Ariella we achieved this reality. And whether or not

Ariella Mause

Issues in Contemporary
Jewish Thought – Research Paper

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Rabbi Miller



Living In The Land of Israel

As Jews in the 21st century, we have the privilege of having the
land of Israel in our possession. Regardless of how we achieved this reality.
And whether or not it was correct to get this land. We have it. So, should we
be living there today? Should we do whatever it takes to be able to move to

We see throughout history many gedolim did in fact move to Israel.
While other’s remained in Chutz La’aretz. Which group is correct? There really
is no right answer. This split in view is routed in whether or not they believe
Kivush Eretz Yisroel is a mitzvah today. Furthermore this question to some
extent depends on one’s view toward the State of Israel.

First we will discuss the question of whether or not Kivush Eretz
Yisroel is a mitzvah that applies today. In Bamidbar 33:53 the passuk states:

???????????? ???????????????????? ????? ?????? ????????? ???????????? ?????????
???????” (You shall clear out the Land and settle in it, for I have given you
the Land to occupy it.) The Ramban states, “This verse constitutes as a
positive commandment.” Thus according to the Ramban, this is a mitzvah that
applies in all times, and therefore still applies today. The Rambam however,
omits this mitzvah from his Sefer Hamitzvot.

 Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen’s
opinion on this is cited in Tosafot Ketubot 110b s.v. Hu Omeir and Mordechai
Ketubot number 313. He states that the Mitzvah to live in Israel does not apply
today. He feels this way because the journey to Israel and actual life there is
filled with danger. Additionally since it is difficult to fulfill the Mitzvot
HaTeluyot BaAretz there is no Mitzvah to live in Israel “today” (in the twelfth
century). Thus according to Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen one would not be obligated to
live in Israel today.

Rav Moshe Feinstein in
Igrot Moshe (Even HaEzer 102) argues that even though most authorities agree
with the Ramban that one fulfills a Mitzvah by living in Israel today, there is
no obligation to move to Israel. Rav Moshe feels that the Ramban and those who
agree with him believe that if one moves to Israel he has fulfilled a Mitzvah
(Mitzvah Kiyumit) but that there exists no absolute obligation to do so
(Mitzvah Chiyuvit). Rav Moshe concludes that since no one rules that there is
an absolute obligation of Aliyah, Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen’s opinion should
certainly be considered when contemplating moving to Israel. Rav Moshe seeks to
prove this point from the fact that the Rambam in Hilchot Melachim (5:9) writes
that it is prohibited to leave Israel but does not state that one is prohibited
to reside outside Israel. If an obligation to move to Israel exists, writes Rav
Moshe, then the Rambam would have recorded a prohibition to live outside of
Israel. Rav Moshe concludes that since there is no obligation to move to Israel
even according to the Ramban, one must certainly consider Rabbeinu Chaim
Cohen’s concern that one will not fulfill the Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz
properly. All in all, according to Rav Moshe living in Israel today is
fulfilling a non-obligatory Mitzvah.

“Rav Soloveitchik was of
the opinion that according to both the Ramban and the Rambam, living in Eretz
Yisroel constitutes an obligatory Mitzvah Chiyyuvit even today. The Ramban’s
position is clearly stated. And even though the Rambam did not list this as a
separate Mitzvah, the Rav felt that the Rambam had declared his position within
many other Mitzvot. According to Rav Soloveitchik anybody living outside Eretz
Yisroel by choice is in violation of a Mitzvat Asseh. The only Heter and
justification can be rendered to Rabbanim, teachers, or those involved in
working to stem the tide of assimilation and intermarriage in Chutz La’aretz. The
ship of six million American Jews cannot be abandoned by its Torah leaders.” (Halakhic
Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Volume 3, 153-154). Therefor Rav
Soloveitchik holds that living in Israel today is an obligatory Mitzvah for
everyone except for those who qualify for the Heter that he explains.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch
adopts a similar approach to Rav Moshe. He writes: “We must weigh each
case individually to see if it is appropriate for him to move to Israel,
since the impact of the Yeitzer HaRa in the Holy Land, whose holiness is
exceedingly great, is great and very seductive. Therefore, if one has a great
desire to move to Israel because his religious life outside of Israel is
inadequate, it is advisable to first visit Israel and ascertain where he will
live, where his sons and daughters will study, and how he will earn a
livelihood, and only then he should make Aliyah, and he will be successful in
his service of Hashem in His holy palace.”

