1 – The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel
The commandment, or Mitzvah, to settle the Land of Israel is obligatory upon both the individual Jew and the Jewish nation as a whole. The Mitzvah requires that the nation conquer and settle all of the Land of Israel and that each individual Jew dwell in the Land. Regarding the nation’s responsibility to take control of Israel and settle it, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, the Ramban, writes (in his commentary on Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvoth): “We are commanded to inherit the land that the almighty God gave to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not to leave it in the hands of other nations or in desolation, as it says, ‘Inherit the land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to occupy…'” (Numbers 33:53).
If we examine the Ramban’s words carefully we will discover that there are two parts to the Mitzvah of settling the Land. The first part involves the Jewish people ruling exclusively over the Land of Israel, or Eretz Yisrael, thus leaving no room for foreign governing in the Land. Even when this is accomplished, however, the Mitzvah is still not considered complete. The second part of the Mitzvah requires the settling of every part of the Land, including the most desolate areas. The Mitzvah obligates us not only to dwell in developed cities or towns, but to make the wasteland bloom as well. Only when the Land is under Jewish rule and every part of it is settled, cultivated and flourishing, will the Mitzvah have been completely fulfilled.
The Ramban emphasizes that this Mitzvah is applicable not only to the period of time during which the Jews made their exodus from Egypt and subsequently conquered Israel, but for all generations. In all generations we are obligated to rule over the Land and to settle it. Unfortunately, for much of our long history we have been incapable of fulfilling this Mitzvah, for we, the Jewish People, have been confined to exile in both body and soul. Yet in recent times, through the goodness of God, the end of the exile has begun to reveal itself – our situation has changed and we are now once again able to fulfill this Mitzvah 1 .
2 – The Individual’s Part in the Complete Mitzvah
There are many levels involved in the individual’s part of the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael. Those who dwell in Israel are partners in this mitzvah, for their presence strengthens the Jewish control of the Land. Those who live in areas that are more desolate, such as the desert, or in Judea and Samaria, fulfill the mitzvah on even a higher level. Their presence in these parts of the Land contributes doubly to the mitzvah, for they are not only strengthening the rule over the areas in which other nations are attempting to wrest away from the Jews, but they are also helping to ensure that all of the Land is cultivated and settled. Those who live in other places in Israel that are more isolated from Jewish presence and are surrounded by enemies, are fulfilling the mitzvah to an even greater extent. The wise sages have said that Eretz Yisrael is only acquired through pain and suffering; the greater the suffering, the greater the reward.
The mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel is unique in that, unlike most other mitzvot, its fulfillment doesn’t involve the performance of any specific act, such as laying tfillin, giving tzeddakah or praying. Each Jew who lives in Israel is performing the mitzvah of settling the Land just by his dwelling in it. It follows, that for those who merit to reside in the towns of Judea and Samaria, mundane daily acts, such as breathing, eating and sleeping become mitzvot in themselves.
For those who live outside of Israel but financially support its settlement, their partnership is limited as they are not fulfilling the mitzvah with their physical presence. And those who do live in Israel and also help to support its settlement towns are partners in the settling of the Land’s holy places, which of course raises the level of greatness for this mitzvah.
3 – The State of Israel
On the fifth of Iyar 5708 Israel was officially declared a state and Am Yisrael was once again able to return to its homeland and perform the mitzvah of settling it. After two thousand years of living in the diaspora, Jewish rule over Israel was finally back in effect, thus fulfilling the nation’s obligation to conquer and control the Land. Even if the majority of the inhabitants residing in Israel were Jewish, as long as the Land was under foreign rule, the complete mitzvah obligating both the individual and the nation to settle it could not be fulfilled. Only upon the establishment of Israel as a Jewish owned and governed state, did Am Yisrael merit the opportunity to begin the process of performing the complete mitzvah of settling the Land.
Jewish rule over the Land is such a basic concept that the rabbis and sages decreed that one should tear one’s clothes and say “Your holy cities are desolate” upon seeing a destroyed city in Judea. As long as the city is in the hands of another nation, it is considered destroyed and desolate, even if the majority of its population is Jewish. The same applies to the opposite. If the city is inhabited mostly by non-Jews but Jewish rule has been established, it is a redeemed city and it is no longer necessary to tear one’s clothing and mourn over it. (See Beit Yosef Orech Chaim 561, Mishne Brura 561,b).
