The Land is Mine

“Since the Land is Mine, No Land Shall be Sold Permanently”
Parshat Behar

The Prohibition of Relinquishing Land to Ememies

The Mitzvah of Settling the Land

The mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel requires the Jewish nation to conquer the Land of Israel, as it is written: “And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land, and dwell in it, for I have given you the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar 33:53). It also is written “For you shall pass over the Jordan River to go in and possess the Land which the Lord your G-d gives you, and you shall possess it, and dwell in it (D’varim 11:31). According to the Ramban’s fourth mitzvah, this is for all times and every generation. The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer, paragraph 75), and the Pitchei Tshuva 106 agree with the Ramban on this halachah. The mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel even takes precedence over ‘pikuach nefesh’ (the saving of one’s life even if it involves transgressing a mitzvah from the Torah). Settling the Land of Israel is a mitzvah of such great importance that, at times, the Jewish nation is obligated to engage in war for the sake of conquering, settling, or maintaining control over the Land, even though Jewish lives will probably be sacrificed as a result. Therefore, if the nation is commanded to conquer the Land at such a great cost, all the more so is the Jewish nation expected and obligated to always rule over every part of it, and protect if from being divided up or handed over to foreign nations.

‘Pikuach Nefesh’

The Talmud in the tractate of Eruvin (45a) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 329:6) explain that giving away any part of the Land of Israel to the enemy, even a small concession, invites an even greater risk and danger to both Israel and the Jewish nation. It is, therefore, permitted to transgress the Sabbath and even to put Jewish lives at risk in order to fight enemies that come to steal seemingly insignificant things such as straw and chaff from a border town in the Land of Israel. For if they were allowed to steal chaff and straw the country’s deterrent forces would be weakened, leaving the towns in a more vulnerable position and thus endangering many lives. All the more so is it forbidden to concede to the enemy complete parts of the Land.

“They should not dwell in Your Land”

In addition to the mitzvah of settling the Land, the Torah further commands that “They shall not dwell in your Land” (Shemot 23:33). The Rambam ruled (Laws of Avoda Zara 10:6) that when the Land is under strong Jewish rule nobody should be allowed to dwell in Israel who is not a “ger toshav” (a non-Jew that keeps the seven mitzvot of Noah). There are differing opinions on the definition of a ‘ger toshav’. Some of the Rabbinical authorities think that a non-Jew who accepts upon himself to follow the seven laws of the sons of Noah in front of a court, with complete faith in the God of Israel, is considered to be a ‘ger toshav’, and therefore allowed to live in the Land even when it is under strong Jewish rule. Others believe that if the non-Jew does not commit idolatry and follows the seven laws, even though he doesn’t commit to them before a court of law, he is considered a ger toshav’ and is therefore allowed to live in the Land. According to this opinion it is permissible for non-belligerent Muslims to reside in the Land of Israel, for they do not practice idolatry. However, those Arabs who are enemies to the Jewish nation do not keep the seven laws of the sons of Noah, for they deny the God of Israel, and they transgress the forbidden law “Thou shall not kill” by supporting murderous terrorists and not bringing them to justice. Therefore, it is forbidden to allow the belligerent Arabs who do not practice the seven laws to remain in the Land even during the time of a strong Jewish presence and rule. How much more so is it prohibited to give these enemies of the Jewish nation complete parts of the Land, thereby allowing more and more non-Jews who do not abide by the seven laws of Noah to increase.

Show no Mercy

One should not show mercy to the non-Jewish residents that live in the Land of Israel as it says: (Devarim 7:2) “Thou shall not make a covenant with them, nor show them any mercy.” The wise Sages explained that this is the completion of the prohibition “They shall not dwell in your Land,” which is the nation’s obligation to enforce. Each individual Jew is, however, responsible for enforcing the prohibition not to show mercy. It is forbidden to sell fields or houses in Israel to non-Jews that do not keep the seven laws of the sons of Noah. It follows, therefore, that it is forbidden to give any Arab that is not considered a ‘ger toshav’ any part of the Land of Israel.

