Terms of Peace

Summary ... Dwelling in the land of Israel is a mitzvah equal to all of the mitzvot in the Torah. One can consider it even greater than the rest of the mitzvot, because all of the mitzvot were meant to be carried out in the land of Israel.

Dwelling in the land of Israel is a Mitzvah equal to all of the Mitzvot in the Torah, as we learn from our sages, in Sifri, (Reei 80), learned from the verse "You shall inherit the land and dwell therein and you shall carefully keep all of the laws" (Bamidbar 11:31). One can consider it even greater than the rest of the Mitzvot, because all of the Mitzvot were meant to be carried out in the land of Israel.

When HaShem took us out of slavery in Egypt, He did so in order that we settle in our own land, separate from the nations and by doing so, to be a light unto them. If He had meant to free us from slavery only, He could have left us to dwell in the land of Goshen in Egypt, a beautiful land possessing wealth and natural resources. But He commanded us to return to the land He promised our Fathers, the land of Israel, to live separate and distinct from all other nations. Only through separation and isolation, uncorrupted by the ways of the nations, living according to the law given to us by HaShem, can we be a nation of Priests. And only then will we be a light unto the nations who will be able to look to us and follow in our ways.

The land of Israel is not only God's gift to the Jews, but living in the land is a great obligation. We are commanded to dwell on the land and not to give it over to any other nation. The RaMBaN wrote in the Book of Mitzvot, mitzvah number 4, "This is what our Sages call 'Melchimit Mitzvah' (a mandatory war). In the Talmud (Sotah 44) Rava said: 'Joshua's war of conquest was an obligatory duty according to all options.' One should not make the mistake of saying that this mitzvah only applies to the Seven Nations we were commanded to destroy, this is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us, and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet we cannot leave the land in their control or in the control of any other nations in any generation."

The Torah draws out the basic conditions by which we are permitted to make peace with the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land. They must accept our sovereignty and government of the land, obey the Seven Noachide Laws, pay tax, and serve the nation. If they are willing to pledge allegiance to the Jewish state and people, then the Torah gives us permission to grant them the status of ger toshav and they may dwell in the land as foreign residents. This is no different than laws of other sovereign countries who grant work privileges and immigration to foreigners according to their own laws, like the United States' green card and immigration laws.

Peace with neighboring nations is achieved through victory in war, in which the terms of that peace are dictated by the winning side. HaShem, through His great mercy, has given us an army, technology, and weapons that made it possible for us to win all of the wars that our enemies waged against us. It is only fear of our own greatness that holds us back from pinning down our enemy and dictating the terms of peace.

The land of Israel belongs to Jews. We have the power and ability to keep and protect it. We need not fear the pressure of the nations of the world who demand that we surrender what is rightfully ours. We must fear only HaShem and put our trust in His covenant with our Fathers. Our presence and sovereignty in the land is a sanctification of God's Name — Kiddush HaShem.

[ David Ha'Ivri, Chairman, Revava | Published: February 3, 2005 ]