1) THE THREE OATHS OF HASH-M
QUESTION: The Gemara infers from the verse in Shir ha'Shirim (2:7) that Hash-m made two oaths with the Jewish people and one with the nations of the world. The first oath He made with the Jewish people was that the Jewish people will not rebel against the nations of the world. The second oath He made with the Jewish people was that they will not band together and come to Eretz Yisrael by force, like a fortifying wall ("she'Lo Ya'alu Yisrael b'Chomah"). The oath He made with the nations was that they will not subjugate the Jewish people excessively. The Gemara infers from the verse that the consequence of transgressing the oath is that the flesh of the people will become Hefker like the flesh of animals.
If failure to abide by the oaths is punishable, then there must have been an acceptance of the oath by both sides. Where, though, do we find that the Jewish people (or the nations of the world) accepted these oaths?
Moreover, do the warnings contained in these oaths appear anywhere in the Torah? Since a prophet is not permitted to add anything to the Torah (Megilah 3a), it must be that the Torah already prohibits the actions proscribed by the oaths. The Jewish people may not rebel against the nations of the world because the Torah states that only Mashi'ach will have the prerogative to do this. For the same reason, they may not forcefully come to Eretz Yisrael (see following Insight). The nations of the world certainly do not have any right to oppress the Jewish people, even without the oath.
The question remains, however, what is the purpose of these oaths, and in what way is the punishment for their transgression a logical consequence measure for measure?
(a) The SEFER HA'AKEIDAH says that the oath that Hash-m made with the Jewish people in the Midbar (see Parshas Netzavim) established an interminable covenant between Hash-m and the Jewish people. By telling the Jewish people that their continued existence depends on their fulfillment of these warnings, Hash-m ensured that at least some part of the Jewish people will always observe these warnings and the nation will not suffer total annihilation.
The Sefer ha'Akeidah explains that this potential annihilation is not a punishment for transgressing the oath, for such a punishment certainly would need mutual consent. Rather, Hash-m told the Jewish people that He will protect them from the nations of the world only if they fulfill the oath. If they do not fulfill the oath, Chas v'Shalom, then Hash-m will leave the Jewish people unprotected, and consequently they will be like Hefker, like animals being hunted (as the Gemara says). This does not need the consent of the Jewish people; Hash-m protects us, and if we are unworthy of His protection He will no longer provide it. In this manner, we may be assured that the Jewish people will always merit Hash-m's protection.
The Sefer ha'Akeidah's explanation may be applied to the Gemara here as well. The Torah forbids the Jewish people from transgressing these oaths even without an actual acceptance of them. The point of the oaths is to show the Jewish people that their very existence depends on fulfilling the conditions of the oaths, for if they fail to do so they will forfeit the Divine protection on which their existence depends. This knowledge certainly will stop them from going astray.
The oath made with the nations of the world may also be explained in this way. Although the nations constantly attempt to destroy the Jewish people, there often exist elements among the nations which unexplainably seek to give the Jewish people a respite, because they are aware on some level that without the Jewish people in the world, the world itself would cease to exist.
(b) The AVNEI NEZER (YD 444) explains that the Shevu'ah of the nations was actually made with their governing counterparts ("Sarim") in Shamayim who accepted the Shevu'ah and accepted not to incite their nations against the Jewish people. If they fail to abide by the oath, they are duly punished, for "when Hash-m punishes the nations, He punishes their heavenly governors first" (Mechilta, as quoted by Rashi to Shemos 4:9 and 11:5). When the nation's "Sar" is destroyed, the nation itself is destroyed as well.
Similarly, the oaths of the Jewish people were made with their Neshamos which accepted upon themselves to teach the bodies not to transgress. If the body fails to listen and transgresses, the body is not punished because it did not accept the oath. However, the connection to its Neshamah is broken because it did not listen to its Neshamah and no longer deserves that connection. Hash-m protects the Jewish people only because of their Neshamos. Accordingly, if they do not listen to their Neshamos, Hash-m removes His protection from them and they become Hefker to the forces of the world.
(c) The REBBE of SATMAR (in VA'YOEL MOSHE, Ma'amar Shalosh Shevuos) explains that these oaths were not intended to add any warnings or prohibitions to the laws of the Torah. Rather, one who violates these oaths is considered one who denies the Torah, since the Torah specifies exactly how the Ge'ulah is meant to come about and thus one who attempts to bring it about differently is considered a heretic. (This is similar to the punishment which the members of the tribe of Binyamin suffered when they left Mitzrayim prematurely. They were killed because the time of the redemption had not yet arrived, and thus they were considered heretics.)
