"The Land of Israel"
Rabbi Yehonatan Davidiy
is the son of Yair
This article was written a good while ago.
Rabbi Yehonatan served in a special frontline unit in the
IDF. After that he learned for a good few years in a Rabbinical Institute and became a Rabbi.
Rabbi Yehonatan is married with a large family and now lives in the south of Israel. He works as a
Rabbinical Supervisor and Educational Consultant in a Yeshivah.
The article below is translated from the Hebrew. It was written for Jews from a Jewish Biblical-Rabbinical perspective.
Nevertheless the article offers us an insight into major Biblical Themes and contains a message that is also pertinent to the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.
The Brit-Am Rose
Symbol of Israel United
The Land of Israel
The Importance of the Land of Israel
Throughout the Ages.
by Rabbi Yehonatan Davidiy
Praying to Return to the Land.
Throughout every generation the People of Israel remembered its land and were
faithful to it. A religious Jew prays three times a day. Every time the Jew
prays he remembers Zion and Jerusalem, "And to Jerusalem Your City with mercy
return and dwell within it as YOU have promised?" He also prays for the return
of the People of Israel to its Land, "and gather us together from the four
corners of the earth unto our land". So too, in Grace After Meals in the
Blessing where we thank God for the goodness HE has requited us we also pray to
return to the Land and to Jerusalem,
"And build Jerusalem the Holy City, quickly, in our time". In the Blessing on a
Light Snack (of grains or fruits native to the Land of Israel) we continue to
request, "And bring us up into it [Jerusalem] and let us rejoice in its
Priority of the Land
Commandments connected to the Land of Israel comprise about two-thirds of all
the commandments given to the Children of Israel. The purpose of the
commandments is to purify a person, make one a better being, a more complete
The Maharal explains that "the ways and means to achieve success are
the commandments of the Torah. Without them we would remain with our potential alone and uncompleted.
They are like the rope that raises someone out of the deepest pit (the
lowest world), to the upper world and places them together with the King LORD
God of Hosts. The commandments purge a person from physical restrictions" (Maharal,
"Tiferet Yisrael", ch.4).
Keeping the commandments brings us closer to the
Creator, enables the spirit to ascend beyond carnality, to make us more divine.
An important central segment of these commandments are those connected to the
Land of Israel.
The Torah tells us of the fierce desire of Moses to enter the Land of Israel:
AND I BESOUGHT THE LORD AT THAT TIME, SAYING,
O LORD GOD, THOU HAST BEGUN TO SHEW THY SERVANT THY GREATNESS, AND THY MIGHTY
HAND: FOR WHAT GOD IS THERE IN HEAVEN OR IN EARTH, THAT CAN DO ACCORDING TO THY
WORKS, AND ACCORDING TO THY MIGHT?
I PRAY THEE, LET ME GO OVER, AND SEE THE GOOD LAND THAT IS BEYOND JORDAN, THAT
GOODLY MOUNTAIN, AND LEBANON [Deuteronomy 3:23-25].
The Midrash tells us that Moses wanted so much to enter the Land in order to
obtain merit and to keep the commandments dependent on the Land:
expounded, Why did Moses wish to enter the Land? Was it because he needed to eat
its fruits? To be satiated with its benefits? Rather Moses thought, "Israel has
been ordered to keep many commandments that may only be kept in the Land, I will
go into the Land and keep them myself" (Otsar
The Lord of the Prophets and the Giver of the Torah, Moses our Teacher, wished
to enter the land to fulfill the commandments connected with it.
Many Midrashim praise the Land of Israel and its superiority over other lands.
Only in the Land of Israel is it possible to truly speak to God. Only here does
<<Before the Land of Israel was chosen
every country was suited for Prophecy. Once the land of Israel was chosen all
the other lands were excluded. Before Jerusalem was chosen all the Land of
Israel was appropriate to set up an altar in. Once Jerusalem was chosen all the
rest of the land of Israel was excluded, as it says,
TAKE HEED TO THYSELF THAT THOU OFFER NOT THY BURNT OFFERINGS IN EVERY PLACE THAT
BUT IN THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD SHALL CHOOSE IN ONE OF THY TRIBES, THERE THOU
OFFER THY BURNT OFFERINGS, AND THERE THOU
DO ALL THAT I COMMAND THEE [Deuteronomy 12:13-14].
