that only someone who was accepted as a ger toshav by the Beit Din was permitted to stay in the Land, and that today, it is impossible to accept a ger toshav. The Raavad understood the Rambam this way (although he believed otherwise) as did the Magid Mishna and Minchat Chinuch. Rabbi Rabinowitz in Yad Pishutah, Hilchot Avodah Zara 10:7 differentiates between two types of ger toshav; someone who the Beit Din accepted and we agree to sustain, applicable when the Yovel is in force; and someone who behaves like a ger toshav and is permitted to dwell in the Land but whom we are not obligated to sustain. Other authorities hold according to the third opinion – the Ritva, Makot 9:1 and Kaftor v’Perach; and Yalkut Shimone, Mishpatim 247, 361. In contrast, from HaMilkilta DeRebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, ch.23, 33, holds according to the second opinion, like the Radak, Shmuel 2, 24:23. The general prohibitions “not to show mercy,” and, “they shall not dwell in your Land,” go together, as Rabbi Kook writes, and in the Responsa of Rabbi Goren 1:8, pg.232, and section 2, response 3, pg.254. Dependent on this difference of opinion is the question of selling fields to a Yishmaelite during the shmittah year. In the opinion of the Netziv and other Achronim, the halachah is according to the third opinion, prohibiting the selling of fields to a non-Jew during the shmittah. Those supporting the “heter hamicherah,” like Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanon, the Rabbi of Kutna, Rabbi Mohaliver, and Rabbi Kook, relied in a time of need on the second opinion, permitting the selling of fields in Eretz Yisrael to someone who observes the seven commandments of Bnei Noach. And only in a sale for the duration of a year, with the intention of returning it, in order to strengthen the Jewish settlement in the Land.



  1. The Halachic Status of Arabs Living in Israel


When the State of Israel was established, the foremost Rabbis of the time discussed the status of the Arabs and the question of whether we are commanded to actively work towards their expulsion from our Land.


According to many distinguished halachic authorities, it is forbidden for any non-Jew who is not considered a ger toshav to live in our Land. This is the opinion of the Rambam (Laws of Idol Worship 10:6). In accord with this opinion, it follows that we must expel the Arabs from the Land of Israel, for presently an Arab cannot become a ger toshav, because, as we have noted, when the Jubilee year does not apply, it is impossible to accept a ger toshav. However, some authorities, including former Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog, clarified that today, the prohibition is not to allow non-Jews who come from outside the Land to enter Eretz Yisrael, for, since it is presently impossible to accept a ger toshav, we are commanded not to let him enter the Land. Concerning the Arabs already living here, since they presumably follow the seven Noahide commandments, and recognize the sovereignty of the Nation of Israel nation over its Land, we are not  commanded to expel them.


However, over the decades that have passed since the establishment of the State, it has become clear that, in actuality, many of the Arabs living in Israel do not accept our sovereignty over the Land. Additionally, many of them do not fulfill the seven Noahide commandments – whether through the assistance they give to terrorists, thereby transgressing the prohibition of “You shall not murder,” or in the fact that they generally do nothing to bring terrorists to trial, as they are instructed to do in the seventh commandment of the sons of Noach – to establish a judicial system (see, Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 9:14). Therefore, many of them are not considered ger toshav, and we are commanded to expel them from the Land.


Presently, it is impossible to know what percentage of the Arab population is entitled to be called ger toshav, for, unfortunately, the government of Israel has abandoned the Arab population to the rule of murderous gangs – which it itself helped to establish and arm. Therefore, only after we expel all those who are openly in favor of our destruction, whether they reside within the “Green Line,” or in the “West Bank,” or Gaza, can we then offer the population that remains the choice: to live here as a ger toshav according to the just and ethical principles of the Torah – or to emigrate to another country.


Indeed, when we have the ability to do so, we are obligated to expel non-Jews who don’t accept upon themselves the seven Noahide commandments. However, when the strength of the gentiles is stronger than ours (yad ha’goyim tikyfa aleinu), whether through military prowess, or international pressure against us, we are prevented from fulfilling this mitzvah (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship 10:6). It is possible that today, in the wake of antagonistic world pressure, we fall under this category. Nevertheless, we are not exempt from trying to find ways to fulfill the commandments of God. And even when we are not able to expel our enemies, we are obligated to encourage their emigration through universally excepted methods.



  1. When Non-Jewish Residence in the Land Impinges on Yishuv HaAretz



In addition to the question of which non-Jews are not allowed residence in our Land, in order that we not be swayed after their ways, when speaking of a political entity with national aspirations to impose their own sovereignty over the Land, (like with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas organizations), there is a further consideration prohibiting their residence in our Land: in order that we can fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land without their interference. The Torah commands us, “Clear out the Land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the Land to possess” (Bamidbar, 33:53) Rashi comments: “Clear out the Land from its inhabitants, and then live in it – then you will be able to dwell in it. If not, you will not be able to live in it.” In the “Siftei Chachamim” it is explained that the Hebrew, “horashtem et haAretz” (literally: to inherit or possess the Land ) means “to expel them,” or as we have translated, “Clear out the Land.”


Further on, it is written, “But if you do not drive out the Land’s inhabitants from before you, then it shall come to pass, those who you allow to remain shall be as barbs in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the Land wherein you dwell. Moreover, it shall come to pass that I will then do to you, as I thought to do to them” (Bamidbar, 33:55-56). Additionally, the wicked, who glorify violence, murder, and falsehood, and make them the tools of their trade, although their religion is not defined as idol worship, they are worse than idol worshipers, especially when they increase their battle against the Torah and Nation of Israel.


Furthermore, the laws dealing with the prohibition “They shall not reside in your Land,” concern a period when there is no war, or when confrontations are limited. However, in times of war, the rules are different: we do not look upon each person as an individual, rather, we relate to the general society at war against us. Consequently, in addition to wanting to win the battle, the rules of “they shall not reside in your Land” change. Consequently, if it is necessary in achieving the goals of the war, then the entire population must be expelled, as Israel did in the War of Independence. Only those who are known to have supported us can stay – like with Rachav and her family in Jericho, during the time of Yehoshua.


Clearly, we must take international political constraints into consideration. The mitzvah of settling the Land does not require us to rely on to fight the entire world while depending on miracles. The goal, however, must be clear – that our enemies not dwell amongst us. If this goal is clearly understood, we can explore and find creative ways to implement it through peaceful means, or at least in a way that is compatible to the precedents and moral ethics of our times.

We must stand firm on our right and obligation to speak this truth, without being deterred by fears and threats of any type. We must explain to the entire world that, at first, when Medinat Yisrael was established, we agreed to let the Arabs live in our Land. However, since they have repeatedly risen against us to destroy us, we must expel them from our Land. If we declare this fearlessly, we will already have gained greater deterrence and saved the lives of many Jews. And, we will have come closer to the stage when we can fulfill the mitzvah of expelling our enemies from our land.




























