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Return to Homesh

By Tzvi Fishman
7/15/2007, 12:00 AM

On Friday, the family, close friends and students of Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, z’tzal, gathered at his gravesite on the Mount of Olives, to commemorate his yahrtzeit. Rabbi Hazani was one of the pioneer founders of Gush Emunim and the leader of the settlement movement all through its years of dynamic growth.

Overlooking the Jerusalem he loved.

A moving eulogy was delivered by Rabbi Gadi Ben Zimra, organizer of this Tuesday’s “Return to Homesh.” With his voice choking with emotion, Rav Gadi expressed the feeling in all of our hearts, how much he personally, and all the nation, missed Rabbi Yehuda’s towering spirit, energy, and selfless devotion to Eretz Yisrael.

Eulogizing Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, a champion of the settlement movement.

In his round the clock campaigns on behalf of the Torah, the settlement of Israel, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Rabbi Hazani was the true continuation of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, buried just yards away.

Rabbi Kook's Burial Site on Mt. Olives

I met Rabbi Hazani in New York when I was just starting to become religious. He had come to America with Meir Indor to recruit volunteers to work in Israel during the first Lebanon War. I was dazzled by his combined love for Torah and Eretz Yisrael and looked upon him as my rabbi and teacher until his tragic death 15 years when he fell off a cliff during a hike in the Judean wilderness he so cherished. The “Sarel” Volunteers for Israel project which they founded has since sent thousands of American Jews to Israel, many of whom have ended up living here.

In his memory, as a tikun for the destruction of the Temple, we are dedicating the following Torah teaching of the Ramban on last week’s Sabbath Torah portion. Since our Sages have stressed that the destruction of the Temple on the Ninth of Av had its origins with the Spies in the wilderness, who returned with their evil report about the Land of Israel on that very same date, our upcoming blogs will focus on the mitzvah of living in Israel, in hopes that our brothers and sisters who are still living in exile will be inspired to come home and thus play their part in the rectification of the great stain of our past.  

The Torah giant, the Ramban, states emphatically that it is a Torah obligation for a Jew to live in the Land of Israel in every generation: “We were commanded to take possession of the Land which Hashem, Blessed Be He, gave to our Forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov, and not to surrender it to other nations, or to leave it desolate, as He said to them, ‘You shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land for you to possess it (BaMidbar, 33:53), and He further said there, ‘To inherit the Land which I swore to your Forefathers,’ behold we are commanded with the conquest of the Land of Israel in every generation” (Supplement of the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4).

The Ramban continues: “In my opinion, this is a positive commandment, enjoining that they dwell in the Land and possess it, because it was given to them, and they should not despise the inheritance of Hashem, Here we are commanded with this mitzvah, for this verse is a positive command.  And the proof of this commandment is this – they were told to go up in the matter of the Spies, as it says, ‘Go up and conquer as Hashem has said to you. Don’t fear and don’t be discouraged.’ And it further says, ‘And when Hashem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the Land which I have given you.’ And when you didn’t go up to Israel, the Torah says, ‘And you rebelled against the word of the L-rd,’ and you didn’t listen to this command.” (Ibid).

What could be clearer than this? There are those who play halachic gymnastics, twisting themselves into halachic pretzels by bringing all sorts of opposing proofs and excuses, but we see with our very own eyes, with the incredible rebuilding of the Jewish Nation in Israel, that Hashem Himself rules according to the Ramban. 

Kosher Pretzel

There are some people who claim that the mitzvah of living in Israel is a mitzvah “kiyumit” like the wearing of tzitzit. This means that if you happen to wear a garment with four corners, then you have to attach tzitzit to it, but that you don’t have to wear such a garment in the first place. Now tell me – what serious religious Jew does not wear tzitzit? We do it gladly in order to get closer to Hashem, knowing that it is His will and pleasure, and that wearing such a garment is for our spiritual good. How much more so with the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel which our Sages have declared is equal in value to all of the commandments of the Torah? 

Dear G-d, as we approach the Ninth of Av, may You in your great mercy, untwist the pretzels in our hearts, and bring us to the truthful and straightforward understanding that it is your will, as clearly set forth in the Torah, that a Jew is to live in the Land of the Jews, and not in the lands that you have bequeathed to the gentiles. May we merit to rectify the sin of the Spies, and may the Temple be speedily rebuilt in these days. Amen.