Rav Kook also emphasized that on the day of Israel’s Independence the mitzvah of settling the Land once again became possible and we could begin to fulfill it.. On one occasion during an Independence Day celebration at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav one of the great Rabbis of the Yeshiva stressed that the importance of the establishment of the State of Israel was attributed to the fact that now there is more Torah learning and it is easier to perform many of the mitzvot. Rav Kook did not agree with that idea and he addressed the matter saying that the importance of the establishment of the State of Israel is the mere fact that Am Yisrael is again enabled to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land. That in itself, he stated, is a great reason to celebrate. Eretz Yisrael under Jewish leadership has its own intrinsic value and is not a means to an end. Once the complete mitzvah of conquering, controlling and settling the Land is performed, it is inevitable that other mitzvot will be more easily and readily fulfilled and the redemption will be closer at hand as a result. 2
Am Yisrael was not able to perform this mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land in previous generations because it did not have an army or weapons while it was in the Diaspora with which to fight for Israel. However, the establishment of an army in Israel before it officially became a state enabled the nation to take control of the Land. Therefore, in addition to saving Jewish lives from enemies, the presence of an army is essential for performing this mitzvah. This will be the situation until the time of better days arrives as it is stated in the verse in Isaiah (chap.2,2-4) “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills’ and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the G-d of Yaakov; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall come forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war any more.”
4 – Conquering the Land and Pikuach Nefesh
The Torah is given to man in order for him to live by it, not die by it. Therefore, if one is in a situation where he must do a forbidden act or die, the Torah usually permits one to transgress mitzvot. Transgressions such as idol worship, murder or illicit relations are the exception to this rule. One is permitted to break Shabbat or feed a sick person non-kosher food if it is necessary to heal him for the sake of pikuach nefesh (transgressing a mitzvah in order to save one’s life). Pikuach nefesh, however, does not apply to the waging of war in order to conquer the Land of Israel. Even though it is inevitable that people will die during a war, the Torah commands us to take control of the Land through battle and not to rely on miracles (Minchat chinuch 425, Mispat Kohen page 327). And so it seems that in order to perform the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land, one must be altruistic and self sacrificing just as was demanded of Am Yisrael in the times of Joshua, King David, during the building of the Second Temple, and the period of the Chasmonim rule.
We should however categorize these concepts. The rule that one should live by the Torah and its mitzvot and not die by them also applies to the Jewish nation as a whole. At times, the good of the nation, as opposed to individual soldiers, need to be taken into consideration. For example, if there is a high risk that Am Yisrael will lose the war and its inheritance, then the welfare of the nation is at stake and the army should not go to war. It is clear that the Torah is an instrument of life and does not command the nation to commit suicidal acts. However if chance of success is great then there is an obligation to wage war in order to conquer the Land and settle it, even if that involves loss of Jewish lives.
It is of necessity to point out that if a nation does not fight for the sake of its own country or land, then it is leaving itself vulnerable and exposed to its neighbors and enemies, which is a greater danger. If a nation doesn’t succeed in recruiting its sons to sacrifice their lives in battle for the sake of defending the borders of their country, it will eventually be conquered, subsequently endangering its citizens to greater perils. Thus, the mitzvah to fight for Eretz Yisrael actually involves the saving of lives as well as fulfilling the mitzvah of settling the Land.
5 – The Greatness of the Mitzvah
The sages and rabbis declared the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel equal to all the other mitzvot combined. Although there are other mitzvot about which the same is considered true, this mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael supersedes them as it is the only mitzvah that demands of us to sacrifice our lives in order to conquer the land and keep it from our enemies. In addition, this mitzvah is unique in that the transgression of shvut on Shabbat is allowed in order to regain control of the Land. 3
We can learn more about the importance of this mitzvah from the Tanna dbei Eliyahu’s descriptions of the greatness of Eretz Israel. “Once I was sitting before the great Rabbis in Yerushalayim and I asked them what was so different about King Omri that all the Kings preceding him did not have any continuation, whereas Omri’s offspring produced three more kings? They responded: ‘We didn’t hear.’ I then said to them: ‘Rabbis, Omri merited having three kings on his throne because he built a great city in the Land of Israel.'”
And so, in spite of the fact that Omri was not a righteous person, he merited to have his offspring rule because he fulfilled the mitzvah of settling the land by building a great city in Israel. Omri’s intentions were not to help Israel develop or flourish; rather he built the city for his own benefit -to strengthen his kingdom and to keep his subjects away from making the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim. Nevertheless, Omri was rewarded, despite his impure intentions.
