Answers About Israel You Always Wanted to Know (part 6 of 13)
The Torah of the Land
62) Torah study is the most important mitzvah in the Torah. Where can one live and be guaranteed an enhancement in our divine service and gain a deeper understanding of G-d’s Torah?
Eretz Yisrael! Not New York, Baltimore or Lakewood.
Talmud Bavli, Bava Basra 158b
When Rav Zeira went up to Eretz Yisrael, he adopted the opinion of Rav Illa. Said Rav Zeira, “I deduce from this that that the air of Eretz Yisrael make one wise” אוירא דארץ ישראל מחקים [Rashbam: …he grasped the truth…]
63) Many people can learn and master Torah outside of Eretz Yisrael. However, where is the one place that one’s Torah learning can actually lead to point of seeing G-d’s Shechina?
Only the Torah of Eretz Yisrael has this power and potential to allow one to see or feel G-d. This is the reason that USA students who come to Israel after high-school, are able to reconnect with G-d and their Torah learning.
Midrash Tehillim 105
Give thanks to Hashem, call upon His name…sing to Him, make music to Him…seek His presence at all times (Tehillim 105:1-14). Rav Yosi son of Chlafta said to Rav Yishmael his son: “Do you want to see the Shechina (Divine Presence) in this world? Study Torah in Eretz Yisrael, as it says, “seek Hashem and His strength [Torah]; seek His presence [Eretz Yisrael] at all times, דרשו ה’ ועוזו, בקשו פניו תמיד.
64) Where in the world is the maximum potential for Torah greatness?
In the home of the Torah – Eretz Yisrael.
Esther Rabbah 1:17
There are ten portions of beauty in the world, nine in Yerushalayim and one in the rest of the world. There are ten portions of wisdom in the world, nine in Eretz Yisrael and one in the rest of the world. There are ten portionsחלקים of Torah in the world, nine in Eretz Yisrael and one in the rest of the world.
65) Rashi teaches us that we begin the Torah in Bereshis and not with the first mitzvah of “HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem”, in order to remind the Jews that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us. Where else in Bereishis are hints that G-d wants the Jews learning Torah in Eretz Yisrael?
On the topic of the rivers that leave Gan Eden we are told about the land of gold and precious stones. This is a reference to Israel and the actual Torah that exists in The Holy Land.
BeReishis Rabbah 16:4
Rav Tanchum said in the name of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi:…”Where there is gold” (BeReishis 2:11), this refers to words of Torah, which are more desirable than gold , even much fine gold (Tehillim 19:11). “And the gold of that land is good” (BeReishis 2:12), this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael שאין תורה כאר”י ולא חכמה כחכמת אר”י. “Bedolach is there, and the shoham stone“, this refers to Mikra, Mishna, Talmud, Tosefta, and Aggadah…
66) What happens to a Jew learned in Torah who leaves Eretz Yisrael?
He is called – defective or blemished.
Avos DeRebbe Nasan 28:1-2
Rabbi Nasan Says: “There is not love like the love of Torah, and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael ואין חכמה כחכמה של ארץ ישראל…Rav Shimon ben Elazar says, “A Chacham who lives in Eretz Yisrael is praiseworthy. If he leaves the Land, he blemishes himself פגם…
67) Which Yeshivos does G-d prefer? The ones in Israel or Chutz LaAretz?
Jews learning Torah in Eretz Yisrael more beloved to G-d than those in other countries.
Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 6:8
These are the words of the letter that Yirmiyahu the Navi sent from Yerushalayim to the rest of the Elders of the exile (Yirmiyahu 29:1): Said Hashem blessed be He, “The elders of the exile are very beloved to me, but a small group of scholarsכת קטנה in Eretz Yisrael is more beloved to Me חביבה עלי that a great Sanhedrin in Chutz LaAretz.”
68) Who takes precedence: a simple Jew in Israel or a scholar in the Diaspora?
A simple Jew in Israel, for without him the Jewish people have no calendar and no holidays to celebrate.
Pirkei DeRebbe Eliezer, Chapter 8
The sun and moon were created on the 28th of Elul; and the counting of years, months, days, nights, hours, minutes, seasons, cycles, and intercalations was in G-d’s hands and He would intercalate the year. Afterwards, He transmitted the secret of the intercalary method סוד העיבור to Adam HaRishon …Chanoch…Noach…Shem…Avraham…Yitzchak…Yakov…Yakov left the Land of and wanted to intercalate the year in Chutz LaAretz. The Holy One. Blessed be He, said to him, “Yakov, you have no permission to intercalated the year in Chutz LaAretz; your father Yitzchak will intercalate the year in the Holy Land.”…based on this, our Rabbis said, “Even if there are righteous and wise men in Chutz LaAretz and herdsmen in Eretz Yisrael, we intercalate the year exclusively by way of the herdsmen…when the Jews were exiled to Bavel, they intercalated the year by way of those who remained in the Land…Then Ezra and his entire congregation ascended, and Yechezkel wanted to intercalate the year in Bavel. The Holy One, blessed is He said to him, “Yechezkel, you have no permission to intercalate the year in Chutz LaAretz, your Jewish brethren will intercalate the year in the Holy Land.” …Yakov transmitted the secret to Yosef…
69) Can the level of Torah knowledge in Chutz LaAretz compare to the Torah learned in Eretz Yisrael?
