Ask the rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Settling the Land of Israel

what's the big deal about aliya?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Kislev 4, 5775
What does it mean when the rabbis say that "living in Israel is equated with the rest of the mitzvot combined"? Isn’t the same thing said about learning Torah?
Chazal say regarding only 7 mitzvot that they are equated with the rest combined (Talmud Torah, Tzedaka, Brit Mila, Shabbat, Avoda Zara, Tzitzit, and Yishuv Eretz Yisrael). This extreme statement is obviously not meant mathematically (because then, you couldn’t have even 2 equated with the rest!), but is reserved for particular mitzvot which aren’t “just” like the rest, but “super-mitzvot”. There are different explanations to this statement regarding each example, each one from it’s own certain respect. Regarding Eretz Yisrael, the Torah Tmima (Dvarim 12, 112) explains the term in that Limud Torah and Yishuv Eretz Yisrael both enable us to observe many, many more mitzvot. Alternatively, the Ramban (Vayikra 18, 25) explains it that Yishuv HaAretz enables us not only a greater quantity, but also a greater quality of mitzvot (according to the Chafetz Chaim, 20X more reward, see also Netziv, Shmot 20, 12). Rav Kook (similar idea mentioned in Resp. Rashba 134) explains differently, that just as the greatness of learning Torah is equated with the rest of the mitzvot, even those which won’t bring a greater quantity or quality of mitzvot because they can’t be fulfilled (e.g. if I’m not a kohen, or woman, if there’s no Beit HaMikdash, etc.), similarly the greatness of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael stands independent of the aforementioned benefits. Ad’iraba, the reason why (!) the mitzvot are tluyot baAretz, both quantitatively and qualitatively, is a result (!) of the segula of the Land. He proves that the Avot and Moshe Rabbenu requested and pleaded to be buried in Israel, even though meitim (the deceased) are exempt from mitzvot. There is actually halachic “clout” or “nafka minot” to the special importance of Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, as well. According to most rishonim this is the only mitzvah which allows amira l’akum on Shabbat to do a m’lacha d’oraita (Gittin 8b, Tosfot, Ran, Rambam 6, 11, Mishna Brura 307, 24); one of the few mitzvot which supersede “Shalom Bayit” and allows a spouse (yes, even a woman) to initiate a divorce if the other wants to stay in chu”l (Shulchan Aruch Ev. H. 65, 3); conquering Eretz Yisrael is the only mitzvah which obligates us to charge in front of a cannon and even give our lives to fulfill (as opposed to the 3 cardinal sins where one is obligated to try and avoid the situation of ye’hareg v’al ya’avor, Minchat Chinuch 425), and more. There is no doubt that chazal are stressing the importance of each of these 7 mitzvot, and they are meant to all be observed especially meticulously. I didn’t understand at all why you infer any contradiction, between Talmud Torah k’neged kulam and the same about yishuv Eretz Yisrael. The Torah is a package deal, and all of the mitzvot are G-dly, beneficial, and harmonize each other. Yes, Talmud Torah k’neged kulam, yes Shabbat is, as well, and yes Yishuv HaAretz is, as well. In fact all the mitzvot are important, but if chazal especially stress these 7, and of the 7, the only one which 30% (!) of the observant Jews consciously neglect, this is the one which deserves special attention, even among this select group of “special attention”. How much more so today when aliya is such a far-reaching issue with such important ramifications regarding spirituality, priorities, living with Am Yisrael, and participating in the Jewish future.
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