The objective of the Shevu'ah is to inform the people of the severity of the punishment, even more than the Shevu'ah which the Jewish people took at Matan Torah itself.
(d) The MAHARAL (in CHIDUSHEI AGADOS) explains that these oaths are decrees (Gezeiros) which Hash-m enacted in order to ensure continuity of the exile which Hash-m decreed. The ability of a distinct nation to be in exile and to remain distinct is an inexplicable phenomenon which cannot be explained according to the natural laws of historical progression. Accordingly, Hash-m established three new requirements: that the nations of the world not strengthen the exile by excessive oppression of the Jewish people, that the Jewish people not weaken the exile by banding together to force their way into Eretz Yisrael, and that the Jewish people not attempt to end the exile by rebelling entirely against the nations of the world. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)
2) LIVING SINLESS IN ERETZ YISRAEL
QUESTION: Rebbi Elazar states that one who lives in Eretz Yisrael "dwells without sin" ("Nesu Avon"), as the verse says, "One who lives there will not say, 'I am sick;' the nation that dwells there will be forgiven of sin" (Yeshayah 33:24).
How is it possible that every person in Eretz Yisrael lives there without sin? How can this be true if the Jewish people were punished and exiled from Eretz Yisrael for their sins? On the contrary, the RAMBAN (end of Parshas Acharei Mos) writes that only when the Jewish people are in Eretz Yisrael are they punished with exile for sinning, because sins committed in Eretz Yisrael are punished much more severely than sins committed in Chutz la'Aretz. (PNEI YEHOSHUA)
(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN (in Hagahos Ya'avetz) and the IYUN YAKOV explain that living in Eretz Yisrael atones only for less serious sins, and not for serious ones (like Avodah Zarah, Giluy Arayos, and Shefichus Damim, or rebellious sins, "Pesha'im"). The Iyun Yakov also suggests that living in Eretz Yisrael forgives only the sins of individuals who sin in private but not the sins committed collectively by an entire community. The Iyun Yakov adds (in the name of his father) that living in Eretz Yisrael only lessens the sin, making an intentional sin like an unintentional one. This explains why the verse says that they are "Nesu Avon" -- "forgiven of sin," which is the word that refers to intentional sin (as opposed to "Chet" which refers to unintentional sin, which they do have).
(b) The PNEI YEHOSHUA and ETZ YOSEF (in the Ein Yakov) explain that Eretz Yisrael alone does not grant pardon for sins. Rather, one's Teshuvah is accepted more readily in Eretz Yisrael. Alternatively, it is easier to do Teshuvah in Eretz Yisrael because of the Kedushah that exists there.
We may add that the Gemara in Berachos (7a) states that a person is punished for the sins of his fathers when he commits the same acts. The reason for this might be that when a person sins, his acts become such a part of the person that he is able to pass the trait on to his children, who either learn it from him or inherit it from him (see Insights to Shabbos 55:4
). A person who lives in Eretz Yisrael, however, is awakened to do Teshuvah so often that any evil traits of his father are not transmitted to him. He is influenced more by the Kedushah of the land than by those evil traits of his father. Therefore, he is free of the "Avon" of his father. When the verse says "Nesu Avon" -- "forgiven of sin," it refers to the "Avon" in the verse, "Poked Avon Avos Al Banim" -- "He remembers (and punishes) the sin of the fathers upon the children" (Shemos 34:7). (M. KORNFELD
. The Iyun Yakov also hints to this on 110b, DH Kol, and 111b, DH v'Ken Amru.)
In what way does living in Eretz Yisrael prompt a person to do Teshuvah, more so than living in Chutz la'Aretz? Perhaps the Gemara refers to the teaching of the Sifri cited by Tosfos in Bava Basra (21a, DH Ki mi'Tziyon). The Sifri states that when the people would come to Yerushalayim from all parts of Eretz Yisrael at the time of the festival and witness the immense Kedushah there and the Kohanim as they performed the Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash, "their hearts would turn towards the fear of G-d and to the study of Torah." (Even after the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdash, Yerushalayim remained a city of holiness, where great Tzadikim dwelled to be near the place of the Shechinah.)
This approach answers another apparent problem with this Gemara, which the RIF on the Ein Yakov poses. The verse in Yeshayah clearly refers to Yerushalayim and not to all of Eretz Yisrael, as is evident from the other verses in that chapter. Why, then, does Rebbi Elazar say that the verse refers to people who live in Eretz Yisrael?
