By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Of late there has been much conjecture as to whether Rabbi Aryeh Deri will back a Netanyahu-led Likud government or a Herzog-led Labor government.

Many concerned Jews are alarmed that in their search for what they perceive a legacy of peace a Herzog led government may attempt to give up many different areas of Eretz Yisrael, including chalilah parts of Yerushalayim. Joining up with a government bent on giving up land is fraught with danger, as one can be aiding and abetting a serious violation of Halacha.

It would therefore be an opportune time to review the halachos of what constitutes Eretz Yisrael. It must be stressed that this discussion does not chalilah condone the giving up of parts of land – it is rather a discussion of the status of various parts of Eretz Yisrael. Should Rabbi Deri decide to back up such a government, he must ensure that no parts of halachic Eretz Yisroel be given up. Of course some would say that this is a veritable impossibility, as politicians can rarely be trusted.


Although the verse in Bereishis (17:8) tells us that Hashem told Avraham, “And I shall give you and your descendants after you…the entire Land of Canaan as an inheritance forever,” one can divide up Eretz Yisrael into two different types of land:

A. Lands that were captured by our ancestors who arose out of Egypt but were not recaptured by our ancestors who rose out of Babylonia during the time of Ezra; and

B. Lands that were also recaptured by our ancestors who rose out of Babylonia.

For our purposes, we will heretofore designate these two areas as “area A” and “area B.”

There are many different practical ramifications of the different statuses of these two types of areas. There may be differences in the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, the prohibition of leaving Eretz Yisrael, the issue of terumah and maaser, the issue of Shmittah (regarding Sfichim) and also other issues. = The issue of keeping one day or two days of Yom Tov is also pertinent. It is also possible that for one of these mitzvos an area is considered Eretz Yisrael but for another it is not.


There is a halachic debate as to whether one fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael–settling the land of Israel–if one resides in area A. The Chazon Ish (Shvi’is 3:9) rules that one does fulfill the mitzvah, while the Maharit (Vol. I, No. 47) and the Avnei Naizer (Y.D. 454:62) hold that, although it is a great merit, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.

If Area A sections are given up, then there would be less land in which to fulfill the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel. It would be interesting to find out what Shas’s council of Torah sages would hold in this dispute between the Chazon Ish and the Avnei Naizer.


Regarding the prohibition of leaving Eretz Yisrael, there may be a prohibition of leaving area A even if one is moving into area B. Tosefos (as well as the Ran and Ritvah, Gittin 2a) quote the Gemara in Gittin 76b that the Sages (who lived in Eretz Yisrael area A) were careful not to enter the city of Acco. They therefore prove that one may not leave area A to enter into area B. The Ramban, however, understands this incident differently. He writes that these Sages merely loved area A so much that they preferred not to enter an area B, but that, halachically, there is no problem.

Another question is whether one may leave area B and go to chutz laAretz. Tosefos in Gittin 2a seems to indicate that it is forbidden.


There is also a whole plethora of opinions as to what constitutes halachic Eretz Yisrael. Regarding the city of Eilat, for example, there is a debate among the Acharonim as to whether it was recaptured by those who arose from Babylonia. There is a location mentioned in Chumash in the southeast section of the Dead Sea called Maale Akravim. Some have identified this location as Eilat (Rav Yechiel Michel Tikochinsky, zt’l). Others identify it as Jabal Chanzira, which is to the southeast of the Dead Sea and 30 kilometers away from it. Yet others think that what is known today as Maale Akravim is the actual Biblical one, as well. The official position of the chief rabbinate in Israel is that there is doubt.


Regarding how these issues are ultimately ruled upon, one might have thought that these doubts can be combined to factor into a leniency. In halachic literature, this is termed as a “s’nif lehakel.” A s’nif lehakel is usually an opinion or a factor that cannot generally be relied upon by itself to form a lenient ruling but, in combination with one or two or even three other factors, does form a leniency. Regarding the issue of the borders of Eretz Yisrael, however, there are opinions that these doubts cannot be combined and used even as a s’nif lehakel. Rav Efrati quotes the Chazon Ish as forbidding the use of minority opinions as a s’nif lehakel even for a rabbinic issue.

The Labor Party has a history of treating lightly the borders of Israel. They have demonstrated time and again a low regard for the borders of Israel and have openly spoken of negotiations with the Palestinians in this regard. We must be very careful when negotiating for funding for Yeshivos not to empower someone or a party who is bent on giving away sections of Eretz Yisroel.

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