HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky on Eretz Yisrael

Rav Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Kanievsky is an Israeli Rabbi and posek living in Bnei Brak, Israel. Rav Kanievsky is considered a leading authority in Haredi Jewish society i.e. a “Gadol Hador”. It has been recognized by the Haredi community since the passing of Rav Steinman in December 2017, that Rav Chaim Kanievsky is one of the leaders of the Haredi community.

Rav Kanievsky was born January 8, 1928, in Pinsk, Poland, to Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (also known as the Steipler Gaon) and Rebbitzen Miriam Karelitz, sister of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (also known as the Chazon Ish). He married Batsheva Elyashiv, daughter of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv (grandson of Rav Shlomo Elyashiv, also known as the Leshem) and granddaughter of Rav Aryeh Levin (known as the “Tzaddik of Jerusalem“).

During the 1947–1949 Israeli War of Independence, Rav Kanievsky was drafted for army service. He was assigned to stand guard on a large hill near Jaffa with a wooden pole (the Haganah did not have any guns to spare).

Since his arrival to Israel as a young boy, Rabbi Kanievsky has never left Eretz Yisrael to visit other countries. Rav Chaim has made several statements over that past few years, which indicate that he feels the coming of the Mashiach is imminent. 

All Will Want To Make Aliyah

A man from Chutz LaAretz told Rav Chaim that it is difficult for his wife to consider moving to Eretz Yisrael. What should he do?

Rav Chaim: “Tell her that this is a mitzvah [Aliyah], and soon all Jews will be coming to Eretz Yisrael. And ask her, that when Meshach comes, will she not then agree to come to Eretz Yisrael?” 

Forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael

A wealthy individual asked Rav Kanievsky if he we would agree to visit Chutz LaAretz for 2 weeks? All expenses would be covered, including a gift of $1million dollars!

Rav Chaim: “It is Assur [forbidden by Jewish law] to leave Eretz Yisrael!”

Simple Emunah – Travel to the USA for Parnassa (making a living)

A Rosh Kollel in Eretz Yisrael planned to leave next day to Chutz LaAretz in order to raise money. He went to Rav Chaim for a bracha to be successful on his fund raising trip.

Rav Chaim: “Why are you leaving to Chutz LaAretz?”

Kollel Rav: “I have lots of debts and need to support and pay many avreichim (Rabbis).  How can I not go to Chutz LaAretz to raise the money that I need?”

Rav Chaim: “Go to Tzefat! Do not go to Chutz LaAretz!”

Kollel Rav: “But, I owe a lot of money!”

Rav Chaim: “If you want to go to Chutz LaAretz, go! However I gave you a bracha only for Tzefat.”

The Kollel Rabbi subsequently cancelled his trip to Chutz LaAretz and went to Tzefat. The first night in Tzefat he was learning in a beis hamidrash there at 10:30 pm.  A man from the USA asked him when was the next maariv minyan?  He told him that there will be one at 11:00pm. At the minyan he noticed the same American was there. He approached him and told him that he was raising money for his kollel and that Rav Chaim told him not go to USA but rather to Tzefat.

“How much do you need?” he asked.

The next day he donated the full amount of funds needed. In addition, he told the kollel Rav to contact him in the future if needed.Rav Chaim heard this story. He explained that the one who listens [to Daas Torah] and believes, has true emunah, then Hashem helps him.

One who learns Torah as a Mitzvah, Is Patur (exempt) From Fundraising in Chutz LaAretz

A Kollel Rav from Beitar needed funds to pay his avrechim. He planned to travel to the USA to fundraise.

Rav Chaim: “I will give you better advice. This year is 5775 (2015) which is a Shemita year; sit and learn the laws of Shemita

Kollel Rav: “I am not asking you for advice on which topic for me to give shiurim, I am talking about advice for raising money.”

Rav Chaim: “My advice is for you to learn the laws of Shviis [Shmitta].”

The kollel Rav did not leave Israel. Time passed, he was learning the laws of Shviis and subsequently raised no money. On Erev Pesach he called one of the donors in the USA that he knew. The donor asked him why he is calling rather that requesting funds in person as he usually did on his trips to the USA. The Rav informed him about his interaction with Rav Chaim. The donor responded, “How is learning Shviis going to help you raise money? How much do you need?”

