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The Holy Land

From a talk given by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein Shlita on his Yeshiva's website.

I myself underwent this experience upon my first visit to Eretz Yisrael in the summer of 1962, and it left an indelible imprint on me. I made it my business to get to know as much of the country as I could. One day, I went to see mori ve-rabbi Rav Hutner zt”l, who used to spend summers in Eretz Yisrael. He had an attachment to Eretz Yisrael – he had studied in Yeshivat Chevron when it was still in Chevron. He began to ask me what are my impressions, what do I see here, what do I feel. I discussed with him the vitality of Jewish life and the sense of total community, as opposed to the Diaspora, where one’s life is more fragmented. He felt that you could have felt that wholeness and vitality in Eastern Europe as well. Then I said that I think there is a broader range of application of Halakha in Israel. In America, rabbinical courts handled only ritual law, and here they dealt with dinei mamonot (commercial and financial cases) as well, so here you feel the resonance of Halakha in more areas of life. He said that you could have seen that in Eastern Europe or in North Africa also.

I tried to get him to elaborate, and finally he exclaimed, “Why don’t you mention the uniqueness of being in Eretz Yisrael? Chazal (Ketubot 112a) speak of Eretz Yisrael as a country that Moshe and Aharon didn’t merit to enter, and we are there!” It was stunning to him to meet a ben Torah on an airplane flying to Israel, whose attitude was the same as if he were going to California. I walked out of there like a beaten dog.

..... The most striking example of the halakhic significance of Eretz Yisrael is the position of the Ramban (Vayikra 18:25) that the observance of any mitzva in Eretz Yisrael is qualitatively different that that outside of Israel. He holds the radical opinion that mitzva observance in the Diaspora is only a preparation for coming to Eretz Yisrael, where mitzvot acquire their full significance. I find this position astounding and alarming, but one can adopt it in a moderate vein. If Rav Hutner zt”l would daven on the airplane on his way to Eretz Yisrael, he would put on his tefillin again upon arrival. He said, “Before, I put on chutz la-aretz tefillin, and now I am putting on Eretz Yisrael tefillin.” Ramban says that this applies to the whole range of one’s religious experience.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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