Lubavitcher Rebbe's Peace SolutionThe Jewish Right To Eretz Yisrael
Article by Beis Moshiach Magazine
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The Jewish Right To Israel
By the Editors of Beis Moshiach•
Based on: Likutei Sichos, Vol 5, p1-15
The Definition of the Bible
One principle essential to the understanding of Rashi, is the exact inception of the Jews as a people. The earliest point where the Jews could claim National Identity is clearly the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Before then, there was no common theme amongst all of the people, neither land nor culture.
By logical extension, the Jewish people could assume a National Identity already by the Exodus from Egypt. Since the whole purpose of leaving Egypt was in order to receive the Torah at Sinai (which made the Jews a people) the direct preparations for the Exodus must be considered as a National Event.
In contrast, the commands given by G-d prior to the Exodus were not, at the time, National Jewish events. True, Abraham was the first Jew and, through this virtue he was given the commandment of circumcision; but it was not a commandment to the Nation of Israel. At that time, there was no nation. So, the early commands of circumcision, reproduction and not to eat the sciatic nerve, did not make Abraham and his family Jewish, in the strict sense of the Word, they were merely distinguished 26from the other nations.27 (At that time, other groups had also been given identifying features by G-d. Esau and his family had been granted the Lands of Ammon and Moab.28)
In this light, Rashi begins his Commentary to the Torah with a very pertinent question. The Bible (Chumash) is a book of instruction29 to the Jewish People. Before the inception of a National Identity, Abraham and his descendants were not comparable to the post-Sinai Jewish People. So, why does the Torah - the Guide to Jewish Life -need to discuss the Creation of the World and events of individuals who were not technically Jewish, in the modern sense of the word?
Rashi has a serious complaint. The embryonic precursors to the Jewish people should be recorded in a separate volume, or kept by oral tradition and “the Torah need only have started from... (Exodus 12:1Y when the Jews could first be called a ‘people’) 30
On this contention, Rashi answers that the Torah does begin with Genesis for the benefit the Jews as a Nation. It provides us with a defense for the conquest of Israel, which is post-Sinai event, taking place after the Jews have already become a people.
The Story of Creation may seem like a superfluous nicety in the Torah, but Rashi clarifies that it is in fact an essential inclusion for the purposes of practical Torah Observance. The majority of the 613 commandments delineated in the Torah are dependent on the Land of Israel. So, if we need Genesis to defend our right to that land, then it must be included in the practical observance guide, the Torah.
Nevertheless, it was explained earlier that conquest is not tantamount to robbery (question 3, above). So the need for any defense to the claim, “You are robbers!” still remains to be clarified.
The Concept of Interactive Acquisition
The Rebbe explains that the Jewish conquest of Israel differs from any other acquisition of property, in that it is an interactive possession.
When a person acquires property, by whatever means (purchase, gift, conquest), the property itself is not affected by the transaction; it merely passes from one ownership to another. In other words, there is no owner-interaction: the property remains essentially the same, it just has a new owner.
However, concerning the conquest of Israel, the Torah describes an interactive acquisition: When the Jews acquire the land, the land itself takes on a Jewish identity - it is now called, “The Land of Israel.” Consequently, if the land were later to pass into non-Jewish possession, it would still retain its identity as a Jewish Land. So, Joshua’s conquest of Israel was actually instrumental in transforming the essence of the land from secular to Jewish. I.e. an interactive possession.
True, the land did have a certain holiness before the Jewish conquest, (as is evidenced by the fact that Isaac was called a “perfect offering” on the basis that he never left the land of Canaan. 3 1)
However, until the Torah was given, and the Land conquered, it was impossible to fulfill the majority of the commandments, which depend on possession of Israel. So, from a torah perspective, Israel only became totally Jewish after Joshua’s conquest.32
A Jewish ‘Robbery’:
Heads I win, Tails you lose
In this light, it becomes evident that the Nations were not complaining about the actual Jewish conquest of the Land; after all conquest is not tantamount to robbery (above question 3). Their argument was that nobody has the right to the irrevocable possession of Israel. When a nation conquest and possesses a land they immediately become susceptible to further re-conquest and eviction by another nation. How can the Jewish people claim that their land will become Israel forever? Even after exile it will be known as, “our land,”33 and a non-Jew is denied legal rights of inhabitance.34
To this the nations cry: “you are robbers!” In other words, it is a breach of International Convention to claim irrevocable possession of a country!35.
