The centrality of Eretz Yisrael

The following is from HaRav Tzvi Sobolofsky, a well known Rosh Yeshivah and Talmid Chacham from YU.

Avraham is described in Parshas Toldos (26:5) as one who observed the Torah of Hashem. Chazal (Kiddushin 82a) explains that this passuk is teaching us that Avraham observed the entire Torah even before it was given. The Ramban in his commentary on this passuk elaborates on this statement of Chazal. Yaakov also observed the mitzvos prior to them being given but only did so in Eretz Yisroel. This was the justification for Yaakov marrying two sisters, and as such Rachel actually died as he returned to Eretz Yisroel. The Ramban adds that although mitzvos are binding outside of Eretz Yisroel, the primary place for mitzvah observance is in Eretz Yisroel. Thus, the voluntary observance of theavos was limited to when they were present in Eretz Yisroel.

This premise of the Ramban, that there is a fundamental distinction between mitzvos performed in Eretz Yisroel and those performed outside of Eretz Yisroel, appears difficult to understand. Agricultural mitzvos such as terumah, ma’asros, and shemitah are linked to the land and do not apply in Chutz La’aretz. Mitzvos which are chovas haguf, those performed with one’s body, have to be observed outside of Eretz Yisroel and yet the Ramban understands them to be on a higher level if done in Eretz Yisroel. Why should mitzvos which are not connected to the agriculture of Eretz Yisroel still take on an additional dimension when done in Eretz Yisroel?

Chazal (Keilim, chapter 1) delineate the ten level of geographic kedusha that exists in the world. The place with the most intense kedusha is the Kodesh haKodoshim. Different areas of the Beis Hamikdash and Yerushalayim are each endowed with various degrees of kedusha. The tenth and final area mentioned is Eretz Yisroel. Each area has its ownhalachos that differentiates it from the other areas. The kedusha of Eretz Yisroel which separates it from the rest of the world is the fact that the korbanos of the omer and the shtei halechem offered on Pesach and Shavuos can only be brought from grain that was grown in Eretz Yisroel. Rather than the obvious halachik distinctions between Eretz Yisroeland Chutz La’aretz such as terumah, ma’asros, and shemitah, why do Chazal highlight the halachos that are related to korbanos?

The mefarshim explain that the theme of these mishnayos which differentiates between different levels of kedusha is the gradations of kedusha emanating from the Beis Hamikdash. Beginning with the Kodesh haKodoshim and ending with Eretz Yisroel, there are ten levels of kedushas ha’aretz. It would be irrelevant for the mishna to highlight the agricultural mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel as the mishna is not focusing on those distinctions.

The omer and the shtei halechem are korbanos that must come from an area endowed to some degree with kedushas ha’aretz. Eretz Yisroel has sufficient kedushas ha’aretz to enable these korbanos to be brought from grain grown in its borders.

Eretz Yisroel is distinct from Chutz La’aretz in two ways. It is agriculturally different which results in a practical difference concerning mitzvos pertaining to the land and it is also different in that it has kedushas ha’aretz which Chutz La’aretz does not. It is this second dimension of Eretz Yisroel that results in its unique status concerning all mitzvos. The primary location for the performance of all mitzvos is in the Beis Hamikdash, the place dedicated for avodas Hashem. The outermost precincts of the Beis Hamikdash end at the borders of Eretz Yisroel. Thus, the entire land is the primary location for mitzvah observance. Although the Torah clearly obligates us to fulfill mitzvos even in Chutz La’aretz, the Ramban understands this to mean that these mitzvos are still not at the level of mitzvos performed in Eretz Yisroel.

The avos who volunteered mitzvah observance only did so in Eretz Yisroel where the highest level of fulfillment of the mitzvos could be achieved.

This aspect of Eretz Yisroel as an extension of kedushas ha’aretz explains another halacha that does not apply in Chutz La’aretz. Chazal teach us that the declaration of Rosh Chodesh must be done by a beis din in Eretz Yisroel. The Rambam elaborates upon this theme by applying this even to our observance of Rosh Chodesh today. In the absence of the process of witnesses testifying that they saw the new moon and the subsequent declaration of Rosh Chodesh by beis din, Rosh Chodesh today is “declared” by the Jewish people observing it as Rosh Chodesh. The Rambam states that it is this observance-declaration of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel that determines the day of Rosh Chodesh which establishes Rosh Chodesh worldwide. Why is Eretz Yisroel so central to the observance of Rosh Chodesh, given that Rosh Chodesh has nothing to do with the agricultural uniqueness of Eretz Yisroel?

The declaration of Rosh Chodesh emanates from the Beis Hamikdash, as all Torah ultimately comes from the Beis Hamikdash which housed the aron and was the seat of the Sanhedrin. From Eretz Yisroel, the outermost area endowed with kedushas ha’aretz, goes forth the declaration of Rosh Chodesh. Whether by the formal announcement of beis din or the observance of the people, the new moon is sanctified in Eretz Yisroel. As we are about to observe Rosh Chodesh this coming week, we turn to Eretz Yisroel and realize its centrality in our lives. From the days of the avos until today, Eretz Yisroel remains the primary location for mitzvah observance. Even as we follow the commandment of the Torah to continue performing mitzvos in Chutz La’aretz, we look forward to the day when mitzvos will be performed in their complete glory in Eretz Yisroel blessed with the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt in its midst.