Before the Temple was chosen all of Jerusalem was worthy for the Divine Presence
to reveal itself in. Once Jerusalem was chosen all the rest of Jerusalem was
excluded, as it says,
FOR THE LORD HATH CHOSEN ZION; HE HATH DESIRED IT FOR HIS
THIS IS MY REST FOR EVER: HERE WILL I DWELL; FOR I HAVE DESIRED IT [Psalms
The benefit of living in the Land of Israel is so great that the Sages said,
Someone who dwells in the Land and serves the Almighty is different from someone
who does not dwell in the Land.
GIVE YOU THE LAND OF CANAAN, AND TO BE YOUR GOD" [Leviticus 25:38]: From this
verse they deduced, Every Israelite who dwells in the Land of Israel receives
upon himself the Yoke of Heaven. Anyone who goes outside the land is as if he
worships idols. So too, we find that David said, CURSED BE THEY BEFORE THE LORD;
FOR THEY HAVE DRIVEN ME OUT THIS DAY FROM ABIDING IN THE INHERITANCE OF THE
LORD, SAYING, GO, SERVE OTHER GODS [1-Samuel 26:19]. Can we imagine David
serving other gods? Rather [since David was being forced to leave the land of
Israel] David expounded and said that whosoever dwells in the Land of Israel
accepts upon himself the Rule of Heaven, and anyone who leaves the Land of
Israel is as if they worshipped foreign gods. (Sifrei,
The Sages went to extremes in praise of the Commandment to live in the Land of
Israel. They said that dwelling in the Land of Israel equals all the
commandments of the Torah:
<<It happened that Rabbi
and Rabbi Yochanan
were going to Netzivim
[in present-day Iraq] to to learn Torah from Rabbi
When they reached Sidon
and remembered the Land of Israel their eyes filled with tears, they rent their
garments, and quoted the verses,
YE SHALL POSSESS IT, AND DWELL THEREIN [Deuteronomy 11:31].
AND YE SHALL OBSERVE TO DO ALL THE STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS WHICH I SET BEFORE YOU
THIS DAY [Deuteronomy 11:32]. They then said, "Dwelling in the Land of Israel
is equal to all the commandments of the Torah." After that they turned in their
tracks and returned to the Land of Israel (Sifrei,
The Midrash says that there exist different levels of Holiness in this world.
The Land of Israel is the most holy of all the lands (Sifrei Zuta, ch5).
Every prayer that is prayed to the Almighty is considered as if it passes
through the Land of Israel, then through Jerusalem, and then to the Temple and
from there to the Almighty.
"AND PRAY UNTO THEE TOWARD THEIR LAND,
WHICH THOU GAVEST UNTO THEIR FATHERS, THE CITY WHICH THOU HAST CHOSEN, AND THE HOUSE WHICH I HAVE
BUILT FOR THY NAME [1-Kings 8:48]. Connection to the Almighty passes through the
Land of Israel and Jerusalem, HOW AWESOME IS THIS PLACE! THIS IS NONE OTHER BUT
THE HOUSE OF GOD, AND THIS IS THE GATE OF HEAVEN [Genesis 28:17].
The Task of Israel in this World
Each and every people has its own unique task and destiny in this world.
Every people and each person has its
task to fulfill in the world. This task is special to itself and enables it to
fulfill its destiny and to benefit Creation. The task of the People of Israel in
the world is to serve as a connecting element between Godliness and creation,
infinity and the finite: "A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, AND AN HOLY NATION" [Exodus
19:6]; to serve as a model to the world as to how a perfected being should be.
