Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Mitzva to Live in Eretz Israel - Part IX - The Rambam’s Opinion (IV) - Condensed from Eretz Hemdah I, 1:5
[We explained last time how the Rambam understood R. Yehuda’s approach (Ketubot 110b). R. Yehuda tried to dissuade R. Zeira from moving to Eretz Yisrael based on halachic grounds. He used the oaths forbidding mass aliyah to demonstrate that the mitzva to move to Eretz Yisrael did not apply after the Temple’s destruction. R. Zeira reasoned that the mitzva applied and that it was permitted to move to Eretz Yisrael with permission of the sovereign power. We must determine if the Rambam accepted R. Yehuda’s or R. Zeira’s position.]
In addition to stating that it is forbidden to move from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, R. Yehuda also quoted his teacher, Shmuel, as saying: “Just as it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for Bavel so too is it forbidden to leave Bavel for other lands” (Ketubot 111a). The gemara does not explain the rationale and/or source for the prohibition. The Rambam (Melachim 5:12) rules as follows: “Just as it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora, so too it is forbidden to leave Bavel to go to other lands, as it is written: ‘They will be brought to Bavel, and they will remain there’ (Yirmiya 27:22).” The Rambam, in bringing Shmuel’s halacha not to leave Bavel, does not state whether it applies to one leaving Bavel for Eretz Yisrael. He cited the pasuk that R. Yehuda used to prove that one may not go from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael. What does the Rambam’s ruling, which seems to be a mixture of different statements, tell us about which opinion(s) he accepts as halacha?
The Kesef Mishneh (ad loc.) says that the Rambam combined R. Yehuda’s two statements, his own and the one in Shmuel’s name, because he accepted both as halacha. The prohibition to leave Bavel for other lands thus includes leaving for Eretz Yisrael. The Lechem Mishneh (ad loc.) was troubled by the fact that the gemara implies that the two halachot are different in nature and cannot be combined into one cohesive halacha with a single source or reason.
The P’at Hashulchan, therefore, says that the Rambam accepted only Shmuel’s statement, that one cannot leave Bavel for other lands, excluding Eretz Yisrael. The Rambam did not accept R. Yehuda’s ruling that one may not go from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, as the mishna saysthat one can force his or her spouse to move to Eretz Yisrael, apparently including a case where they were in Bavel. The pasuk that the Rambam brings is merely an asmachta (a scriptural hint, not a source), which fits a variant text that the Rambam apparently had in our gemara.
The Kesef Mishneh’s approach is more plausible than the P’at Hashulchan’s, which makes several difficult assumptions without corroboration. Apparently, R. Yehuda heard from Shmuel a broad statement about not leaving Bavel. R. Yehuda restated Shmuel’s statement as he understood it, that the prohibition applies even to going to Eretz Yisrael, based on the pasuk in Yirmiya. According to the Kesef Mishneh, the Rambam accepts R. Yehuda’s version of Shmuel.
Why do Shmuel and the Rambam equate the problem of leaving Bavel, which is based on a Divine decree to accept Hashem’s hand in history, to the problem of leaving Eretz Yisrael, which is designed to keep one in a holy place? The Rambam did not mean to equate the source or rationale of the halachot but their extent. Shortly before (hal. 9) the Rambam brought the situations where one is allowed to leave Eretz Yisrael, including to marry or learn Torah, on condition that he returns. The comparison tells us that under the same circumstances, one can leave Bavel. Therefore, one cannot prove that those who left Bavel to learn Torah in Eretz Yisrael follow R. Zeira’s opinion, as R. Yehuda agreed that one can go temporarily to learn.
We conclude our treatment of this topic next week
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