These concepts were examined thoroughly by Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook tz”l. Some examples of his writings: “The Mitzvot Connected to the Country” (Lenitvot Israel publication 5739 chelek 1 page 120-122) Rav Kook first explains the greatness of the mitzvah that it is the only mitzvah that pushes aside certain prohibitions on Shabbat (i.e. shvut-to tell a non Jew to perform certain forbidden acts on Shabbat for your own benefit). It is permissible to push aside shvut in order to buy land in Israel from a non Jew on Shabbat (as explained in Gitin 8,b and Baba Kama 80,b see Tosafot there) This indeed is a great thing, as the Rabbis decreed not to blow the shofar and not to carry the lulav on Shabbat, mitzvot that are brought down directly from the Torah. But in order to buy land on Shabbat the Rabbis saw fit to permit one to transgress shvut (something which the Hasmag holds is a transgression that is rooted in the Torah) in order to buy land. Rav Kook further states to those that do not think that the mitzvah is valid today, basing their arguments on the words of Rav Chaim in Ketubot 110, that the Mahrit (Yora Deyah 28) and many of the Achronim (see Gilion Mahrsha Ketubot 110) found that one of Rav Chaims student’s made a mistake in his writings. Harishba in his book 187 writes that the mitzvah of settling the land is for all generations. He further writes that one can not separate the two parts of the mitzvah, i.e. the rule over the land and the individual dwelling in it. Just as we are obligated always to conquer the land so too are we always obligated to dwell in the land. It does not stand to reason that the Rabbis would allow us to transgress shvut if this mitzvah was not from the Torah. The concept that this mitzvah is equal to all the other mitzvot is something that is not said about a mitzvah drabbanan (these ideas were brought down after the destruction of the second Temple). The reason the Rambam did not enumerate this mitzvah with the rest of the 613 was not necessarily to lower the value of the mitzvah, rather to stress that its value is above the rest of the mitzvot. The general rule of the Rambam was not to include mitzvot that are of a basic nature in his enumeration of the 613 mitzvot as stated in mitzvah 153.
It should be further pointed out that the mitzvah is to inherit the whole of the promised land, thus the Ramban mentions the verse in Dvarim “You have dwelt long enough in the mountain: turn and take your journey to the mountain of the Emori and to all the places near it, in the plain, in the hills, and in the lowland, and in the Negev and go by he sea side, to land of the Kennanni and to Levanon, as far as the great river, the river Perat.”
In addition to this, on Independence Day we thank Hashem for helping us defeat our enemies, and for a place of escape for Jews, and for the uplifting honor in the eyes of the world by the establishment of the Jewish state.
Therefore there are two major reasons to say Hallel on Independence day 1)That we are able to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land and 2) The saving of Jewish lives from our enemies. Rav Goren would emphasize the second reason, whereas Rav Tzvi Yehuda would stress that the miracle was the awakening of valor in the self sacrifice made for the defense of Israel.
We have seen a similar idea in mila (see Ndarim 32,a), tzeddekah (Baba Batra 9,a), Tzizit (Shavuot 29,a), Tfillin (Minchaot 43,b), Shabbat (Yerushalmi Ndarim 83 halacha 9), Gimlut Hasidim (Yerushalmi Peah 81 halacha 1), and the mitzvah of Talmud Torah in many places.
However the mitzvah of settling the land has a uniqueness that allows one to transgress shvut on Shabbat even if this involves transgressing some of the Rabbinical enactments (this is explained in Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 206,11). This does not occur in the rest of the mitzvot where we are allowed only to do shvut dshvut, i.e. a lesser transgression. This idea has been repeated by many of the Achronim that in order to clarify the greatness of the mitzvah of Eretz Yisrael.
6 – Settling the Land: Planting Trees and Economic Development
We have already learned that the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel does not involve only conquering it, but also requires the settling and developing of every part of it. The Ramban stresses this point that “We should not leave the Land under foreign rule or desolate, as it says: you should inherit the land and settle it.”
Planting fruit trees in the Israel fulfills one aspect of this mitzvah, which obligates Am Yisrael to cultivate every part of the Land and not to leave it desolate. There is no mitzvah to plant fruit trees outside of Israel and usually one only does so for the purpose of providing a livelihood. Those living in Eretz Yisrael, however, have the mitzvah of planting fruit trees regardless of their profession.The wise sages expanded on this concept (Vyikra Rabba 25,3), “It is said that one should go after Hashem. Is it possible for flesh and blood to go after Hashem? It is also said that one should cleave to Hashem. Is it possible for flesh and blood to cleave to Hashem? Rather one should go in his ways, and cleave to his character traits. And just as Hashem, at the beginning of creation, first planted and tended to the Garden of Eden, so too should Am Yisrael upon entering the Land, as it is written: ‘You should come to the Land and plant.'” We learn from this that one that plants a tree in Eretz Yisrael is cleaving to Hashem’s character trait.
There are two advantages to planting trees, one being a future investment. Sometimes people invest their efforts in transient matters, but the Torah guides us to invest our efforts in planting trees in order to root ourselves in the Land through permanent means. The second advantage is that with the abundance of trees the Land bears fruit that has intrinsic holiness and when Am Yisrael eats these fruits many other mitzvot are performed, such as trumah, maasorot and orlah.The Chatam Sofer writes (in his commentary on mesecht sukkah 36) that working the Land of Israel in order to harvest its holy fruit fulfills the mitzvah of settling the Land and the mitzvah commanding Am Yisrael to harvest the grains of the Land. Boaz, who was considered a great man of his generation, did not deem it bitul Torah to spend night working and harvesting the Land. Just as one who is busy learning Torah still needs to stop in order to perform the mitzvah of laying Tfillin, one should stop his Torah learning for the sake of harvesting the crops. The Chatam Sofer adds another important comment on this subject: It is possible that all the work and skills that enable us to settle the Land are in themselves mitzvot. According to this idea, one that assists in the economic development of Israel may be considered a partner in the mitzvah of settling the Land. Eretz Yisrael is holy in both its physical and spiritual attributes and those who assist in its development are partners in its holy building.