“$40,000 dollars”, responded the Rav.

“I will send you $40,000 in a week”, the donor replied.

When this was shared with Rav Chaim he explained that Sheviis was approaching and that is the time to review the laws. If one is busy studying Torah topics like this, that one must learn, then it will bring a bracha.

Question: “What about Tefilin? Learning the laws Tefilin should bring a bracha?”

Rav Chaim: “Sheviis is for the tzibur (community).” 

 A Segula for Divine Assistance- Pray In Eretz Yisrael

There was a Girl in Argentina aged 12 who was very ill. They family asked Rav Chaim for advice, to stay locally or travel to the USA for additional medical care.

Rav Chaim: “Don’t go to Boston it won’t help, come to Israel to pray.”

Family: “Where?”

Rav Chaim: “At the Kotel”

Family: “Who goes? The mother or the father?”

Rav Chaim: “Best if both go”

Family: “They should go the Kotel pray and return to Argentina?”

Rav Chaim: “Yes”

The family shared with Rav Chaim that their daughter was blessed with a full recovery.

Visiting Graves in Chutz LaAretz

Question: In Shaarei Teshuva #568 it states that it is mutar (allowed) to leave Eretz Yisrael in order to visit the graves of Tzadikim, do we follow this ruling?

Rav Chaim: “This is written, however it is difficult to rely on this lenient ruling, “קשה להקל בזה

Question: “In Shaarei Teshuva #568:68 it states that it is permitted ((מותר  to visit the graves of the Tzadikim in Chutz LaAretz, what do we rule practically למעשה ?”

Rav Chaim: “It is difficult to permit this, קשה להתיר  . It is a GREATER Mitzvah to stay in Eretz Yisrael.  In the Talmud Yerushalmi Moed Katan, daf 84
Halacha 1, it states that it is better to perform Chalitza (levirate divorce) rather than leave Eretz Yisrael and perform Yibum (levirate marriage), there is no reason to leave, because that widow should come to Eretz Yisrael.”

Visiting Rav Elimelech’s Kever

A woman asked, if she can she go to Lizensk, because it was the time of the Yartzeit (21 Adar) of the Tzadik Rav Elimelech (Weissblum) of Lizensk. She really wanted to visit there.

Rav Chaim: “Tell her, to remain in Eretz Yisrael, this is a bigger mitzvah.”

Visiting the Kever of Rav Nachman of Breslev in Umman

One came to get blessing to leave Israel in order to visit Umman (Rav Nachman of Breslev) with his son.

Rav Chaim: “I do not know if it is mutar to travel to Chutz LaAretz for this…and is Eretz Yisrael lacking places to visit? Go visit Rashbi [Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai]”

“I went to Meron already. However Rav Nachman promises to help whomever comes to Umman, there are witnesses to this promise, it’s a mitzvah!”

Rav Chaim: “Go visit the Ari z”l [in Tzefat]. Also, Eretz Yisrael is a Mitzvah.”

The person refused to leave and Rav Chaim started to eat his breakfast. The individual standing before him stated that he would not leave Rav Chaim and planned to remain standing there until Mincha.

Rav Chaim: “If so, good!, Since in the meantime you may miss your flight [to Umman].”

Rav Chaim did not give him a blessing to go to Umman, despite all his pleading. 

Jews Who Are Not Observant Should Make Aliyah

A German Rav from Frankfurt came to Rav Chaim. He explained that he has 70,000 Jews in his the city. Most of the them know nothing about Judaism, not Shabbos, not Milah, not Kashrus, not Taharas HaMishpacha; the Jews live like gentiles in every way.  This Rav wanted to educate them in the ways of the Torah. Little by little this Rav was successful in being able to mikarev small groups of these Jews to Judaism. He came to Rav Chaim for advice.

Rav Chaim: “It’s worthwhile to recommend to them to come to Eretz Yisrael. This in of itself is a mitzvah, to live here”

German Rav: We learn in Parshas Vayishlach that Yaakov feared Esav since he had the zechus of living in Eretz Yisrael.  Whereas, Yaakov was coming from Chutz LaAretz from Padan Aram living with Lavan. Is it not worse to do sins openly in the Kings palace [Eretz Yisrael]?

Rav Chaim: “Living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah like all mitzvos.”

