Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Boundaries of Eretz Yisrael - IV - The Reason for the Shrinking Borders - From Eretz Hemdah I;4:4
We have seen that the territory of Eretz Yisrael, listed in Parashat Masei in a halachic context, is smaller than that mentioned in Brit Bein Habetarim and elsewhere. Although the broad boundaries extend to the Euphrates River in the North, most opinions rule that King David’s conquests in that area were not halachically valid, because he shouldn’t have conquered lands outside Eretz Yisrael before all of Eretz Yisrael proper was conquered. The most significant omission from the Masei boundaries was on the eastern bank of the Jordan River (the Jordan is given as the eastern border). This was an Emorite area (included in the seven nations) and had already been conquered by Moshe, according to Hashem’s instructions.
The Ramban (Bamidbar 21:23) explains that Moshe never intended to capture this area and would have left it uninhabited had Bnei Gad and Reuven not requested the land. Bnei Yisrael were too few to spread out so much. Also, the land east of the Jordan was impure in comparison to that to the west and was not fit to house the Divine Presence or the Beit Hamikdash. As Moshe’s decision preceded Parashat Masei’s instructions to settle the land, Hashem’s subsequent instructions showed His approval of Moshe’s decision.
The special qualities and intrinsic kedusha of Eretz Yisrael do not apply to the eastern bank (Tashbetz III, 200). After Masei, the obligation to conquer applied only to those boundaries mentioned there, thus explaining the halachic attitude towards David’s activities in Suria.
According to the Ramban, it is possible that the mitzvah to conquer Eretz Yisrael, which seems to apply outside the Masei borders (see Devarim 1:4), took force to those areas only after the primary sections of Eretz Yisrael were all conquered. But it is more likely that the main mitzva to conquer and inhabit applied only to the holier part of the land, delineated in Masei.
There are several sources that indicate that the land Moshe took from Sichon and Og had a status of Eretz Yisrael. We will discuss the contrary indications next week.
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