Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Sanctity of Eretz Yisrael - Part 1 - From Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, p. 401
There are two aspects to the sanctity of Eretz Israel and its special status within the framework of the life of the Jewish nation: the revealed element and the hidden one.
The revealed element of the sanctity finds expression in halacha and has a set framework and a defined significance. It depends on the fulfillment of practical conditions and can take effect and cease to exist (with the destruction of the beit hamikdash). The applications are practical, specifically regarding mitzvot hat’luyot ba’aretz (land-linked mitzvot).
The hidden element has a spiritual content without specific, halachic expression. Rather, it finds expression in Eretz Israel’s conduciveness for prophecy, increased Divine Providence, and the like. Nothing is needed to create the spiritual element, and nothing can take it away.
Not all classical sources put stress on this latter aspect of the Land’s sanctity. Tosafot (Ketubot 110b) understands that the question of when there is a mitzva to live in Eretz Israel depends entirely on the feasibility of performing the land-linked mitzvot. In contrast, Kaftor Vaferech has an entire section, in which he proves that the main sanctity and value of the Land is connected to its special, Divine nature and does not depend on the specific obligations related to the land. R. Yehuda Halevi speaks at length of this sublime value of Eretz Israel. Just as he bases the special standing of Israel among the nations on certain innate traits, so does he see the Land as possessing qualities which are responsible for its special standing among the lands. In both cases, the halachot that relate to the nation and the Land are symptoms of the special standing and stem from the innate.
Eretz Israel has the qualities that cause its inhabitants to be fit to receive Divine inspiration and elevation. It is the place which makes the person ripe for prophecy and revealing the relationship with his Maker. This is an actual, spiritual phenomenon which relates to the physical land, its stones, earth, air, and vegetation. Because of these qualities, the fruit and the ground are subject to the special mitzvot that they are. The secret of the Land is that its spirituality dwells on its physicality, with a much stronger connnection between the two than can be found in other places. This spirituality dwells on the person when he is involved in the same activities that elsewhere would make him more physical and less spiritually sensitive. Thus, in Eretz Israel, involvement in otherwise mundane matters of the world have a special, positive value, going far beyond any value these matters could have outside Eretz Israel.
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