This reasoning sheds some light on why Rashi employs the term, ‘Nations of the World’. Only the inhabitants of Israel seem entitled to claim, “You are robbers!” This issue does not directly concern the rest of the World.36
However, according to the Rebbe’s explanation of irrevocable acquisition, the connection becomes obvious: if the Jews possess Israel forever, the whole World is denied the right to any future conquest (according to Torah.) Hence, the World is justified in the accusation, “You are robbers!” In effect, they are saying, “You claim that we don’t even have the right to conquer your land. If we win the war we still lose? That’s not fair! “37
The Jewish response:
All Lands Are Not Created the Same
To the accusation that irrevocable possession is unfair, the Jews reply, “All of the land is G-d’s” This is not a simple statement of the Divine Authorship of the World - that is self-evident. With these words, the Jews are retorting that every aspect (“All of the land”) of Israel is under G-d’s discretion. It may well be that every other land was created in a manner of non-interactive possession, but Israel is different. It was made in such a manner, that when it is possessed it belongs to the owner forever. And G-d has the right to do that, “All of the land is G-d’s.”
Hence, the claim of ‘robbery’ is unfounded. G-d did not create all land uniformly; most of it is non-interactional, but Israel is not. The Jewish occupation makes it ours forever, because that is the way G-d created it.
So, the Jews have a defense.
7 have a false presumption that G-d created all lands as a non-interactive possession. But that is simply not true. Israel is different.”
Israel’s quality of Interactive Acquisition in Halacha (Jewish Law)
In the Mishneh Torah (Maimonides’ magnum opus of Jewish Law) the Rambam38 states39 that, “the Lands that King David conquered besides Israel [i.e. Suryal4O... despite the fact that [Surya fulfills the requirements to achieve status as Israel proper:] (a) it was conquered by a Jewish King and (b) with the sanction of the Great Court, it is not officially part of Israel. This is because he conquered these parts before he conquered Israel. If he would have conquered Israel and its boundaries first, ‘and then these lands, they would achieve the official status as the Land of Israel.”
This law seems to be illogical. Israel is defined as, any land conquered by a Jewish King or national consensus.41 Furthermore, the Rambam writes that the Lands conquered after Israel are like Israel, “in every respect.”42 Why do the lands that King David ~ conquered not achieve official status?
However, according to the concept of interactive acquisition, the official status of Israel does not merely depend on successful conquest by a king, but on the inherent, G-d-given, nature of the land. So, if the conquest is not carried out according to Divine guidelines, then the ‘interaction’ will simply not take place. Consequently, the land will not attain the sanctity of Israel, or its irrevocable rights. Therefore, since King David’s conquest did not take place in the sequence prescribed by G-d43, the land of Surya did not ‘interact’ so as to acquire full status as ‘the Land of Israel.’44
Why is Interactive Acquisition a Jewish Concept?
Even after the Jews have responded, “All of the land is G-d’s” (that irrevocable conquest is viable because of the unique way G-d created Israel) there still seems room for the claim: “You are robbers!” The Nations can still argue a subtle point: This principle of interactive acquisition is not a quality of the Jewish people, it is an inherent part of the land. So, what gives the Jews the right to an irrevocable conquest more than any other nation? This perk is not a consequence of the owner, but rather of the possession. . “So,” the Nations can argue, “If G-d created one land that can be owned forever, why should it end up as yours? You are robbers!”
For this reason, Rashi writes: “He created it, and He gave it to whom He perceived as being decent.” i.e. when G-d created the World, His initial intention was that Israel should be owned by Jews.45 Hence according to the Rebbe’s analysis, the ‘decent’ people are not the ‘previous owners’, (How could the abusive Canaanites be called ‘decent’? See question above 2) but the intended owners. In these words, Rashi is explaining that G-d intended to give Israel to the Jews, from the very beginning.
Therefore, the Jews can claim irrevocable possession of Israel, despite it being by virtue of the land, because G-d previously ‘earmarked’ Israel for the Jews. The fact that, in the meantime, “He gave it to them [the Canaanites], according to His will” is no obstacle, since His initial plan was to give it to us. Hence, Israel’s temporary non-Jewish possession bears no effect on its final and unequivocal possession by the Jews -since that is G-d’s plan.
