Volume 32 Number 09
                 Produced: Mon Apr 17 22:21:36 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Shaya Karlinsky]
Does a person living in Luxury have the right NOT to go to Israel
         [Russell Hendel]
Heter Mekhira
         [Carl M. Sherer]
A New concept for the Aliyah discussion: OBLIGATED vs PIOUS
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Shaya Karlinsky <isaiah@...>
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 17:08:28 +0300
Subject: Re: Aliyah

 It has been a long time since I have had time to participate in
Mail.Jewish discussions. But the recent postings about the Mitzvah of
living in Eretz Yisrael - or the possible lack thereof -- have made it
impossible for me to keep silent.  The posting of Yosef Braun was the
real spark, and Carl Sherer did an excellent job in refuting most of the
incorrect presentations that were used to try and show that there is no
Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.  I would like to add a couple of
points about Yosef Braun's claims.

    1. > Clearly the Rambam doesn't consider it one of the 613,
True, but quite irrelevant. Let us expand..
The fact that it doesn't appear in the "Minyan HaMitzvoth" (the list of
613) in the Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvoth only means that it doesn't fit the
specific criteria outlined by the Rambam in how to count the 613.  There
are many commandments whose performance is unquestionably required, yet
they are not listed in the 613.

    2. Chazon Ish, Kovetz Igroth (Selected Letters) #175, writes as
follows: "...and the Mitzvah (note: NOT "INYAN") of [living in] Eretz
Yisrael was decided by the RAMBAM (emphasis mine), the Ramban and the
rest of the Halachic authorities.  And it is known how much the Chafetz
Chaim zt"l longed to go up [to Eretz Yisrael]."

    3. Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat Ch. 6, Halacha 11.  One who purchases a
house in Eretz Yisrael from a non-Jew, is allowed to instruct a non-Jew
to write the contract on Shabbat.  Because telling a non-Jew to perform
a "melacha" (prohibited work) on Shabbat is a Rabbinic prohibition.  And
because of SETLLING THE LAND of ISRAEL, they did not legislate their
decree. (Based on Gemara Bava Kama 80b)

    4.  The section in Kethuboth, 110, "One who dwells in the land of
Israel is likened to one who has a G-d...".  I am glad that Yosef Braun
retracted the obviously inaccurate interpretation that he gave in the
name of the Sefer Hachayim.  I still wait for the source of the quoted
interpretation, which sounds suspect to me, given the VERY political
nature of the interpretation.  I doubt if such an interpretation could
have been written by anyone living before the twentieth century.  Anyone
studying the section of the Gemara, with the proof texts that are
presented, will also have to reject the interpretations that Yosef Braun
brings in his later post, as we shall see.
    The commentaries that need to be seen on this section of the Gemara
are the Sefer Hafla'ah and the Maharsha.  The Sefer Hafla'ah asks the
obvious question that Yosef Braun's post deals with: It says that "one
who lives in the Land of Israel IS LIKENED to one who has a G-d"
implying that IN REALITY he DOESN'T have a G-d (ch'v).  And on who lives
in chutz la'aretz IS LIKENED TO one who has no G-d, even though in
reality he DOES have a G-d.  This implies, asks the Sefer Hafla'ah, that
one living in chutz la'aretz automatically has a more elevated state
than one living in Eretz Yisrael, which is obviously not possible!
Furthermore, the criteria for "having a G-d" can't be limited to whether
one is fulfilling only the Mitzvah of living in Israel, ignoring all the
other Mitzvoth that one is or isn't fulfilling!  It depends on whether
one accepts the authority of G-d or not! Answers the Ba'al Hafla'ah: We
are being taught the great virtue of Eretz Yisrael, such that one who
dwells there, even if he is fulfilling no other Mitzvah (so he probably
doesn't really accept the yoke of G-d) is LIKENED to one who has a G-d,
based on the verse "To give you the Land of Cna'an, to be to you a G-d,"
(Vayikra 25:38) (implying a relationship between accepting the gift of
Eretz Yisrael and accepting G-d).  On the other hand, continues the
Sefer Hafla'ah, one who dwells in chutz l'aretz, even if accepts upon
himself the yoke of the Torah and the Mitzvoth, so that in reality he
HAS a G-d, is nevertheless LIKENED to one who has no G-d. The
explanation, says the Sefer Hafla'ah, could be based on the verses that
teaches us that the Eretz Yisrael is the one land that G-d attends to
personally, with no intermediaries, while all other lands are controlled
by intermediaries and emissaries.  (See Devarim 11:12, "A land where the
eyes of G-d are on it from the beginning of the year to the end of the
year"; and the Midrashim that teach that the entire world turns towards
the Holy Temple, because it is the conduit through which the entire
world receives its resources.).  Therefore, one who dwells in chutz
l'aretz has placed himself under the control of intermediaries, rather
than under the more direct control of G-d available to one living in
Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, he is LIKENED to one without a G-d.

