Mishpatim: They Shall Not Dwell in Your Land

Several months ago a group of 120 Rabbis from the “religious-Zionist” camp issued a statement regarding the prohibition of handing over parts of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. The five part statement began as follows: “Eretz Yisrael in its entirety belongs to the Jewish nation, and we are commanded by the Torah to inherit it and to dwell in it, and not to leave it in the hands of any other nation. It is forbidden to allow the gentiles to have a foothold in Israel, as it is written,’do not allow them a foothold’, and it is also written, ‘they shall not dwell in your land’. Therefore it is forbidden to withdraw from any part of Eretz Yisrael, thereby leaving it, G-d forbid, in the hands of gentiles”.

Seemingly, there is nothing new here. Ever since the withdrawal process from Eretz Yisrael got underway under Menachem Begin, we have heard from many sources, including the chief rabbinate, about the Torah prohibition forbidding the handing over of parts of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. But in this latest statement, there is an addition which caught our eye, and that is the inclusion of the verse from our parsha, “they shall not dwell in your land”.

The Obligation To Expel the Goyim
Up until now, it was customary for such pronouncements to only mention the verse, “do not allow them a foothold”. From here the sages learn that “it is forbidden to give them (the gentiles) a foothold in the land” (Trachtate Yibamot), and this is brought down as the halacha. But they would never mention the verse, “they shall not dwell in your land”, which is a clear prohibition against allowing gentiles to live in Eretz Yisrael while under Jewish sovereignty. Indeed we find that when the Rambam brings the halacha forbidding gentiles to live in Eretz Yisrael, he sites this verse as the source of the prohibition. Here are his words from chapter ten of Hilchot Avodah Zarah (halacha 6) “But at a time when Israel has power over them (the gentiles), it is forbidden to allow them to live amongst us. Even as temporary residents… as it is written ‘they shall not dwell in your land’ – even temporarily. And if they accept the seven mitzvot of Bnei Noach, then they have the status of a resident stranger. And we only accept resident strangers when the Jubilee is in effect”.

Why did the religious national camp refrain from quoting the verse “they shall not dwell in your land” when justifying our hold onto the land? The answer is obvious. During the holy struggle by the rabbis to prevent withdrawals from Eretz Yisrael, they uncannily omitted the requirement of driving out the gentiles. This requirement is the flip side to the mitzvah of “yishuv HaEretz”, inseparable from and essential to the mitzvah of Eretz Yisrael. There can be no inheritance of the land without a disinheritance of it’s inhabitants. In order to avoid this issue, they were reluctant to bring the verse, “they shall not dwell in your land”. [At this point we should mention that the verse, “do not allow them a foothold”, also refers to the prohibition against allowing gentiles to remain in those parts of the land which we control, and not just to the buying, renting, or handing over of land, which is certainly forbidden as well. In any event, the rabbis preferred bringing the verse “do not allow them a foothold” since it usually connotes the more limited prohibition of handing over Jewish land to gentile sovereignty, and thus avoids the bigger issue of removing the
Arab trespasser].

Making the “Psak Halacha” Complete
The inclusion of the verse “they shall not dwell in your land” in this latest pronouncement is certainly a positive development. The problem is that after quoting this verse, and the verse, “do not allow them a foothold,” we are told in the very same breath that the conclusion of all this is that “it is forbidden to withdraw from any part of Eretz Yisrael and leave it G-d forbid, in the hands of gentiles”. That is the only conclusion?? Can we not deduct something more from these two verses? If they are going to take the time to finally quote “do not allow them to dwell in your land”, should they not take the next step in pronouncing “that we must drive the gentiles out of all parts of the land which are under our control, and no longer allow them to live in our land”, (and then afterwards they can add) “and all the more so it is forbidden by the Torah to hand over parts of the land to the gentile”!?

Either Us or Them
By now it is crystal clear to everyone that the tragic withdrawal process we find ourselves mired in is derived from the fact that we failed to drive out the gentile inhabitants after conquering the land. It is only the presence of huge and hostile Arab population centers which brings us to the decision that “there is no choice” other than handing over land to them. If we would have fulfilled the verse “do not allow them to dwell in your land”, then we would have been spared the transgression of the prohibition, “do not allow them a foothold”. These commandments are intrinsically dependent on one another.

On the verse, “do not allow them to dwell in your land”, the Sforno comments: “On those parts of the land which you conquer and dwell in – they shall not dwell. This was not done in the time of Joshua. As it is written, ‘the Canaanites lived amongst them at Gezer’ (Judges chapter 2)…” In other words, our generation made the same tragic mistake as did the generation of Joshua. Yes, they captured the land. But by not driving out the inhabitants, they failed to actualize their conquest and sovereignty, which in effect, rendered their conquest insubstantial. (see Judges, chapter 2) “The deeds of the fathers are a sign for the sons”.

Rabeinu BeChayei, in his book Kad HaKemach writes: “It is forbidden to appear before a gentile court of law, but only before Jewish ones, as the Torah says ‘these are the ordinances which you shall set before them’ “, and Rashi comments: ‘before them, but not before the heathens’. And the sages teach us that it is forbidden to be judged before a gentile court, even if you know that regarding a certain law, they will decide it like the laws of Israel. And so, one can only go to a court of God-fearing Torah scholars, as it says “before them”… The major substance of the Torah are its laws, and if we do not use them, this is a Chillul Hashem, and he who does not protest against this desecrates the Name of God, and disgraces the Torah of Moshe, and gives a hand to idol-worship….

And so it is no coincidence, that the Israeli judiciary stands at the front-line of the Hellenist camp in this cultural war we find ourselves in the midst of. The recent decisions by the Israeli Supreme Court to coerce the chief rabbinate to defy the Jewish halacha regrading the laws of marriage, kashurt, and “who is a Jew” is a part of their overall goal to cut down their natural foe – the rabbincal courts. It is to show them again and again, who the “boss” is, what are the values upon which the state of Israel postulates – democratic values or Jewish ones

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