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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Does One Require Intention for the Mitzva to Live in Israel?

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question:  Does one fulfill the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisrael (= yEY), the mitzva to inhabit the Land of Israel) if he does so without kavana (intention)?


Answer:  The gemara discusses the question whether mitzvot tzrichot kavana (= mtzk – a mitzva is valid only if performed with intention to fulfill the mitzva), in the contexts, among others, of reading Kri’at Shema and blowing shofar without specific intent to perform the mitzva. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 60:4) rules that kavana is required, and there is significant discussion about whether this is true even regarding mitzvot  which are only rabbinically mandated (see Mishna Berura 60:10). Thus, one could claim that whether or not one fulfills yEY without kavana depends on whether the mitzva is from the Torah (Ramban) or is rabbinic (simple understanding of the Rambam (see Amud Hayemini 22)).

However, there are several opinions that the question of mtzk does not apply to all mitzvot. The Ran (7b of Rif, Rosh Hashana) says that even the opinion that usually requires kavana does not require it for mitzvot of eating. Some say that this applies to all matters of physical enjoyment, a distinction we find regarding the obligation of a korban for an unintentional sin (see Kritot 20b). YEY apparently does not fit into this category, as the mitzva is fulfilled by the fact that he lives in the Land, not by a specific act of physical enjoyment. However, others (see Sdei Chemed, vol. IV, p. 305) understand that the above is true for any mitzva that is done through physical action (including the mitzva of lulav- ibid. p. 306), as opposed to a mitzva of speech, in which case it yEY would not require kavana.

A similar distinction is found in Kovetz Shiurim (II:23). He says that one fulfills mitzvot that that are conceptually result-oriented even without the intention; the important thing is that the result was reached. Examples he gives include repaying debts and pru u’revu (procreation). YEY is tricky, in that one does not reach a result where he can say the mitzva is over. However, the mitzva is apparently to be in the state of living in the Land (the parameters are beyond our present scope). Thus it is a mitzva of an ongoing state/result and according to this approach, too, yEY would not require kavana. Rav Asher Weiss (heard orally) explains this distinction as follows. Mtzk is an issue only for mitzvot that are significant only when done as service of Hashem, which requires intention. The result of having children is significant even without being performed as service of Hashem, and presumably so is yEY.

Despite the above, to a great extent, the question is moot. There are two elements to fulfilling a mitzva: 1. technical fulfillment, whose greatest ramification is that it exempts one from repeating the mitzva. 2. The reward one receives for fulfillment. The various halachic discussions focus on the first element – the operative one. What happens with reward?

A few things are clear. First, Hashem will not give the same reward to one who accidentally performed a mitzva or did it solely for self-interest as to one who did it for the right reasons (see Nazir 23a). The Imrei Binah (Orach Chayim 4) cites the Chochmat Adam’s author’s formulation. Even if and when one is credited with fulfillment of a specific mitzva without kavana, he fails to perform the general mitzva of “to serve Him with all your heart” (Devarim 11:13). There is no way for human beings to determine Hashem’s reward accounting in every case. Remember, in this regard, that there are different reasons for not having kavana, including the following: lack of belief in Hashem; a Satmar ideology; not thinking about the mitzva, etc. These possibilities and many other variables impact on a person’s virtue and thus on his reward for the mitzva.

Regarding the element of fulfillment exempting from repeating the mitzva, the question is moot. One never completes the mitzva of yEY. Thus, whether or not he fulfilled the mitzva in the past, the mitzva continues, and it is certainly better to do it with kavana.

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