They are to be an example as to what it means to really live, what is living,
what is holiness, what is a healthy family life, what is correct juridical and
executive governmental order, how to relate to the needy, to build an army, and
how God reveals HIMSELF in all creation, all aspects of life. Through the People
of Israel all the Divine Blessings should come into the world.
The People of Israel can fulfill their task only by cleaving to the Almighty and
to HIS commandments. And only in the Land of Israel. Only in the Land of Israel
can the People of Israel complete their mission and bring Redemption to the whole
world. Rabbi Kook explains that, "Authentic Israelite Creativity, in
conceptuality as well as in meeting the demands of life and work, is impossible for Israelites to
achieve unless they are in the Land of Israel" ("Orot", 11,3).
The Purpose of the Land
As indicated above, for each people there is a particular land through
only which that people can fulfill its mission. So too, the People of Israel has
its own particular land, through only which and only in, can it fulfill its
mission and enlighten the world. That land is the Land of Israel!
Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi explained this point through a beautiful allegory. He
explains that just as we find that certain soils are suitable for certain crops,
for instance a particular type of vineyard needs a particular type of soil that
is suited to it to develop in so too the People of Israel may entirely realize
itself only on the soil particular to it, the Land of Israel. It is not possible
for this special national talent to reach its Divine realization without being
in this place, in the same way that the vineyard will not succeed without being
on the one particular hillside. ("HaKuzari", article 2,12).
As distinct from other lands that enable those who dwell within them to fulfill
their task the Land of Israel not only enables the People of Israel to fulfill
its destiny but pushes them to do so. The Land of Israel helps the People of
Israel fulfill its mission. It does not just make it possible. Rabbi Avraham
HaCohen Kook explains, "It is impossible for a person from the Israelite people
outside of the Land of Israel to be as dedicatedly faithful in thought,
contemplation, ideas, and imagination at the same level of candor that is
achievable in the Land of Israel. The realizations of Holiness at whatsoever
level are cleaner in the Land of Israel. Outside of the land of Israel they are
contaminated with dross and numerous layers of impurity" (Orot 11,4). In the
Land of Israel one is always in ascension, "The action of spiritual
sanctification that is absorbed in the land of Israel is constantly at work" (Orot
Only in the Land of Israel does the phenomenon of Prophecy appear. A basic
condition for living in the Land of Israel is to life in an uplifting manner
through keeping the commandments.
[Deuteronomy 11:8] THEREFORE SHALL YE KEEP ALL THE COMMANDMENTS WHICH I COMMAND
YOU THIS DAY, THAT YE MAY BE STRONG, AND GO IN AND POSSESS THE LAND, WHITHER YE
GO TO POSSESS IT;
[Deuteronomy 11:9] AND THAT YE MAY PROLONG YOUR DAYS IN THE LAND, WHICH THE LORD
SWARE UNTO YOUR FATHERS TO GIVE UNTO THEM AND TO THEIR SEED, A LAND THAT FLOWETH
WITH MILK AND HONEY.
[Deuteronomy 11:10] FOR THE LAND, WHITHER THOU GOEST IN TO POSSESS IT, IS NOT AS
THE LAND OF EGYPT, FROM WHENCE YE CAME OUT, WHERE THOU SOWEDST THY SEED, AND
WATEREDST IT WITH THY FOOT, AS A GARDEN OF HERBS:
[Deuteronomy 11:11] BUT THE LAND, WHITHER YE GO TO POSSESS IT, IS A LAND OF
HILLS AND VALLEYS, AND DRINKETH WATER OF THE RAIN OF HEAVEN:
[Deuteronomy 11:12] A LAND WHICH THE LORD THY GOD CARETH FOR: THE EYES OF THE
LORD THY GOD ARE ALWAYS UPON IT, FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR EVEN UNTO THE
END OF THE YEAR.