7 – The Individual’s Role in the Mitzvah
We have explained the first part of the mitzvah which obligates the Jewish nation to establish rule over the Land of Israel. The second part requires each individual Jew to dwell in the Land. It is a mitzvah for every Jew to live in Israel when the Land is under foreign rule and even when it is under Jewish rule. The Rambam wrote (hilchot Malachim 5,12) “A person should live in Eretz Yisrael forever. He should live in Israel whether it is in a city where the majority of its inhabitants are not Jewish or where the majority of its citizens are Jewish. He should not live outside of Israel, for one who leaves Eretz Yisrael for the galut is as if he is worshipping idols.” 1
The Sefrei (Dvarim see 53) recounts the story of a few rabbis who lived in the time period after the destruction of the second Temple and wished to leave Eretz Yisrael. At the time, the Romans were cruelly and viciously ruling the Land and because of the famine and great troubles many people were leaving Israel. The Sefrei narrates the story of Rabbi Yehuda ben Battera, Rabbi Mateya ben Cheresh, Rabbi Chananya ben Achi, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Natan when they left Israel. Upon arriving at the border town of Paltiya they suddenly remembered Eretz Yisrael. They raised their eyes and began to cry and tear their clothes in mourning while reciting the verse that states: “You should inherit the Land and dwell within it and keep it.” They agreed that the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael is equal to all other mitzvot and they returned to Israel.
Throughout the generations when Israel was not in Jewish hands Am Yisrael was unable to fulfill the first part of the mitzvah of the nation conquering and ruling the Land. However, any Jew that lived in Eretz Yisrael during these times did, to a certain extent, fulfill this part of the mitzvah of settling the Land. His presence in provided a continuous connection between the Jews who lived outside of Israel and their Land, and also provided a base for future growth of Jewish settlement and eventual control over the Land. If these are one’s goals while living in Israel then, just as the Vilna Gaon’s students who made aliyah with great sacrifices, one becomes a partner not just in settling the Land on an individual basis, but also in conquering it and acquiring control over it.
8 – Praises for the Land
The Rambam wrote a unique halacha (Melachim 5,10): “Great Rabbis would kiss the ground of Eretz Yisrael, and kiss its stones as well as roll in its dust as it states: because your slaves wanted its stones and begged for its dust.” At first glance one would ask how could the Rambam write about such actions and deeds in a book devoted to halacha? Which halacha that we learn from our rabbis would involve kissing the earth and hugging the stones of the Land of Israel? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to write about these actions in books of ethics rather than halacha? Indeed this is a great halacha to learn: It is not enough to live in Eretz Yisrael, one should also love the good and holy Land.
At the end of Ketubot (112,a) it is written that when Rabbi Chanina was traveling in Eretz Yisrael and would see a obstructions in his path he would remove it. Rashi explains that he would do this in the different areas of the city because of his great love for Eretz Yisrael, as he didn’t want anyone to think or speak badly about the roads or the places where the obstructions were located.
It is also told that in order to prevent complaints about Israel, Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi would be extremely cautious as to where they sat their students. In the cool morning hours they would sit them in the sun and in the warm afternoon hours they would sit them in the shade. Their students were comfortable and, therefore, did not think badly about the Land or its climate.
It is also Am Yisrael’s responsibility not only to love the Land, but also to praise it, to enjoy its scenery, to decorate it with flowers and trees, to keep it clean, to fix its highways, and to build comfortable and nice looking homes. As a result, the mitzvah of settling the land will be performed, as more Jews will desire to live in Israel and less will leave it for other countries.
The spies sinned when they spoke badly about Eretz Yisrael, claiming that it is (Bamidbar 13,32) “A land that eats its residents,” thereby causing the Jews who were in the desert to despise it. They also sinned by declaring that Am Yisrael did not have enough strength to conquer the Land, thus weakening the hearts of the rest of the nation.
The greatness of Eretz Yisrael is evident in the mere fact that it is a sin to speak lashon harah (speaking badly about another) about the Land. The prohibition of speaking lashon harah is basically limited to people for the prevention of causing them hardships, troubles or bad feelings. There is no concept of speaking lashon harah about physical objects such as rocks. However, lashon harah isconsidered a sin in regards to the Land of Israel, for it causes a delay in the revelation of Hashem in this world. Hashem only reveals himself by way of the holy Land of Israel. It follows that the punishment for speaking badly about Israel is unusually stringent, to the extent that even a generation that received the Torah at Mount Sinai could not escape the punishment to die in the desert and not enter the Land which they had slandered.
