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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5773

Ein Ayah: The Sanctity of the Torah is Linked to the Nation in the Land

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:326-7)

Gemara: When Chananya the nephew of R. Yehoshua left for the Diaspora, he would set leap years and decide on new months. [The Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael] sent two scholars, Rabbi Yossi ben Kipper and the grandson of Zecharia ben Kabutal, [to protest this practice]. When Chananya saw them, he asked: “Why did you come?” They answered: “We came to study Torah.” Chananya announced about them: “These men are leaders of the generation, and their forefathers served in the Beit Hamikdash.” They started [discussing Torah]. Chananya ruled that something was impure, and they ruled it was pure. He would say something was forbidden, and they would say it was permitted. Chanaya announced about them: “These are men of falsehood and void.” They said to him: “You have already built; you are not able to undo. You have already erected fences; you cannot dismantle them.” [Chanaya asked them why they were arguing for no apparent reason]. They said to him: “Because you are setting leap years and deciding on new months outside of Eretz Yisrael.” He said to them: “Didn’t Akiva, son of Yosef, do that?” They said to him: “Leave Rabbi Akiva out of it, for he left no peers in Eretz Yisrael.”


Ein Ayah: Every detail of Torah is sacred. Praiseworthy is one who is careful to perform each of them precisely and with love, and woe onto one who disregards even one detail of a “light” mitzva. However, the root of the sanctity of individual details must be recognizable because details branch out from the klal (all-encompassing precepts). The klal upon which all the Torah rests is the existence of Hashem’s nation with all its characteristics and its completeness, and this is possible only in Eretz Yisrael.

The sanctity of time is the basic foundation of the fulfillment of the Torah and its principles. Showing that the Torah is eternal and that it rules over time, whereas time does not rule over it, needs to be done specifically in Eretz Yisrael. This demonstrates that it is impossible to view the Torah as a religion that is not innately linked to the purpose of causing a nation to exist and thrive. Then sanctity can flow from the klal to the details. In contrast, the foundation and the element of Torah that demonstrates its eternality must not be removed from the Desired Land to the Diaspora. That would give the false impression that the Torah is not linked to a nation close to Hashem in the Land He specified for them, where details draw their power and sanctity.

That is what the two scholars demonstrated to Chanaya by taking the one-time measure of making fallacious halachic rulings despite the Torah’s immeasurable sanctity. This demonstrated that its sanctity cannot be separated from the power of nationhood, as finds expression specifically in the Land of Israel.

It is a foundation of the Torah to know the Torah’s basic purpose is to have the nation exist and flourish in Eretz Yisrael based on holiness and power that are a heritage of the Assembly of Yaakov. At the same time, the eternal role of the Torah and its fulfillment can never be fully linked to the Land. Even when times dictate that the nation must wander among the nations in a long and painful exile, Hashem’s Torah is still with them. The major parts of the Torah can be kept in the Diaspora. If this were not so, then even if the world’s greatest scholar were outside of Eretz Yisrael, central matters such as setting the calendar could be done abroad. In truth, though, the Torah remains functional even in the Diaspora, to a great extent because we are promised that we will ultimately return to our special Land and be there a special nation. Therefore, it must be possible for central elements of the Torah to be done outside the Land, although only in a way that it is clear that the Torah should relate to Eretz Yisrael as much as possible.
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