[Deuteronomy 11:13] AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS, IF YE SHALL HEARKEN DILIGENTLY
UNTO MY COMMANDMENTS WHICH I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY, TO LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD,
AND TO SERVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL,
[Deuteronomy 11:14] THAT I WILL GIVE YOU THE RAIN OF YOUR LAND IN HIS DUE
SEASON, THE FIRST RAIN AND THE LATTER RAIN, THAT THOU MAYEST GATHER IN THY CORN,
AND THY WINE, AND THINE OIL.
[Deuteronomy 11:15] AND I WILL SEND GRASS IN THY FIELDS FOR THY CATTLE, THAT
THOU MAYEST EAT AND BE FULL.
[Deuteronomy 11:16] TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES, THAT YOUR HEART BE NOT DECEIVED,
AND YE TURN ASIDE, AND SERVE OTHER GODS, AND WORSHIP THEM;
[Deuteronomy 11:17] AND THEN THE LORD'S WRATH BE KINDLED AGAINST YOU, AND HE
SHUT UP THE HEAVEN, THAT THERE BE NO RAIN, AND THAT THE LAND YIELD NOT HER
FRUIT; AND LEST YE PERISH QUICKLY FROM OFF THE GOOD LAND WHICH THE LORD GIVETH
Without keeping the commandments we will have no grasp on the Land of Israel. It
is as if this land has a different atmosphere from the rest of the world, "The
air of the Land of Israel makes wise" (Baba Batra 158;b). The Land does not
tolerate that they who rebel against the Almighty should dwell in it. The Land
pressures and obligates the People of Israel who dwell within it to draw closer
to the Almighty and to fulfill their mission.
YE SHALL THEREFORE KEEP ALL MY STATUTES,
AND ALL MY JUDGMENTS, AND DO THEM: THAT THE LAND, WHITHER I BRING YOU TO DWELL
YOU NOT OUT [Leviticus 20:22]. "The Land of Israel is not like the rest of the
earth. It does not tolerate transgressors. Take as a parable the allegory of the
son of a king who is fed something coarse that he cannot stomach but is forced
to vomit it out. Likewise the Land of Israel cannot maintain transgressors. It
therefore says, THAT THE LAND
SPUE NOT YOU OUT ALSO, WHEN YE
DEFILE IT, AS IT SPUED
OUT THE NATIONS THAT WERE BEFORE YOU [Leviticus 18:28]" (Sifra,
Within the Land itself there are different levels of holiness and varying
regions that influence their inhabitants in different ways. For this reason the
Almighty made each of the Tribal Inheritances to be specifically compatible to
the Tribal Characteristics of the Tribe that would possess it.
The writer continues this theme below quoting from the Book of Numbers an expression
according to acceptable Rabbinical Exegesis but rendering it differently
from how it appears in our translations.
[Numbers 26:54] TO MANY THOU
SHALT GIVE THE MORE INHERITANCE,
AND TO FEW THOU SHALT
GIVE THE LESS INHERITANCE: TO EVERY ONE SHALL HIS INHERITANCE BE GIVEN ACCORDING
TO THOSE THAT WERE NUMBERED OF HIM.
"THAT WERE NUMBERED OF HIM". In Hebrew "pekudav"
which can also connote "according to his needs".
<<"ACCORDING TO HIS NEEDS": From this
we learn that the Land of Israel was only divided to each and every Tribe
according to the nature of the Tribe, by the voice of the Almighty. The Land of
Israel was only divided through Divine Inspiration as directed by the Almighty.
God HIMSELF decided therefore where in the Land of Israel each
Tribe should dwell to enable it to develop its unique potential to the maximum
possible, for its own good and for the good of the People of Israel and the
The very act of just being in the Land of Israel is an enormous merit. It
purifies they who dwell within it and brings them closer to God.
would say, Whoever dwells in the Land of Israel, the land of Israel atones for,
as it says, THE PEOPLE THAT DWELL THEREIN SHALL BE FORGIVEN THEIR INIQUITY
[Isaiah 33:24]. Rabbi Mair
also said, Whoever dwells in the Land of Israel and says [daily the prayer]
"HEAR O ISRAEL THE LORD IS ONE" (Deuteronomy 6:4) in the evening and morning and
speaks in the Holy Tongue [Hebrew] is destined for the World to Come (Sifrei,
The writer quotes below from a Midrash
which in turn cites a verse indicating a different meaning from that by which it
In the verse,
[Deuteronomy 32:43] REJOICE, O YE NATIONS, WITH HIS PEOPLE: FOR HE WILL AVENGE
THE BLOOD OF HIS SERVANTS, AND WILL RENDER VENGEANCE TO HIS ADVERSARIES, AND
WILL BE MERCIFUL UNTO HIS LAND.