Chapter Seven

The Prohibition of Surrendering Land



  1. The Prohibition of Surrendering Parts of the Land of Israel


It is forbidden to surrender parts of Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews. Handing over even a single clod of earth is forbidden. The following is a brief description of the prohibitions involved:


  • The Mitzvah of Settling the Land

The mitzvah of settling the Land commands us to conquer the Land, as it says in the Torah, “And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it, for I have given you the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar, 33:53). It is further written, “For you shall pass over the Jordan to go in and possess the Land which the Lord your God gives you, and you shall possess it and dwell in it” (Devarim, 11:31). As the Ramban has written in his “Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam,” Positive Commandment 4, this mitzvah is applicable in all generations. This ruling has been codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 75), and the Pitchei Tshuva has written (ibid, sub-section 6) that all of the poskim have agreed. It has also been explained that the mitzvah of settling the Land even overrides the pikuach nefesh of individuals, for according to the Torah, we are commanded to conquer the Land of Israel, and, as is known, there is no such thing as a war without casualties. From here we learn that in the milchemet mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land, and defending against enemies who seek to destroy us, the pikuach nefesh of individuals is not taken into consideration (Minchat Chinuch 425). In light of the commandment to conquer Eretz Yisrael, it follows that it is forbidden to surrender parts of the Land once we have placed it under our sovereignty. (see Chapter, 3:1, 3:4).


  • Danger to Life

As explained in the Talmud (Eruvin 45A), and as it is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 229:6), in every concession to the enemy, even the smallest, there lies great danger. Therefore the Sages instructed to profane the holy Sabbath and endanger lives in order to fight enemies who come to steal straw and hay from communities situated on the border of the Land, for if we concede to them over straw and hay, our factor of deterrence will be damaged, and the enemy will come to conquer the communities and murder their inhabitants. How much more so is it forbidden to surrender entire communities to the enemy!


  • “They Shall Not Reside Within Your Land”

In addition to the general mitzvah of conquering the Land, the Torah commanded: “They shall not reside in your Land” (Shemot, 23:33). The Rambam ruled that when we have the capability, we cannot allow someone who is not considered a ger toshav to reside in our Land (Laws of Idol Worship 10:6). However, the poskim hold differing opinions on who is a ger toshav. Some say that a non-Jew is only considered a ger toshav, and allowed to live in the Land, if he accepted upon himself, in front of a beit din, to guard the seven Noahide commandments out of a belief in Hashem, the God of Israel. This holds true only when Israel’s “hand is strong,” meaning that Israel’s moral and military posture is such that it needn’t worry about excessively about world opinion. Other Torah authorities  maintain that even if the non-Jew did not explicitly accept upon himself in front of a Jewish court to become a ger toshav, if he doesn’t worship idols and fulfills the seven Noahide commandments, there is no prohibition for him to live in Eretz Yisrael. According to their opinion, decent and righteous Muslims can live in the Land, for their religion is not considered idol worship. However, the Arabs who attack us, as well as their leaders, and the members of the organizations they belong to, certainly are not guarding the seven Noahide commandments, for, by their actions, they deny the God of Israel. In their support and aid to terrorists, they transgress the commandment, “You shall not murder.” And, certainly, they don’t establish a judicial system to try them. Consequently, according to both halachic opinions, when Israel has the capability, it is forbidden to allow them to remain in the Land. All the more so, it is forbidden to give them territory in Israel where they can settle more non-Jews who don’t guard the seven Noahide commandments (see above, section 1).


  • “Lo Tichanaym”

Another Torah prohibition is “Lo tichanaym” (Devarim, 7:2), and our Sages have explained that it is forbidden to give non-Jews the right to acquire property in the Land of Israel (Avodah Zara 20A). This prohibition is complementary to the prohibition “Lo yeshvu b’artzecha” (“They shall not reside in your land”). The latter applies to Clal Yisrael, regarding the national mitzvah to conquer and settle the Land; and the former applies to each individual Jew – that one should not sell a house or field in Eretz Yisrael to a non-Jew who is not considered a ger toshav. Consequently, it is forbidden to give Arabs who do not scrupulously fulfill the seven Noahide commandments any part or parcel of the Land of Israel (see above, section 1).


  • “Lo Timachare L’tzmetut”

It is written in the Torah (Vayikra, 25:23): “The Land shall not be sold permanently.” From this, the Ramban learns, according to the words of the Sages, that it is forbidden to sell any parcel of land from Eretz Yisrael to a non-Jew, for it will not return in the Jubilee year (Ramban, Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvot, Negative Commandment 227). All the more so is it forbidden to give away part of the Land inherited from our Forefathers to non-Jews.


  • Stealing an Individual’s House


No king or government in the world has the right to uproot a Jew from his home in Eretz Yisrael, for God has given the Land to the Nation of Israel, and thus, every Jew has a Divine right and portion in the land. No government has the authority to steal a Jew’s Divinely-inherited land and uproot him from his house which he lawfully bought or built. Therefore, any agreement which is based on the expulsion of a Jew from his home is forbidden.


  • Chillul Hashem

When the nations of the world pressure Israel to withdraw from parts of the Land which God gave to our forefathers and to us, our agreement to do so is a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of God, and it is a mitzvah to sanctify God by opposing any coercion against our religion (see further in section 6 of this chapter).



  1. Endangering Lives


An important foundation concerning the prohibition against withdrawing from parts of the Land of Israel is taught in the Talmud, in a discussion that deals with the laws of Shabbat and pikuach nefesh (Eruvin 45A). As is known, it is permissible to profane the Sabbath in order to save a life (pikuach nefesh), but it is forbidden to profane it in order to save money. Therefore the Sages rule that if non-Jews came to steal money from cities within Israel, it is forbidden to profane the Sabbath by picking up weapons and going out after them to chase them away, for, in this case, there is no concern over pikuach nefesh. All this applies to cities not situated on the border. However, if the non-Jews come to steal, even something insignificant like straw or hay, from communities near the border, we must profane the Sabbath, endanger lives, and set off to fight against them in order to save the straw and hay. The reason is that if we allow them to steal straw and hay today, tomorrow they will come to rob many other communities and murder Jews. This law is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 329:6).


The Sages, in their wisdom, understood that if concessions are made to non-Jews – even over straw and hay – in places close to the border, we will lose our military deterrence, and consequently, the audacity of our enemies will grow, and eventually they will want to conquer all our Land, and won’t hesitate to kill the Jews living here. Therefore, the Sages ruled that one must profane the Sabbath and endanger lives in battle, in order to protect the property of those who live near the border. According to this, it is clear that it is forbidden to concede to non-Jews any part of the areas of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Jordan Valley, and the Golan Heights. Any concession, or surrendering, of Jewish property near the border will inflame the lust of our enemies, and is likely, God forbid, to hasten a future war. This understanding, and law, applies to regions in the interior of the country as well, like awarding cities surrounding Jerusalem, such as Beit Lechem and Ramallah to our enemies.