No matter how great the Torah is in Chutz LaAretz, is can never compare to the level of Torah we have in Eretz Yisrael, the home of the Torah.
Sifrei, Parshas Eikev 1
Eretz Yisrael, which is more beloved than all other lands, was created before all other lands, as it says, “When He had not yet made land ארץ and outlying areas חוצות or the first duct of the world תבל” (Mishlei 8:26)…Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says, “תבל refers to Eretz Yisrael, as it says, “Playing in the expanse of His Land משחקת בתבל ארצו(Mishlei 8:31). Why is it called תבל ? Because it is spiced מתובלת with everything…But Eretz Yisrael lacks nothing ארץ ישראל אינה חסרה כלום…תבל refers to Eretz Yisrael. And why is it called תבל ? Because the spice תבלין in her midst. What is the spice in her midst? The Torah, as it says “Her king and her officers are among the nations, there is no Torah” (Eicha 2:9). From here we derive that the Torah is in Eretz Yisrael.
70) When are prayers refer to Eretz or Tevel – are these references to the Land or the World, as commonly translated?
No. ארץ + תבל always refer to Eretz Yisrael by default and context. G-d does not care about any other lands the way He does about Israel.
Sifrei, Parshas Eikev 1
Eretz Yisrael, which is more beloved than all other lands, was created before all other lands, as it says, “When He had not yet made land ארץ and outlying areas חוצות or the first duct of the world תבל” (Mishlei 8:26)…Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says, “תבל refers to Eretz Yisrael
71) How do we know that Torah study needs to start in Eretz Yisrael and then can be exported to the USA? Why is it necessary for American Jews to send their children to Israel to learn in Yeshiva for at least a year and then return to the USA?
Torah can readily be established in a Jew when it comes from Eretz Yisrael.
Talmud Bavli, Sukkah 20a
Reish Lakish said, “May my suffering atone for Rav Chiya and his sons, for when the Torah was first forgotten…Ezra ascended from Bavel [to Israel] and reestablished it. When it was forgotten again, Hillel the Babylonian ascended [to Israel] and reestablished it. And when it was forgotten again, Rav Chita and his sons ascend [to Israel] and reestablished it.
72) How is the Torah of Chutz LaAretz compared to bitul Torah?!
Talmud Bavli, Chagigah 5b
…Why these three tears?…the third tear is for bittul of Torah…There was no greater bitul (abrogation) if Torah than when the Jews were exiled from their place (Israel) כיון שגלו ישאל ממקומן אין לך ביטול תורה גדול מזה .
73) How do we know that the transmission of our mesorah (genuine rabbinic ordination) can take place only in Eretz Yisrael?
Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin 4:6
One may not confer rabbinic ordination (semicha) סומכים upon elders outside the Land of Israel…they may not ordain one who is in Chutz LaAretz.
For out of Zion the Torah will go forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim.
74) From where do we know that Eretz Yisrael has an intrinsic light of Torah, which makes it relatively easy to understand and issue and come to a proper halachic conclusion. Whereas, in Chutz LaAretz, light of the Torah is weak, one has to work harder to come to the right conclusion?
Ha’Emek Sh’eilah, Kidmas Ha’Emek, section 9 (Rav Naftali Tzvi Berlin 1816-1893, Netziv of Volozhin)
…when we still dwelled in Eretz Yisrael, the merit of the Land helped a person discover the “light” of the halachic ruling with a minimal amount of in depth study. This did not happen in Bavel. Accordingly, a beraisa of Avos DeRebbe Nasan (28:1) teaches, “There is no love like the love of Torah, and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.” VaYikra Rabbah (13) states, “And the gold of that land is good” (Bereishis 2:12): this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.” Avos DeRebbe Nasam further teaches, “Rav Shimon ben Elazar says: “A wise man who lives in Eretz Yisrael and leaves to go to Chutz LaAretz blemishes himself.”…they were saying that Bavel is a dark abyss which lacks any intrinsic light of Torah, and only by virtue to the great torch of pilpul does the Talmud Bavli illuminate the darkness…
75) How does Eretz Yisrael unite Rabbis?
