“There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (BeReishit Rabbah 16:4).

A Drop in the Ocean

A Daily Dose of Eretz Yisrael

Torah Sources on the Importance of Living in Israel



HaRav HaGaon R. Zalman Nechemyah Goldberg zt”l

I hereby praise the exceptional Torah scholar... R. Moshe David Lichtman..., author of very important books on the issue of the mitzvah to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. He has just written an entire work, collecting all that was said in praise of [the Land] and about the mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Yisrael, in the holy tongue and in the language of the nations. It is certainly a great mitzvah to print and disseminate [this book] among the Jewish people.


I will conclude with a blessing that we should be privileged to see the complete redemption. Amen.


Zalman Nechemyah Goldberg


HaRav HaGaon R. Tzvi (Hershel) Schachter shlita

The books of R. Moshe [Lichtman], may his light shine, on issues [related to] Eretz Yisrael have already been accepted in the Torah world. Thus, both the man and his “amulets” have been proven qualified [see Shabbat 61a], and I am sure that this new book, which is (like) A Drop in the Ocean, will also be accepted graciously for the glory of Eretz Yisrael.


Written and signed in honor of the author, may he live, and in honor of Eretz Yisrael,


Tzvi (Hershel) Schachter


HaRav HaGaon R. Asher Weiss shlita

Chazal greatly praised and glorified Eretz Yisrael, to the point where they said (Ketuvot 110b), “He who dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like one who has a God, and he who dwells in Chutz LaAretz is like one who has no God.” And Moshe Rabbeinu offered 515 prayers in order to enter Eretz Yisrael.


Therefore, let us appreciate this great and noble man... R. Moshe David Lichtman shlita, a disseminator of Torah and one who benefits the many, for this wonderful book of his, in which he collected statements and beautiful ideas from the words of Chazal and the great [rabbis] of the generations, explaining them wonderfully and arranging them according to topics related to the praise of the Land.


Great wisdom is found herein, and much work [was put] into it. I am sure that many people will enjoy this wonderful book.


My blessings to the Rabbi... shlita that he should be privileged to enhance and glorify Torah for many more [years], with joy, tranquility, and contentment.


With love,


Asher Weiss



First, to thank you for your wonderful Sefer "A Drop in the Ocean." Once I started reading it, I quickly decided to accelerate my pace past the "daily dose" prescription, since it's hard to put down. I'm still only up to page 172, but enjoying it immensely. It is such a wealth of Torah sources on such a vital topic that we all need to understand better. You have produced a fabulous work, in its great substance as well as style. I hope that the readership will grow quickly and perhaps have an impact on people's understanding of Eretz Yisrael, so sorely needed even more today. Hazak U'Baruch for this addition to all your other wonderful writings.


I wanted to tell you that I am in my second year teaching religious studies in the Jewish School in... This year I have a 10th grade and the main topic this semester was the importance of Eretz and Medinat Yisrael from a religious point of view. Your book, “A Drop in the Ocean,” was used in class as a reference guide to the importance of the land and living in it. The students were surprised by all the sources and the very precise lessons learned from it. I do think that because of your effort at least some students will have adopted a new viewpoint on the issue at hand and, who knows, will perhaps also merit to live there after school.


Thank you for writing this sefer. It is set up as a daily study. I began it around Rosh HaShannah. It was impossible to just read one a day. I learnt so much and couldn’t get enough…




Author’s Introduction

Over twenty years ago, in the summer of 5755 (1995), I set out on a mission to find as many sources as I could on the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, for a course I wanted to give to American students studying in Israel. When I finished, one of my mentors, R. Dovid Fuchs shlita [zt”l], happened to ask me what sugya I was involved in, and I proudly answered that I had just created a source booklet with all the sources on the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. He promptly burst my bubble and responded, “Don’t say ‘all the sources,’ because that’s impossible.”


Oh, how right he was. This is the fifth book I have written or translated on the topic of Eretz Yisrael, and every so often I still come across a statement of Chazal or a comment by one of the other great rabbis who graced our history that I have never seen before. It truly is one of the richest topics in all of Torah.


In fact, the title of this book reflects this idea, as well. When I was putting together my source sheets, I stumbled upon a letter from R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk in favor of the modern return to Zion. As I was perusing it, I read a line that immediately prompted me to say, “If I ever put this into book form, I know what the title is going to be.” He writes:


There are entire chapters in the Tosefta, the Sifrei DeVei Rav, and the two Talmuds that lavish praise upon the Land. So much so that one who collects statements about the virtues of the Land and its settlement is, in my eyes, like one who collects dew drops from an ocean. Our entire Torah and tradition is interlinked with the virtues of the Land.


And there I was, doing just that – collecting statements about the virtues of the Land – and Rav Meir Simcha was basically saying that I will never succeed in finding them all, maybe just a few drops in the vast ocean of Judaism’s adoration for its homeland.