The generations following that of the spies are obligated to rectify the spies’ sins, to praise Eretz Yisrael and to thank Hashem for giving us the Land as a precious gift. This especially applies to our generation in which millions of Jews have merited to settle the Land and raise their families in Israel-something even previous generations of righteous people did not merit. Therefore it is doubly important to continuously repeat the words of Yehoshua and Calev (Bmidbar 14,7) “The Land is exceedingly good” and the words of Calev (Bmidbar 13,30) “Let us go up at once; for we are well able to overcome it.”
9 – Honoring One’s Parents and Dwelling in the Land
What is the law pertaining to a situation when a child wishes to make aliyah (to live in Israel) but his parent’s are against him doing so? Does the child have to abide by his parents wishes in an effort to perform the mitzvah of honoring ones father and mother, or does the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel over ride that? First, it is necessary to clarify that there is no mitzvah of honoring one’s parents if it does goes against another mitzvah that is derived from the Torah or even one that is derived from the wise rabbis. It is forbidden to transgress a mitzvah from the Torah even if parents tell their child to do so. The child also has the mitzvah of honoring Hashem and fulfilling His Torah (Shulchan Aruch yoreh daya 240,14).
It is clear, therefore, that one is permitted to settle in the Land of Israel even if it is against one’s parents’ wishes, especially because the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael is considered by the wise sages to be equal to all the mitzvot. (Mahram from Rotenberg, HaMabit, see Petchai Tshuva). This rule also applies to one who wants to live in a settlement town in Judah, Samaria or Gaza for the purpose of strengthening Jewish control over the Land. Although his parents may be worried and demand that he leaves the settlement, he is not required to do so because he is fulfilling the Torah mitzvah of settling the Land.
10 – A Disagreement Between a Couple
When a couple disagrees on where to live it is not acceptable to force one to leave his or her present place of residence because uprooting one who wishes to remain in a familiar place causes hardship. Therefore, the decision rests with the one who wants to stay put. However, if the couple live in a place where the majority of the residents are not Jewish then one has the right to force the other to move to a place where there are more Jews. This ruling is applicable to couples who either in Israel or in another country. If, however, one wants to move to Israel and the other refuses, the law favors the one who wishes to settle the Land. Regardless of whether it is a woman or the man who wishes to move to Israel, the one who wants to remain in a different country must concede. And even if the situation were such that the couple live in a city outside of Israel that has a large Jewish population and the city where they would be moving to in Israel has a small Jewish population, they should still move to Israel regardless of the number of Jews that dwell in the particular area in which they will be settling.
If, G-d forbid, the situation is irreparable where no compromise can be reached and the couple decide to divorce, the husband -if he is the one who refuses to live in Israel- needs to give up the ketubah to his wife. If the wife refuses to settle in the Land of Israel, she subsequently forfeits her ketubah (Shulchan Aruch orech chaim 75,4).
1. In my humble opinion it seems that one who lives within the borders that were established by those that left Egypt is fulfilling the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land even if there is no Jewish rule at the time. Am Yisrael sanctified those places by settling in them and was obligated to fulfill all mitzvot that are connected to the Land during the time of the first Temple. However, one that lives in Syria or Iraq, even though he resides within the borders of the Promised Land, does not fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land. If, however, his intention of living in those countries is based on assisting the establishment of Jewish sovereignty over those places, then he is fulfilling the mitzvah. This is not the place to prolong our discussion and it needs to be further examined.
Land of Israel
Cyprus belongs to Israel and was called The Island of Dan. The borders of Israel stretch from the Nile River to the Euphrates. Eastern Egypt, Sinai, Jordan, part of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, part of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and part of Turkey are within the Biblical Borders of Israel; They are “Occupied Territory”. Rabbi M.M. Schneerson of Lubavitch (Chabad) on the borders of Israel.
The Land of Israel
Replies to Queries
Questions on the Land of Israel
See also our Separate Article
Brit-Am Replies to Queries:
Returning to the Land of Israel
1. What is the Brit-Am position on Ephraimites Coming to dwell in the Land of Israel at Present?
2. Is the Island of Cyprus Part of the Promised Land of Israel?
3. What Are the Boundaries of the Promised Land According to the Bible?
4. Will the Land of Israel Encompass North America?
1. What is the Brit-Am position on Ephraimites Coming to dwell in the Land of Israel at Present?
At present Judah is preparing the Land as a Forerunner for the other Tribes.
Eventually the other Tribes will return and receive an inheritance alongside Judah.
If an Ephraimite in the present time comes to Israel it should be either as a guest of Judah or as somebody who identifies with Judah.
This is a sensitive and complicated issue and we have written quite a lot about it and answered numerous questions concerned with it.
#5. Nachmanides: The Connection Between Law and Land
Returning to the Land of Israel
2. Question: Is the Island of Cyprus Part of the Promised Land of Israel?
Thank you for the work that you are doing towards the reunification of the two houses. We have been living in Cyprus for the last year and was surprised that you included the Island of Cyprus with the Land of Promise.
Could you please explain your reference point as we have never heard this before.
Frank and Shirlianne Whigham.