If all the military experts were to declare that if we withdrew, we would indeed achieve true peace and prevent the loss of Jewish lives, perhaps we would say that the situation has changed, and at this time, there is no endangerment of lives involved in territorial concessions. In actuality, however, many of the foremost military strategists believe that territorial concessions from the areas of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan will endanger the State of Israel. Therefore, we must abide by the ruling of our Sages that it is forbidden to concede to the enemy, even over straw and hay, in cities situated on the border, and all the more so, not to give parts of Eretz Yisrael away.




  1. Chillul Hashem and Territorial Concessions


The Rambam, in The Laws of the Foundations of Torah, Chapter Five, explains that there is a positive commandment to sanctify God. In other words, a Jew must be ready to give up his life to sanctify the Name of Gd. For instance, if a non-Jew commands him, “Murder your companion, and if not, we will kill you,” then the Jew must be willing to surrender his life and not transgress the commandment, “Thou shall not murder.” This is the law concerning the three severe sins of incest, murder, and idol worship. Due to their severity, there is no meaning left to life after transgressing such a sin, and it is preferable for a person to give up his life rather than one to commit one of these three cardinal sins.


Concerning all the other mitzvot of the Torah, however, the law is different. If, for example, gentiles captured a Jew, threatening him that if he does not profane the Sabbath, or eat pork, they will kill him – he must profane the Sabbath or eat the forbidden food, and not give up his life, for it is written: “And you shall live by them,” (the words of the Torah), and not die by them.


It is important to note, however, that this applies specifically when the non-Jews coerce the Jew to transgress the mitzvah for their enjoyment, but if their goal is to compel him to transgress his religion and mock his faith, then, if the action takes place publically in front of ten Jews, he must give up his life and not sin, for this is not just an individual sin, but rather the honor of the Torah is at stake, and one who complies in this situation and violates the prohibition is similar to one who transgresses the entire Torah and desecrates the Name of God. Therefore the halachah states that one must sanctify God by being killed, and not commit the sin.


In the light of this principle, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook ruled that the prohibition of withdrawing from parts of the Land of Israel also includes a desecration of God, and thus obligates us to be willing to be killed and not transgress (yahareg v’al ya’avor). This is due to the fact that God’s promise that Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Jews is stated over and over again in the Torah, and the entire world knows this. The Arabs who seek to oust the people of Israel from its Land are doing so in defiance of the word of God and the commandments of the Torah. The proof of this is that there are many Arab nations that do not share a border with us, and have absolutely no historical claims to our Land, yet they fight us nonetheless. This is nothing but a war against our faith.


Consequently, withdrawal from the Land of Israel involves a very great Chillul Hashem, for it is carried out by the general populace, and a sin executed by the many, in front of all the nations, cannot be compared to the sin of an individual. This is especially true when speaking about the well-known mitzvah of settling the land. Every non-Jew who has read the Bible knows that God promised the Land of Israel to His chosen nation. When the non-Jew sees that the Jews are willing to give up parts of their Land, disavowing the promise of God, as if God lacks the power to safeguard Israel for the Jews, there is no greater desecration of God than this. In order to prevent such a Chillul Hashem, we must be ready to fight with maserut nefesh (a spirit of self-sacrifice) to defend the land, and not relinquish any part of our Holy Land that the Creator of heaven and earth bequeathed us.

Indeed, it seems that this obligation falls under the definition of yahareg v’al ya’avor (to be killed and not transgress), but in a situation where we don’t have a chance of winning, there is no mitzvah to fight, for even if we give up our lives, the Land will fall into the hands of non-Jews, and the Name of God will be desecrated before all the nations. However, when there is a chance of keeping possession of our Holy Land, it is our obligation to fight with the utter devotion of maserut nefesh in order that it remain in our hands, as the Torah has commanded. Thank God, in His great mercy and compassion, He has returned us to our Land and given us the strength and military might to maintain control over all parts of our cherished Land, and therefore we must guard over the entire Land with utter devotion.



  1. Government Decisions against Torah Law


In general, decisions of the Knesset and the Government of Israel must be followed by the populace, in adherence to the rule “Dina D’Malchuta Dina” – “the law of kingdom is the law” (See Chapter 8 for a detailed explanation of this subject). According to most poskim, this principle applies not only to Jews living in foreign countries, under foreign governments, but also to Jews living in Eretz Yisrael (Rambam; Shulchan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat 369:6). Even according to poskim who maintain that Dina D’Malchuta Dina doesn’t apply in Eretz Yisrael (Ran), this regards a non-Jewish government, but a government that is Jewish certainly has the authority of  “Tovei Ha’Ir,” the elected leaders of a community (see Tzitz Eliezer 16:50). There is also an opinion that a Jewish government that the nation has accepted upon itself has some of the attributes, privileges, and legal status of Malchut Yisrael. Therefore, the decisions of the Knesset and Israeli government are binding, such as in matters of taxation, traffic laws, business regulations, and the like.


However, one very great exception stands against the laws of the State – any law that opposes the commandments of the Torah has no power that can force a person to obey it. We learn this from the example of Yehoshua ben Nun, who, as leader of Israel, had the power to decree laws, and anyone rebelling against his authority was liable to death. However, when the nation accepted upon themselves his leadership and authority, they tendered their obedience to him on one condition, saying, “Only be strong and courageous” (Yehoshua, 1:18). In other words, Yehoshua’s laws and enactment would have power over them on the condition that he fulfill the verse, “Only be strong and exceedingly courageous, and observe to do according to all of the Torah which Moshe, My servant, commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand, nor to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Yehoshua, 1:7). If he were to execute orders that were in opposition to the Torah, his words would be null and void, and no Jew need heed his command (Sanhedrin 49A). This is the ruling of the Rambam, that if a king decreed that a mitzvah be eradicated, he is not to be listened to, since the king himself is a servant of the King of Kings (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 3:9).


If this is the case regarding a Jewish king who was appointed by a prophet possessing the stature of Moshe Rabbeinu, and the Sanhedrin and Am Yisrael agreed, certainly people do not have to listen to any laws enacted by a Jewish government in opposition to the Torah. For example, if a government were to pass a law which would force a person to desecrate the Shabbat, or to eat a forbidden food like pork, or uproot Jews from their homes and communities in Israel, thus abrogated the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land – then according to the Torah, these laws would have no legal foundation or force, and every Jew would have the obligation to oppose the implementation of these blasphemous enactments.


Accordingly, if a government were to outlaw Jews from settling a part of Eretz Yisrael, a law of this sort would have no binding force, because it stands in opposition to the mitzvah of settling the Land. Nonetheless, if a group of Jews were to request permission from the government to settle a certain location, the government has the authority to alter the site of the proposed settlement to an adjoining area, for reasons of public interest, like the need to build a highway at the desired location, or plant a national forest. But if a government says that a certain area cannot be settled because they don’t want any Jews to live there, this decree contradicts the Torah and God’s promise to give the Land of Israel to the Nation of Israel, and such a law has no force.