    5. A further, very powerful insight into the importance of living in
the Land of Israel is seen in the Sifri (Ekev 43) brought by the Ramban,
Vayikra 18:25.  After discussing the special spiritual sensitivity of
the Land of Israel, as well as the above section of Kethuboth, he brings
the Sifri which teaches as follows. Even though we are exiled from the
Land of Israel, we are commanded to "be notable and exceptional in the
fulfillment of the commandments, so that when we return from exile to
Israel, the commandments won't be new to us."  Based on the teaching of
this Midrash, the Ramban explains that all the commandments, not just
the ones which are land-dependent, are fundamentally given only to be
observed by those living in Israel.  Which, he explains, is why we are
taught (Sifri Re'eh 80) that dwelling in the Land of Israel is equated
with all the commandments.  In other words, G-d commanded us to keep the
Mitzvoth while in exile, outside of Eretz Yisrael, IN ORDER that we
should "be in practice" for the time when we return.  While we are
commanded to keep "in practice," and we are certainly rewarded by G-d
for doing so, the true and complete spiritual value of all Mitzvoth can
only be derived in the land of Israel.  For a generation which seems to
be searching for every possible stringency and enhancement of Mitzvah
observance, it is quite surprising that this enhancement doesn't seem to
be very compelling in putting Aliya higher up on the frum agenda.

    6. Finally re:
  > chatam sofer y.d. #234;
    If we really want to understand the Chatam Sofer's perspective, we
must see the very relevant section in Drashoth, for the month of Av
(page 206 in the edition that I have). Here is a translation of the
significant section:
    ...It is know that the entire Torah is [fulfilled] by choice, rather
than by force... G-d gave us the best portion (through the commandments)
then told us "CHOOSE life" (See Rashi, Devarim Ch. 30).  And the Ramban
writes on the verse (Bamidbar 33:53) " ^ŅAnd you shall inherit the
land and dwell within it' that it is an explicit positive commandment to
dwell in the Holy Land."  Now (continues the Chatam Sofer) when we don't
have favor in other lands to dwell within them (i.e. we aren't ALLOWED
by the nation to live in their land) then when we choose to live in the
Land of Israel we are only fulfilling this Mitzvah out of coercion, and
there is no indication that we are choosing it willingly for the sake of
G-d.  But when we have the option of living in the best of the lands of
the non-Jewish world, and we CHOOSE to dwell nowhere but in the Land of
Israel, then we have fulfilled this Mitzvah through the exercise of our
own will. (This ends the quote from the Chatam Sofer) First of all, it
is clear that the Chatam Sofer accepts the position of the Ramban, that
living in Eretz Yisrael is a Mitzvah.  We see that it is incumbent upon
us to CHOOSE to live in Eretz Yisrael.  More than that, he writes that
it is only fulfilled properly when we COULD live outside of Israel, and
we CHOOSE to live in Israel, rather when societal conditions force us to
flee there. Sounds like our situation today, much more so than at any
time in recent history.  (See also the Chatam Sofer in his commentary on
Sukkah, 36a, on the famous dispute between Rebbe Yishmael and Rebbe
Shimon bar Yochai about working vs. full time learning.)