Answer: Cyprus is Part of the Promised Land of Israel.
Concerning the borders including Cyprus this is admittedly an extreme minority opinion but one that is probably correct. The opinion says that the western border was the western estuary of the Nile Delta in the South (opposite Alexandria, as noted by the late Rabbi M.M. Schneerson of Lubavitch) and a line northward into southeast Turkey and encompassing all the Mediterranean Ocean and islands (including Cyprus within that area.
Cyprus was mentioned frequently in our book, “Lost Israelite Identity. The Hebrew Ancestry of Celtic Races”, (1996).
WHY WE CONSIDER CYPRUS PART OF ISRAEL
a. Cyprus appears to be within the borders of the Promised Land according to the opinion we consider correct. The Promised Land included all the area up to the Euphrates River and all along its length reaching far into the north. It also included at the least the region of Cilicia (southeast Turkey), and most probably the Isle of Cyprus. At all events all these regions and more were taken by the Israelites for considerable periods of time even though they did not succeed in permanently holding them. In the Messianic era (cf. Ezekiel ch.48) and in the times leading up to it all of these areas and more will be re-gained by
b. The Population of Cyprus suffered the same fate as the Canaanites at the time of the Israelite conquest as did a lot of neighboring areas including Anatolia and Greece. Beginning from around 1200 b.c.e. the well developed warlike states of Mycenean Greece, the powerful empire of Hittite Anatolia, the strong city states in southern Canaan, every important city in northern Syria and Cyprus were all completely destroyed. The population of Greece is conventionally considered to have declined (though the figures given here have since been contested) by 75% and the cultural unity of the Mycenean Age came to an end. Crete suffered a similar fate. There was a population decline of 75% also in northern Mesopotamia and 25% in the south. It is conceivable that the cities of Canaan (that were also once again destroyed) met their end due to a resurge of Israelite conquest. There are grounds to believe that what happened elsewhere in some of the other areas was also due to Hebrew initiative or due to Canaanites fleeing from the Israelites or at least somehow influenced by either one of these factors. Assyria was attacked by semi-Nomadic “Aramaean” tribes who may likewise have actually been Hebrews.
c. Egyptians inscriptions report that the Zekaru and Peleset were defeated in Cyprus. The Zekaru were part of the so-called Sea-Peoples who at least in part were Israelites. We identify the Zekaru as belonging to the Tribe of Issacar. If this identification is correct we have an Israelite Tribe in Cyprus from early times.
d. Cyprus (i.e. “Caphtor” Isle of the Philistines?) in Assyrian inscriptions was later to be called “Yadnana” meaning “ISLE OF THE DANANU”, i.e. Isle of the Tribe of Dan. e. The Egyptians counted the Dananu-Danites amongst the Peoples of the Sea. They connected the Dananu primarily with the areas north of the Orontes River1 on the north Syrian coast, with Cilicia, and with CYPRUS, and according to Ed.Meier also with Crete.
f. From the 800s b.c.e. a type of pottery called “Samarian” left its remnants all over Cyprus. Samarian pottery is the same as that known from Samaria capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Cyprus at that time has been described as “very largely a Phoenician island”. This means that it used a similar cultural base to that of most of the northern Israelite Tribes. More Phoenician inscriptions have been so far discovered on Cyprus than in Phoenicia itself. Phoenicia encompassed Lebanon and the coastal part of Syria. The northern Israelites of Samaria spoke a dialect of Hebrew considered closer to that of the Phoenicians than to that of the Judaeans of the southern kingdom. In many respects the culture of much of northern Israel was “Phoenician”. Alternately, much of what is termed “Phoenician” may actually be “Israelite”.
g. Buildings in the Cypriot capital of Kition and in the city of Enkomi are of a standard and type equaled only by that of the palace of Omri (882-871 b.c.e.) in Israelite Samaria.
h. The physical type of a Cypriot ruler depicted in an Egyptian illustration is described similarly to that pertinent to Israelites of the period, as,
“light red beard, light coloured eye (blue or pink) skin” as “Traits characteristic of a certain type of Syro-Palestinian which one finds [illustrated] in many Theban [Egyptian] tombs”.
JEAN VERCOUTTER, “L’Egypte et le Monde Egeen Prehellenique (18em et 19em Dynasties)”, Le Caire, 1956. p.219
i.The influence of Israelites is evident in archaeological finds concerning Ancient Cypriot life style and values.
Cyprus had been known as Yadnana meaning “Isle of the Dananu” from the Israelite Tribe of Dan. An area corresponding in the descriptions to Scandinavia had also been called “Keftiu”, or “Kaptara” both meaning Cyprus. Since the Danites were connected with Cyprus of the Mediterranean they may (on that point alone) also have been on Cyprus of the Atlantic Ocean meaning in Scandinavia. Dan was exiled and some Danites may have departed earlier than the others as explained elsewhere. Scandinavian culture at that time reveals the probable presence of a group hailing from the same Middle Eastern areas which the Danites had frequented shortly beforehand. It may be surmised that the Danites (or rather a portion of them) from the Mediterranean had migrated to Scandinavia.