  1. Assisting Withdrawal


In consequence of what we have learned concerning the prohibition of surrendering parts of the Land of Israel to non-Jews, it is also forbidden to assist in the destruction of communities and the expulsion of Jews from their homes. This was the halachic decision of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriyah, and Rabbi Avraham Shapira, may their memories be for a blessing. This was also the ruling of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, ztz’l, on numerous occasions (see the halachic responsa of Rabbi Goren and Rabbi Shapira printed in the Addendum of this book. See also Igrot Ra’ayah 237). The prohibition to play a part in an evacuation applies to civilians, policemen, soldiers, and government ministers alike.


In addition, the question of whether the halachah concerning the evacuation of a military base is similar to that of a community was raised before the “Union of Rabbi’s on Behalf of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, led by Rabbi Avraham Shapira, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel. In the month of Tamuz, 5755 (1995), his response declared:


“In continuation of previous halachic decisions given by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate and other rabbis concerning the prohibition of evacuating parts of the Eretz Yisrael, including Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, we have been asked whether it is permissible to partake and assist in the evacuation of a military base or military instillation located in an area populated by Arabs in the Land of Israel.


  1. We determine that it is a Torah prohibition to evacuate I.D.F. bases and surrender the area to the authority of non-Jews, this being the nullification of a positive commandment, in addition to endangering Jewish lives and the survival of the State.
  2. It is obvious that wherever the I.D.F. is present and governs over the area – the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is fulfilled, as the Ramban has written, “to keep her (Eretz Yisrael) under our control, and not under the sovereignty of any other nation.” Any area that the I.D.F. evacuates will come under the control of non-Jews, and this constitutes a clear nullification of the previously mentioned positive commandment. Additionally, at the present time, this would endanger the lives of Jews, and be a danger to the security of the State, over which we are commanded, “Do not stand over the blood of your fellow Jew.”
  3. A permanent military base is also considered a Jewish community in all aspects, and its evacuation and abandonment to non-Jews is similar to the uprooting of a community from Eretz Yisrael, which is forbidden according to Jewish law.
  4. Therefore, in answer to the question, it is clear and simple that it is forbidden for any Jew to partake in any act of assistance related to the evacuation of a community, base, or installation, as the Rambam has ruled that “even if the king commands to transgress a precept of the Torah, we do not listen to him” (Laws of Kings 3:9).



  1. To What Extent is Assisting a Withdrawal Forbidden?


Even if it is clear to a soldier that other soldiers will carry out the evacuation order in his stead if he refuses to participate in the destruction of a Jewish community or expel Jews from their homes, it is forbidden for him to participate, for even in a situation where the majority transgress a precept, an individual has no permission whatsoever to participate in the sins of the community. Anyone who physically evacuates Jews from their homes, and abets in the transfer of our control over an area to non-Jews, participates in a number of severe Torah prohibitions. He will be partner, God forbid, to breaching the mitzvah of settling the Land, which is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah. He will also have a part in the terrible Chillul Hashem of uprooting a Jewish community from Eretz Yisrael.  And he will be committing the transgressions of “lo tichanaym,” “lo yeshvu b’atzecha,” “lo timachare l’tzmeetoot,” and the stealing of the homeowners’ possessions. And if he participates in the evacuation of a military base, he will also transgress the prohibition: “Thou shall not stand over the blood of your fellow Jew.”

If one were to ask: What benefit is there in refusing orders if, in the end, it will not prevent the evacuation from taking place? The answer is that even when we can’t stop the community from sinning, each and every individual is commanded to preserve his integrity and morality, and uphold the laws of the Torah. For, even in a place where everyone is a thief, it is incumbent upon a person not to steal. No matter if he is powerless to influence them for the better – he must remain stubborn in his refusal. Even if he is alone against the whole world, he must cling to what is right.


This principle is founded in the mitzvah, “You shall certainly rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on his account” (Vayikra, 19:17). The main point of this commandment is to rebuke the sinner in order to prevent him from sinning. As long as there is a chance that he will listen to the admonishment, the Torah obligates us to rebuke him. However, even if there is no chance that he will listen, at the very least we must make it known that his action is a sin which is forbidden to perform. All the more so, is it forbidden to participate in the performance of the sin (see, Rama, Orach Chaim, 608:2, Mishna Berura, Biur Hahalachah, there).


Standing up for the truth, and refusing to participate in communal transgression, are extremely important for the sake of the truth, and for the sake of mankind, in order that all generations know that not everyone erred. In the merit of these righteous people, the light of their courage will shine until tikun olam, the perfection of the world, is complete. As it is written, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to the Ba’al, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (Melachim 1, 19:18). Likewise, in the time of Gideon, because they refused to bow down to Ba’al, three hundred fighters of Israel were victorious over the entire camp of Midian, bringing about a great salvation (Shoftim, Ch.7).


A person who merits to uphold the eternal path of truth is a free man, as our Sages have taught, “The truly free man is the one who is engrossed in Torah,” (Avot 6:2), for he is bound and faithful to the Divine eternal principles. He cannot be influenced by public opinion, media pressure, or other temptations and scare tactics. Thus, throughout the generations, the righteous preserved their personal freedom, serving as a moral compass for the entire world. Only in their merit will mankind ultimately reach the true path. Admittedly, the majority of people can be bought with temptations and threats. However, Am Yisrael, as a whole, was always faithful to its eternal laws and ideals. Even when many Jews sinned, there were always those who clung to the righteous path of Clal Yisrael, and in their merit, the Nation of Israel continued in its mission of being a “beacon unto the nations.”.


When a nation is connected to absolute and eternal principles, its existence is also absolute and eternal, and all the winds in the world cannot uproot it. Since Am Yisrael, in its essence, is devotedly connected to the Divine, eternal principles of Torah – therefore, all the persecutions and exiles in the world cannot defeat her. Not only does Israel continue to exist when so many other empires vanished from the stage of world history, but the vitality of her achievements and moralistic values continues to pulsate and amaze. Other nations, whose values were opportunist, fluctuating, and limited in scope, so too was their existence – they passed by with great sound and fury, then disappeared.


May the day soon come when the Divine essence of Am Yisrael be revealed (Segulat Yisrael), when all of the nation outwardly embraces our eternal inheritance of Torah, fulfilling the verse, “Your people also shall be all righteous: they shall forever inherit the land ”  (Yeshayahu, 60:21).:



  1. Should a Soldier Refuse Orders Openly?


There is an additional question concerning refusing orders: Is it preferable for soldiers to give advanced and open notice that they will not participate in a withdrawal, or is it sufficient that they just not assist in the sin, without notifying their officers in advance?

There are those who feel that an open announcement of refusal is liable to damage the army, for the army relies on obedience to orders, and an open, public refusal is liable to fracture the unity of Tzahal. Therefore, it is preferable for a soldier not to publicly announce his intention to refuse orders, and only if, God forbid, the situation arises, he should turn to his officer and tell him that according to his belief, he cannot participate in such a severe transgression.


