In last week’s article we saw that there is a mitzvah to settle in Eretz Yisrael. There are differing opinions whether this mitzvah applies today and whether it is a mitzvah chiyuvit, a required mitzvah, or a mitzvah whose execution creates a kiyum, fulfillment of the mitzvah. This discussion applies primarily to those who reside outside of Eretz Yisrael. However, are there any halachik requirements for those who reside in Israel? Obviously, since settling requires not only conquering but maintaining the land there is a Kiyum whenever one builds a home, plants trees and develops or improves the conditions for residing on the land. But, are there constraints that apply to those who live in Eretz Yisrael?
The Tosefta (a compilation of non-mishnaik, tanaik literature meant to elaborate on and clarify the Mishnah) in Avodah Zarah (ch.5 hl.2) states: “lo yetze adam lchutza la’aretz ela im ken hayu chitim saatayim beselah”, one should not leave the land unless two measurements of se’ah of wheat cost a selah. While the prohibition mentioned in the Tosefta seems to apply to all Jews, there is an additional prohibition for Kohanim. The Gemara Avodah Zarah (13a) states that a kohen may become impure in the diaspora if he exits Eretz Yisrael for the purpose of redeeming money and property from non-Jews. The principle behind this statement is that there is a tumat eretz ha’amim, an impurity of the lands of the nations. Since a Kohen must refrain from any impurity he is prohibited to go out of Eretz Ysrael to the tumat ertz ha’amim. The prohibition for a Kohen is, therefore, not a direct function of the mitzvah to settle the land but rather a function of impurity of lands outside of Eretz Yisrael. The Gemarah expands on the situations when a Kohen may leave Eretz Yisrael stating he may also leave for the purpose of studying Torah or for marriage.
Since any prohibition that applies to other Jews would apply to a Kohen as well, the fact that a Kohen is permitted to leave for the purpose of rescuing property, marriage and Torah study would indicate that all Jews may leave Eretz Yisrael for these reasons. The Tosafot (Avodah Zarah 13a, Lilmod) states that for these reasons only, that represent important mitzvot, may one leave Eretz Yisrael. For other mitzvot and, definitely for reasons that are not a mitzva, one may not leave. The Tosafot further narrows the option of leaving the land to situations where the departure is temporary with intent to return.
Tosfot derives his limitation of exiting Eretz Yisrael from a Gemarah in masechet Ketubot (111a). The Gemarah tells of a man whose brother died without children and, therefore, this man needed to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum with his sister in-law. The sister in-law resided in the diaspora and the question of whether this man should emigrate to fulfill the mitzvah of yibum came before Rabi Chanina. Rabi Chanina answers sharply: His brother married a gentile and God killed him, blessed be God for killing him, should this man emigrate in his footsteps? By calling the woman a gentile and blessing God for “killing” the brother, Rav Chanina expresses his distaste for their choice to reside in the diaspora. Therefore, it is clear the question “should this man emigrate in his footsteps” is rhetorical, totally rejecting the idea. Tosafot understand that Rav Chanina’s objection does not contradict the ruling in Avodah Zarah that one may leave Eretz Yisrael to marry. It simply means that one may leave to get married and return but not to marry and remain in the diaspora.
There are other opinions that differ with the Tosfot’s understanding which we will present in the next article.