Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Sanctity of the Golan Heights According to Halacha - Part I - From Harabbanut V’hamedina pg. 431-435
The main halachic issue regarding the halachic status of the Golan is the general status of Eiver Hayarden (the east bank of the Jordan river), as the Golan is the northern-most section of that area. Eiver Hayarden is fully incorporated into Eretz Yisrael. It may be true that there are different levels of kedusha, but even within the Land of Judea there are different levels, as there are within Yerushalayim itself. The gemara (Chagiga 3b) states that there were many cities that were conquered by those who came to Eretz Yisrael after the Exodus from Egypt but not by those who returned from Bavel. They did so in order that poor people could use the produce during shemitta (Sabbatical year). Yet one cannot say that those areas were no longer part of Eretz Yisrael because of the lack of sanctification or that we had relinquished our claim to those sections of Eretz Yisrael. Rather, some halachot are implemented only at certain times and under certain circumstances. Under situations of need, it is possible to refrain from creating a full sanctity, which therefore limits some of the halachot. However, fundamentally, this does not take away from the connection of these areas to the other sections of the Land.
Yovel (the laws of the jubilee year) applies only when all of the Land’s inhabitants live there. The gemara (Arachin 32b) adds an additional requirement, that each of the inhabitants is in the appropriate place within the Land. In other words, each tribe has to be settled as a distinct group in a distinct region. (There are different opinions if all of each tribe needs to be distinct or just part of the tribe.) The gemara (ibid.) tells us that when the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and part of Menashe were exiled (from Eiver Hayarden) yovel ceased because of the lack of the aforementioned requirement. It is clear that until that point, when these tribes were living in Eiver Hayarden, yovel did apply. Thus, we must conclude that Eiver Hayarden was part of Eretz Yisrael, and thereby all of the tribes were in the Land.
Some, who downplay the status of Eiver Hayarden, cite the halacha that we do not bring bikurim (first fruit) from that region. Let us look at the sources. The first opinion in the mishna (Bikurim 1:10) says that olives from Eiver Hayarden, which were of high quality, were brought as bikurim. R. Yossi argues, because he says it is necessary to bring fruit from the “land flowing with milk and honey” (based on Devarim 26:9). The Rash (ad loc.) cites the Yerushalmi that there was another problem with fruit from Eiver Hayarden. One needs to declare that he is bringing fruit from the “land that you, Hashem, gave to me” (Devarim, ibid.). The tribes of Reuven and Gad were not given their land but took it on their own initiative. The Yerushalmi says that the practical difference is in regard to the tribe of Menashe, which received its portion in Eiver Hayarden as a result of Hashem’s and Moshe’s initiative, not their own. Thus, the northern section (the Golan), belonging to the tribe of Menashe, is part of the land that Hashem gave. The only issue is whether that land is considered flowing with milk and honey, and, anyway, we do not accept the opinion of R. Yossi. Again, we see that the Golan is part of the Eretz Yisrael, the Land given to its inhabitants by Hashem.
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