Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Another Way to Make Aliyah Gittin 8 Psychology of the Daf

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses a fascinating legal enactment in order to promote settlement of the land of Israel. Even though ordinarily, one may not instruct a gentile to perform labor on Shabbos, if there’s an opportunity to purchase a parcel of land in Israel, from a gentile, you can instruct a secular court to write up the contract. While some poskim have used this as a general principle, allowing one to instruct a gentile to perform a labor on Shabbos if there is some great urgency, in practical halakha we only permit it when there are two factors: 1. The labor itself is only rabbinically prohibited in origin. 2. There is some significant duress, loss, or physical distress, or it is a mitzvah. (One does not need to be seriously ill, because even a Jew could do Rabbinically prohibited labor for an illness that affects the whole body or weakens the person significantly. See Shulkhan Arukh OC 276:2 Rama and 307:5.) Therefore a distinction is drawn between the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel versus other mitzvos or concerns. Somehow, this was considered to be so vital over other matters, that it is permitted to instruct a Gebtile to perform Biblically prohibited labor on Shabbos, such as drafting a contract. The question is, why? What makes this mitzvah so special and more important than say, procuring Esrog or Shofar on Yom Tov, which is only allowed by asking a gentile to perform a rabbinically prohibited form of labor?

There are two responsum of the Rivash (101 and 387) that speak of this matter. He explains that the settlement of Israel is not just a one time mitzvah performed by one person. Rather, it establishes Land that would have been lost in the possession of Gentiles, and returns them to the Jewish birthright. In responsa 101, Rivash counters an interesting kal v’chomer legal argument. The petitioner in the letter wants to justify hiring a boat to travel to Israel on Shabbos by way of Kal V’chomer. If it is permitted to purchase land on Shabbos from a gentle instructor person to write a contract, surely it must be permitted to travel on a boat in order to make Aliyah. However, the Rivash rejects his argument. He says, to the contrary, the Mitzvah of making Aliyah is a personal one for yourself. However, reacquiring land of Israel, that is in Gentile hands, represents a mitzvah that will endure for generations and for the Jewish people as a whole.

If we are to follow the Rivash’s moral equation, it comes out that if you had opportunity to purchase some part of Israel that currently is in Gentile hands, performing that Mitzvah is of higher priority than actually settling in the land of Israel. This is remarkable. That would mean for those in chutz la’aretz with a guilty conscience, they could get more “bang for their mitzvah buck“ by somehow funding re-acquisition of tracts of land in Israel that currently do not belong to Jews. This is Mitzvah can be achieved even without living there.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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