Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Settling the land
To dedicate this lesson

Why Such an Emphasis on the Land of Israel?

Why did the religious-Zionist camp take upon itself the commandment of the Land of Israel as such a primary and important project, while ignoring all the other commandments?


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Cheshvan 16 5782

Translated by Hillel Fendel

Could the Rav please explain to me why the religious-Zionist camp took upon itself the commandment of the Land of Israel as such a primary and important project, while ignoring all the other commandments? Yes, this mitzvah is said to be equal to the entire Torah, but there are other mitzvot that are also equal to the whole Torah. For most (not all) of the religious-Zionists, it looks like their whole lives are just the Land of Israel! This question arose when I was sitting with some knitted-kippah youths, and when I told them that I did not enlist in the IDF but rather went to a yeshiva for baalei teshuvah, they said, "What?! Aren't you Jewish?! What about the Land of Israel?!" And when I asked them, "What about the importance of Torah study?" they shrugged me off.

Answer: It is true that the religious-Zionist sector does in fact take extra care to glorify the observance of the great mitzvah of building and settling of the Land of Israel, "Yishuv HaAretz." This is very appropriate, especially because our Sages said that it is a mitzvah equal to all the others. And at this time, when living in Judea and Samaria requires sacrifice, those who fulfill it are on a high level.

However, being extra careful about the mitzvot of the Land of Israel does not come at the expense of any other mitzvah. On the contrary, those who fulfill the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz with dedication and sacrifice also fulfill all the other mitzvot in a beautified manner. 

That and more: Observing this mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz fortifies and empowers the fulfillment of all the mitzvot. Why is this? Because what is the great spirit that leads the entire struggle to settle the Land, if not our deep faith in the G-d of Israel and His Torah? It is with this desire to do His will, and with this vision that G-d's hand is directing us and bringing us back to the Land – that the task and mission of this generation is to take part in this Divine project of the Redemption of Israel. And via the fulfillment of Yishuv HaAretz, all the other commandments that we fulfill rise up to a very high level. So how can it possibly be that settling and building the Land can come at the expense of other mitzvot, Heaven forbid?

In fact, the communities of Judea and Samaria are home to many yeshivot and kollelim, and many students from all over the country study in these institutions – and the Torah level in these towns is especially high. The lighthouses of Torah in Yesha [Judea and Samaria] shine throughout the entire land. And then from these Yeshivot, "core Torah groups" leave and move to different parts of the country, and even abroad, thus spreading Torah even further. And these communities also excel in the mitzvot "between man and man," i.e., doing acts of kindness, charity, and mutual help. 

And I am therefore very puzzled at the assumption that the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz could possible lead to a neglect of other mitzvot.

The opposite is true: Let us now conclude that one who wishes to fortify his observance of Torah and mitzvot should engage in Yishuv HaAretz, and this will help him become stronger in Torah study and mitzvah observance in general.

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