In the year 5765 (2005), when the communities of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria were being destroyed, the opinion of our teacher, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, of blessed memory, along with other outstanding Torah scholars, was that it was preferable for soldiers to announce their intentions as early as possible. In doing so, they would fulfill the mitzvah of tochacha (rebuke). Also, if many soldiers were to do this openly, coupled with other public displays of protest, it might bring about the nullification of the decree of expulsion and withdrawal. Concerning the claim that a widespread, open refusal is liable to cause serious damage to Tzahal, to the point where the army won’t be able to fight the enemy properly, it must be said that such a claim has yet to be proven. Where have we seen that the refusal to act against civilians caused an army to collapse? On the contrary, many argue that safeguarding the moral integrity of Tzahal, by not turning it into a political tool deployed against the country’s own citizens, would make it a stronger army. Thus, one cannot reject the mitzvah of tochacha on the grounds of imaginary fears, nor ignore the obligation to try to prevent such a severe, national transgression.


Rabbi Sholmo Goren, of blessed memory, who was the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, and afterwards, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, also had no apprehensions about the need to do everything possible to prevent such a national disaster. He ruled that soldiers should inform their officers in advance that they would publicly refuse orders. Only in the case of soldiers who wanted to advance in their military service to become officers, and feared that a public notice of refusal might cause damage to their futures, did Rabbi Goren agree that they not give advance notice. However, under no circumstances did he permit them to give the impression to their officers that they agreed to fulfill the orders; rather, when they were asked, they were to remain silent and not answer.










































Chapter Eight

Halachot of the Medinah



In previous chapters, we have seen that a Jewish government in Eretz Yisrael cannot make policies that contradict commandments in the Torah, including destroying Jewish communities, forcing soldiers to expel Jews from their homes; surrendering parts of the Land of Israel to enemies, and the like. But what about less “dramatic” matters like levying taxes and fines, and establishing courts? According to the Torah, what is the proper relationship between the government and its citizens?



  1. Dina D’Malchuta Dina


One of the general principles in monetary and legal law is the rule Dina D’Malchuta Dina, “the law of the kingdom is the law,” meaning that a person is obligated to obey the laws of the kingdom where he lives, whether concerning income taxes or custom duties, or laws dealing with public regulations, such as traffic laws, etc. According to the majority of poskim, one who evades paying taxes, or sidesteps airport customs regulations, transgresses a Torah prohibition.

A number of explanations have been given for this. First, citizens of a State accept upon themselves the rule of the kingdom (the government), relinquishing some of their rights to it, and agreeing that the kingdom can enact laws and govern public proceedings. Although many citizens complain – whether it be over high taxes or certain laws – nevertheless, as long as they don’t publicly rebel, or bring down the government, this is a sign of their agreement that the ruling authority is preferable over the chaos that would prevail in its absence, thus, granting the government the right to enact laws and collect taxes.


Another explanation mentioned by the poskim is that, in essence, the land of a country belongs to the State, which protects its citizens through its military power, police and judicial establishments, and economic stability. Consequently, citizens are obligated to listen to the ruling authority invested in the government or kingdom. Even though private individuals own their homes and yards, nevertheless, their ownership relies on the general ownership of the State, which, through its laws and enforcement agencies, safeguard individual ownership rights from trespass and theft.


As far as a democratically elected government is concerned, it is clear that it possesses, at the very least, the same power as a kingdom. This is a clear instance of the public’s approval of the government, for the public directly elected it, thereby accepting upon itself the decisions it makes. And even the minority not represented in the government agreed to accept upon itself the decision of the majority. Should one come along and insist, “I don’t agree with the democratic system,” nonetheless, he too is obligated to follow the elected government’s authority. The power of an elected government is no less than that of kings, who ruled their nations by military force – upon which the Sages said: Dina D’Malchuta Dina. Thus, it is forbidden to evade paying taxes, whether it be income taxes or customs duties, and one who does so, transgresses a Torah prohibition (Shulchan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat 569:6).




  1. The Boundaries of Dina D’Malchuta Dina


Concerning the general rule Dina D’Malchuta Dina, the Rishonim meticulously noted that, specifically, the law of the kingdom is law, but not the law of the king. In other words, if a king were to rise and make decrees that were contrary to all common sense and morals, such decrees would have no power.

In order to explain this, I will quote the words of one of the Rishonim, the author of “Nimukei Yosef,” in his commentary to Tractate Baba Batra (54B): “And all the halachic authorities agreed that when the Sages said Dna D’Malchuta Dina, they were talking only about matters regarding the standard laws of kings, for all kings have known laws, but the capricious, whimsical, and corrupt enactments that a ruler attempts to compel the populace by force are not considered law.” In addition, the Ramban (ibid) wrote that the Sages, when speaking about Dina D’Malchuta Dina, meant only well-known laws amongst the kingdoms, to which all the kings were custom to enforce. The Ritvah wrote: “What some tyrant decrees on the spur of the moment, whether regarding an individual or the masses, or if he enacts a new decree which was not customary in times of his forefathers, this is not considered law, but rather violence and robbery” (on the Rif, Tractate Nedarim 28A)


Thus we learn that a kingdom or government should not enact laws that are not customary amongst all the kingdoms. In addition, the laws should not discriminate against, or persecute, any individual or group. Throughout our history, many immoral laws that were passed discriminating against the Jews, and the Gedolei Yisrael ruled that these laws lacked the power of Dina D’Malchuta Dina. Since the country in question accepted the government upon itself in order that it govern fairly, as is normal and customary in the world, the government does not have the authority to stray from this in a corrupt and immoral fashion against its citizens – and if it did, “its law is not a law” (see, Tzitz Eliezer 16:49).


Nevertheless, this applies specifically to cases of clear and consistent injustice, which characterize the kingdom or government. However, common corruption or discrimination which are present in almost all ruling administrations, do not nullify the principle of Dina D’Malchuta Dina, for if so, there would not be a place in the world where it would be mandatory to comply with the laws of the State.



  1. Dina D’Malchuta Dina in the Land of Israel


Regarding what type of kingdom does the rule of Dina D’Malchuta Dina apply? To Jewish governments, or only to non-Jewish sovereignties? Does it pertain to any kingdom in Israel, or only to kingdoms outside of the Land?


The Rishonim held differing opinions regarding this question. According to the understanding of the Ran and the Rashba (in their commentaries to Nedarim 28A), this rule applies only to non-Jewish kingdoms outside of the Land of Israel. According to them, the power of a kingdom to enact laws is based on the fact that the land belongs to the kingdom, for only through its military might are the borders of the state protected. Therefore, anyone interested in living in that kingdom must accept upon himself its laws. If he is not willing to do so, he should find someplace else to live. This holds true for a kingship and any other type of government. Consequently, a Jew who lives in a democratic country is obligated to keep the laws of the state due to rule Dina D’Malchuta Dina. All of this applies to countries outside of the Land of Israel where, in fact, the land can belong to the kingdom. However, concerning the Land of Israel, which was given to the Nation of Israel by God, no ruling kingdom has the right to expel any Jew from his homeland. Consequently, no kingdom whatsoever has ownership over the Land. Therefore, as long as a Jew has not accepted upon himself that kingdom, its laws have no binding authority over him.


