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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
Av 22, 5770, 8/2/2010
Once again, since one of the most fundamental foundations of Judaism is the mitzvah of living in Israel, we will review some of the things we’ve emphasized over the course of this blog. This is necessary because there are always newcomers who may not have been exposed to these understandings and laws. In addition, because of the supreme importance of our conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel as the necessary prerequisite in establishing the Kingdom of G-d in the world, the evil inclination employs all of its wiles and force to confuse Jews, in order to discourage and prevent them from performing this all important mitzvah.
The Torah states in this week’s portion of Reah:
“For you shall pass over the Yarden to go in to possess the Land which the L-rd your G-d gives you, and you shall possess it and dwell therein” (Devarim, 11:31).
Here we once again have a clear commandment to conquer and settle in the Land of Israel.
The next verse states:
“And you shall observe to do all of the statutes and laws which I set before you this day. These are the statutes and laws which you shall observe to do in the Land which the L-rd G-d of thy fathers gives thee to possess all the days that you live upon the earth” (Ibid, 12:1).
First of all, it is clear that the Torah is talking about Eretz Yisrael, and not about Australia, South Africa, Tahiti, or Monsey, New York.
Secondly, the verse clearly states that a Jew is expected to always live in the Land of Israel, as it says, “to possess all the days that you live upon the earth.”
Is something not perfectly clear with this?
The Torah doesn’t make the obligation to live in Israel dependent on any conditions, by saying that you have to live here if you like the weather, or if you approve of the government, or if the religiousity of the inhabitants is up to your stature. Like with every other mitzvah, we are not to set ourselves, and our own personal opinions, over what G-d commands us to do. He makes the rules. Period.
Among the greatest commentators of the Torah and authorities of Jewish Law is the Ramban. He writes:
“Hashem said to them, ‘Inherit the Land and dwell there, for to you I have given the Land to possess, and you shall inherit the Land that I swore to your Forefathers’ – behold, we are commanded with its conquest in every generation (Ramban, Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment 4).
The Ramban continues:
“This is what our Sages call ‘Milchemet Mitzvah,’ an obligatory war. This Land is not to be left in the hands of the Seven Nations, or in the hands of any other nation, in any generation whatsoever…this is a positive commandment which applies at every time” (Ramban, ibid).
The Ramban concludes:
“And the proof that this is a Torah commandment is this – they were told in the matter of the Spies, ‘Go up and conquer the Land as Hashem has said to you. Don’t fear, and don’t be discouraged.’ And further it says, ‘And when the L-rd sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the Land which I gave you, and you rebelled against the L-rd your G-d, and you did not believe in me, and did not listen to this command’” (Ibid).
The Ramban clearly states that there is a positive mitzvah of the Torah to conquer and live in the Land of Israel in all generations.
All of the early and later Torah authorities, the Rishonim and Achronim, decide the law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban, that the precept of conquering the Land applies in all generations, and all of them agree that it is a commandment of the Torah (Shuchan Oruch, Pitchei T’shuva, Evan HaEzer, 75:6).
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that, “There are religious Jews who express a type of criticism and say, ‘If the State of Israel were run according to our lifestyle and spirit, then we would accept it. Until then we abstain from it…. This is a tragic mistake.”
Just as settling and building the Land is a great mitzvah, people who discourage others from performing this all-important commandment are committing a grave sin. Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook stressed:
“In our generation, we are in a situation of war, and we must be careful over what we say. We must strengthen the conquest and settlement of the Land with intelligence and reason, boldness and strength, and by guarding our speech. We must guard against language which leads to discouragement. The Torah forbids this weakening of others by saying, ‘Lest his brother’s heart melt like his heart’ (Devarim, 20:8). In our time, weakheartedness is as forbidden as pork.”
Whether this discouragement comes from diehard leftists in Israel, or from talkbackers on the Internet whose evil inclinations have gotten the best of them, all of their pseudo-intellectualism and highfalutin speeches are as traf as pork.