Rav Moshe Feinstein does
not mention how the recent creation of the State of Israel effects his view.
Even though he wrote his opinion in 1951 after the state was created. Whereas,
Rav Waldenberg does consider the creation of the State of Israel. He writes:
“With the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, the obligation to make Aliyah
has become magnified in two aspects. First, the barrier and obstacles of the
danger to make Aliyah have been removed, and the obstacle of the inability to
earn a living in Israel to the extent of suffering to the point of starvation
God forbid has also been removed. With the removal of these barriers, the
Halachic exemptions that Poskim offer from the obligation to move to Israel are
eliminated. Second, we can say the current state in which Medinat Yisrael finds
itself – that it has now barely ‘gotten out of diapers’ and is surrounded by
enemies sworn to its destruction Heaven forefend – a special obligation
devolves to ‘arm ourselves swiftly’ and quickly move to Israel and come to the
aid of the Jewish people from the enemy that attacked them (see Rambam Hilchot
Melachim 5:1)… Indeed, all groups that come to Israel, be they organized or not
organized, obviously contribute in this effort, either directly or
indirectly.” Rav Waldenberg also describes moving to Israel as a “central
and fundamental Mitzvah.” And so Rav Waldenberg is in the opinion that Rav
Chaim Cohen’s psak no longer applies because of the creation of the state. He also
feels that we are obligated to live in Israel today in order to keep the Jewish
land and people safe.

Rav Hershel Schachter in
his writing The Mitzvah Of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael takes on the approach that is
characteristic of Religious Zionist Halachic authorities in Israel today. Rav
Schachter cites the Avnei Neizer (Y.D. 2:454; though see his addendum to this response),
who states that Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen’s concerns are no longer relevant. Rav
Schachter adds that “If conditions in Israel were not a hindrance to
Aliyah when the Avnei Neizer penned his response some ninety years ago, surely
now they do not constitute an impediment to Aliyah.” We may explain that
traveling to Israel is far safer today than in the times of Rav Chaim Cohen,
and, moreover, the observant Jewish community is far larger, better organized,
and better equipped to deal with the challenges of observing the Mitzvot
associated with Eretz Yisrael. Rav Schachter assumes that the Ramban
believes that moving to Israel is an obligation. Based on the Ramban’s words  “In my opinion, this is a positive
command to live in Israel and to inherit it, because it is given to us.” Rav
Schachter summarizes the many opinions regarding the Rambam’s omission of the
Mitzvah of living in Israel from his list of the 613 Mitzvot. He cites opinions
(cited in Sedei Chemed Maarechet Eretz Yisrael number 2) to the effect that the
Rambam believes that living in Israel is rabbinic in nature and therefore is
not listed as one of the 613 Mitzvot. He then cites the Avnei Neizer’s
aforementioned response, which indicates that once the Rambam counted the
Mitzvah of conquering the seven nations who lived in Israel prior to the
conquest of Yehoshua (Devarim 20:17), he did not find it necessary to count the
actual conquest and settlement as a separate Mitzvah. Rav Schachter, however,
questions the approach of the Megillat Ester (defending Rambam’s Sefer
HaMitzvot from the critiques of the Ramban), who asserts that the Rambam does
not list this Mitzvah because it applies only in biblical and Messianic times
but not at present due to the oath imposed on the Jewish People not to take
Eretz Yisrael by force (Ketubot 111a). Rav Schachter cites the Avnei Neizer’s
disproof of the Megillat Ester – that the Rambam counts the offering of
Korbanot in his count of the 613 Mitzvot despite the fact that it applies only
when the Beit HaMikdash exists. Rav Schachter concludes, “In view of the
difficulties inherent in the approach of the Megillat Ester, most Acharonim
conclude that Yishuv Eretz Yisrael constitutes a Mitzvah according to both
Ramban and Rambam.” Rav Schachter therefore concludes that most Acharonim are
of the opinion that living in Israel constitutes an obligatory Mitzvah
according to both the Rambam and the Ramban, even today. Rav Schachter
concludes his essay, “Every period of Jewish history has its own Mitzvot of the
hour. Today when every Jew settling in Israel contributes measurably to the
security and economy of the State, and to the Jews in it, Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
may indeed be called a Mitzvah of the hour.” Rav Schachter’s approach is in
line with that of Rav Waldenberg’s. He too believes that Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen’s
psak no longer applies due to the amazing living conditions in Israel today
both spiritually and physically. Furthermore he agrees that moving to Israel is
an obligatory Mitzvah according to both the Ramban and the Rambam.