The simple answer is that Yerushalayim, which sits at the center of Eretz Yisrael, refers to all of Eretz Yisrael. According to the above explanation, however, the answer is that one who lives anywhere in Eretz Yisrael must come to Yerushalayim for the Shalosh Regalim, and by being in Yerushalayim and seeing the great Kedushah he is aroused to do Teshuvah! Hence, although the verse indeed refers only to the people of Yerushalayim, Rebbi Elazar says that anyone who lives in Eretz Yisrael would also go to Yerushalayim for the festivals and be aroused to do Teshuvah.
(The Pnei Yehoshua adds if a person chooses to live in Eretz Yisrael not because of its Kedushah but simply because he was born there or because he was attracted by its produce, he certainly will not be aroused to do Teshuvah by the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael, which he does not even feel. The Gemara does not refer to such a person.)
(c) The RIF on the Ein Yakov explains that Rebbi Elazar's statement -- that those who live in Eretz Yisrael dwell without sin -- should be understood in the context of the Gemara which follows, in which Rava (or Ravina) says that the verse refers to people who suffer from illness.
TOSFOS (110b, DH Hu Omer) writes in the name of RABEINU CHAIM HA'KOHEN that it is very difficult to travel to Eretz Yisrael and properly observe the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara in Berachos (5a) teaches that Eretz Yisrael is one of three things which are acquired only through Yisurim, physical affliction. The Yisurim of traveling to and living in Eretz Yisrael serve as atonement for one's sins. (The Ya'avetz and Iyun Yakov give similar explanations.)
3) THE PROHIBITION AGAINST LEAVING BAVEL
QUESTION: The Gemara (end of 110b until the beginning of 111a) records the view of Rav Yehudah who rules that one who goes from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael transgresses an Isur Aseh, because the verse says, "To Bavel they will be brought, and there they will stay until the day that I remember them, says Hash-m, when I shall bring them up and return them to this place" (Yirmeyahu 27:22). This verse commands the Jews not to return from Galus until Hash-m redeems them.
The Gemara later quotes Rav Yehudah says in the name of Shmuel who says that "just as one is forbidden from leaving Eretz Yisrael to go to Bavel, so, too, one is forbidden from leaving Bavel to go to other lands." Why does Rav Yehudah now express the prohibition against leaving Bavel differently? Earlier he says that the prohibition is to go only from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, as he derives from the verse in Yirmeyahu, which implies that he maintains that one is permitted to go from Bavel to other lands. Here, however, he says that the prohibition is to go from Bavel to any land and not only to Eretz Yisrael. In fact, the wording of his second statement implies that one is only prohibited only from going from Bavel to other lands, but one is not prohibited from going from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael! Moreover, in his second statement he does not relate the prohibition against leaving Bavel to the verse that says that Hash-m wants the Jews to stay in Galus until the time of the redemption, but rather he attributes the prohibition to the high level of Torah scholarship in Bavel which makes it comparable to Eretz Yisrael (as Rashi points out)! (MAHARIT)
(a) The PNEI YEHOSHUA answers that the two statements of Rav Yehudah were said with regard to two different categories of people. The verse in Yirmeyahu refers to the time of the destruction of the first Beis ha'Mikdash. Accordingly, the Isur Aseh against going from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael applies only to the people who actually left Eretz Yisrael during the exile to Bavel and to their descendants who still live there as a result of the exile. (Even after Koresh (Cyrus) granted permission to the Jews to return and build the second Beis ha'Mikdash, the prohibition against returning from Bavel still applied, since the time had not yet come for all of the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael. The Pnei Yehoshua asserts that proof for this is the fact that the Klei Shares did not return with the Jews who built the second Beis ha'Mikdash.)
Rav Yehudah's second statement teaches that if one happens to live in Bavel after he moved there from another country (but not as a result of the first exile from Eretz Yisrael), although he is permitted to go to Eretz Yisrael he is not permitted to leave Bavel to go to other lands, because Bavel is a place of Torah.
(b) The MAHARAM SHIF also explains that the first statement refers only to one who travels from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, which is prohibited by an Isur Aseh. From the time of the exile, Hash-m does not want the Jews to return before the designated time. That prohibition, however, applies only to one who goes to Eretz Yisrael but not to one who goes from Bavel to other countries.
