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The Mitzvah of Living in the Land of Israel

יבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהֹוָ֗ה מִצִּ֫יּ֥וֹן וּ֭רְאֵה בְּט֣וּב יְרוּשָׁלָ֑͏ִם כֹּ֝֗ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּֽיךָ׃ וּרְאֵֽה־בָנִ֥ים לְבָנֶ֑יךָ שָׁ֜ל֗וֹם עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל

May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you share the prosperity (the good) of Jerusalem all the days of your life. And may you see children [born] to your children, [and see] peace upon Israel. (Tehillim 128:5-6)

Zion, of course, is a reference to Jerusalem. Rashi states that Zion is also the gate of heaven. He goes on to state that in the merit of Zion, the Jewish people will be fruitful and multiply, as you will see your children have children, no widows will be childless. And more importantly there will be peace throughout the world.

Today in Israel, the Jewish fertility rate is 3.13 births per woman, compared to the Arab rate in Israel of 2.85 births per woman. This rate is higher than ANY western democracy, and higher than any Arab country except for Iraq.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ: וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַֽאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַֽאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶֽהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה:

And the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing. (Breishit 12:1-2)

Here again, we see the promise of fertility for Jews once they are living in the land of Israel. Rashi explains that it is not just a blessing of fertility, but also of financial success. Just as Avraham became very wealthy in the land of Israel, today we see that the State of Israel has one of the strongest world economies and is a huge financial success - the “Start-Up Nation”.

But living in the land of Israel is not just about fertility. It’s a mitzvah! Rabbi Meir Yechiel Me Ostrovtza explained that making Aliyah and settling in Israel was the very first mitzvah given to a Jewish man. According to the Rambam and the Rashbetz, living in Israel is one of the 613 mitzvot. In the Sifrei, it states that living in Israel is equal to ALL the mitzvot.

Moreover, the Chatam Sofer stated that “the main place for the observance of the Mitzvot is in the Land of the Living, Eretz Israel”

It should be obvious that the Torah was written so that mitzvot would be kept in the land of Israel. In addition to the many land based mitzvot that can ONLY be kept in Israel (such as shmitta, trumah, etc), other mitzvot are clearly connected to Israel.

  • A central mitzva of the 3 regalim (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot) was to go up to Jerusalem.

  • Pesach is also known as Chag HaAviv - the Spring Festival. Yet in many parts of the world, it is not yet spring time on Pesach.

  • On Sukkot, we eat outside in our Sukkah on the warm sunny days of Tishrei. But in many parts of the world with large Jewish communities, it is way too cold on Sukkot to do so, and it can be rainy or snowy.

But it’s not just the holidays or the mitzvot about the land. It is the everyday, mundane mitzvot that we as Jews often take for granted. For example, the commandment of Kibud Av V’Em, to honor your mother and father comes with the reward:

לְמַ֨עַן֙ יַֽאֲרִכ֣וּן יָמֶ֔יךָ עַ֚ל הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ

in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you. (Shmot 21:12) While many like to state that the reward for honoring your parents is a long life, if you look closely at the text, it is a reward of a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. In other words, to receive this reward, you actually have to be living in the land of Israel! Even a basic commandment like honoring your parents was meant to be kept in Israel, and not in chutz laaretz.

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: לְעוֹלָם יָדוּר אָדָם בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲפִילּוּ בְּעִיר שֶׁרוּבָּהּ גּוֹיִם, וְאַל יָדוּר בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ וַאֲפִילּוּ בְּעִיר שֶׁרוּבָּהּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁכׇּל הַדָּר בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל דּוֹמֶה כְּמִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ אֱלוֹהַּ, וְכׇל הַדָּר בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ דּוֹמֶה כְּמִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ אֱלוֹהַּ.

The Sages taught: A person should always reside in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city that is mostly populated by gentiles, and he should not reside outside of Eretz Yisrael, even in a city that is mostly populated by Jews. The reason is that anyone who resides in Eretz Yisrael is considered as one who has a God, and anyone who resides outside of Eretz Yisrael is considered as one who does not have a God. (Massechet Ketuvot 110a)

The Gemara makes it very clear that the land of Israel is where a Jew should always live. So on this day of Yom HaZikaron going into Yom Haatzmaut, we should all think about how fortunate we are that God blessed our generation with the ability to come to live in the land of Israel, to fulfill even more mitzvot today than in previous generations, and properly live by the Torah.

מועדים לשמחה לגאולה שלמה!



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