Cyprus appears to be the area referred to in the Bible as the “Island of Caphtor” (Jeremah 47:7 Amos 9:7) homebase of the Philistines which we believe Israelites conquered. “Caphtor” has been interprted to mean “Top of the Pillar”. Scandinavia tradition in one version traced their ancestral gods to the Isle of “Asgard” which according to Jugen Spanuth (“Atlantis of the Noirth”, 1980, p.94) as “Island of Caphtor”.
Irish legends spoke of the Tribe of Dana (Tuatha De Danaan) who were renowned metallurgists, and scientifically adept. They arrived from the “northern isles” after some disaster, the only “northern isles” as far as Ireland is concerned are those of Scandinavia. The Tribe of Dana, said the Irish sources had originally come from the region of Mount Lebanon, it had sojourned in Greece, been enslaved, fought with the “Phillistines”, and then fled north after which it had come to Ireland.
Welsh legends also spoke of the Children of Don who paralleled the Tribe of Dana.
Irish legends in effect identify the Children of Dana with the Israelite Tribe of Dan according to the above conclusions.
In effect, they say that from Scandinavia the Danites had progressed to the British Isles. The Irish accounts exactly fit what archaeological research has revealed. The Irish records were transmitted orally for generations then written down centuries before archaeology confirmed them.
The Dana of Irish (and Welsh) Mythology belonged to the Israelite Tribe of Dan. Indications exist that the Assyrians or their auxiliaries conquered Scandinavia in about 1200 BCE and the Danites may have reached Scandinavia after that date. Scandinavian Bronze Age Civilisation ended in about 500 BCE about which time the Dana from Scandinavia came to Ireland and to parts of Britain.
Cyprus is identified with Caphtor. It was one of the places the Philistines came out of.
[Genesis 10:14] AND PATHRUSIM, AND CASLUHIM, (OUT OF WHOM CAME PHILISTIM,) AND CAPHTORIM.
Cyprus remained a base of the Philistines and the struggle against them entailed capturing the island. After that the Danites had taken it over. One version of Scandinavian legend says that their ancestors came from an island named Asgard. Another version says that they came from the Plain of Ida and the Don River area in Scythia (Southern Russia). Both versions are correct and apply to different migrating bodies. The term Asgard however when applied to their ancestral home evidently should apply most strictly to the island.
Jurgen Spanuth, Atlantis of the North (p.211), identifies Cyrpus with Asgard:
“The name ‘I Kaphtor’ [Hebrew for Isle of Caphtor] is a literal translation of ‘holmr Asgard’; both mean island of the heavenly pillar, or literally, island of the top of the pillar, island of the heaven-bearing beam.”
See also the Map of the Promised Land according to Bar-Deroma
Some Facts About Cyprus
Cyprus was occupied by Britain in 1878 during the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
British occupation continued until 1960. Cyprus facilitated protection of the sea route to India and Australia via the Suez Canal and was also important in the administration of “Palestine”.
Cyprus has a “Mediterranean” type climate, warm summers, rain in winter, moderate termperatures.
Natural resources include:
copper pyrites, asbestos, gypsum, timber, salt, marble, clay earth pigment.
In the past Cypus was important for its timber and forests still cover about 15% of the surface..
There is also an agricultural potential and a tourist industry.
At present water problems exist due to sparse rainfall, inroads of the Sea, and pollution of natural aquifers.
Control of the country is divided between the Greek (ca 80%) and Turkish (ca 20%) speaking populations who are in a state of subdued hostility towards each other. The population numbers more than 1200,000 people.
Cyprus produces citrus fruits, barley, potatoes, fishing, sheep, pigs, wine, clothing, and banking services.
3. Question: What Are the Boundaries of the Promised Land According to the Bible?
Answer: The Land of Israel stretches from the western confluences of the Nile Delta, encompasses all Sinai, part of Northern Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, parts of Iraq, southeast Turkey, the island of Cyprus, and reaches along the Euphrates River and beyond.
|The Biblical Borders of the Land of Israel
There are sources that the future borders of the Land of Israel will reach into Western Europe and encompass the British Isles (Eretz Chemda, 20, quotes Levush Mordecai in the name of the Chatam Sofer).
This opinion is based on the understanding of the Great Sea.
Numbers 34:6 As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border.
The Great Sea is usually understood to mean the Mediterranean to the west of Israel.
There is what appears to be a minority opinion that it means the Atlantic Ocean but even this is not certain.
Rabbi Yehudah (Gittin 8a) says “the Great Sea for a border” means the Yam HaOkeanus which refers to the Atlantic Ocean.
What was Rabbi Yehudah referring to?
There are differences of opinion.
One view say he meant the area of the Mediterranean encompassed by a line from Alexandria northwards to Turkey and encompassing island in the Sea in between such as Cyprus. This accords with some other opinions.
