Shabbat Parashat R'ei | 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Mitzva to Live in Eretz Israel - Part VI - The Rambam’s Opinion (I) - Condensed from Eretz Hemdah I,1: 4,9
The Rambam does not bring the mitzva to capture and/or inhabit Eretz Yisrael in his list of 613 mitzvot. The Ramban, as we saw, added on the mitzva to his list. We will now deal with the issue of the Rambam’s opinion on this mitzva, in light of the omission in Sefer Hamitzvot.
[As we have mentioned] the Megillat Esther says that the Rambam agrees that there is such at thing as a mitzva from the Torah to inhabit Eretz Yisrael. However, an oath was administered to Bnei Yisrael that they would not go up to Eretz Yisrael k’choma (literally, as a wall; practically, in a forceful manner). This means that at the time that Bnei Yisrael are in exile, under the dominion of the nations of the world, the mitzva does not apply. Therefore, the Rambam does not count the mitzva, as it does not exist in all generations. [Rav Yisraeli deflected some Acharonim’s critique of the Megillat Esther but asked his own questions. We will now concentrate on alternative explanations of the Rambam.]
The Avnei Nezer (YD 454) says that the Rambam does consider inhabiting Eretz Yisrael as a mitzva from the Torah. However, we find in the Rambam’s system of counting that if one mitzva is included in another, the two are counted as one. As the Rambam counts the mitzva to eliminate the seven Canaanite nations from Eretz Yisrael (“hacharem tacharimem”),included in it is the mitzva of inhabiting Eretz Yisrael.
There are two main problems with this answer. Firstly, it is not altogether clear that that mitzva applies only in Eretz Yisrael [See sources in the original.]. Furthermore, it is possible that the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael requires that we remove all who defile it, but that does not necessarily mean that once this is accomplished, that Jews are required to stay in Eretz Yisrael. Another problem is that, if the mitzva to inhabit Eretz Yisrael and the mitzva to eliminate the Seven Nations are included one in the other, logic would dictate that the former would be the main mitzva and the latter would be included in it. [Ed. note- there is no hint in the Rambam’s mitzva 187, of “hacharemtacharimem” that Bnei Yisrael’s inhabitation of the Land is in any way included in it.] The P’at Hashulchan demonstrates that the Rambam believes that there is a mitzva in all generations for Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael. This is evident from the fact that he brings, without limitation, the halacha that a spouse can force his or her spouse to move to Eretz Yisrael (Ishut 13:19-20). However, that mitzva is only rabbinic and is, therefore, not counted in the 613 mitzvot from the Torah. Regarding the element of capturing the Land, that is included in the mitzvot that deal with required wars.
Regarding the question of a mitzva of war to take control of the Land, there are strong indications that that mitzva indeed existed only in the time of the first entry into Eretz Yisrael, as we will substantiate. The Yerushalmi (Shvi’it 6) says that there is a difference between Bnei Yisrael’s first entry into Eretz Yisrael and the subsequent one(s). At the time of Yehoshua they became obligate in the mitzvot of the Land only after completing the 14 years of conquest and dividing of the Land. At the time of the return from Bavel, they became obligated immediately, even though they did not have ultimate control (it was part of the Persian Empire). The difference appears to be as follows. Originally, the mitzva was to conquer and take full control over the Land. But in subsequent entries, the mitzva was limited to inhabiting the Land, even under the auspices of another nation, and the mitzvot of the Land took effect when they acted on the permission granted them.
We will continue next week.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
Gital Gila bat Eliyahu Michael
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.,
Yitzchak Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson o.b.m,