AND WILL BE MERCIFUL UNTO HIS LAND. The Hebrew says, "ve-ciper
This could be understood in Hebrew to say, THE LAND SHALL ATONE FOR ITS PEOPLE.
<<THE LAND SHALL ATONE FOR ITS
PEOPLE: From here we learn that whoever dwells in the Land of Israel, the land
of Israel atones for them, as it says,
THE PEOPLE THAT DWELL THEREIN SHALL BE FORGIVEN THEIR INIQUITY [Isaiah 33:24] (Midrash
We learn also that even the Gentile Peoples of the World who would visit the
Land of Israel when it was built up by Israel would merit being spiritually
uplifted from their previous level.
it was said, THEY SHALL CALL THE PEOPLES UNTO THE MOUNTAIN [Deuteronomy 33:19].
The Sages commented that when due to his mercantile activities foreigners came
to trade with Issachar
they would complete their journey by paying a visit to Jerusalem and be
impressed by the holiness of the place and level of devotion of the people.]
<< We learn that people from
different nations and kingdoms would gather together and come up to trade with the Land of
Israel. They would then say to themselves, "We have gone to so much trouble
already to get here let us go and see what the nature of Jewish Merchandise is".
They would then immediately go up to Jerusalem and see Israel worshipping one
God and eating one type of food [i.e. food that is Kosher and therefore
acceptable to all]. This would have been in contrast to the heathen where the
god of one nation is not the deity of the other, and the food of one is not
acceptable to the other. They would then say, "It is a good thing to cleave to
this nation". They then would not move from there until they had converted and
and whole offerings, as it says,
THERE THEY SHALL OFFER SACRIFICES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Deuteronomy 33:19] (Sifrei
In Conclusion, we may say that the settlement of the People of Israel in the
Land of Israel is a necessary factor for the Redemption of the World. Without
this the Divine Outpouring of Bounty into the world will diminish and the People
of Israel will be unable to fulfill their mission. When the People of Israel do
not dwell in the Land of Israel, "The Spring of Bounty ceases to flow and
gradually becomes closed up" ("Orot", 11, 3).
Land of Israel
The very name "Land of Israel" is a declaration of the ownership of the People
of Israel over it. By "Land of Israel" we mean the Land of the Children of
Israel, the Land of the People of Israel.
[Joshua 11:22] THERE WAS NONE OF THE ANAKIMS LEFT IN THE LAND OF
THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: ONLY IN
GAZA, IN GATH, AND IN ASHDOD, THERE REMAINED.
[Ezekiel 27:17] JUDAH, AND THE LAND OF
ISRAEL, THEY WERE THY MERCHANTS: THEY TRADED IN THY MARKET WHEAT OF
MINNITH, AND PANNAG, AND HONEY, AND OIL, AND BALM.
