Living in Israel - A Mitzvah?

How do we know that G-d now wants us here? Just look around. Look at the flourishing of both physical and spiritual life in Israel.

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Phil Chernofsky,

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Flash 90

The most popular countings of the Torah's 613 mitzvot are the Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot and the Sefer HaChinuch. The Chinuch follows the Rambam's counting - almost perfectly - but arranges the mitzvot in the order in which they occur in the Torah rather than the Rambam's organization of mitzvot into categories.

They are not the only two counters of mitzvot. Without going into too much more detail, the Ramban (who was 11 years old when the Rambam died) challenges the Rambam's counting in well over 10% of the mitzvot.

Perhaps the most well-known point of departure between Rambam and Ramban is the topic of Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, living in the Land of Israel. Although Rambam writes strongly about the imperative to live in Israel, he does not number such a mitzva among his 613. Here and now is not the time to explain why not.

What will be said here is that the Ramban does count Living in Eretz Yisrael as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, and he says it applies in all times.

Ramban points to a pasuk in Parshat Mas'ei (D'varim 33:53) as the source for the mitzva.
Matot and Mas'ei are always read during the Three Weeks - separately or combined. Which means that we have a sharp counterpoint between the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael and on the totally other side of the coin, the first mentioned of the five calamities which befell the Jewish People on the upcoming Tish'a b'Av.

This puts us at one of many crossroads with the Calendar pointing to one road and the Sedra pointing the other way.

Until the fast days associated with the Churban are changed to Yamim Tovim, with the coming of the Mashiach and the Third Beit HaMikdash, the Calendar - as it is now - points in a negative direction, while the Torah consistently reminds us of the proper path we should have always taken and which many of every generation don't seem to pay attention to.

Right after the Sin of the Spies and the decree upon the whole adult male population to wander around in the Midbar and die out before the new generation will be privileged to enter the land, we find people who said, Okay, we were wrong; let's go.

Moshe Rabeinu made it clear that G-d did not want those people to go. They lost their chance, so to speak. And their attempt failed.

How do we know that G-d now wants us here? All of us? Just look around. Look at the flourishing of both physical and spiritual life in Eretz Yisrael. Let's be able soon to say, Chag Samei'ach on Tish'a b'Av.



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