June 15, 2024
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So Why Are We Here? Is One Required to Live in Israel?

Part IV

Like the Kibbutz Galuyot school of thought, the Territorial School requires all Jews to return to Israel under a sovereign state for the same reasons explained in my article entitled “Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Yisrael Part III.” But the Territorial School takes it one step further. What follows are some of their arguments.

Based on the opinion of the Ramban, the Territorial School believes that leaving any territory of the Land of Israel in the possession of non-Jews is a violation of a biblical mandate. “You shall take possession of the Land and dwell in it,” means that there is a biblical requirement to conquer the Land.

According to the Ramban, a war waged to conquer the Land of Israel is in the category of an obligatory war, Milchemet Mitzvah and not an optional war, Milchemet Reshut. Accordingly, war must be waged not only in self-defense when attacked but must also be initiated to rescue the Land from non-Jewish hands.

The requirement to wage war applies today as much as it did in the days of Joshua. Spurning the commandment to conquer the Land is, in the eyes of the Ramban, rebellion against God. Indeed, Moses criticizes the spies who shrank from waging war against the inhabitants of the Land. “Go up and possess the Land which I have given you; then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God and you believed him not nor hearkened to his voice.” The establishment of the Jewish sovereign state and of the Israel Defense Forces is a biblical commandment because without them there is no way to conquer the Land.

Conversely, no part of the Land within the boundaries delineated in Numbers Chapter 34 may be relinquished for any purpose whatsoever.

“There is no doubt,” writes Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap “that if circumstances require the heads of state to sign an international agreement that will include a statement relinquishing any of our rights to the Land of Israel, it is preferable that the signatories amputate their thumbs rather than amputate the heavenly garden of Zion.”

“If we have the capability to acquire all of the Land of Israel,” writes Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, then we do not have the permission to relinquish our claim to even one clod of earth and to hand it over to foreigners.”

Inherent in the commandment to wage war to conquer the Land is the commandment to sacrifice one’s life if necessary to achieve that purpose. The rule that survival, pikuach nefesh, takes precedence over all the commandments of the Torah (except for murder, idolatry and incest), does not apply to the commandment to wage war to liberate the Land because war, by definition, means sacrifice of life.

Furthermore when the practice of any commandment of the Torah is prohibited by a decree of a non-Jewish legislature, a Jew must risk his life rather than obey the decree. Accordingly, if other nations decree that Jews may not conquer the Land, it is incumbent upon each Jew to disobey such a decree even at the pain of death.

Underlying the Territorial School is the concept that the Land of Israel is intrinsically holy. “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” The holiness of the Land of Israel is intrinsic; it is not dependent on the observance of the mitzvot. Rabbi Abba kissed the stones of Acco and Rabbi Chia Bar Gamda adorned himself with her dust.

Like the Kibbutz Galuyot School, the Territorial School sees the historical juxtaposition of the Holocaust and the State of Israel as no coincidence. “If a Jew thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem … then a raging storm will uproot him.” Both these schools of thought view the Holocaust as the amputation from the Diaspora.

The fact that mainly secular, non-observant Jews govern the State of Israel does not bother the Territorial School at all. God chooses his agents of return without our approval. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah refers to Koresh, the Gentile king responsible for returning the exiled Jews to Zion, as the Messiah. Besides, the mitzvah of settling the Land is equal to the observance of all the other mitzvot.

Every war in Israel is a stage in the redemption of Israel. The Redemption occurs in stages, war after war.


Raphael Grunfeld, a partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, received semichah in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Harav Haga’on Dovid Feinstein, zt”l. This article is an extract from Raphael’s book “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerai’m” available for purchase at www.amazon.com/dp/057816731X or by emailing Raphael at [email protected]

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