However, the majority of Rishonim – amongst them the Rambam – disagree with this reasoning, ruling that there is no difference between the Land of Israel and chutz l’aretz (outside the Land), and that in any location where a kingdom or government exists, its laws and statutes are binding on its citizens. According to them, the principle of Dina D’Malchuta Dina does not stem from a kingdom’s ownership of the land, but rests on the population’s general acceptance of the kingdom. The fact that citizens don’t rebel and overthrow the regime indicates that they accept upon themselves all the laws it legislates. If so, there is no difference between the Land of Israel or countries outside of it, and even in Israel, the laws of the kingdom or government are obligatory, as long as they don’t explicitly conflict with the laws of the Torah. (Thus ruled the Rashba himself, in his Responsa, Ch. 2: 134, and not as he wrote in his commentary to Tractate Nedarim).


This is the halachah according to the majority of poskim, including leading authorities today, that Dina D’Malchuta Dina also applies in the Land of Israel (see, Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:6).


According to the opinion of the Chatam Sofer (Choshe Mishpat 44), the Ran and the Rashba would agree that even in the Land of Israel, a resident is obligated to pay taxes according to the rule of Dina D’Malchuta Dina. The Chatam Sofer explains that when the Sages they said that a person is not obligated to pay taxes to the king in Israel, because we live in the Land not due to his permission, but rather with the permission of God, this was speaking specifically about taxes that a king collects for his own personal pleasure to maintain his palace, his court, and his royal honor. However, when the taxes are levied for the sake of the citizens of the country, such as for security needs, education, roads, etc, everyone is clearly obligated to pay. One who does not pay his taxes, transgresses the law of Dina D’Malchuta Dina and the prohibition of stealing from the public (see, Tzitz Eliezer 16:49, Yichavey Da’at 5:63).




  1. Dina D’Malchuta Dina Cannot Nullify a Mitzvah


Any statute or law of a kingdom that conflicts with the laws of the Torah has no binding power over the Jewish People. The people said to Yehoshua Ben Nun that as the leader of Israel, he had the authority to rule over the nation, and anyone who disobeyed his orders would be punished with death. Nevertheless, the verse restricts his authority with the expression, “rak chazak v’amatz,” as it is stated: “And they answered Yehoshua saying, All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we hearkened to Moshe in all things, so will we hearken to you – only the Lord God be with you as He was with Moshe. Whoever rebels against your orders, and will not hearken to your words in all that you command him, he shall be put to death – rak chazak v’amatz – rather be strong and of good courage” (Yehoshua, 1:16-18). In other words, the enactments of Yehoshua are obligatory on condition that he fulfills the verse:  “Only be strong and very courageous, and observe to do according to the Torah which Moshe, My servant, commanded you: turn not from it to the right nor to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Yehoshua, 1:7) If, however, his instructions conflict with the Torah, they are null and void, and a Jew is forbidden to listen to him (Tractate Sanhedrin 49A). Therefore, the Rambam ruled that if a king ordered to transgress a mitzvah, we don’t listen to him, for the words of Hashem come before the words of the king, for the king himself is a slave to the King of all kings, the Holy One Blessed be He (Laws of Kings and Their Wars 3:9).


If this is the case concerning a king like Yehoshua Ben Nun, who was appointed by Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest prophet of Israel, with the Sanhedrin and the nation accepting him upon themselves, all the more so, we don’t listen to a normal king, prime minister, or government, which enact legislation in opposition to the commandments of the Torah. If, for example, any government were to pass a law that obligated the transgression of the Sabbath, or the eating of forbidden foods, such as pork – or should the government approve the uprooting of Jews from their homeland, thereby nullifying the mitzvah of settling the Land – according to the Torah these laws have no validity, and it would be the obligation of all Israel to oppose their implementation.




  1. The Authority of “Tovei Ha’Ir”


Until now we have discussed the principle of Dina D’Malchuta Dina which determines the halachic validity of any tax or customs regulation that a kingdom imposes on its residents. Regarding the State of Israel, paying its taxes is even more obligatory than paying taxes in other countries. The reason for this is that the government is elected by the majority of the public, and therefore, in addition to its similarity to Malchut, it has the validity of a “Hever Ir,” the title given to leaders who were elected by the residents of a city or community. These leaders are also called “Tovei Ha’Ir” or “Tovei HaKahal.” The Rosh has written in his Responsa: “It is clear that all of the enactments which the Tovei Ha’Ir impose, whether on the individual, or the public as a whole, they are firm and abiding, even without kinyan.” (clal 6, paragraph 19) He also wrote that community residents are entitled to punish and fine anyone who transgresses their enactments (ibid., paragraph 27).


There are a number of explanations for this halachah. From the words of the Mabit in his Responsa (3:228) it seems that the halachic validity of public enactments (Takanot HaKahal) stems from custom, since the public customarily manages its matters by electing leaders who enact orders and levy taxes and fines. A private individual cannot transgress this common practice, and is obligated to fulfill the enactments of the general populace. Another explanation is that in all public matters, the community (kahal) has the legal status of partners (shutafim), for if they do not unite together concerning public matters, they are all liable to be hurt. Therefore, even against their will, all the residents of the city or country are partners and responsible for one another (see Maharam Shik). Additionally, the public has the right of chazaka (a justified legal claim), for it has been the custom for generations that the community intervenes in the matters of the individual by levying taxes and customs duty for public needs. And, as is known, in any matter where the public has a chazaka, an individual’s prerogatives cannot override it. For example, if many people have become accustomed to using a path that cuts through an individual’s courtyard, it has the gained the status of chazaka, and the owner of the courtyard can no longer prevent the public from using it as a walk way. This also is the case concerning taxes – there is a chazaka that the public levies taxes from each individual.

In summary, according to the halachah, there is a definate obligation to pay taxes, both from the side of Dina D’Malchuta Dina, and from the side of Takanat HaKahal (Tzitz Eliezer 16:50).




  1. Sales Tax


In the previous section, we noted the opinions of the poskim concerning the duty to pay taxes. According to the majority, it is considered a monetary stipulation whose obligation stems from the Torah.


Since an individual is obliged to pay taxes, it should be viewed in a positive light, for by paying taxes, he becomes a partner in the absorption of new immigrants, strengthening of the country’s security and defense, providing welfare to the poor, supporting the medical health establishment, advancing the study of Torah, and participating in every facet of the rebuilding of the State of Israel. We cannot overlook the numerous deficiencies that exist amongst our elected officials, in the administration of government agencies, and in government policies; nevertheless, once the public has chosen their representatives, granting them the validity of Malchut or Tovei Ha’Ir, it is a mitzvah to pay taxes.


