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WARNING! Living in Israel is a Commandment of the Torah


Meir Kahane

Likewise, Rabbi Shimon used to say, “Elimelech was one of the great luminaries of the generation and leaders of the community, and because he left Eretz Yisrael, both he and his sons died of hunger, while all of Israel survived on their land, as it says, ‘All the city was astir concerning them’ (Ruth 1:19). This teaches that the whole city survived, while he and his sons died of hunger.

“Now then, when it says, ‘I shall return safely to my father’s house’ (Gen. 28:21), why should it have to add, ‘Then the Lord will be for me a God’ (Ibid.)? Yet the Torah says, ‘To give you the Land of Canaan, to be a God to you’ (Lev. 25:38). As long as you are in Canaan, I shall be for you a God. If you are not in Canaan, I am not for you a God…”

“Likewise, David said, ‘For they have driven me out this day, that I should not cling to the inheritance of the Lord [saying, ‘Go serve other gods’]’ (I Sam. 26:19). Would it occur to you that King David was an idolater? Rather, he expounded as follows: ‘Whoever abandons Eretz Yisrael in peacetime and leaves it, it is as though he is worshipping idols, as it says, “I will plant them in this land in truth [with all My heart and with all My soul]” (Jer. 32:41).’ If they are not on this land, they are not truly ‘planted before Me,’ not with all My heart and not with all My soul.”

The Talmud likewise said (Ketuvot 110b):

“The Rabbis learned: One should always live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and he should not live outside Eretz Yisrael, even in a city with a Jewish majority. Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a God, and whoever lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has no God, as it says, “To give you the Land of Canaan, to be a God to you” (Lev. 25:38). And does anyone who does not live in the Land not have a God? Rather, the point is that if someone lives outside the Land, it is as though he worships idols. King David said, “For they have driven me out this day that I should not cling to the inheritance of the Lord, saying, ‘Go serve other gods’” (I Sam. 26:19). Did anyone tell King David to serve other gods? Rather, this teaches that whoever lives outside the Land, it is as though he worships idolatry.”

“Everyone can compel moving to Eretz Yisrael.” Our Sages also established that a husband can force his wife to go up to Eretz Yisrael because of the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, and a woman can force her husband, and even a slave can force his master. We learn in the Mishna (Ketuvot 110b):

“The Rabbis learned: If the husband says to go up to Eretz Yisrael and the wife says not to, we compel her to go up. Otherwise, she may be divorced without receiving a ketubah. If she says to go up and he says not to, we compel him to go up. Otherwise, he must divorce her and give her a ketubah. If she says to leave Eretz Yisrael and he says not to, we compel her not to leave. Otherwise, she may be divorced without receiving a ketubah. If he says to leave and she says not to, we compel him not to leave, or to divorce her and give her a ketuvah.”

This Mishnah was codified as the law for all times by the following poskim [legal authorities]: Rambam (Ishut, 13:19-20); Rif (Ketuvot 110b); Rosh (Ibid., Ch. 13:18); S’mag (Negative Precepts, 81); Piskei HaRid (Ketuvot, Ibid.); Ritva, Ran and Nemukei Yosef (Ibid.), and many, many more. This is because the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah for all times. Rabbi Yosef Karo ruled the same way (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75:3-4, see there). Following is Pit’chei Teshuvah (ad loc., se’if katan 6):

“The Ramban counted this mitzvah among the [613] mitzvot in accordance with, “Inherit it and dwell there” (Deut. 11:31), and it has equal weight to all the other mitzvot combined (Sifri, Re’ei, 80). Also, Terumat HaDeshen in his rulings (siman 88) emphasized the importance of this mitzvah. An exception is Tosafot on Ketubot in the name of R. Chaim Cohen… Indeed Maharit in his responsa, section 28, and in his chidushim [original thoughts] on Ketubot, proved that some errant student had written this idea in the name of Tosafot, and that the quotation was entirely non-authoritative. Maharit is correct, and Netivot Mishpat made the same point. It follows that all times are equal as far as fulfillment of this mitzvah, and such is clear from all the medieval and later Sages who ruled that we compel the wife to go up to Eretz Yisrael with her husband, as in the simple text of the Mishnah.”

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3 Responses to “WARNING! Living in Israel is a Commandment of the Torah”

  1. Rabbi Leon Pettyjohn.

  2. I surender it to G-d!

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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