Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Mitzva to Live in Eretz Israel - Part IV - Answering the Megillat Esther’s Questions (I) - From Eretz Hemdah I,1:2
[After analyzing the Ramban’s strong, positive approach to the mitzva to inhabit Eretz Yisrael in all periods of history, we look at the counterpoint raised by the Megillat Esther (=MegEs), another of the commentators on the Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvot.]
MegEs brings the following proof that the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael does not apply during exile. The gemara (Ketubot 110b) brings Rav Yehuda’s ruling, based on a pasuk in Yirmiya, that it is forbidden to leave Bavel to move to Eretz Yisrael. If there were a mitzva in R. Yehuda’s time to live in Eretz Yisrael, asks MegEs, how could a prophet uproot the Torah law?
The P’at Hashulchan answers that since the navi limits the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael only in the time of exile, he does not uproot a mitzva. Rather, it is like other mitzvot, especially those related to sacrifices, which are suspended in times of exile. The apparent explanation is that there is not a problem of uprooting mitzvot because the suspension is temporary, during the duration of the exile, and such suspensions have ample precedent. However, his answer is difficult. One cannot compare the suspension of the mitzva tolive in Eretz Yisrael to that of sacrifices. According to Rav Yehuda, the navi actively suspended the former, which he did not do for the latter. Rather, the situation simply became such that it was no longer possible to bring sacrifices.
There is precedent for the distinction between a permanent uprooting and a suspension. The gemara (Yevamot 90b) allows a prophetto uproot a mitzva of the Torah for a “hora’at sha’ah (ruling of the ‘hour’).” However, we must investigate if suspension during the duration of an exile is included in hora’at sha’ah. The matter apparently depends on the understanding of the aforementioned gemara. The Ramban (ad loc.) explains that the gemara’s first stage assumes that the characteristic of a hora’at sha’ah is that it is instituted to deal with a specific situation, irrespective of how long the situation exists, as it will presumably cease at some point. The gemara concludes, though, that a hora’at sha’ah must be significantly limited time-wise. Thus, the P’at Hashulchan’s answer cannot work for the Ramban, as suspending the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael for the duration of the exile is too permanent to be within the prophet’s authority.
The Avnei Nezer takes a different approach, based on the Rasbash, to answer MegEs’s question on the Ramban. The Rashbash explains how an oath not to move to Eretz Yisrael takes hold despite the rule that oaths that contradict Torah commandments are ineffectual. He explains that the mitzva is to live in Eretz Yisrael; moving there is only a preparation for the mitzva (hechsher mitzva). The Rasbash explains that an oath can take effect to forbid performing the hechsher mitzva. So too, the navi’s instructions were to not leave Bavel to go to Eretz Yisrael. That is within his authority, since he did not contradict the essence of the mitzva, to live there.
However, this answer is difficult, as well. The concept that one mitzva can obviate another when they cannot both be accommodated is a common one. Thus, conceptually, an oath could have been able to uproot a mitzva. Thus, the Rasbash’s logic, that the derivation that an oath cannot uproot a mitzva is limited to cases of directly uprooting the actual mitzva, is strong. In contrast, we are dealing with the rule that a prophet cannot inform us that a mitzva, which is eternal, no longer applies. In that context, it makes no difference whether the prophecy comes to uproot the mitzva directly or indirectly. If a navi would tell us to burn down all sukkot, we would certainly not obey to that implausible directive, even though it obviates the mitzva indirectly.
[We continue next week with Rav Yisraeli’s answer to MegEs’s question.]
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