Leaving the Land of Israel
One way of understanding the vital importance of Eretz Yisrael to Jewish life is through the prohibition to leave it. When a Jew leaves the Land of Israel, it is as if he or she is turning their backs on the Shechinah and the Holy One Himself, as our Sages have stated: “A person who lives in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a G-d, and a person who lives outside of the Land is like someone who has no G-d, and is considered like someone who worships idols,” (Ketubot 110B).
So exalted is the Land of Israel that it is forbidden to leave it except for the sake of performing a concrete mitzvah. Therefore leaving the Land simply for a tiyul (vacation or pleasure trip) is prohibited. HaRav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the Old City of Jerusalem, summarizes the Halachah:
According to the Rambam, in all generations, it is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel, even temporarily, except for three reasons: to study Torah; to find a wife; and to engage in business matters. Then, the Rambam emphasizes, the person must return to Eretz Yisrael, for to dwell outside of the Land of Israel is prohibited, (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:9. See Tractate Avodah Zara 13A).
Therefore, according to the Rambam, leaving the Land of Israel on a tiyul is forbidden.
It is worthwhile to note that HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, head of the Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem, would add, “Baruch Hashem, today there is no need to leave the Land of Israel to study Torah, and there are an abundance of women of valor to find here, and a livelihood can readily be obtained.”
According to the Shulchan Aruch, it is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel for a tiyul, (Oruch Haim, 5131. See Moed Katan 14B).
The Magen Avraham rules that leaving the Land is permitted to perform any mitzvah, such as to meet a friend, but that leaving for a tiyul is prohibited (Mishna Berura, there, sub-section 14).
The Maharit rules that it is permitted to leave the Land for a short period, but this is a single opinion which stands in opposition to all other major halachic authorities.
There are people who claim that leaving for a short time for a trip is permitted if a person has purchased a roundtrip ticket, but there is no source for this.
There are those who maintain that it is permitted to leave the Land of Israel for psychological relief, to escape tensions, or for the psychological benefit of a change of scenery, but there are no sources to substantiate this opinion.
Others maintain that it is permitted to leave the Land in order to see wonders of nature which inspire a reverence of Hashem, but there is no source for this in halachic literature.
Some claim that if a person performs some mitzvah while he is outside of Israel, then it is permitted, in retrospect, for having left, but this view is ungrounded because it is obvious that the person did not leave the Land in order to perform this mitzvah, but rather, once outside the Land, the person sought a seemingly justified alibi for having left the Land. However, if a person were to leave the Land temporarily to perform some mitzvah, for instance to raise money for a yeshiva in Israel, when he is outside the Land he can certainly enjoy the sights of nature that he sees. Even if he arranges for the money-raising excursion for the yeshiva just to have a permitted reason to journey to chutz l’Aretz so that he can see the sights, it is permissible because a mitzvah is still a mitzvah when performed not for the sake of Heaven.
There are people who take trips to chutz l’Aretz to trace their roots (tiyulim shoreshim), but this is unfounded because a Jew’s roots are not in Germany or Russia, but rather in Eretz Yisrael itself.
Regarding, leaving the Land of Israel to visit concentration camps, this is not a valid reason unless speaking about groups trips arranged for young people who are totally estranged from Torah, Am Yisrael, and Jewish Tradition, and the encounter of being in Auschwitz, for example, will shock the young person into an identification with the Jewish People. Since there is a factor of pekuach nefesh in this, it is permitted. If this shock therapy can be experienced at Yad Vashem, obviously, this is preferable to leaving the Land.
Concerning the question of leaving Israel to visit the gravesites of Tzaddikim, the “Sadeh Hemed” writes that it is permissible. In contrast, Rabbi Kook ruled that it is not permitted. He explains that while visiting the graves of Tzaddikim is an exalted practice, it is not a mitzvah (Mishpat Kohen, Section 147). Needless to say, there is no shortage of exalted Tzaddikim who are buried in Eretz Yisrael – most notably the Forefathers and Foremothers of our Nation. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote that if visiting the gravesite of a Tzaddik in chutz l’Aretz was personally important to a person’s connection to Hashem, it was permissible to travel there. It is told that regarding himself, often when he left his home in the Shaare Hesed neighborhood to drive to his yeshiva Kol HaTor in Bayit Vegan, he would pass by the Military Cemetery on Mount Herzl and occasionally ask his driver to stop by the side of the road so that he could pray near the gravesites of the Israeli soldiers who sacrificed their lives in a Kiddush Hashem for the Nation, saying that he had no need to travel far away to pray at the gravesites of revered and famous Rabbis when so many holy Tzaddikim were buried right here in the IDF Military Cemetery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before making Aliyah in 1984, Tzvi Fishman taught Creative Writing at the NYU School of the Arts. In Israel, he studied Torah at Yeshivas Machon Meir, Beit-El, Ateret Cohanim, amd Mercaz HaRav. He has published nearly twenty novels and books on a wide range of Jewish themes, available at Amazon Books and the tzvifishmanbooks.com website, including Free Downloads. He is the recipient of the Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture. Recently, he produced and directed the feature film, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman” starring Israel’s popular actor, Yehuda Barkan. Presently, he is working on Volume Four of the “Tevye in the Promised Land” Series.
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