Different Levels of Holiness
There exist ten levels of Holiness. The Land of Israel is more holy
than all the other lands. What is its special Holiness? The following offerings
can only come from it: The Omer [first barley offering]; the two loaves; and the
firstfruits. These offerings cannot be brought from other countries. The Land of
Canaan [west of the Jordan] is more holy than the Land east of the Jordan since
the Land of Canaan is suited for a Temple to serve the Divine Presence whereas
East of the Jordan is not suitable. Walled Cities are Holier than the rest of
the Land since lepers may travel throughout the Land but they cannot enter the
Walled Cities. Jerusalem is holier than the Walled Cities since foods Sanctified
to a mild degree and the Second Tithe are eaten within Jerusalem and they cannot
be eaten in the Walled Cities. The Temple Mounts is holier than the rest of
Jerusalem since they who have an impure discharge enter Jerusalem but they
cannot enter the Temple Mount. The Outer Section [Chail] of the Temple Mount is
Holier than the rest of the Temple Mount since Aramaeans (Heathens) and they who
are impure from touching a corpse may enter the Temple Mount but they cannot
enter the Outer Section. The Womens Courtyard is holier than the Outer Section
since someone who has had a nocturnal emission may enter the Outer section but
they cannot enter the Womens Courtyard. The Israel Courtyard is holier than
the Womens Courtyard since they who have not completed their purification may enter
the Womens Courtyard but they cannot enter the Israel Courtyard. etc, etc
Each and every people has its own unique task and destiny in this world.
"The Creatures created by God in HIS world act out their existence in the world
they were created in, every one according to its own level and the importance of
its work", Maharal, "Tiferet Yisrael".
The Direction to Pray In
<<Those who are outside the Land of Israel turn towards the Land of Israel to
pray, as it says, "AND PRAY UNTO THEE TOWARD THEIR LAND [1-Kings 8:48]. Those
who are in the Land of Israel turn towards Jerusalem and pray as it says, AND
THEY PRAY UNTO THEE TOWARD THIS CITY WHICH THOU HAST CHOSEN [2-Chronicles
6:34], Those who are in Jerusalem turn their faces towards the Temple and pray
as it says AND THE HOUSE WHICH I HAVE BUILT FOR THY NAME (ibid). They who are in
the Temple direct their heart towards the Holy of Holies and pray as it says, IF
THEY PRAY TOWARD THIS PLACE [2-Chronicles 6:26]. As a result of all this those
who are in the North turn their faces to the south, those in the south to the
north, those in the east to the west, and those in the west to the east.
Consequently all Israel pray to the one place. (Sifrei,
Keeping the Commandments ? A Condition of Settlement in the Land of Israel.
This point is mentioned in Sifrei (Devorim p.38):
The Land of Egypt remains the Land of Egypt whether or not its inhabitants do the will of the Almighty. The Land of Israel is different. If you do the will of the Almighty you have the land of Canan [i.e. of Israel] but if not you will be exiled from it. This is spoken of in the verse, THAT THE LAND SPUE NOT YOU OUT ALSO, WHEN YE DEFILE IT [Leviticus 18:28].
So too, we find in Deuteronomy:
[Deuteronomy 11:10] FOR THE LAND, WHITHER THOU GOEST IN TO POSSESS IT, IS NOT AS THE LAND OF EGYPT, FROM WHENCE YE CAME OUT, WHERE THOU SOWEDST THY SEED, AND WATEREDST IT WITH THY FOOT, AS A GARDEN OF HERBS:
[Deuteronomy 11:11] BUT THE LAND, WHITHER YE GO TO POSSESS IT, IS A LAND OF HILLS AND VALLEYS, AND DRINKETH WATER OF THE RAIN OF HEAVEN:
[Deuteronomy 11:12] A LAND WHICH THE LORD THY GOD CARETH FOR: THE EYES OF THE LORD THY GOD ARE ALWAYS UPON IT, FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE YEAR.
So too does the Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel son of Meir c.1085 - c.1158, Troyes, France) explain:
You must keep the commandments of the LORD your God for this land is better for they who keep the commandments
than the Land of Egypt. It is however worse than all other lands for they who do not keep them.
FOR THE LAND, WHITHER THOU GOEST IN TO POSSESS IT, IS NOT AS THE LAND OF EGYPT [Deuteronomy 11:10]
that does not need rain but whether they are good or bad they will have food through the labor of irrigation in their fields. On the other hand, the Land of Israel if you keep the commandments THE EYES OF THE LORD THY GOD ARE ALWAYS UPON IT [Deuteronomy 11:12] to water it with the rain of heaven FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE YEAR to give it rain when needed.