G-d Is Not Unfair
However, Rashi’s assertion that G-d gave Israel to the Jews from the time it was created, presents a further problem. If, indeed, the land was intrinsically Jewish from the beginning, how could G-d deny us the right to live in our own land, for so many years? It was given to: “[the Jews] whom He perceived as being decent” at the beginning of creation, and yet Joshua did not conquer the land until more than two thousand years later. So, according to this logic, G-d seems to be extremely unfair. He tailor-made a land for a people and then denied them the privilege of living in it for millennia?46
Rashi seems inconsistent. First he writes, “He gave it to them,” and yet later He, “gave it to us.” If G-d made Israel especially for the Jews, why did He give it to them?
In response to this problem Rashi stresses, “He gave it to them, according to His will, and, according to His will he took it away from them, and gave it to us.” In other words, the non-Jewish occupancy of Israel is part of exactly the same plan as its Jewish occupancy. G-d’s singular will was that the Jews should take a secular society and, through their own efforts, transform it into a Jewish one. Therefore, the very same will that gave us Israel, first gave it to the nations, because the Divine Plan is that we should imbue a non-Jewish culture with Jewish values.
So, when Rashi writes, “He gave it to them,” it does not contradict His intention to give it, “to us.” In fact, the opposite is true: by giving ‘them’ the land, G-d was actually fulfilling His plan to give it “to us”, because He wanted to give us their land.
26. In the Talmud, an opinion is stated that the descendants of Yishmael and Ketura were also commanded with circumcision. Furthermore, this is ruled as Halacha (Law), by the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 10:8). However, according to Rashi, this is not the literal implication of the Torah (See Rashi to Genesis I 7:19)
27. See Likutei Sichos, vol 5, p143.
28. Deuteronomy 2:4, 5,9,19. 23:4, 8, 9.
29. Zohar IIl: 53b, Gur Aryeh, at the beginning of his commentary in the name of the Radak. (Rabbi Dovid Kimchi I 157-1236). I
30. Hence the Ramban’s question is answered: All events prior to Exodus 1 2 are not relevant to the Chumash, the Guide to the Jewish People. They could be written elsewhere .1
31. Rashi, Gene sis 2 6: 2
32. Furthermore, it is evident from Rashi that the Land was not yet called ‘Israel.’ See Genesis
I 3: 7, 1 5: I 6) The Mechilta states, at the beginning, “Until Israel was chosen, it was like all the other lands. . . “See Likutei Sichos 15:201.
33. Festival ‘Amidah’ prayer. See Leviticus 26:32-3 and Rashi, beginning of Parshas Vayeshev.
34. Exodus, 23:33. Rashi to Deuteronomy 7:2. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Avodah Zoroh 10:3, 4.
35. The irrevocable ownership of Israel is a basic principle which is even mentioned in the Bible itself. G-d said to Abraham, “I will give it [the Land to your seed forever. “Genesis 1 3: 1 5. See Genesis 15:1648 and Rashi ibid.19.
36. It would be difficult to claim that the rest of the World is participating merely out of spite. 37. Furthermore, the prohibition of non-Jewish inhabitancy of Israel seems to be relevant to all nations. As Tosafos writes (s.v. D’Omar, Avodah Zorah 20a), “there is no reason whatsoever to differentiate between the other non-Jews and the Seven Nations.” However, even if it is only binding on the Canaanites, the above logic is unaffected.
38. Moshe ben Maimon (1 135-1204), Maimonides, one of Judaism’s’ most authoritative writers. His Mishneh Torah is the only comprehensive code of Jewish Law ever written, codifying all 613 commandments, together with Rabbinic Law
In 1984 (Last Day of Pesach, 5746) the Rebbe instituted a Jewish custom for men, women and children to study the legal works of Maimonides daily.
39. Hilchos Trumos, 1:3
40. [Kesef Mishnah ibid. A major commentary on the Mishneh Torah, by Rabbi Yosef Cairo, author if the Shulchan Oruch (Code of Jewish Law). First published 1574-6.]
41. ibid 2.
42Hilchos Melachim (5:6). This renders questionable the assertion of the Radvaz (Trumos ibid. 3) that these conquered lands do not have sanctity of the land of Israel itself.
43. See Deuteronomy 11:24 and Sifri ibid, Joshua
1:3and Rashi ibid.
44This also explains why Rashi chooses to write, “The land of seven nations,” since total interactive acquisition does not take place until full conquest of all seven lands. See Likutei Sichos 9: 14, note 4)
45Rashi himself sates, in his previous comment, that only the Jews are referred to as “His people.” Furthermore, in his subsequent comment he highlights the uniqueness of the Jews.
46See Rashi to Genesis 12:6
Reprint of article from Beis Moshiach Magazine - A two part article: 6 Teves & 6th of Tammuz 5757
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