The Prohibition of Selling the Land Permanently

The Torah clearly states in the book of Vayikra (25:23) “The Land shall not ever be sold, for the Land is mine.” The Ramban learns from this verse that it is forbidden to sell any land or house to non-Jews because the sold items will not be returned at the time of the ‘yoval’ (every fiftieth year when land is returned to its original owner) (Ramban, Mitzvah Lo Ta’aseh 227). How much more so is it prohibited to give away any of the Land inherited from our forefathers to non-Jews.

Evicting a Jew from His Home

No king or government has the right to evict a Jew from his home in Israel. This is because God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish nation, and every Jew basically owns part of the Land. Thus, no government or kingdom has the right to steal any inheritance or property that was legally purchased or built. Therefore, any agreement that is based upon uprooting Jews from their homes is forbidden.

Desecration of God’s Name

As long as the nations of the world side with Israel’s enemies and pressure the Jewish nation to give up parts of the Land, there is a chance that Israel’s leaders may do just that, which would cause a desecration of God’s name. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to sanctify God, and to resist any foreign coercion against the Jewish religion.

The Prohibition of Relinquishing Land to Ememies as a Result of ‘Pikuach Nefesh’

The basis for the prohibition of relinquishing parts of the Land of Israel can be found in the tractate of Eruvin (45a) in the discussion that deals with laws of Shabbat in connection to ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life-threatening situation). As previously explained, it is permitted to transgress the Sabbath in order to save another’s life. However, one can not desecrate the Sabbath in order to rescue money or something that has monetary value. Therefore, the wise Sages declared that if non-Jews come in order to steal money on the Sabbath, it is forbidden to take up arms in order to drive them off because there is no ‘pikuach nefesh’ involved. However, this law only applies to cities that are not located near the border. If the non-Jews come to a town situated on the border in order to steal seemingly insignificant supplies such as chaff and straw, then there is an obligation to desecrate the Sabbath and take up arms to drive them away. The reason for this exception is that if at present they are allowed to steal the chaff and straw from the border towns and cities, then later they will come to pillage other towns and cities and kill their inhabitants. This law is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 329:6).

The wise Sages realized that if we concede to the non-Jews in areas close to the border, even for such trivial supplies such as chaff and straw, the end result will be to increase their appetite and their desire to conquer our inheritance. Therefore the Sages determined the ‘halacha’ (Jewish law) that the Sabbath must be profaned and lives must be put in danger in order to guard the property of those living near the border. Accordingly, it is clear that the Jewish nation is forbidden to surrender any part of the Land to non-Jews, especially Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, which are considered border towns, for, according to the opinion of our Sages of blessed memory, just as it is forbidden to forfeit anything in the border towns, how much more so is it forbidden to give up those towns themselves. Such an act would increase our enemies hunger and lead to war, God forbid.

If all the military experts were to announce that by relinquishing land we would achieve true peace, we could possibly declare that the times have changed and surrendering land no longer endangers lives. However this is not the case and many of the experts feel that abandoning Judea and Samaria poses a great peril to the State of Israel. Therefore, we are only left with the words of the wise Sages who taught us that it is forbidden to acquiesce to non-Jews even just for chaff and straw from a border town, and definitely not to give parts of the Land of Israel to our enemies. This foundation was repeated many times by the late Lubatvicher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l.

The Prohibition of Relinquishing Land As a Result of the Profanation of God’s Name

The Rambam (Hilchot Yisodei HaTorah, chap.5) clarifies that the mitzvah to sanctify God’s name in this world means that a Jew should be willing to sacrifice his life in order to do so. If, for example, non-Jews came and demanded a Jew to kill his friend or else he would be killed, it is incumbent upon him to die and not transgress the sin of murder. This is the halacha for all the three serious transgressions of adultery, murder, and idol worship. This is because after one transgresses one of these grave sins there is not much reason left to live, and it is preferable for one to die rather than to continue to commit these sins.