In his second statement, Rav Yehudah says that since Bavel is a place of Torah one is not allowed to leave Bavel to go to any other place in Chutz la'Aretz. This act, however, is not prohibited by the abovementioned Isur Aseh, since by going to any other place in Chutz la'Aretz one does not return to Eretz Yisrael from the exile. However, the fact that Bavel is a place of Torah does not prevent a person from going to Eretz Yisrael, because Eretz Yisrael is a place of Kedushah and Shechinah, even more so than Bavel. Hence, the prohibition against returning to Eretz Yisrael is only due to the Mitzvas Aseh, and only according to Rebbi Yehudah (and not necessarily according to Shmuel, his rebbi, in whose name the second statement is quoted).
(c) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Melachim 5:12) quotes the statement of Rav Yehudah in the name of Shmuel and writes that just as one is forbidden from leaving Eretz Yisrael to go to Chutz la'Aretz, one is forbidden from leaving Bavel to go to other lands. However, he concludes with the verse in Yirmeyahu, "As it says, 'To Bavel they will be brought, and there they will stay.'"
The Rambam's words are very difficult to understand. The Gemara says that the verse in Yirmeyahu teaches that one may not go from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael. Why does the Rambam write that the verse teaches that one may not go from Bavel to other lands? Moreover, the Rambam implies that one is forbidden from going only from Bavel to other lands, but one is not forbidden from going from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael! Why, then, does he quote the verse in Yirmeyahu which teaches that one may not go from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael? (The KESEF MISHNEH writes that the Rambam intends to include Eretz Yisrael among the "other lands" to which one may not go from Bavel, and he rules like Rebbi Yehudah's first statement. However, this is not the straightforward meaning of the Rambam's words, and it is also not logical that the Rambam would rule like Rav Yehudah whose opinion is a minority opinion.)
Also, if the verse may be interpreted as a reference to going to other lands and not to Eretz Yisrael, why does Rebbi Zeira say that the verse refers to the Klei Shares, the utensils used in the Beis ha'Mikdash? He should answer simply that the verse "Bavelah Yuva'u..." indeed refers to the people, but it refers to going from Bavel to other lands and not to Eretz Yisrael! (MAHARIT)
RAV CHAIM SOLOVEITCHIK (Chidushei ha'Shas "stencils," #286) points out that the verse in Yirmeyahu discusses the situation only after the Churban of the first Beis ha'Mikdash. Tosfos here explains that Rav Yehudah learns from that time period that the same Isur Aseh should apply after the Churban of the second Beis ha'Mikdash. Rav Chaim states that Rav Yehudah may extrapolate from the first exile to the second only if the status of Eretz Yisrael after the first Galus and after the second Galus are identical: in both cases the land either lost its Kedushah or retained its Kedushah.
The Rambam (Hilchos Terumos 1:5), however, rules that after the Churban of the first Beis ha'Mikdash Eretz Yisrael lost its Kedushah, but after the Churban of the second Beis ha'Mikdash it retained its Kedushah. According to the Rambam, even if we accept Rav Yehudah's explanation of the verse as teaching an Isur Aseh against returning to Eretz Yisrael after the Churban of the first Beis ha'Mikdash, there should be no Isur after the second Churban. After the second Churban Eretz Yisrael retained its Kedushah and there remained a Mitzvah of Yishuv ha'Aretz, of settling the land, which should override any concern about prematurely returning from Galus. The prophet would not have said not to return under such circumstances! That is why the Rambam learns from the verse in Yirmeyahu that one may not go to other lands, but one may go to Eretz Yisrael. (It could be that Rebbi Zeira does not explain the verse in such a manner because he prefers to avoid the Machlokes about whether or not Eretz Yisrael has Kedushah after the Churban of the second Beis ha'Mikdash.)
An alternate possibility is that the Rambam has a different Girsa in the second line of the Gemara. According to his Girsa, Rebbi Zeira answers that the verse in Yirmeyahu refers to "Kol ha'She'ar," or "all other [lands]," and not to "Kli Shares." Accordingly, the Rambam is simply quoting the Gemara and ruling like Rebbi Zeira when he writes that the verse refers to going from Bavel to other lands!
This also answers the original contradiction between Rav Yehudah's first statement and his statement in the name of Shmuel. Shmuel maintains, like Rebbi Zeira, that the verse refers only to one who leaves Bavel for other lands, but not for Eretz Yisrael. (The Maharit also concludes that Rav Yehudah disagrees with Shmuel.)