Maharal, Nesivos Olam, Netiv HaTorah 13
…the Land of Israel causes its Torah Scholars to be united and interconnected…Hashem Who is One is the G-d of The Land…the Torah of the holy Land of Israel does not deviate from the natural order and balance of things…for this Holy Land is in the center of the world, which indicates that everything in it is balanced and in the proper order…
76) Torah and Eretz Yisrael are interrelated. How?
Beit Elokim, Sha’ar Ha Yesodot, Chapter 12 ( the Mabit Rav Moshe Aharoni)
…since the Torah and Eretz Yisrael are unique in terms of sustaining the world, and they are equally responsible for the fact that G-d rests His Shechina upon the Jewish people, we find that they are both designated in parallel fashion by the same expression. This is regarding Eretz Yisrael it says, “I will give it to you are a heritage מורשה ” (Shemos 6:8), and regarding Torah it says, “Moshe commanded us the Torah a heritage מורשה )Devarim 33:4)…It also teaches that when Moshe’s Torah is our heritage, Eretz Yisrael will also be our heritage…Furthermore, we can only fully grasp the Torah’s true secrets in Eretz Yisrael, as our Sages say, “The air of Eretz Yisrael make one wise” (Bava Basra 158b)…
77) If the Torah is so intertwined with Eretz Yisrael, then why was it not given in Israel?
The Torah is meant for the Jewish people to be observed in Eretz Yisrael. However, there are certain mitzvos that also apply to gentiles, such as the mandatory seven Mitzvos of Noach. In addition, receiving the Torah in the Midbar left open the voluntary option for converts.
Beit Elokim, Sha’ar Ha Yesodot, Chapter 12
…Torah…its main perfection and fulfillment is in Eretz Yisrael…had the Torah been given in Eretz Yisrael the Jews would have said to the nations of the world, “You have not portion in it.” Therefore, it was given in the desert, an ownerless place, to indicate whoever wants to receive it may come and receive it.
…the gentiles were commanded and obligated to accept the seven Noachide laws…the other nations even had they accepted the Torah and fulfilled it, for it was not created for them and its language doe not attest to them…This why we accept converts…but they are not like us in terms of leadership roles and in terms of receiving a portion in the Land…
78) Did Rav Elchanon Wasserman (1874-1941) agree that the Land of Israel is where we belong?
Kovetz Ma’amarim of Rav Elchanon Wasserman, Ikvesa DeMashicha, 38: pg. 129
Eretz Yisrael occupies a major place in the Torah. Three of the six orders of the Mishnah are connected to Eretz Yisrael…The final tally shows that almost 2/3rds of the Talmud depends on Eretz Yisrael. The same numerical proportion exists with regard to the Chumash as well. It is therefore, evident that Eretz Yisrael is a vital need for the Jewish people. Besides which, dwelling in the Land of Israel is a mitzvah in its own right.
79) Is the purpose of living in Israel to be secular or Torah observant?
Torah observant. Eretz Yisrael is currently the best and only place in the world for a sincere Torah observant Jew.
Masa Ovadyah (Rav Ovadya Yosef, 1969), p.330
Without Torah there is no possibility of settling Eretz Yisrael…Truthfully, the main consideration that must push our brethren in the Diaspora to emigrate and settle in the Land of Israel is the fact that, in our generation, the Holy Land has become an enormous center for the Holy Torah, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Chazal already taught, “And the gold of that land is good: this teaches that there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereishis Rabbah 16:4). And the Yerushalmi (Nedarim 6:8) states, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said, “A small group of scholars in Eretz Yisrael is more beloved to Me than a great Sanhedrin in Chutz LaAretz.” True the USA also has Torah centers, but unfortunately and mournfully, for every soul that they save, ten are lost and assimilated. Their entire spiritual existence is like someone who builds a magnificent palace on ice; when the sun gets hot, it melts away…Fortunate is the lot of those who ascend to our Holy Land, dwell therein, and work on behalf of the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, whether in physical sense or a spiritual one…The Ariz”l is quoted…those who live there permanently, however, receive a higher level – the Neshama. [5 levels of the soul, low to high: Nefesh→Ruach→Neshama→Chaya→Yechida].In the future, all Jews will ascend to Eretz Yisrael…
80) Have the Yeshivos of Bavel and Chutz LaAretz flown through air and relocated in Israel?
The Chazon Ish, Mesorah Publications p.94-95
In participating in the reestablishment of the Bavel houses of study on holy soil…for centuries now, the yeshivas of Bavel have wandered along a path that would eventually bring them back to the Land from which they had been exiled. First these yeshivos were destroyed in Babel, only to be rebuilt in the foreign land of Spain, France and Germany. Their names changed, but their soul did not. This Torah which experienced ten wanderings before finding a home in Bavel, and was subsequently exiled from Bavel to the lands of the West, is the very same Torah that is now returning from the desolate plains of the West to the Holy Land