#3. Question: What Are the Boundaries of the Promised Land According to the Bible?
and above Map.
Another opinion says it means all the Mediterranean area up to the Atlantic.
Still other opinions (Chatam Sofer) suggest that it means lands of Western Europe and reaching up to the Atlantic.
Or it includes lands of Western Europe as well as Britain (an additional understanding of the Chatam Sofer).
Our understanding is that Britain would be considered as in the Great Sea (Atlantic Ocean) and if it includes Britain
it would of necessity expand to encompass North America as well!
[Or for some reason even though it should stop at the Great Sea it may include Britain but not reach further?].
There are different ways of approaching differences of opinion such as the above.
One method is take it or leave it: One opinion is right, the others wrong.
Another approach is that they are all right but accord to different time tables.
What exactly all this means is not clear.
It is also not necessarily authoritative.
Matters concerning the Times of the Messiah are of necessity speculative.
The bottom line is the BIBLE.
Our understanding to stress as much as possible a Literal understanding of Scripture including Prophecy.
#2. When and When Not is Scripture to be Taken Literally?
#3. Saadia Gaon: The Literal Meaning of Scripture Must be Accepted
According to this,
What was prophesied as destined to take place in the Land of Israel will do so.
What do we therefore do with the Rabbinical statements concerning the future borders of Israel?
We may suggest an answer but it is built on a series of “ifs”!
If these sources are correct and mean literally what they say?
If the future land of Israel is to encompass parts of Western Europe, the British Isles, and North America?
If only a portion of the Ten Tribes return and the prophecies are fulfilled through them?
It may be that after that the sanctity of the Land of Israel will be expanded to include all Lands in which the Ten Tribes are to be found?
Anyway for the moment we all have to do what we can as well as we can.
God bless you
See “Brit-Am Now“-3
#6. Scriptural boundaries for Israel
#3. The NORTHERN BORDERS of Biblical Israel
#5. From “Lost Israelite Identity”: ARABIA
#2. The Temple at Baal Bek: King Solomon or Only the Romans?
(a) Baal Bek in Lebanon
(c) No-nonsense posting about Baal-Bek
Not so gigantic! built entirely by Romans!
(d) Painting of Baal Bek by David Roberts
(e) Built by Solomon?
(f) Immanuel Velikovsky 1895-1979)
Baal Bak is Ancient Dan? (An Interesting and valuable article)
#1. Is Israel sitting on an enormous oil reserve?
#2. Maps and Symbols
#3. Israeli Stamps:
#5. The Biblical and Future Borders of the Land of Israel
#4. Land of Our Forefathers and Future: A Map
#2. Did Ancient Israel Reach to the Euphrates?
#3. The Cyprus Reference Again
#3. Photos from Lebanon
‘It is impossible to rightly govern the world without
God or the Bible.’
Brit-Am is the “still small voice” that contains the truth.
[1-Kings 19:12] AND AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE A FIRE; BUT THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE FIRE: AND AFTER THE FIRE A STILL SMALL VOICE.
And His Land Will Atone for His People
The closing words of Ha’azinu’s song, “Vekhiper admato amo,” “And His land will atone for His people,” teach us that the land of Israel can achieve atonement for the people of Israel. This is why Chazal emphasize the importance of burial in Eretz Israel. Connecting the word “admato” mentioned in our verse with “mizbe’ah adama,” “earthen altar,” the Talmud goes as far as to say that burial in the land of Israel is equivalent to burial under the altar, the site of atonement. Due to its inherent holiness as God’s land, all of Eretz Israel is equated to the place of the altar.
The first to insist on burial in the Land of Israel was our forefather, Jacob. Jacob wished to be buried in Eretz Israel, not only for the personal spiritual benefit that he would derive, but also for a much more profound reason. The Meshekh Hokhmah argues that Jacob wished to prevent the assimilation of his offspring into Egyptian life and culture. Jacob impressed the centrality of Eretz Israel upon the national psyche of his descendants. Many Jews throughout the generations, who were unable to come to Israel during their lifetimes, echoed Jacob’s sentiments and instructed that they be buried there. They too wanted to impress upon their own families and communities that they are but temporary dwellers in a foreign land.
In Midrash Mishlei, Rabbi Levi’s version of the derashah regarding “vekhiper admato amo” reads in a slightly different manner. He says that anyone who lives in Eretz Israel, even for a single hour, and dies there, is destined to inherit the world to come. According to Rabbi Levi, burial alone does not do the trick; living in the land is essential. The Talmud relates Rabbi Elazar’s reaction to the death of Ulla, his student, outside of Eretz Israel: “You, Ulla, should die in an unclean land!” Hearing that Ulla’s coffin had arrived, Rabbi Elazar declared: “Receiving a man in his lifetime is not the same as receiving him after his death.”
Jacob was unable to return to live in Israel, but his descendants living in our present, unique times, are welcome to return. May we all merit to live long lives in the Land of Israel.