Boundaries of the Land of Israel

לשכנו תדרשו

Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land


זאת הארץ אשר תיפול לכם בנחלה ארץ כנען לגבולותיה” 


“May it be Your Will before You, HaShem our God and the God of our Fathers that You raise us with joy to our Land and plant us in our boundaries…” (Mussaf Shabbat)

The boundaries of the Land of Israel are explicitly and elaborately detailed in this week’s parsha, a matter that highlights the importance of every parcel of land in the Land of Israel before HaShem. Not only is the specification of the boundaries of the Holy Land important in the Written and Oral (halacha etc.) Torah in regard to the mizvot of the Land upon the People (Trumot, Maaser, , Shmita, etc.), but  also in regard to the responsibility upon the People to conquer and settle the Land, as is clear in the Written Torah in our title quote.

In the Oral Torah this principle can be ascertained from the halachic ruling (Biblically based) that only if Israel first conquers  the land specified in the Torah and only afterwards conquers territory outside these boundaries does that territory receive status as the Land of Israel Proper (Biblically liable for Truma etc.). This halachic principle is shown by our Sages when they describe HaShem’s criticism on David’s conquest of other lands before conquering the entirety of the Land of Israel specified in the Torah as he should have done.

We illustrated this concept in this way to fit even the viewpoint of the Rambam who does not enumerate the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel to be a positive mitzvah, but according to the Ramban and the accepted halachic stance (as brought in the authoritative halachic summary ‘Pithei Tshuva’) that conquering and settling the Land is a positive mitvah even today, it is even clearer that the boundaries of this Land specified in the Torah are crucial in regard to the commandment of  conquering the entirety of the Land of Israel.  According to the Ramban’s halachic stance we are not only commanded to settle the Land but also bidden to not leave this Land in the hands of another nation or desolate, as he ascertains from the verse ‘you shall conquer the Land’ (Num. 33, 53).

Spiritually speaking, as we have shown in the past, the Land of Israel is a spiritual entity, Abode of the Holy Presence, described by the prophet Isaiah (62, 5) as a ‘wife’ to Israel, her ‘husband’. Therefore, the devotion of our People to the entirety of this Land, as specified by God, is crucial to our loyalty to God and His Holy Presence, for denying any parcel of this Land from Israel is tantamount to denying the word of God (in this week’s parsha determining that it belongs to Israel), and His Holy Presence in this Land (for if God’s word is not held holy, then what is holy about His Presence?).

By connecting to Hebron, we connect to the very roots of our People’s connection to this Land, thereby strengthening our devotion and loyalty to the Holy Land and the Holy Presence therein. Our Sages teach us that our Forefathers foresaw the future, and therefore they travelled and lived in locations crucial for the future of their descendants many years later. It seems that is not for naught that specifically our holy Fathers of Hebron, the ‘Roots of our People to the Land’, lived an extended period of time, in addition to Hebron, in ‘the land of the Philistines’, identified as the area of the ‘Gaza Strip’ today, to strengthen our ancestors, as in the time of David and Goliath the Philistine, and us today, grappling with the identity of this location as part of our Holy Land, that indeed this whole Land is the Holy Land given by God to His People Israel.




Real Stories from the Holy Land #80:


“One day, I was too tired to go to work, so I told my boss that I hurt my hand in an accident (which was a lie). Three minutes later a cab came and bashed into my leg, injuring me in a real accident.” (Y.S) 




Sources: Rambam Melachim 5, 6, Hashmatos lesefer haMitzvos LaRamban mitzvah 4, Ramban on Num. 33, 53, Pithei Tshuva Even Haezer 75, 13, Psikta Zutrta Lech Lecha 12, 8

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