B.H   6 Kislev 5778     24 November 2017
The Rambam and Eretz Yisroel 14 I'yar 5770 / 28/04/2010
ציון הרמב"ם
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The Rambam and Eretz Yisroel

In conjunction with the conclusion of the 28th cycle of the study of the Rambam′s Mishneh Torah, Dr. Yaakov Gottleib, of the Bar Ilan University, writes about the Rambam and his relationship with Eretz Yisroel. Dr. Gottleib is a lecturer on the subject of Jewish Philosophy at Bar Ilan.

Dr. Yaakov Gottleib*

In his Sefer HaMitzvos, commandment 153, the Rambam writes that if, G-d forbid, the Jews will be absent from Eretz Yisroel, it will cause the destruction of the nation and the nullification of the Torah, G-d forbid. However, Hashem promised us that the "signs of the nation will not be totally obliterated." The Chasam Sofer deduced from these words, that although the Rambam didn′t count the settling of the Land as one of positive commandments, he admits – more intensely- that even today the Land has kedusha…since the kedusha has not diminished, and is not dependent on the keeping of the mitzvos that are kept only in the Land of Israel. The Land itself is holy, and Yerushalyim is even holier, (SHuT Yoreh Deah, Teshuva 234). Indeed, in his work ′Mishneh Torah′, many of the Rambam′s halachic rulings testify about the importance of Eretz Yisroel and the importance of settling there, that stem from the kedusha of the Land. We will quote here only a very few examples:

1. When a person buys a house in Eretz Yisrael from a gentile, he is permitted to tell the gentile to compose a deed of sale on the Shabbos. Giving the gentile instructions [to perform a forbidden labor on the Sabbath] is a Rabbinic prohibition, and because [of the importance] of settling Eretz Yisroel the Sages did not enforce their decree in this instance (Hilchos Shabbos 6,11).

2. Great sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones, and roll in its dust. Similarly, Psalms 102:15 declares: ′Behold, your servants hold her stones dear and cherish her dust.′ The Sages commented: ′Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisroel will have his sins forgiven ….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 ….There is no comparison between the merit of a person who lives in Eretz Yisroel 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, Yaakov, and Yosef, the righteous.

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 (Hilchos Melochim.5, 10-12).

The above touched on the Rambam′s view of Eretz Yisroel from the halachic aspect, and now we will focus on Eretz Yisroel in the Rambam′s personal life.

On the 4th of Iyar, 4925 (1165), the Rambam and his family fled from Morrocco and sailed to Eretz Yisroel in order to settle there. When the Rambam arrived at the shores of Yaffo, on the eve of the 3rd of Sivan, after braving a fierce sea storm on the way, he vowed that this day will be a "day of happiness and joy, feasting and giving gifts to the poor, for myself and my family until the end of time."

The Rambam describes his visits to Yerushalyim and Chevron:" We left Acco to ascend to Yerushalayim, and I entered the big and holy House and prayed there on the sixth day of the month of Marcheshvan. On the ninth of the month I left Yerushalayim and went to Chevron to kiss the graves of my Forefathers in the Cave (of Machpela), and I prayed and gave praise to Hashem for everything. And I vowed that these two days, the 6th and the 9th of Marcheshvan, will be a holiday and a day of prayer, and joy in G-d, with food and drink….and even as I merited to pray in the ruins, so may I merit to see the consolation, may it be speedily, Amein" (Igros HaRambam, Shilat Edition, page 225).

Although the Rambam did not merit to materialize his great longing to dwell in Eretz Yisroel, prior to his passing, the Rambam commanded his family to take him to be buried in Eretz Yisroel (Rabbi Shilat, ibid, page 229). May his merits protect us and Eretz Yisroel, Amein.

* The author of this article is the author of the book "S′chaltanut b′Levush Chasidi- D′muto shel HaRambam b′Chassidut Chabad" (Intellectualism in Chassidic Garb- The Rambam in Chabad Chassidus)