    There are really so many sources that living in Eretz Yisrael is a
Mitzvah, that is astounding how distorted this issue has become.  Even
the Satmar Rov, zt"l, based much of his opinion on the political reality
of the Zionism, its violation of the three oaths mentioned in Kethuboth,
and how the social and political reality affected a person's ability to
properly fulfill the Torah, which is exactly the admonition of the
Pischei Tshuvah, Even HaEzer 75:5, footnote 6, quoting the Meil
Tzedakah, #26.  I don't believe there is any source to indicate that he
questioned the principle of the Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael.  One
may have serious disagreements with political Zionism, religious or
otherwise. But let us not allow opposition to the State of Israel to
translate into a opposition to the Land of Israel, its holiness and the
Mitzvah of living there.  The Vilna Gaon (based on the verse in Tehilim
76:3) compares the Mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Yisrael with that of
dwelling in a Sukkah.  One is exempt from dwelling in a Sukkah when it
is raining, very hot, very cold, or under other circumstances which
don't allow the activity of sitting there to really be considered
"living" in a normal way.  Sitting in the rain isn't normal living,
since you would never sit in your dining room if it was leaking rain.
So, too, one may understand the Mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of
Israel as requiring that the environment be one to allow the activity to
be considered "living" in a normal way that people live.  This would
explain why the inability to make a proper living serves as an exemption
from the Mitzvah, an exemption we don't find for other Mitzvoth.  But
when we leave the Sukkah because of rain or other environmental
circumstances that make it impossible to properly fulfill the Mitzvah,
we do so with sadness, viewing it as if our desire to serve G-d has been
rebuffed by Him.  This also should be the attitude of one who can't
fulfill the Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael because of financial or
social difficulties: G-d has rebuffed one's ability to serve Him on a
higher level. This is clearly the meaning of the Meil Tzedaka quoted in
the Pischei Tshuvah 75, when he writes that not everyone merits the
ability to live in Israel, but "ashrei" is he who does merit it.

    One final thought: There are many Halachic grounds for an exemption
from fulfilling the Mitzvah of living in Israel. Certainly, everyone
living outside of Eretz Yisrael NEEDS such a Halachic exemption.  But is
the exemption from this Mitzvah viewed with sadness or with relief?  How
much thought is given to figuring out a way to overcome the inability to
perform the Mitzvah which Chazal teach us is equated with all the

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky   Darche Noam Institutions
Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's Midreshet Rachel
College of Jewish Studies for Women
Jerusalem, ISRAEL


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 23:54:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Does a person living in Luxury have the right NOT to go to Israel

Eli Turkel in v31n93 writes
The vast majority of Jews can make a reasonable living in Israel.  There
is no mitzvah to have every luxury. As I once wrote R. Blau of the
Neturei Karta lived in a hut while visiting the US so that he should at

The Rambam is very explicit Law of Gifts to the Poor, Chapter 7:3
        >Poverty is relative to a former life style
        >If the poor person was used to a chariot and servants
        >then THAT IS WHAT YOU GIVE HIM!!!

In other words I don't think we should run around telling people WHO
ALREADY LIVE IN LUXURY that they should go on Aliyah and that what they
are doing is not optimal. The change from a materialistic American life
to a more idealistic Israeli style may be too much for most people We do
not have the right to say that Halachah requires it.

(Of course Eli is right to try and get people BEFORE they live in Luxury
and BEFORE they have jobs)

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA; <RHendel@...>
Moderator Rashi is Simple


From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2000 15:15:26 +0200
Subject: Heter Mekhira

Daniel Katsman writes:
> Carl Sherer wrote:
> > When I was in a hesder Yeshiva twenty-one years ago, the Yeshiva did not
> > rely on the heter either.
> Since I was in the yeshiva with Carl that year, 

In his modesty, R. Daniel does not mention that he was my first seder
chavrusa for most of the year, and was an absolute master at bringing a
batlan like me into line!

> I would like to relate a few points that the Rosh Yeshiva, R. Aharon
> Lichtenstein, made at the time about the heter in a pre-Shemitta talk:
>     1.  He had personal reservations about its halakhic efficacy.