HALACHAH: The RAMBAM (Hilchos Melachim 5:9, 12) rules that one may not leave Eretz Yisrael to live in other lands. However, the Rambam does not mention that it is a Mitzvah for one who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael to go to Eretz Yisrael to live. Although the RAMBAN, in his list of Mitzvos Aseh which the Rambam omitted, counts this as a Mitzvas Aseh, the Rambam makes no mention of this Mitzvah, neither in Mishnah Torah nor in Sefer ha'Mitzvos. The Ramban wonders why the Rambam does not count living in Eretz Yisrael in his list of Mitzvos since, after all, the Chachamim speak so highly of the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, as the Gemara here teaches.
Apparently, the Rambam maintains that there is no Mitzvah at all to go to live in Eretz Yisrael. The Isur against leaving Eretz Yisrael is not counted among his list of Mitzvos because it is an Isur d'Rabanan (or perhaps mi'Divrei Kabalah), similar to the Isur against leaving Bavel. If one may not leave Bavel because it is a place where there is Kedushah because of the Jews who live and learn Torah there, then certainly one may not leave Eretz Yisrael where there is even more Kedushah and a higher level of Hashra'as ha'Shechinah.
However, even if there is no Mitzvah d'Oraisa to go to live in Eretz Yisrael according to the Rambam, it is clear from the Gemara here and from many other sources (which the Rambam himself cites in Mishneh Torah) that Eretz Yisrael should be very dear to every Jew, who should long to dwell in its midst because of its Kedushah and the closeness with Hash-m which is attained there. (See Insights to 110b.)
4) THE TORAH PROVIDES "TECHIYAS HA'MESIM"
QUESTION: The Gemara states that the Torah gives life to the one who uses ("Mishtamesh") the light of the Torah, and it does not give life to one who does not use the light of the Torah. Accordingly, an Am ha'Aretz will not be revived at Techiyas ha'Mesim unless he attaches himself to a Talmid Chacham in this world, in the ways which the Gemara describes.
Why does the Gemara use the phrase "one who uses (Mishtamesh) the light of Torah"? It should say simply "one who learns Torah."
Moreover, why does Techiyas ha'Mesim depend on one's use of the Torah? One who fulfills any Mitzvah deserves reward. Why is the reward for any Mitzvah not given in the form of Techiyas ha'Mesim?
ANSWERS: The CHAFETZ CHAYIM (in SHEMIRAS HA'LASHON, Chovas ha'Shemirah) explains that although for all other Mitzvos one certainly deserves reward, that reward can be given to one's Neshamah in Olam ha'Ba. Once a person's body turns to dust, it cannot become alive again merely to receive reward for the Mitzvos which he fulfilled. The only person who deserves to have his body rewarded, so that his body is revived at Techiyas ha'Mesim, is the one who learns Torah.
RAV ELIYAHU DESSLER (in MICHTAV ME'ELIYAHU, vol. 1, p. 107, and vol. 3, p. 60) explains that one who "uses the light of Torah" illuminates his heart (i.e. his desires) with the Torah and consequently performs all of his actions according to the Torah. (The heart symbolizes the a person's desires, which his actions naturally follow.) When one "uses the light of Torah" his heart follows the ways of the Torah.
Learning Torah differs from the other Mitzvos in an essential way. One may perform Mitzvos because he knows intellectually that they are the correct thing to do, or because he has naturally good character traits. However, his performance of the Mitzvos are not rooted in the desire of his heart. Mitzvos done with such a motivation are praiseworthy, but their reward is reserved for the Neshamah alone because his body, represented by his heart and its desires, remained void of Torah.
In contrast, when a person learns Torah, the Torah illuminates his heart and engenders a desire to come close to Hash-m and His Torah. Such a heart will become alive again at Techiyas ha'Mesim in order to receive the reward it deserves.
Rav Dessler adds that the Gemara here refers not to one who merely fulfills the Mitzvah of learning Torah. The Gemara refers to one who attaches himself to Torah will all of his heart in such a way that his only desire is Torah.
Similarly, the person who supports Torah, as described by the Gemara here, is not one who merely gives his money to support Torah. Rather, he is the one who marries off his daughter to a Talmid Chacham, who provides a business opportunity for a Talmid Chacham, and who hopes that a Talmid Chacham will visit his home and benefit from his possessions. Such a person attaches himself to the Torah, and thus he, too, will merit Techiyas ha'Mesim. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)