True, the need to pay taxes poses a difficult test, for the yetzer hara surrounding money can be very strong. For example, frequently when a person purchases something in a store, when he inquires about the price, the salesman says, “Without a receipt – 500 shekels; with a receipt – 600. This is a challenging test, for a potential saving of hundred shekels makes a person think twice. Collecting the sales tax is also a difficult test for the salesman, for he prefers to sell as cheaply as possible to win the favor of his customers. But the halachah determines that it is forbidden to avoid paying taxes, therefore, to prevent any question of theft, the customer is obligated to say that he wants to make the purchase at full price with a receipt. However, in certain circumstances, such as when a person buys something from a relative or close friend, it is permissible to make a purchase without asking for a receipt, for the seller could have given the item as a gift, nevertheless, his relative or friend wants to compensate him for the cost of the material, like the seller’s outlay of money to wholesalers, and to compensate him for his time.


Another question is whether a purchaser is obligated to request a receipt, thereby verifying that the seller pays his share of taxes on the purchase, or whether the obligation to pay taxes and give receipts lies exclusively with the seller, so that the buyer need not have to assume the role of policeman or tax collector.

In actuality, there is no obligation for a purchaser to request a receipt. Simply not receiving a receipt does not transgress a prohibition, as it would if he had explicitly told the salesman that he wanted to buy cheaply without a receipt. Nevertheless, by not requesting a receipt, to a certain degree, it could be considered that he lends assistance to a forbidden act. In addition, the commandment, “Don’t stand over the blood of your neighbor” (Vayikra, 19:17), also includes the obligation to save another person from monetary loss (Rambam in Sefer HaMitzvot 297). Since the needs of the community are not less important than those of  the purchaser, it is proper to request a receipt when buying an item, thereby insuring that the tax will be paid. But, as we mentioned, this is not obligatory, for the buyer can’t know for sure if the seller is dishonest – perhaps he plans to report the sale by himself, or maybe for some other reason he is exempt from paying his share of the sales tax (see, Responsa, “Asei Lecha Rav” 6:80; 7:63).




  1. The Mitzvah to be Judged in a Court of Torah Law


The Torah commands: “Now these are the judgments that you shall set before them” (Shemot, 21:1). Chazal explains that “before them” means that questions of law must be brought before religious, Jewish judges, and not before non-Jews. And even if by chance, in a certain matter, non-Jewish judges decide in agreement with the Torah, nevertheless, it is forbidden to be judged before them, as it is written: “For the judgment is God’s” (Devarim, 1:17). Jewish judges, who are Torah abiding, and who have received smeichah ordination, handed down from one rabbi to the next, all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu, of blessed memory, are Heaven’s emissaries to decide matters of halachah.


True, approximately three hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile from Eretz Yisrael, the granting of rabbinic ordination, known as smeichah, came to an end, for smeichah can only be given in the Land of Israel (see Ch.2, section 4). Until then, the Sages of Israel who possessed smeichah had the personal power to judge the nation, but their authority was lost when smeichah was stopped. Nevertheless, it is still forbidden to be judged by anyone but them, for they are considered the emissaries of the past judges who had official rabbinic authority, and because of this, the Sages of today are able to decide halachah in all the common laws, which if not judged, would cause damage to individuals and the nation.


The truth must be said – the judicial system of the State of Israel today is considered “a court system of non-Jews,” for their judicial codes are not in congruence with Torat Yisrael. Therefore, the words of the Rambam  also apply to them: “Anyone who is judged before non-Jewish judges in their court system, even though their laws are similar to Jewish law, is considered an evil person, and like someone who disgraces, reviles, and raises his hand against the Torah given to Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai” (Laws of Sanhedrin 26:7). While the principle of Dina D’Malchuta Dina entitles governments, which have been accepted by the people, to legislate laws and enactments, and while even Rabbinical courts, upon deciding halachic matters, are required to consider these laws as being obligatory; nevertheless, it is clear that no kingdom or government has the power to nullify the right, and mitzvah, of being judged before Jewish judges, according to the laws of the Torah.

Even in a case of monetary matters, when the defendant refuses to be judged before a kosher beit din (religious Jewish court), the prohibition to be judged before a non-Jewish court still remains in force, until the plaintiff comes before a beit din, or Torah scholar who deals with monetary laws, and is granted permission to take the case to those courts, in order to protect his money. Only after such permission can a Jew make a claim in a non-Jewish court, for, in this manner, he does not transgress the mitzvah from the Torah to be judged before Jewish judges, because he went to the non-Jewish court with the permission of Jewish judges (Rambam, there. See, Dinei Mammonot by Rabbi Batzri, Part 1, Shar 10, ch. 5).




  1. The Mitzvah of Appointing Judges


It is a mitzvah from the Torah to appoint judges and policemen in each and every city, in order that they judge the nation justly, as it says:  “Judges and officers you shall appoint in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, throughout your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment” (Devarim, 16:18). The meaning is to appoint in every city a small Sanhedrin comprised of twenty-three judges who can rule on all matters of Torah law, both capital and monetary. Capital laws are judged before twenty-three judges, while civil monetary laws are decided before three (Sanhedrin 2A). However, if there aren’t two Sages in a city, one who knows how to make legal rulings in all aspects of Torah law, and another who knows how to “listen, question, and answer” in the entire Torah – and in addition to them, twenty-one wise and upstanding people who are fitting to judge – a Sanhedrin is not seated in that city. At the very least, however, a beit din of three judges is established in order to judge civil laws (Rambam, Laws of Sanhedrin 1:4-5).


Nevertheless, as we have noted, the authority of the Sages to judge all matters of Torah law is dependent upon their having received smeichah from one ordained rabbi to the next, all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu. Since smeichah was nullified approximately three hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Sages of Israel no longer possess the inherent authority to officiate as judges in matters of Torah law. Rather, they must make rulings as emissaries of the former Sages who did possess smeichah. As previously noted, this permission is intended only for matters that are necessary to keep Jewish life functioning properly, as in monetary arguments, cases of divorce, the acceptance of converts, and other civil laws. But concerning unessential matters which they don’t need to judge to insure the public’s welfare, rabbis who don’t possess “biblical” smeichah lack the authority to judge. Therefore, today’s beit din don’t have the authority to judge capital cases (dinei nefashot) and fines, and only as a temporary measure are they permitted to fine and punish (Gittin 88B, Baba Kama 84B, Shulchan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat 1:1; 2:1).


Today, when our judges lack the inherent authority to judge all the laws of the Torah, the mitzvah from the Torah to establish a Sanhedrin in every city is null and void (Ramban, Devarim, 17:18; Tur, Hoshen Mishpat 1). Nevertheless, it is a mitzvah to establish a beit din in every city to judge monetary matters, in order to enact the law in Israel.




