Rav Moshe Kaplan
Rav Moshe KaplanCourtesy

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, in his essay on war which Arutz Sheva posted last week in honor of his yahrtzeit, explained that the wars against the Jewish People in the Land of Israel are wars against Hashem. /news/382292

This is because the enemies who rise against us don’t only want to kill Jews, the “Children of G-d,” they also want to chase us from our Land. Before the Creation of the world the Divine Will established that the full revelation of Divine Light in existence can only come to fruition through the Nation of Israel living in its unique Holy Land under its own Israelite sovereignty. Only a redeemed and independent Israelite nation, upright it its national stature, can fully manifest the presence of Hashem in the world, and only in this manner can the Torah appear in the world in all of its fullness.

This is the reason why the Torah calls the wars we fight in Eretz Yisrael to establish and maintain Jewish rule “Milchemet Mitzvah” which means Torah-commanded wars. These are wars fought to reveal the Kingship of Hashem in the world!

In illustrating this understanding, Rabbi Druckman cites the teaching of our Sages who proclaim that when Am Yisrael does not dwell sovereign in its own Land, it is like there is no Torah! (Sifre, Ekev, 37). The existence of the Jewish People amongst the gentiles prevents the Torah from appearing in its fullness. As the Gemara teaches: “Since Israel was exiled from its place there is no bitul Torah (nullification of Torah) greater than this” (Tractate Chagiga 5B).

Rabbi Moshe Kaplan who teaches at the Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem was a longtime student of Rabbi Druckman. He explains this deep concept in the following manner:

How can our Sages say that there is no Torah in the Diaspora?

The Jews continued learning Torah all over the world, especially in the great Torah centers of Bavel, so how could the Sages of the Gemara say that the Torah learning in chutz l’Aretz (outside of the Land), including Babylon, was a nullification of Torah? On the verse, ‘He has made me dwell in dark places as those who are long ago dead’ (Lamentations, 3:6), Rabbi Yirmiya said: This is the Talmud of Bavel’ (Sanhedrin 24a). How are we to understand this?

The Torah was given to the healthy, complete Nation of Israel, in order to guide it to its destiny of being “A Kingdom of Priests and A Holy Nation.” Though the Jews who left Egypt could have continued to live in the wilderness, Hashem commanded Moshe Rabenu to bring them into the Holy Land.

When the Jews are in Exile there can be no full expression of Torah life. Exile means much more than being in a foreign country without the ability to fulfill the mitzvot of the Land. When we are scattered amongst the Gentile nations, the whole structure of national Israelite life is destroyed and non-existent by definition. Exile means we are no longer “a Holy NATION” with all the frameworks of a nation including our own government, army, agriculture, industry, educational system, national Hebrew language and calendar, and all the other collective functions of a self-sufficient, enterprising people. These functions are in the hands of the Gentiles and their governments.

Thus, outside of the Land of Israel, not only is the Nation of Israel in exile, Torah is in exile as well.

In addition, the absence of the Divine Ideal in the exile constitutes a great Chillul Hashem – a Desecration of G-d’s Name. As Rashi explains, in the eyes of the Gentiles, when the Jews reside in foreign lands, Hashem is seen as weak in His being unable to safeguard His children in the Chosen Land that He gave them. This is bitul Torah because G-d’s Name and revelation in the world is the Torah, and in the Diaspora this revelation is unable to be fully expressed in all of its national wholeness.

Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is the living testimony of G-d’s Presence in this world. Only when the unified Nation of Israel lives its vital national life in its own Land can the Torah, the total Divine Illumination, be revealed. The Zohar teaches, “The Shechinah does not rest in a broken place” (Zohar I:216b). Just as in the individual, the soul is fully revealed only in a healthy body, so too the national soul, which infuses all the different elements of national life with meaning and infinite value, can only come to full expression when the Israelite Nation is sovereign in its Land.

Furthermore, if Am Yisrael is scattered and out of its place, as when an enemy forces it out of the Land, Heaven forbid, then our national soul which is the soul of the universe, which is the Torah, is unable to come to full expression in this world. This is a tragedy for all of mankind. Thus “You have no greater bitul Torah (the cancellation of the Divine Ideal) than the exile of Israel from its place.”

May Hashem crush the enemies who seek to drive us from our Land and may He enable us to expand Jewish settlement to every extreme of our Biblical borders, with the ingathering of all of our exiles – and may it be soon!