April 14, 2024
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The Prohibition Against Leaving Israel

Many of us are familiar with some of these families: They had moved to Eretz Yisroel, settled there and had even kept one day of Yom Tov. Yet, now they wish to return. The halachic question is: When is it permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael?

While we are at it, we may also deal with the question of what the reason is for the mitzvah of remaining in Eretz Yisroel? Are we dealing with a biblical or rabbinic prohibition? And even if it is primarily rabbinic in nature, is there ever a biblical mandate regarding this?

As an interesting aside, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, once asked his uncle, the Chazon Ish, if it would be permitted to go swimming at a beach wherein the ocean is the actual border of Eretz Yisroel (cited in Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein’s Avnei Chain 5:2). The Chazon Ish answered that the area that one swims in is still considered part of the land of Eretz Yisroel. According to this, however, it is possible that someone taking flying lessons may not fly over the waters on account of the possible prohibition of leaving Eretz Yisroel — unless he is doing so for the purpose of a mitzvah.

The reasons for the prohibition against leaving Eretz Yisroel cited by the authorities are actually rather varied:

The Ramban (Bamidbar 33:53) explains the prohibition on account of the mitzvah to settle in Eretz Yisrael. The Ramban, if we recall, is of the opinion that the Torah mitzvah to settle the land of Israel is applicable nowadays, as well.

The Rashbam (Bava Basra 91b) explains that the prohibition exists because by leaving the land, one is actively removing oneself from the mitzvos that are uniquely dependent upon being present in Israel.

The Lechem Mishnah (Melachim 5:12) explains that because Israel is holy, it is forbidden to leave it.

Finally, a fourth reason given is that prayer in Israel is much more effective, and the prohibition was made so that the nation of Israel not remain bereft of those praying on its behalf — in the place where prayer is most efficacious.

 

Biblical or Rabbinic?

Is it a Torah or rabbinic prohibition? Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe, Volume I, No. 120), indicates that it is rabbinic. That being the case — in a case of a doubt — there is greater leniency. The language of the Maharitatz (Siman 85), however, indicates that he learns the prohibition as biblical — not like Rav Feinstein zt”l. He writes that the source for the Rambam’s leniency regarding leaving for business comes from a fortiori argument from leaving Israel to go to Egypt. If it is permitted regarding Egypt, it is certainly permitted regarding other lands where the prohibition is not explicit in the Torah. His language in the latter half of the response is indicative that it is still a biblical prohibition, but not one that is explicit. The Chochmas Adam in his Mishpetei Aretz 11:14, however, also learns that the prohibition is rabbinic.

 

Leniencies

There are various heterim that are found in the poskim to permit leaving Eretz Yisroel.

For the mitzvah of kibud av v’em, honoring one’s parents, it is certainly permitted to leave Israel. There are two circumstances described in the poskim:

One, where one’s parents are traveling to Israel; in such a case, one is permitted to leave Israel proper to greet and accompany them. The other case is where one leaves Israel to tend to another need involving kibud av v’eim. The former case is permitted by all authorities based upon a Gemara in Kiddushin (31a). The latter case is the subject of some debate. The consensus of poskim is that in that case it is permitted, as well. If, however, your parents need you because they are in danger, then one would certainly be permitted to go. Indeed, some poskim even permit one to permanently leave Israel when one leaves for the mitzvah of kibud av v’em. Beis Shlomo, Volume II, No. 94, citing Rashi’s interpretation of Kiddushin 31a. The Maharsha, however, seems to learn otherwise. (See Chayei Moshe 48:37.)

Others disagree and write that it is only permitted if one has in mind to return. Clearly, however, there are no boundary issues when it comes to kibud av v’em.

One is also permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael to seek medical care or for health reasons in general.

Additionally, it is permissible to leave Israel to travel to the gravesites of tzaddikim, such as in Uman, in order to pray there (see Shaarei Teshuvah 568:20).

According to Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, (Yechave Da’as 5:57) one would also be permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael to teach Torah to others. This issue came up a number of years ago with a now prominent rosh yeshiva who was offered a prestigious post outside of Israel. The gedolim of Eretz Yisrael told him to take the position, but his wife refused to follow him. Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, zt”l, also took a position outside of Israel in the Mirrer yeshiva when it was offered to him.

A fascinating additional heter is found in the Mishna Berurah (531:14). He writes that one may leave Israel to see a good friend, because this is considered a dvar mitzvah. Poskim extend this to include seeing one’s children and grandchildren.

One may leave Eretz Yisrael to find a shidduch outside of Israel (Rambam, Melachim 5:9). This is true — even if one would be able to find a suitable match inside of Israel, if marriage to another person (found outside of Israel) is preferred. Generally speaking, this is only if one has in mind to return to Israel. Interestingly enough, if one cannot find a spouse in Israel, it is permissible to go to chutz la’aretz and settle there on a permanent basis (Maharit, Kiddushin 111a).

One may leave Israel to conduct one’s business affairs (Rambam, ibid.). This is only permitted, however, if his intention is to return.

 

May One Travel If One Left With a Heter

One last question brings us back to one of our original questions: May one stay and travel a bit if he had originally left with permission? If the prohibition is rabbinic, then it would seem to be permitted. If, however, it is biblical, then it would seem that the reason is like that of the Ramban cited above and one would not be permitted to delay further on account of the constant mitzvah of being in Eretz Yisroel. Of course, one should consult with one’s own rav and posekin regard to all of these issues.


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