Shabbat Parashat Matot| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Mitzva to Live in Eretz Yisrael - Part II - Ramban’s Opinion (II) - From Eretz Hemdah I,1:1
[After bringing an abridged translation of the Ramban’s classical position in the Sefer Hammitzvot, we now bring Rav Yisraeli’s analysis of the Ramban. We hope that our readers will be able to either review last week’s issue or see the Ramban in the original.]
There are three fundamental elements to the Ramban’s position, which we will demonstrate with quotes. 1) The obligation is both kibush (the standard translation is, to conquer) and to inhabit Eretz Yisrael (“We were commanded in its conquest and its inhabitation.” 2) Both of these are obligations for all generations (“We were commanded in conquest in all generations; living in Eretz Yisrael … is all from the mitzvat aseh (positive commandment) that we were commanded to possess the Land to inhabit it; if so, it is a mitzvat aseh in all generations; 3) The obligation is a personal one as a specific mitzva (“every one of us is obligated in it, even in the time of exile”).
It appears from the Ramban that the two obligations, to conquer and to inhabit, form and are counted as one, single mitzva, even though the Torah gives two directives (“possess the Land and inhabit it”- Bamidbar 33:53). We could have thought that these are two, only mildly connected mitzvot, one to expel idol worshippers from the Land and another to buy or otherwise settle the Land when it is desolate. The Ramban apparently explains himself with the words “we were commanded to inherit the Land.” In other words, the main element is to uphold the inheritance of our forefathers. Kibush is the element of bringing the Land under our control and the inhabitation is the perpetuation and upkeep of that relationship. The two together constitute an inheritance.
This is consistent with the Ramban’s interpretation of the Torah’s command, “v’horashtem.” The Ramban (on Bamidbar, ibid.) takes issue with Rashi, who says that it is referring to eliminating the previous inhibitors. The Ramban says the word refers to inhabiting and inheriting. It appears, as the language of the Sifrei suggests, that “v’horashtem” includes all of the elements of bringing the Land to the point that it is as an inheritance, and the word “viyshavtem” is the reward. In other words, in response for Bnei Yisrael’s efforts, Hashem will enable them to live there in tranquility.
We need to investigate the Ramban’s intention when he says that conquest is a mitzva even in the time of exile. After all, as the Megillat Esther points out, Chazal derive from p’sukim in Shir Hashirim that Bnei Yisrael are proscribed from rebelling against the nations or returning to Eretz Yisrael by force (Ketubot 111a). It, therefore, appears at first glance that the Ramban does not mean that it is actually an operative mitzva in all generations to conquer the Land. Rather, it is a mitzva that, from its own perspective, exists forever. In practice, there are times and situations when will be prevented from carrying out the mitzva (i.e. there is a prohibition of using force).
However, the above approach causes problems. We saw that according to the Ramban, the mitzva has two elements, conquest and inhabitation. It would seem that if we were to inhabit the Land without conquering it (e.g. by buying land from a non-Jew), that it would not fulfill the mitzva. Otherwise, it would follow that conquest is just a technical way to achieve inhabitation. But that could not be, because the Ramban derives from the wars of Yehoshua that the war itself is a mitzva under those circumstances. If, then, conquest is a necessary component of the mitzva, then during the time of exile, even inhabiting the Land should not be a mitzva.
[In order to answer the present difficulties, we will see next week how to understand the term kibush¸ which we have been understanding simply until now, as conquest.]
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