Beit Midrash

  • The land of Israel
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Settling the land of Israel - a mitzvah and not only a privilege


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Tammuz 19 5777
There are those who claim that there is no point fighting for the land of Israel as long as the Jewish nation hasn't done repentance. Those people probably consider settling the land of Israel a privilege and not a mitzvah. And because it's a privilege, we can't earn it until we are worthy, by fulfilling the torah and the mitzvoth.

Yet, the Ramban(Hasagot HaRamban al Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvot Ase 4), 'The father of Israel', considers the conquering of the land of Israel and its settling, a positive mitzvah that we are obligated to fulfil through-out all generations, a positive mitzvah is an obligation, and not doing it is forbidden. Not to mention the mitzvah of the settling the land of Israel, which is equal to all commandments together. It's a general mitzvah, which lies upon the whole nation, and everyone is commanded to fulfil it, individually, by living in Israel, and generally – that the Jewish people will rule the whole land. And every Jew is obliged to fulfil the general mitzvah, because a mitzvah that rest upon the whole nation – every individual must do all that he can in order to fulfil it. If he puts all of his effort and succeeds, he has fulfilled his obligation. However, if he doesn't attempt to do so, and with him so the others, and the mitzvah is not fulfilled – they has nullified this mitzvah. In addition, if the individual did everything he could in order to fulfil this mitzvah, and yet others did not, or if he doesn't have the power to do the mitzvah due to the force of the other nations – he is exempt.

The meaning of these things is that the settlement of the land of Israel is not only a privilege, it is also an obligation, a positive mitzvah that everyone must do, everyone must do their best so that the land of Israel will be under Jewish rule. That is why our fight for ruling Israel and against giving away parts of the land is a mitzvah like any other, and we must do our best to keep it, just like any other.
What differs this mitzvah from the others? In all the individual mitzvoth, such as Tefillin, Tzitzit, Shabbos, and kashrut, no one prevents us from keeping them. It's true that not everyone keeps those mitzvoth, and all Jews are responsible for each other, and are committed to make sure all Jews will keep the mitzvoth, but still, you can't compare the obligation that derives from our commitment to each other, to a personal obligation that derives from a mitzvah.

In the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel, which is a general mitzvah that rests upon everyone, and can't be done by the individual yet only by the public, in such a mitzvah each one has to make effort so that the nation shall fulfil the mitzvah, and if he doesn't do so, he has cancelled the mitzvah. There is no doubt that if all the torah keeping Jews will fight assertively over the wholeness of our land – there will be a practical result: We would have the privilege of fulfilling this mitzvah, which is against all the mitzvoth together. And once we fulfil this mitzvah, 'One mitzvah brings another'(Pirkei Avot 4:2), and so this would bring eventually all the Jews to come closer to keeping mitzvoth.

Settling the land of Israel and ruling it, is therefore not only a privilege, but also an obligation, and there's no permission to ignore it, or to prefer other mitzvoth over it, for our sages instructed us to favour this mitzvah over the others. Moreover, The Ramban tells us another thing: our sages, even when they needed to go abroad in order to fulfil a mitzvah, they preferred to stay in the land of Israel, and so they said: the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel is equal to all mitzvoth together.
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