Do you recall the reasons why? I know that one of the problems (at least
until the 1987(?) shmitta) was that the transfer was never recorded in
the country's land registry. But I think he had other problems with

>     2.  He was not comfortable either with effectively abrogating all of
> shemittat karka'ot or with signing over all of Erets Yisrael to some Arab.
>     3.  He himself did not rely on the heter.
>     4.  The yeshiva would not rely on the heter, because, among other
> reasons, he did not want any student who did not rely on it to feel he
> couldn't eat there.
>     5.  Those who, however, did rely on the heter had a valid authority on
> whom to rely ("yesh lahem al mi she-yismokhu").
>     6.  Non-reliance on the heter should not be a source of friction within
> families (i.e. a student  who did not rely on the heter but whose family did
> should not refuse to eat with them).
>     7.  One who did not rely on the heter had to be very careful that there
> was no element of "yohara" (showing off or "holier-than-thou"-ness) in his
> decision.

I recall the same talk from Rav Lichtenstein quite vividly. I would only
add that several days later he spoke separately to the Bnei Chutz
La'Aretz (those of us who were not Israelis), and I asked him about our
spending Shabbos in the homes of people who relied on the heter. His
response was that we should not insult people who rely on the heter by
declining their invitations on Shabbos. My recollection is that the
words he used were, "kdai hoo ploni lismoch alav b'shas ha'dchak." (So
and so [the other opinion] is worthy of reliance in a time of need
[i.e. where the alternative is to insult someone]).

Carl M. Sherer
mailto:<cmsherer@...> or mailto:sherer@actcom.co.il
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son, Baruch Yosef ben
Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 23:28:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: A New concept for the Aliyah discussion: OBLIGATED vs PIOUS

I have just sifted thru 30 Mail Jewishes and read all the postings on
Aliyah (including my own). I felt that something more should be said
(since everyone felt strongly and was going around in circles) but it
wasn't clear WHAT to say(Since both sides had strong arguments).

I finally decided to add the point of the difference between OBLIGATED
acts and PIOUS ACTS ("beyond the letter of the law"). It is certainly a
mistake for those who feel aliyah is NOT OBLIGATED to try and DENY all
the EXCELLENT arguments offered by those who are ADVOCATING ALIYAH.
Indeed it makes their case look bad if they disagree with all the
benefits that DO come from aliyah.

But the real issue is WHY certain acts are OBLIGATED while certain ACTS
are only PIOUS (beyond the letter of the law but not obligated). Clearly
the fact that PIOUS acts have IMMENSE BENEFITS is NOT a reason to
obligate them. Let me list some of the areas other than aliyah that this

It is pious (but not obligatory) to (a) give as much as possible to
charity (b) to study Torah as often as we are free (c) to devote as much
free time we have (when we are not studying) to the synagogue (d) to try
and do outreach to as many people as we have free time for (e) to go to
Israel (according to those legal opinions that we are not obligated if
the 'earning a living' situation is different).

My point here is that halachah has gone out of its way to tell us that
certain acts are NOT OBLIGATORY. That means in particular that if **I**
want to study all day or give alot to charity that is fine but other
people should not be pressuring me to do so (because the act is a PIOUS

The same goes for ISRAEL. Halachah makes it clear that lack of ADEQUATE
EARNING OF A LIVING is valid reason not to be OBLIGATED to go. Of course
there are wonderful benefits in going and of course many people who want
to make it, have. The point to emphasize is that going to Israel under
such circumstances (where a person judges that the LIVING standards are
not the same) is a PIOUS ACT not an OBLIGATORY act--it is therefore
wrong in the eyes of halachah for other people to pressure such a person
into going or to make him feel guilty about not going.

I don't believe the above answers all questions that have been raised on
aliyah but I believe that it helps avoid some of the more unpleasant
arguments that have arisen in the past 100 issues

Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA; <RHendel@...>
Moderator Rashi Is Simple


End of Volume 32 Issue 9