Parshat Pinchas By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
לשכנו תדרשו Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And This Land Shall Be a Portion to You Before Hashem
In the past we have discussed the halachic significance of the eastern side of the Jordan that was given to the tribes of Reuven Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe in this parsha. According to the Tashbetz, this area is codified under the category of the Land of Israel Proper, i.e like the western side of the Jordan [nevertheless there is controversy on this topic]. Based on the Tashbetz, we may understand why the Rambam does not categorize this area as a separate category among the five categories of lands he lists in the beginning of hilchot Terumot. In the following three weeks, corresponding to the three weeks before Tisha Bav, the day which commemorates the sin of the spies who talked against the Holy Land, we shall attempt to rectify the sin of the spies by analyzing in more depth what exactly is the Land of Israel by exploring the following questions: what are these five categories of lands specified by the Rambam and what are their halachic significance? What does the Kabbalah have to say about these areas? And how does all this relate to the various borders of the Land of Israel specified throughout Tanach? As is hinted in this parsha, Kaleb, who drew his inspiration from his visit to Hebron, was key in defying the scheme of the other spies against settling the Land of Israel. May Hashem aid us to follow in his footsteps, to absorb the inspiration of Hebron, and to rectify the sin of the spies at this time.
The Rambam groups the fore-mentioned five categories of lands into three groups: The Land of Israel [Proper], “Syria” [not necessarily the country of Syria today], and “outside the Land of Israel,” i.e the Diaspora. The Land of Israel [Proper] is divided into two categories: A. lands that were [only] conquered in the era of “those who arose from Egypt,” i.e during the era of Yehoshua, and B. Lands that were also settled during the era of “those who arose from Babylon,” i.e during the era of Ezra. The essential difference between these categories is as follows: Category A was achieved through conquest, and therefore when this land was conquered by a foreign nation, as was the case in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, this land lost much of the sanctity attributed to it when the People of Israel are settled in it. Here we should note that, even in the absence of Israel, this land still remains the “Holy Land” more holy than any other land on earth. However, in regard to the accentuated sanctity attributed to this land in Israel’s presence upon it, much of this sanctity was lost in the conquest of Assyria and Babylon, a matter that also carries halachic implications. There is controversy among the rishonim what these halachic implications are. Nevertheless, the custom today is to take teruma and maser in these areas with a bracha [except for second-Temple period Bet Shaan and some other places].
In contrast to category A, category B was not achieved by conquest, but rather by “hazaka,” a concept that is explained by two different opinions. According to one opinion of the poskim “hazaka” means that during the era of Ezra, the right to settle in the Land was given by the recognition and permission of Cyrus. According to a differing opinion “hazaka” means that the land was sanctified verbally in the time of Ezra. In any case, according to both opinions the fact that the lands settled in the time of Ezra were not taken by conquest, but rather by “hazaka,” is the reason that these lands did not lose their sanctity when taken by conquest of a foreign nation, for their sanctity was not dependent on any conquest in the first place. Therefore, these areas retain today much of the laws of the Land of Israel, albeit on a rabbinic level, since (according to most poskim) the majority of worldwide Jewry is still not located in the Land of Israel. In order to facilitate the understanding of which locations are under category A and which are under category B we have attached a map here [the map is approximate – in practice a competent posek should be consulted]. A discussion of the other categories and the questions we posed will continue b”h in the following weeks.
Real Stories from the Holy Land
At the end of these three weeks we will continue with “Real Stories.”