Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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Parshat HaChodesh- The Centrality of the Land of Israel

By: Rav Yoel Amital

“This month will be for you the head of the months, the first one of the months of the year”. In Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 153) the Rambam writes that the sanctification of months and calculations of months and years (to coordinate the festivals that are contingent upon the calendar) constitutes the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh. Subsequent to stating that Kiddush HaChodesh may not be performed outside the Land of Israel, the Rambam continues: “If we were to contemplate on a theoretical basis that the Jewish People would be (totally) removed from the Land of Israel- G-d forbid, for He has promised us that He will not completely obliterate the signs of the nation-and there would not be a court of law (bet din) there, nor a court of judges who were ordained in the Land, our calculaton of the calendar would be ineffectual ..for ‘from Zion emanates the Torah’ “. The Rambam maintains that a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel is guaranteed. If Heaven forbid this was not the case, the Jewish calendar would be nullified thus removing the celebration of festivals; tantamount to the obliteration of the signs of our nation. Many commentators endeavored to locate the source of the Rambam that the existence of festivals is contingent upon a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel .

It is interesting to note that the sole halachic issue that the Sefer HaKuzari (a cornerstone of Jewish Philosophy authored by Rabbi Yeh udi HaLevi) engages is the establishment of an international dateline (that the Kuzari maintains is determined upon the Land of Israel ). In the primarily halachically oriented Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam stresses the centrality of the Land of Israel in the Torah framework. Despite the different approaches of the Rambam and of the Kuzari to the Land of Israel on a conceptual level, in practice the Land of Israel is the eternal nerve center of the fulfillment of the mitzvoth. Although our claim to the Land of Israel is not cast in doubt, it behooves us to examine the verses that the Torah stresses in relation to the Land.

The Torah does not suffice with the promise of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People; it relates the causes for the expulsion of gentile nations who previously inhabited the Land. In Sefer Devarim ( 12:29 -31) we are informed: “when Hashem your G-d annihilates the nations that you come to destroy, you will inherit them and reside in their lands. Be careful, do not follow them…perhaps you will seek out their gods, to inquire ‘how did these nations worship their gods, so that I can do the same’? Do not do this to Hashem your G-d, for they performed all the abominations that Hashem despises..” Concerning the phrase “for the iniquity of the Emori has not yet been completed” (Bereshit 15:16 ), Rashi comments that Hashem does not exact retributions until a nation has reached the saturation point of guilt. Thus, we were required to wait until the appropriate time to possess the Land.

The Rambam (in Hilchot Melachim, 6:4) entertains the possibility that gentiles will remain in the Land of Israel if they accept the Noachide code. The Rambam rules that only Canaanite nations that do not make peace with the Jewish People must be obliterated. He states that (as opposed to the Givonites) the Canaanite nations in the era of Yehoshua were influenced by Hashem to be obstinate and wage warfare against the Jewish People; they spurned offers of peace. Thus, despite Divine promises to inherit the Land, components such as the behavior of local gentiles are factored into the equation. Obviously, our claim to the Land of Israel is contingent upon performance of the directives of the Torah as the second paragraph of Kriat Shema indicates; the fulfillment of the Torah enables us to inherit the Land that is promised to our forefathers.


Categorized under: 1: Chagim > Special Shabbatot
2: Chagim > Purim
Uploaded: 8/31/2005 5:54:31 PM