Torah Tidbits Audio: Sharp Contrast Between Sedra and Calendar
Weekly Sidra: Ma’sei (Journeys)
Torah Portion: Bamidbar/ Numbers 33:1-36:13
Haftorah: Yermiyahu / Jeremiah 2:4-28; 4:1-4:2
This Ma’sei episode will also serve as ammunition (pardon the choice of words) for those who live here and have family and friends who don’t, but with whom they would like to bring up the topic of ALIYA. The reason we are doing this for Parshat Mas’ei (not that we need a reason and not that we cannot find a connection to many other sedras) is that the MITZVA of YISHUV ERETZ YISRAEL, the mitzva to live in Israel, is found in Parshat Mas’ei. Don’t look in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot and don’t look in the Sefer HaChinuch (which follows the Rambam’s mitzva-count with only one exception). Look at the Ramban’s list of mitzvot that he finds missing from the Rambam’s list.
The mitzva at issue is known as MITZVA NUMBER FOUR (because that’s its position on the Ramban’s list of additions – don’t worry about the number 613; the Ramban combines many mitzvot that the Rambam counts separately). Mitzva #4 is based on Bamidbar 33:53 – "You shall possess the Land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it." The different understandings of the opening "command" of V’HORASH- TEM, aside, according to Ramban, this is the command from G-d to the Jew to settle in the Land of Israel. See further in the Sedra Summary, the other aspects of this mitzva that the Ramban spells out. Ramban makes a very strong case for the various parts of this mitzva being obligatory on the Jewish People… even today. Although a full presentation of this issue is beyond the limited space allotted the Lead Tidbit, let’s touch on a few points.
First, this is NOT an objective presentation of the topic of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. It is colored by a firm and passionate conviction that G-d com- mands us to live in Eretz Yisrael, that He WANTS us to live our Torah lives in the Land of Israel. Let’s spend some time on the absence of this mitzva on the Rambam’s list of mitzvot (and that of the Chinuch). The Rambam states very clearly and strongly in his halachic work, Yad Chazaka, the imperative nature of living in Eretz Yisrael. He echoes the Gemara in stating that "a person should rather live in the Land of Israel in a city the majority of whose inhabi- tants are idol worshipers, rather than live outside Eretz Yisrael, even in a city with a majority of Jews."
He is clear in echoing the statement that "one who lives outside of Israel is like one who has no G-d." So why isn’t living in Eretz Yisrael on the Rambam’s list of Taryag (613)? Some suggest that the Rambam considers Yishuv Eretz Yisrael as a Supra- mitzva, one that is above, transcends, encompasses, and facilitates other mitzvot. Living in Israel is more than a specific mitzva to live here. Living in Israel (even in our time without the Beit HaMikdash, without a Sanhedrin, without Yovel in effect) brings in its wake a variety of other mitzvot. Living in Israel – according to the Ramban and others – gives the opportunity of fulfilling other mitzvot (even those not dependent upon the Land) on a higher level. Mitzvot of this type do not get numbered by the Rambam among the 613.
But they are nonetheless (and probably more so) mitzvot. Does the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael apply in our time or not? Is the mitzva obligatory or "merely" a matter of fulfilling it (CHIYUVIT or KIYUMIT)?
All interesting questions and subject to much discussion. Aside from all of these issues is the clear picture that emerges from the Torah – R’TZON HASHEM – What does G-d want of each Jew? Where does He want us to be? Is this really a question at all?
Phil Chernofsky is the educational director of the Orthodox Union’s OU Israel Center in Jerusalem and editor of the Torah Tidbits parsha pamphlet. Since 1998, he has hosted Torah Tidbits Audio, a shiur on the weekly parsha with witty insights. It airs every Thursday from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Israel time and is downloadable as a podcast on Israel National Radio.
Tags: additions, ammunition, chinuch, choice of words, eretz Yisrael, family and friends, jew, land of israel, mitzva, mitzvot, objective presentation, passionate conviction, rambam, ramban, sedra summary, sedras, sefer hamitzvot, tidbit, torah tidbits, understandings
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