Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Boundaries of Eretz Israel (V) - The Status of the East Bank of the Jordan - From Eretz Hemdah I,4:4
It is clear from Chazal that the areas east of the Jordan, which Moshe conquered from Sichon and Og, had a status of Eretz Yisrael in regard to mitzvot hat’luyot ba’aretz (Land-based mitzvot). The question is why. Is this area simply part of Eretz Yisrael, or did it obtain this status, despite being outside Eretz Yisrael, because Bnei Yisrael captured it? Even though land conquered before all of Eretz Yisrael was conquered did not acquire kedushat ha’aretz (sanctity of the Land), these lands are different, because Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to conquer them (Devarim 2:31).
Some mepharshim argue whether Moshe had reason to believe that the decree to keep him out of the Land was repealed by virtue of the fact that he was living in the sections of the East Bank which were incorporated into Eretz Yisrael. Yeshuot Malko assumes that the obligations of the Land found in the East Bank were only as a result of conquest. Therefore, the sanctity of the East Bank began only after the primary conquest Eretz Yisrael proper. He says that the East Bank’s sanctity was subsumed under the sanctity of the main part of Eretz Yisrael, and the sanctity of the extension cannot begin before the base sanctity.
This issue seems to be the basis of a machloket of the Rambam and Ra’avad. The Rambam rules that the laws of shmitta apply to the East Bank only rabbinically. He explains that they are no better than the land of Eretz Yisrael which Bnei Yisrael conquered after the exodus from Egypt. The Ra’avd (ad loc.) counters that a simpler reason, that the members of the Second Commonwealth did not re-conquer this area, explains the lack of Torah–level shmitta. The Kesef Mishneh seems to understand, in response to the Ra’avad’s question, that the Rambam was indeed referring to areas on the East Bank which members of the Second Commonwealth did conquer. Yet, the Rambam rules that even those areas were not re-instilled with the sanctity of the Land. Why not?
The Rambam believes that the sanctity of the East Bank was not intrinsic but was a result of Bnei Yisrael’s conquest in the times of Moshe. We already pointed out that such conquest, prior to the liberation of Eretz Yisrael proper, was valid only because of the direct Divine decree. As Hashem did not command the returnees at the time of bayit sheni to settle the East Bank, their settlement was not recognized because not all of Eretz Yisrael was conquered. Another distinction is in regard to the way they acquired the land. The second sanctification of the Land was accomplished by settlement, not conquest (Rambam, Beit Hab’chira 6:16). We have no source that this type of acquisition applies to lands outside Eretz Yisrael proper.
The Ra’avad assumes that the East Bank is part of Eretz Yisrael even without an exceptional conquest. He, thus, understood the Rambam’s statement in regard to areas which had not yet been re-conquered. Under those circumstances, the Ra’avad is indeed correct that there is no need for a comparison to the conquered parts of Eretz Yisrael to explain why Torah- level shmitta did not exist.
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