How can one merit a long life?
In Parshat Yitro, B’nai Yisrael received the Ten Commandments. The fifth commandment (Shmot 20:12) stands out because not only is it a commandment, there is also a reward attached:
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the Land that HaShem your God gives you.
Which Land did God give us? According to the Netziv, this refers specifically to The Land of Israel.
This sounds similar to the last line in the “Vehaya” paragraph of the Shma which we recite twice a day (Dvarim 11:21):
In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the Land that God has sworn to your forefathers to give to them…”
If the reward of a long life is specifically in the Land of Israel then how do people merit to live long lives outside of the Land of Israel as well?
The Talmud, Brachot 8a relates an incident:
Rabbi Yochanan was told: There are elderly people in Babylonia. Rabbi Yochanan was surprised and said: It is written “In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the Land…” meaning the Land of Israel. However, outside of Israel, there is no promise of a long life. They then explained that the elders in Babylonia are people who arise early to attend shul in the morning and stay late in the evening. He said: That is the merit that has gained them long lives.
We learn in the Talmud, Megilla 29a:
It is taught in a braita: Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says: In the future, the shuls and Batei Midrash in Babylonia will be transported and established in Eretz Yisrael.
According to Maharsha, since these synagogues and Batei Midrash will later become part of Eretz Yisrael, when one prays or studies in them it is as if they are in the Land of Israel and therefore they deserve a long life even if technically they are not in the Land.
We already see some of this vision taking place in our time. The Mir Yeshiva, the largest yeshiva in the world is based in Jerusalem with 9000 students. It was originally founded around the year 1814 in the small town of Mir (now Belarus). It remained in that same location for about 100 years. During World War I and World War II the yeshiva moved around to Poltava (Ukraine today) and later Keidan, Lithuania. Whoever was left at the yeshiva fled to Shanghai. After the war, many of the students joined the Yeshiva in Jerusalem which opened in 1944 with ten students.
The Mir is just one example of a yeshiva that was uprooted and is now flourishing in Israel.
May we merit to bring more yeshivot to Israel, not based on the need to flee persecution but based on the ideal that Israel is the best place to live and study Torah as it says in Yishayahu 2:3:
Ki Metzion Tetze Torah u’Dvar HaShem m’Yerushalayim
For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.