  1. Not to Delay Judgment


It is extremely important to conclude all quarrels promptly, as the Sages have warned, teaching that conflicts between people are similar to cracks in a dam (Sanhedrin 7A). In the beginning, they can be easily sealed. However, if they are not fixed immediately, the crack widens, and before long, floods of water will gush through. At that point, however, it will be impossible to seal the crack, for the entire dam will collapse from the force of the onrushing water. It is similar with a quarrel – if it is solved in the beginning, the two adversaries make-up and go back to being friends. But if the quarrel is not solved immediately, a feeling of animosity becomes implanted in their hearts which is very difficult to remove. Therefore the Sages warned not to delay in bringing arguments to justice, nor hinder legal decisions (see, Avot 5:8).


In light of this, the Torah commands that judges be appointed in every city, as it is written: “Judges and officers you shall appoint in all your gates, (Devarim, 16:18). The judges must sit in the gateway of the city, a place where everyone passes, in order to be easily accessible. This way, they can deal with every conflict immediately. Likewise, legal decision itself was given quickly. Furthermore, if one of the plaintiffs refused to accept the ruling, an officer of the court would enforce the decision without delay.


At first, the beit din would convene every weekday, sitting from morning till noon (Rambam, Laws of Sanhedrin 3:1). After the enactment of Ezra, they would meet every yom shaini (Monday) and yom chamishi ( Thursday), for in the majority of places there wasn’t a need to judge cases every single day. Ezra chose those specific times because they were market days when villagers and merchants came to the city, and thus, they could clarify their quarrels before the judges.

The importance of doing justice quickly can be learned from the inefficiency of Israel’s court system today. In addition to the fact that, halachically, it is considered to be a non-Jewish judicial system (as explained in section 7), justice is greatly delayed. A considerable amount of time passes from the moment a claim is made until the trial begins, and afterwards, it takes a long time until the decision is rendered. During this undue delay, the quarrels become more serious. When the decision is finally handed down, so much time has passed that the court can no longer make peace. Additionally, this delay of justice gives a big advantage to the wealthy over the poor, because a rich person knows that whenever he has a quarrel with someone of meager means, he can go to court, and until a decision is reached, his adversary will go bankrupt and concede. Lacking the financial resources to weather a drawn-out legal battle, poor people are prone to compromise and receive far less than what they rightly deserve.


Additionally, because of postponements and delays, when a criminal claim is brought against someone, his name can be blemished for a long time. Even if he is acquitted in the end, the length of the trial harms him greatly, and is likely to leave deep scars which may never heal.

Regrettably, even the beit din, which transact their proceedings according to halachah, are not readily accessible. A major reason for this is a lack of public funding. However, even today, when the religious courts are not halachically recognized to judge on all matters, we must endeavor to establish, in every yeshiva and kollel, a forum of three judges who are available every day to conduct hearings relating to financial disputes. When not occupied with hearing cases, these talmidei chachamim can resume their regular Torah studies. In this manner, we will  increase justice and peace in the world, and hasten the coming of the Final Redemption, as embodied in the vision of the Prophet Yeshayahu,  “And I will restore your judges as at first, and your counselors as in the beginning; afterward it shall be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city; Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and those that return to her with righteousness (Yeshayahu, 1:26-27).




  1. Malchut David and the Hashmonite Kings


Before concluding this chapter, it is worthwhile to mention another law regarding Malchut. The Torah states: “The staff shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the scepter from between his feet” (Bereshit, 49:10) Chazal explained: “The staff shall not depart from Yehuda – this refers to the   leaders of the exiled Jewish communities in Bavel who rule over the Jews with a harsh staff. Nor the scepter from between his feet – These are the offspring of Hillel, who teach Torah to the multitudes” (Sanhedrin 5A). The Ramban clarifies the meaning of “shall not depart,” stating that after David was appointed to be king, we don’t chose kings from any tribe other than Yehuda. However, before David’s kingship, a ruler could come from a different tribe. Thus, Shaul, from the tribe of Benyamin, was appointed king. According to the Ramban, this came about because the people didn’t act properly in asking for a king, since the Prophet Shmuel was leading them in total allegiance with Hashem’s will for the nation. Therefore, Hashem instructed Shmuel to appoint Shaul from the tribe of Benjamin, knowing that the kingship would be wrested from him and transferred to the permanent monarchy of David.


The Ramban adds a practical law, stating: “In my opinion, the kingships from other tribes that ruled over Israel after King David, transgressed the will of their Father in Heaven, and transferred the inheritance (of Beit David).” A king from a tribe other than Yehuda can only be appointed on a temporary basis, in order to meet some pressing need until a king from Yehuda can take his place. Therefore, the Sages said that if a king from some other tribe is appointed, he is not anointed, to highlight that his reign is only temporary.


Accordingly, the Hashmoneans who ruled during the time of the Second Temple were punished, even though they were supremely righteous Kohanim, and if not for them, the Torah and commandments would have been forgotten in Israel. Nevertheless, their punishment was great; four of the upright Maccabees who ruled one after the other were slain by the enemy’s sword, none withstanding all of their bravery and success, until Herod wiped out all of their seed (Baba Batra 3B). This was due to the fact they should have endeavored to appoint a king from the tribe of Yehuda. Additionally, because they were Kohanim, they should have concentrated on their priestly office, as they are commanded, and not assume the dual role of king and High Priest. Without doubt, the difficult demands of ruling the kingdom interfered with the Divine service in the Beit HaMikdash, and perhaps it was this sin which caused the Shechinah not to return and dwell in the Second Temple the way it had dwelled in the First. And, on the other side of the coin, their involvement with the Priestly service prevented their total devotion to the affairs of the state.


In contrast to the explanation of the Ramban, the Rashba says that the verse, “The staff shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the scepter from between his feet,” is not a command not to appoint a king from another tribe, but rather a promise that the permanent monarchy will rest with Yehuda (Responsa, 4:187). The Ran, in his Drashot, states that there isn’t any criticism regarding the Hashmonite kings, for Yaacov Avinu meant that only when Israel had an independent, sovereign  kingdom would the kingship remain with the tribe of Yehuda, but since the Hashmoneans reigned under the foreign dominions of Greece and Rome, they were not guilty of any transgression. Nevertheless, many poskim adopted the Ramban’s opinion that the Hashmoneans should have striven harder to transfer the monarchy back to the house of David, and to separate the duties of the kingship from the service of the Beit HaMikdash. In light of this, during the time of the Taaniim and the Amoriim, the community in Eretz Yisrael strove to appoint Nisiim from the tribe of Yehuda, whether through the inheritance of sons or daughters (see Tzitz Eliezer 19:26).


This is not the place for a lengthy discussion of this issue. However, it is interesting to note that the “separation of powers” was established long ago in the Torah. The four realms of authority are the monarchy; the judicial system, with the Beit HaDin HaGadol in Jerusalem deciding major issues, while personal cases were brought before local courts around the country; the Priesthood, centered in the Beit HaMikdash, with branches situated in the cities of the Kohanim scattered around the borders; and the Prophets, heralds of the nation’s goals and visions, as well as fulfilling the function of “checks and balances” in their warnings and reproaches, and their ability to issue temporary decrees regarding pressing matters indispensible to the nation’s welfare and security.   
















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