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The Mitzvah of Settling in the Land of Israel – Part 4

Written by Rabbi Nadel, 23/3/2020

 The Mitzvah of Settling in the Land of Israel – Part 4

The View of Tosafot

As discussed in Part 1, the Mishnah (Ketubot 13:11) teaches that one may compel his or her spouse to ascend to the Land of Israel, but no one may compel a spouse to leave the Land. The Talmud explains that refusal to comply is grounds for divorce and, in such a case, the compensation stipulated in the ketubah is forfeited by the offending party (Ketubot 110b). The halacha sides with the partner who wants to move to Israel, or remain there, because of the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling in the Land of Israel.

Tosafot, however, suggests this no longer applies, considering the danger of travel to Israel (ad Loc., s.v. Hu Omer). Additionally, Rav Chaim Kohen, one of the Ba’alei HaTosafot, is recorded as saying that nowadays there is no longer a mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel, given the difficulty in properly observing the agricultural mitzvot that apply in the Land of Israel.

But many authorities take issue with the position of Tosafot: Rav Yosef di Trani dismisses the citation of Rav Chaim Kohen as the addition of an errant student, which is “completely unreliable” (Teshuvot Maharit, YD, no. 28. See also Chidushei Marahit to Ketubot 110b).

The Pitchei Teshuvah (EH 75:6) explains simply that Tosafot reflects a minority position, one which was never accepted by later authorities (See also Sh’nei Luchot HaBrit, Sha’ar HaOtiot, p. 76a; Mateh Yosef 1:9; Teshuvot Maharit, YD, no. 28; Toldot Ya’akov, CM, no. 8). 

And as for travel, one may ask if the roads were any less dangerous during the Talmudic period!

In a lengthy teshuvah on the mitzvah of settling in the Land of Israel, Rav Avraham Borenstein of Sochatchov addresses the issues raised by Tosafot and, writing in the nineteenth century, concludes that these concerns are no longer valid (Avnei Nezer, YD, no. 454. sec. 4, 8). Many other contemporary authorities also found the concerns of Tosafot to be no longer relevant (See Bi’ur HaGra to YD 267:161; Chatam Sofer, YD, no. 233; Yeshu’ot Malko, YD, no. 66). 

How much more so today when travel to Israel is safe and easy!  

And with regards to the laws related to the sanctity of the Land - Shemittah, Terumot, Ma’asrot, etc. - oversight by the Chief Rabbinate and other kashrut agencies ensures that these laws are performed in strict accordance with halacha.

Rav Shaul Yisraeli explains that Tosafot’s objection, even if valid, is limited to the rabbinic enactment of compelling a spouse to ascend to the Land of Israel. Accordingly, Tosafot does not object to the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel today, still considering it to be a mitzvah (See Eretz Chemdah, pp. 20-24).

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