Honoring One’s Parents and Settling the Land

I am sometimes asked: What is the halakha concerning a situation where a young person wants to come on aliyah, while his or her parents are in total disagreement? Considering the important mitzvah of honoring ones parents, is it proper to listen to them and remain in the Diaspora, or does the mitzvah of settling the Land take preference?

The halakha teaches that a child is not required to obey his parents if their wishes contradict any other commandment from the Torah – not even a rabbinical ordinance. Additionally, if parents tell a child to transgress a mitzvah from the Torah, or demand that he not fulfill one, it is forbidden to listen to them, for they are also commanded to honor God and to fulfill the Torah’s precepts (Shulchan Aruch, Yorah De’ah 240:15).

Consequently, since there is a mitzvah to live in Israel, a youth should not heed the objections of his parents, and must move to Israel, even against their will. This is especially true concerning the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael, which our Sages have declared equal in weight to all other mitzvot in the Torah (Sirfri, Re’ah 53. See also, Responsa of Maharam from Rotenburg 79; Mabit 139; Pitchei Tshuva, Even Ha’Ezer 75:6; Yichavei Da’at 3:69). The child of course, should attempt to appease his parents in a pleasant and respectful manner, explaining the great value of his aliyah, both personally and for the Nation.

Similarly, one who desires to live in a community in Judea or Samaria, in order that the Land be under our control, and not under the control of non-Jews – and his parents are worried, demanding he live somewhere else – since it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, he does not have to listen to them. He should, of course, attempt to assuage their apprehensions in the most loving and respectful way.

Husband, Wife, and Living in Israel

Under normal circumstances, when a husband and wife disagree about where to live, one side cannot force the other to move, because any move creates difficulties and problems. However, if they live in community that is populated mainly by non-Jews, one spouse can force the other to move to a place where the majority of residents are Jewish (these laws are detailed in the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75).

This is the case when both locations are outside of the Land of Israel, or when both are within Israel. But in the Diaspora, when one spouse wants to move to Israel, the law is on his or her side. It does not matter whether it is the husband or the wife – in either case, according to the halakha, the one who doesn’t want to move to Israel must acquiesce and go, and the Beit HaDin (Jewish Court) has the authority to enforce this ruling. Even if the couple lives in a Diaspora community that is mainly Jewish, and in Israel, they will have to live in a place whose residents are mainly non-Jews, nevertheless, the mitzvah of settling the Land overrides this concern. If, in spite of the halakha, one side wants to remain in the Diaspora and refuses to make aliyah, and this lead to a divorce, Heaven forbid, since the blame rests on the partner who refuses to move to Israel, the Sages have determined that he (or she) must forfeit all ketubah rights. In other words, if the husband is the one who refuses to move, he must grant his wife the entire ketubah payment; and if the wife refuses to move, she loses her entire ketubah money (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75:4).

Thus, once again, we see the magnitude of the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz. Even though, in every other instance, the halachah guides the Rabbis to make every effort to guarantee shalom bayit (peace in the home), when shalom bayit conflicts with the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel, the mitzvah to settle the Land takes preference.

Translated from Rabbi Melamed’s book “Peninei Halakha:Ha’am v’Ha’aretz