Reb Tzvi Glatt, wrote a
Sefer entitled MeiAfar Kumi in response to Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Teshuvah. Reb
Tzvi was a student at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav who moved to Israel from Brooklyn
at age sixteen and was murdered by Arab terrorists in Chevron in 1980. Reb Tzvi
reviews the many Rishonim and Acharonim who comment on the Mitzvah of living in
Israel and concludes that the overwhelming majority rejects Rav Moshe’s approach
to this question. (Incidentally, Rav Moshe wrote a letter of approbation to
this book, although he notes that he maintains his ruling and that he believes
Reb Tzvi “exaggerates.”) Reb Tzvi mentions that he spoke to many of the great
authorities in Eretz Yisrael, including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (as
indicated in Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 3:158:3), Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (see,
though, Kovetz Teshuvot 2:14), and Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Weisz and they all
agreed that there is an obligation for a person to move to Israel even today if
he can make a living, thereby rejecting Rav Moshe’s approach. Indeed, Rav
Ovadia Yosef (in his letter of approbation to MeiAfar Kumi) approves Reb Tzvi’s
approach (consistent with his ruling in Teshuvot Yechaveh Daat 4:49).

Second we will examine
how one’s view towards Zionism effects their attitude toward living in Israel
today. There are four main categories of views towards Zionism and the creation
of the State of Israel: The Messianic Religious Zionists, Anti-Zionists,
non-Messianic Religious Zionists and Chareidi Non- Zionists groups.

The Messianic Religious
Zionist’s believe that both the Zionist movement and the creation of the state
of Israel are miracles. They describe this miracle as being the beginning of
geulah or even the geulah itself. Rav Kook says we must go to Israel to pioneer
the land. He doesn’t ignore the oaths, or say they don’t apply. He says they’re
not a barrier to entering this land, but they are here to tell us how to enter
the land. R Kook’s son continues on to say that even though not everyone in
Israel is religious the land is completely holy. “The holiness of the state is
completely good regardless of the fact that not everyone living there is
religious.” Based on this view toward the land of Israel Rav Kook says we
should be living there. We have to go conquer even more of Eretz Yisroel.

Opposite of this
approach is the Anti-Zionist category. They believe that the creation of the
state of Israel is a violation of the oaths, and going against Hashem. The
Satmer Rebbe states that the state is bad and actually stopping the geulah from
coming. Similarly the Munkatche Rebbe states that the land of Israel has
tremendous holiness but there’s also tremendous impurities and by going to
Israel along with the Zionist movement you are dealing with the impurity of the
land. Therefore going to Israel along with these people is a great spiritual
danger. Thus according to the anti-Zionist approach we should not be living in

Next is the view of the
non-Messianic Religious Zionists. They believe that the creation of the state
of Israel is non messianic, but Jews should be going to Israel for
non-messianic reasons. Rav Rines, the founder of the Mizrachi movement,
supported Zionism because he wanted to create a political entity where Jews
would be safe. Because the Jews in European countries were being persecuted he
felt they needed a political entity where Jews would be safe and that place is
Israel. Therefore, he felt we should be working with the non-religious Zionist
groups to achieve this goal. Rav Soloveitchik echoes this ideology and says
that we have to build up Israel for the Jews to have a place of refuge.

