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26 Iyar 5753

Eretz Yisrael and the Torah Are One and the Same


Written by the rabbi

Dedicated to the memory of
R. Avraham Ben David

לשיעור זה בעברית: ארץ-ישראל ותורה חד הם

I stand dumbfounded and astonished. It's difficult for me to understand. How is it that a portion of Israel's religious public, while viewing with such gravity the question of respect for the Torah, fails to see its relevance to the issue of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). Is not Eretz Yisrael part of the Torah? Is not the estrangement from Eretz Yisrael's holy value, together with a willingness - even desire! - on the part of certain members of our government, to part with the Holy Cities of Hevron and Shechem (Nablus), a Torah-related problem? Have our sages not informed us that the mitzvah (commandment) of settling the Land of Israel is equivalent to all of the other mitzvoth put together!? Yet, despite this, I've heard that there are those who say that first we have to concern ourselves with Torah, for everything depends on the fulfillment of the Torah. "Because," they claim, "our success in holding on to the Land of Israel depends on our fulfilling the Torah's commandments, we must concentrate all of our efforts in strengthening the Torah, even if it be at the expense of Eretz Yisrael. If we strengthen ourselves in Torah, in the end we will merit Eretz Yisrael as well."

True, the Torah does teach that, "If you follow my laws and are careful in keeping my commandments... you will live securely in your land." And if, heaven forbid, "you don't listen to me and you don't fulfill all of these mitzvoth, despising my decrees and abhorring my laws to the point where you no longer keep my commandments and violate my covenant... I will make the Land so desolate that your enemies who settle it will be astonished, and you, I will cast out amongst the nations" (Leviticus 26). And again: "And if you are careful about keeping all of my decrees and all of my laws then the Land into which I am bringing you to settle will not vomit you out."(ibid. 20) From here it is clear that the primary objective must be the up-keeping of the Torah, and that if we keep the Torah we will merit, as a result, Eretz Yisrael; what's more, without Torah our struggle for Eretz Yisrael is of no value, for there is no Eretz Israel without Torah. Therefore, those who look to justify the concentration on Torah, and the lack of involvement in the struggle for the wholeness of the Land of Israel, bring these passages as support for their position.

All this I could understand were the settling of Israel itself not a Torah commandment but a mere privilege. Yet the settling of the Land of Israel, according to the Ramban (Nahmanides), is a positive commandment from the Torah and is binding for all generations including our own, and therefore relinquishing parts of Eretz Israel is a serious transgression. Well known are the words of Rabbi Menachem Zamba, who said at the "Grand Gathering" of "Agudat Yisrael," that just as the Jewish People have a Torah which is perfect, and if even one letter is missing then the entire Torah scroll is bereft of its holiness, so too we have a land concerning which it has been said that her holiness exists when all of the People of Israel are settled on her. Therefore, only those sorts of people who have the ruthless courage to tear pieces from our holy and perfect Torah, would dare to tear our land to pieces as well, while we, the guardians of the Torah, and fearful of the word of God, of both the written and oral traditions, cannot agree to concede even the smallest amount of our holy land.

So we see that the question of Eretz Yisrael is clearly Torah related, and that relinquishing parts of Eretz Yisrael is like relinquishing parts of the Torah. Therefore it's senseless to say that first we must strengthen Torah observance, even at the expense of Eretz Yisrael - for settling the Land itself is a mitzvah of the Torah. We must fight for the entirety of the Land and the entirety of Torah as one, for they are one and the same. The abandonment of the Land weakens Torah observance and the abandonment of Torah weakens our hold on the Land. Be strong and let us be strong concerning our people, our land and our Torah.


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