Going To The USA

Two young Israeli yeshiva boys requested a bracha from Rav Chaim.  They were on their way to move to Chutz LaAretz.

Rav Chaim: “Stay in Eretz Yisrael. What every you plan to achieve in Chutz LaAretz, you can also accomplish it in Eretz Yisrael.”

Background information based from The Mishne Torah (Rambam)

When can a Jew leave Israel? Can one take a vacation to the USA? Visit ones parents? Go to a wedding? Tour the world in order to see G-d’s wonders of creation?

רמב”ם, ספר שופטים, הלכות מלכים ומלחמות ה:ט

אסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לחוצה לארץ לעולם אלא ללמוד תורה או לישא אשה או להציל מן העכו”ם ויחזור לארץ. וכן יוצא הוא לסחורה אבל לשכון בחוצה לארץ אסור אא”כ חזק שם הרעב עד שנעשה שוה דינר חטין בשני דינרין במה דברים אמורים כשהיו המעות מצויות והפירות ביוקר אבל אם הפירות בזול ולא ימצא מעות ולא במה ישתכר ואבדה פרוטה מן הכיס יצא לכל מקום שימצא בו ריוח ואף על פי שמותר לצאת אינה מדת חסידות שהרי מחלון וכליון שני גדולי הדור היו ומפני צרה גדולה יצאו ונתחייבו כלייה למקום.

It is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora at all times except:

to study Torah;

to marry; or

to save one’s property from the gentiles.

After accomplishing these objectives, one must return to Eretz Yisrael.

Similarly, one may leave Eretz Yisrael to conduct commercial enterprises. However, it is forbidden to leave with the intent of settling permanently in the Diaspora…However, if food is inexpensive, but a person cannot find financial resources or employment and has no money available, he may leave and go to any place where he can find relief.

Though it is permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael under these circumstances, it is not pious behavior. Behold, Machlon and Kilyon were two of the great men of the generation and they left Eretz Yisrael only out of great distress. Nevertheless, they were found worthy of death by God.

יא – אמרו חכמים כל השוכן בארץ ישראל עונותיו מחולין שנאמר וכל יאמר שכן חליתי העם היושב בה נשוא עון אפילו הלך בה ארבע אמות זוכה לחיי העולם הבא וכן הקבור בה נתכפר לו וכאילו המקום שהוא בו מזבח כפרה שנאמר וכפר אדמתו עמו ובפורענות הוא אומר על אדמה טמאה תמות ואינו דומה קולטתו מחיים לקולטתו אחר מותו ואעפ”כ גדולי החכמים היו מוליכים מתיהם לשם צא ולמד מיעקב אבינו ויוסף הצדיק:

The Sages commented: ‘Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael will have his sins forgiven as Yishaya (33:24) states: ‘The inhabitant shall not say ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there shall be forgiven their sins.’

Even one who walks four cubits there will merit the world to come and one who is buried there receives atonement as if the place in which he is buried is an altar of atonement as Divarim (32:43) states: ‘His land will atone for His people.’ In contrast, the prophet, Amos [7:17, used the expression] ‘You shall die in an impure land’ as a prophecy of retribution.

There is no comparison between the merit of a person who lives in Eretz Yisrael and ultimately, is buried there and one whose body is brought there after his death. Nevertheless, great Sages would bring their dead there. Take an example, from our Patriarch, Yakov, and Yosef the righteous.

יב – לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל אפילו בעיר שרובה עכו”ם ואל ידור בחוצה לארץ ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל שכל היוצא לחוצה לארץ כאילו עובד ע”ז שנאמר כי גרשוני היום מהסתפח בנחלת ה’ לאמר לך עבוד אלהים אחרים ובפורעניות הוא אומר ואל אדמת ישראל לא יבאו…

At all times, a person should dwell in Eretz Yisrael even in a city whose population is primarily gentile, rather than dwell in the Diaspora, even in a city whose population is primarily Jewish.

This applies because whoever leaves Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora is considered as if he worships idols as Shmeul I 26:19 states ‘They have driven me out today from dwelling in the heritage of God, saying ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Similarly, Yechezkel’s (13:9) prophecies of retribution state: ‘They shall not come to the land of Israel.’… (Rambam, Sefer Shoftim, Laws of kings and wars 5:9).

Based on Nachalas Hashem #64

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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