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Ask the rabbi Family and Society The Prohibition of Leaving Israel

Pikuach Nefesh?

Rabbi Jonathan Blass3 Adar II 5763
850
Question
In the extreme hypothetical case that a miracle were to happen and the Arabs would promise (and we somehow knew that they would uphold this promise, again this is hypothetical) to lay down their arms for eternity in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian State in Eretz Yisrael, are we allowed to sign such an agreement? I understand that this is not going to happen anytime soon. But playing the Devil’s Advocate, shouldn’t we be allowed to give up land on the basis of pikuach nefesh if we knew for sure that it would save Jewish lives? Doesn’t pikuach nefesh cancel out the Halachot of Shabbat, why not those of Eretz Yisrael? Thanks again.
Answer
There is a commandment even to go to war to conquer the Land of Israel (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 5,1; Ramban Sfer HaMitzvot, additions to Mitzvot Asei 4). The Torah repeatedly instructs the Jewish People in the desert to ready themselves for the battle against the Canaanite nations to liberate the Land that was promised to our forefathers. A Mitzva that involves going to war intrinsically overrides “pikuach nefesh” (Minchat Chinuch 425,3; 604,4). The logic behind the need for self-sacrifice is self-evident: All nations must be willing to fight to defend their homeland or they cease to exist. This is because the life of the nation takes precedence over that of the individual and a nation’s sovereignty in its homeland is an integral and essential element of its life. The Land of Israel is not just real-estate. It is integral to the Nation of Israel’s self- definition; when we were forced into exile we became only partially alive.
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