<I>Yitro</I>: The Complete Torah of Eretz Yisrael

The totality of the mitzvah life.

Aloh Naaleh,

Arutz 7

“Le’ohavay uleshomrei mizvotai....” - “(But showing kindness to the thousandth generation) to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:6)


Ramban cites the Mekhilta in his commentary to the verse, which presents two interpretations of ohavay - “those who love me” - and of shomrei mizvotay. The second explanation in the Mekhilta is that of Rabbi Natan, who says they are those “who live in Eretz Yisrael and are willing to sacrifice their lives for the fulfillment of the mizvot.


“‘Why are you being executed?’ ‘Because I circumcised my son.’ ‘Why are you being taken to be burned at the stake?’ ‘Because I studied Torah.’”


Ramban concludes that, according to Rabbi Natan, love is the willingness to sacrifice one’s life (mesirut nefesh) for the fulfillment of mizvot.


One might ask why Rabbi Natan relates mesirut nefesh specifically to those who live in Eretz Yisrael. Was there, is there, no mesirut nefesh in hutz la’aretz?
We are challenged to demonstrate the complete manifestation of Torah.


The answer perhaps lies in the totality of the mitzvah life of the resident of Eretz Israel. In hutz la’aretz it is easier to compartmentalize. There is a limit to the totality of one’s Jewishness. In hutz la’aretz, at best, one can live the life of Torah only partially, for Torah cannot be implemented in its fullness there. Only in Eretz Yisrael can all of halakhah be fully implemented.


The Rov, z.tz.l., put it beautifully in his hesped for his uncle, the Brisker Rov. In Mah Dodekh Midod (p. 91), he states that the importance of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael is in that it provides a venue for the total fulfillment of the halakhah. The halakhah is all encompassing: “It is interested in every little detail of creation, from the flourishing tree in one’s garden to a satellite spinning around the Earth, from the inner crevices of man’s psyche to the distant galaxies, from the whispers between a man and his wife to the enormity of all of humanity….” The Rov saw the establishment of the State of Israel as the opportunity for this complete realization of the halakhah.


And thus, Rabbi Natan could state that full love for God and full mesirut nefesh is possible only by the denizens of Eretz Yisrael.


It is our unique privilege to live here, now, in Israel. We are challenged to demonstrate the complete manifestation of Torah in all aspects of our private, as well as our public, lives.


Carmi Horowitz, Yeshiva University, Semikhah RIETS 1969, Harvard Ph.D. 1979, made Aliyah in 1979 and is now professor of Jewish History and Rector of Lander Institute, Jerusalem Academic Center.


The foregoing article was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.