The halacha is different regarding the rest of the mitzvot of the Torah. If a Jew was threatened with his life for not desecrating the Sabbath or eating pork, then the Jew should eat the pork and desecrate the Sabbath and not sacrifice his life, for it is written “One should live by them” (the mitzvot of the Torah), and not die by them. It should be understood, however, that this only applies when the non-Jews coerce the Jew for their own pleasure. If their motives are to convert the Jew or attack his faith and this is done in front of ten Jews, then it is incumbent upon that person to sacrifice his life. Such a situation no longer involves a personal transgression. It now becomes an issue of faith in the Torah and God, and as previously mentioned, one is obligated to sacrifice his life for the sake of sanctifying God’s name.

According to this, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt’l instructed that the prohibition of giving over the Land to non-Jews is much more severe, for it also encompasses a desecration of God’s name and therefore, the principle of “One should die and not transgress” apply. The Torah is filled with many promises that God made to the Jewish people regarding their ownership of the Land of Israel. The Arab nations, many who do not even share a border with Israel, are basically fighting a war against the mitzvot of the Torah and the Jewish faith.

Giving away parts of the Land of Israel is the greatest level of blasphemy of God’s name because it is being committed by the nation as a whole. Any non-Jew that reads the Torah knows that God promised the Land to the Jewish nation, and once he witnesses the Jewish nation giving away the Land and distancing itself from His promises, the greatest profanation of God’s name is committed. In order to avoid this desecration and blasphemy of God’s name, we must be ready to fight with self-sacrifice in defense of the Land, and not concede any part of our holy Land, that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth gave to the Jewish nation.

Although this mitzvah falls within the framework of “One should die and not transgress,” there is no mitzvah to die for the sake of sanctifying God’s name if, regardless of whether Jews sacrificed their lives or not, the Land was to fall into the hands of the enemy, for the Land would be sacrificed at the same time as the lives were being sacrificed, and that would surely be a desecration of God’s name. If, however, there is a chance of holding onto the Land, then it is obligatory to fight and sacrifice lives in order to prevent the transgression of relinquishing parts of Israel to a foreign nation. Blessed be God, for He has returned the Jewish nation to its Land and has given us the strength and ability to hold onto it. It is now the Jewish nation’s obligation to guard this gift by all possible means.

The Prohibition of Participating or Assisting in Surrendering the Land

Not only is it forbidden to relinquish any part of the Land of Israel to non-Jews, but it is also prohibited to assist in the act of doing so, as Rabbi Goren, Rabbi Yisraeli, Rabbi Neriah, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Rabbi Avraham Shapira zt”l, all of blessed memory, declared.

At the Rabbinical Council for Saving the Land of Israel, headed by the former Chief Rabbi of Israel (5743-53) Rabbi Avraham Shapira, the question was presented as to whether a military camp is considered the same as a settlement town in regards to surrendering it over to non-Jews. The Council answered this question in the month of Tamuz 5755 as follows:

  • A) The Torah prohibits the giving over of military bases to foreign rule because it clearly nullifies the mitzvah of settling the Land as well as endangers Jewish lives.
  • B) Regardless of where the army base is located within Israel, the mitzvah of settling the Land is being fulfilled just by its mere existence, as the Ramban wrote: ” To conquer and not to abandon the Land to the non Jews”, and if the army does decide to abandon the bases, then not only is it nullifying the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel, but it endangers the existence of the State of Israel as well.
  • C) A permanent army base is considered, by all means, the same status as a settlement town and, therefore, uprooting it constitutes the same prohibition.
  • D) It is, therefore, obvious and clear that it is forbidden for any Jew to partake or assist in uprooting settlements, military camps or installations, as the Rambam ruled (Laws of Kings, 3:9) “Even if a king decrees that one should transgress a commandment from the Torah one should not listen to him.”

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