The Mitzvah of Settling in the Land of Israel – Part III
The Ramban’s View
As we explored at length last week in these pages, many authorities struggle to account for why the Rambam does not include the mitzvah of settling in the Land of Israel in his Sefer HaMitzvot.
In his glosses to Sefer HaMitzvot, Rav Moshe ben Nachman, the Ramban, criticizes the Rambam for not including this mitzvah among the 613 Commandments. The Ramban writes that dwelling in the Land of Israel “is a positive commandment for all generations, incumbent upon each and every individual even during the Exile, as is known from the Talmud in many places” (Addenda to Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment no. 4).
The Ramban cites a famous passage in the Midrash, which conveys the significance of this mitzvah:
“Rav Yehudah ben Beteira, Rav Matiah ben Cheresh, Rav Chanina the nephew of Rav Yehoshua, and Rav Yonatan were leaving the Land. They reached Paltum and remembered the Land of Israel. They lifted their eyes and their tears began to flow. They tore their garments and read this verse: ‘…You shall posses it and you shall settle in it. And you shall observe all of the decrees and the statutes…’ They said, ‘dwelling in the Land of Israel is equal to all of the mitzvot in the Torah.’
Rav Elazar ben Shamua and Rav Yochanan HaSandlar were traveling to Netzivim to study Torah from Rav Yehudah ben Beteirah. They reached Tzidon and remembered the Land of Israel. They lifted their eyes and their tears began to flow. They tore their garments and read this verse: ‘…You shall posses it and you shall settle in it. And you shall observe all of the decrees and the statutes…’ They said, ‘dwelling in the Land of Israel is equal to all of the mitzvot in the Torah.’ They then returned to the Land of Israel” (Sifrei, Re’eh 80).
The source for the mitzvah to settle in the Land of Israel, according to the Ramban, is the verse, “You shall posses the Land and you shall settle in it, for I have given you the Land to posses it.” (Bamidbar 33:53). Another source for the mitzvah, he writes, is Devarim 1:8: “…Come and possess the Land that Hashem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them and their children after them.” In his comments to this verse, the Ramban explains that this is not merely a promise from Hashem, but a commandment.
Many later authorities have adopted the Ramban’s view, and conclude that living in the Land of Israel is a mitzvah that applies at all times (See Pitchei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer 75:6. See also S’dei Chemed, Ma’archet Eretz Yisrael 1; Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Eim HaBanim Semeichah, (Jerusalem: Kol Mevaser, 1998), p. 278; Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Yechaveh Da’at, 5:57; Rav Tzvi Glatt, Me’afar Kumi (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 71-75). Some even suggest that every moment one is living in the Land of Israel, he fulfills this mitzvah! (See R. Menashe Klein, Mishneh Halachot 2:56; R. Moshe Shternbuch, Mo’adim U’Zemanim, 5:346).
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