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It’s winter here and we can expect lots of visitors

The collectors normally come around Shiva Assar BeTamuz and Tisha B’Av because it’s cool and a shorter fast here in Melbourne.

Next time a collector comes, ask him if he is a supporter of Aharon of Satmar, one the Satmar Rebbes whose disgraceful comments have been publicised everywhere. If he says he is but he doesn’t support the comments, let him know you will take down his name and publicise it. If he doesn’t agree, give him a dollar and close the door.

I don’t have any time for someone who can castigate parents who are grieving. It is an Issur D’Orayso in my opinion, and heartless cruelty. I don’t care if it was for private consumption.

Will Adass Israel, that has many Aharoni Satmar adherents, come out and disassociate themselves from this outrage? What of Rabbi Beck and others? Will they speak out against Aharon of Satmar? Don’t hold your breath, people. You will hear nothing.

A rather honourable response appeared in the Jewish Press [Hat tip BA] by Rav Aviner

In the wake of our tremendous pain over the murder of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this has happened. The Admor of Satmar, who dwells in the Exile, claims that it is a punishment for the teens learning in the “Settlements” and blames the parents for sending them to learn there.

We fear that assigning such blame may violate the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is suffering affliction or illness, or whose children have died, the way Iyov’s friends spoke to him: “Surely your fear was your foolishness, your hope and the sincerity of your ways” (Iyov 4:6). And we can add that the Rishonim on this Gemara write that the problem is not only causing distress to another person but also arrogance in thinking that we can know the ways of Hashem.

This recalls the reciprocal placing of blame that occurred following the horrors of the Holocaust: Some said that it happened on account of Zionism, others said it was because there was not Zionism. Still others blamed it on the Enlightenment. Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).

As is known, the uncle of the Admor of Satmar, Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, wrote a book “Va-Yoel Moshe” which is based on the idea that the murder of the holy one during the Holocaust was because of Zionism and the Return to Tzion.

But the great Rabbis of Israel have already answered that if the main transgression was Jews making Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in an organized fashion, then the first Jews to make Aliyah should have been murdered. Yet those who came to Eretz Yisrael and “violated” the Three Oaths (according to the Satmar Rebbe’s opinion) were saved, and those who did not make Aliyah were the ones who were murdered! (See the book “Alo Naale” – Response to Va-Yoel Moshe #43).

The number of Jews murdered in Auschwitz alone was, in fact, higher than that of all of the Jews murdered in all of the wars and terror attacks since the beginning of the Return to Tzion. Today – with the kindnesses of Hashem upon us – there are almost half a million Jews who live in Yesha. Therefore the Admor of Satmar’s claim is not valid.

Regarding the question itself, whether learning in Yesha is permissible: this was already asked of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of “Ramat Elchanan” (neighborhood in Bnei Brak).

A student was learning in a Yeshiva in Yesha and his parents were opposed on account of the danger. Ha-Rav Zilberstein proves that “a frequent damage” (Pesachim 8b. See Mesilat Yesharim, end of Chapter 9) is five percent. Baruch Hashem, 5% of the residents in Yesha are not murdered! And Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak proved based on Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger (#60) that a frequent danger is not five percent, but one in a thousand (Shut Ha-Rav Herzog Vol. 1, p. 269).

Baruch Hashem, one in a thousand Jews is not murdered in “Yeshe”.

The basic halachah is therefore that there is nothing to fear. Obviously, nothing is 100% certain, but nowhere in this world is 100% safe, not Yerushalayim and not Tel Aviv, and it is all based on the definition of “a frequent damage”.

We agree with the Admor of Satmar that there are many Arab murderers in Eretz Yisrael, but we must see things in proportion. We have already been living in Yesha for 40 years and the number of murders that occur there is extremely low. The same is true in all of Eretz Yisrael. We must remember that according to a report of the WHO, World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. That’s compared with 15 out of 100,000 citizens in France, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. Therefore, it is more dangerous for the Admor of Satmar, may he live a long and good life, Amen!, to live in America than to live in the “Settlements”! We must thank Hashem, and his loyal agents – Tzahal, the police, the Mossad, the Shabak and the rest of the security establishment – day and night for the peace and quiet we merit in our Land.

In the Gemara in Chullin (63b), Rabbi Abayu asks: Why is there a bird called “Ra’ah” (the one who saw)? He answers: Because he sits in Bavel and sees a carcass in Eretz Yisrael. The great Rabbis explain that this is a parable to someone who dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael and see the deficiencies in Eretz Yisrael and speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against it…

This obviously in no way detracts from the incredible merits of the Admor of Satmar in strengthening Torah and fear of Hashem in America, and we pray regarding them: “May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion”.


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