Last the view of the
Chareidi non-Zionists. There is not one set view from this category. However
what they have in common is that they do not know whether or not the state is
good or bad regarding mesianism. Their main goal is to focus on Torah and
Mitzvos rather then try and figure out Hashem’s plan. Furthermore, they agree
that although we should remain separate from the Zionist movement. Now that the
state is created, and we’re living under their rule we should in fact be
cooperating with them. We should vote in their elections in order to ensure that
Torah and Mitzvos remain. We need our people to have a say. Some of the
Rabbanim in this category such as Rav Wolbe and Rav Eli Lapian state that the
creation of the state of Israel is from Hashem. While others feel the state is
neutral or even bad.

Rav Binyamin Silber is a
member of the Chareidi non-Zionist category. He states that just as we have to
fulfill any mitzvah we have to fulfill this one. It has nothing to do with
geulah or Zionism. He continues on to say that the reason some people such as
the Munkatcher Rebbe were against going to Israel was because they felt their
environment was better suited for being a Torah true Jew. They were more
isolated, and non-affected by modernity then Israel. But, today Hashem caused
all different types of Jews to come together in Israel. The spiritual situation
is all together better in Israel. All the Torah centers are in Israel. Chinuch
Habanim and tznius are better there as well. Thus according to Rav Binyamin
Silber we have to be living in Eretz Yisroel because the spiritual situation is
better there.

My approach is in line with that of Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Moshe
Shternbuch, Rav Binyamin Silber and the Chareidi Non-Zionists. We do not know
whether or not the creation of the state of Israel is related to the geulah.
Our main focus must be on Torah and Mitzvos not trying to figure out Hashem’s
plans. However we do have the land and if we live there we have to cooperate
with them accordingly. We have to vote in their elections and be a part of
parliament in order to preserve Torah and Mitzvos. Additionally, the mitzvah of
living in Israel today is not obligatory it’s a mitzvah just as any other as
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains. If it was we would not see such great Gedolim
rejecting to fulfill such an important mitzvah. Therefore, we definitely
shouldn’t be sacrificing the ability to do many mitzvos in America (or anywhere
in Chutz La’Aretz) in order to fulfill this one mitzvah of living in Israel.
Israel does offer many opportunities for spiritual growth being that it is our
land and does have a large element of kedushah. As well as the fact that today
Israel is a place that is safe and caters to spiritual growth. It is no longer
a place filled with physical dangers such as Rabbeinu Chaim Cohen states. And
as Rav Binyamin Silber explains it is also no longer a spiritual danger like
the Munkatcher Rebbe was worried about. Thus when considering moving to Eretz
Yisroel we must consider which place allows us to be the best Jews we can
possibly be. Rav Moshe Shternbuch advises that moving to Israel is based on
each individual going to Israel and figuring out if his life will indeed be
better there. Thus if living in Israel will cause us to struggle to make a
parnassah and in turn make us stress and have a lack of simchas hachaim. Or the
yeshivos in Israel are not meeting the needs of our children. But if we lived in
America we would be able to prosper spiritually in those areas. Then
sacrificing our yiddishkeit to live in Israel is incorrect and America is where
we should be. And vice versa. If living in America hinders our ability to
prosper spiritually. While living in Israel would allow us to flourish. Then we
should be living in Israel. In conclusion, the decision of living in Israel
today is dependent on where we will best prosper as Jewish people.