Fast forward to the year 5773 (2013), and I get a call from my friend, colleague and supporter, R. Michael Freund – founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization whose goal is to bring lost Jews back to their roots and back to their homeland. He tells me that he wants a book, in English, arranged as a daily course of study, with Torah sources on the importance of living in Israel, geared for religious Jews living abroad. “Do you think that’s something you could do?” he asks. All I could say was, “I think you’ve come to the right place.” The result is what you are holding in your hand.


The book is divided into fifteen chapters, each of which discusses a different aspect of Eretz Yisrael’s unique qualities. In reality, though, it can be further divided into three overarching sections.


The first twelve chapters (the majority of the book, 194 lessons) delineate the virtues of the Land from a spiritual or hashkafic perspective. The sources in these chapters make it abundantly clear that a Jew can reach his or her fullest potential only in God’s chosen Land.


It is important to emphasize that regarding the ideas in this section there is no disagreement. What do I mean by that?


A student of mine once raised her hand, a few weeks into my course, and said, “Rabbi! You’re hiding something from us. It can’t be so clear that a Jew should live in Israel, because if so, how can any religious Jew live outside the Land?” I answered that although there are certain issues that are disputed, and we’ll get to them, no one denies Eretz Yisrael’s unique qualities. The authors of To Dwell in the Palace (Feldheim, p. 309) put it best:


The individual Jew may have a legitimate reason for living outside Eretz Yisrael. There are halachic opinions and interpretations which may influence the determination that he postpone his aliya. But no Torah view exists which allows a Jew to regard his life outside the Land as permanent and completely satisfactory. Every Jew, according to every opinion across the Torah spectrum, should want to live in Eretz Yisrael and should strive for the day when aliya becomes possible for him (emphasis in the original).


I like to express it as follows: this issue is 100-0. That is, one hundred percent of the sources, the commentators, and the halachic authorities maintain that Eretz Yisrael is where a Jew belongs, while zero percent hold otherwise.


Chapter thirteen focuses on the halachic question of whether or not there is an obligation nowadays (during the period of exile) to live in the Holy Land. Regarding this issue there are differences of opinion, but it is a very lopsided dispute. I call it a 90-10 issue. Approximately ninety percent of the poskim throughout the ages believe that there is a mitzvah, even an obligation, to make aliyah (assuming it is possible), while only around ten percent assert that there is no such mitzvah nowadays.


Chapter fourteen discusses the only topic regarding which there is a significant dissenting opinion – that is, whether the modern return to Zion and the subsequent establishment of the State of Israel are the first stages of the ultimate redemption. I call this a 50-50 issue. There were and still are many gedolei Yisrael who strongly oppose/d the Zionist movement, but there were and still are plenty who view/ed it as God’s way of initiating the redemptive process. To be honest, I mainly quote sources that indicate that the redemption has begun, but I also relate to the main counterclaims. My objective is not to “win the argument,” but to demonstrate that those who view the modern State of Israel in a positive light represent a legitimate Torah viewpoint, which has many sources to back it up.


Which brings me to the last, and probably most important, point I want to make in this introduction. Every source quoted herein is a genuine Torah source that is (or, at least, should be) acceptable to any religious Jew. I did not quote from the great rabbis of the modern era who are clearly associated with Religious Zionism (like Rabbi A.Y. Hakohen Kook and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik). After all, everyone knows what they hold; and what would be the point of showing that they support aliyah? One could easily (albeit mistakenly) argue that they represent a minority opinion. I, therefore, only quote statements from rabbis who are accepted by the entire Torah world, to demonstrate that anyone who takes his Judaism seriously must, at the very least, yearn and strive to live in God’s special Land.


This is also why I added an appendix at the end of the book with a brief description of all the Rabbinic sources that I used, along with biographical sketches of the gedolim whose words are cited throughout the book. The goal is to familiarize the reader with our holy sources and show that most of the greatest rabbis who ever lived understood that Eretz Yisrael is where we truly belong.



Foreword by co-author, R. Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel

One of the greatest ironies of contemporary Jewish life is that despite the rebirth of the Jewish State and the flowering of Torah study and mitzvah observance within its borders, the majority of the world’s Orthodox Jews continue to remain comfortably ensconced abroad.


For anyone with even a modicum of historical consciousness, the incongruity of this situation is nothing less than staggering.


After all, for much of the past 1900 years, since the Roman legions sacked Jerusalem and torched the Temple, scattering the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth, our forefathers nourished the dream of Zion, never forgetting from whence they came or to where they longed to return.


And regardless of how commercially powerful, socially influential, or politically ensconced Jews became throughout their sojourn in foreign lands, the end-result was always the same: adversity and tragedy, followed by oppression and persecution, culminating in catastrophe.


Indeed, a little more than seven decades have passed since the inferno which consumed much of European Jewry, devastating Jewish life across the continent and destroying entire communities. Six million of our brethren perished at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators, leaving a demoralizing imprint on the collective Jewish psyche, one that will remain with us all until the end of days.


In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the future of Orthodox Judaism in particular looked especially bleak, as so many of its venerable leaders, esteemed institutions of learning, and sacred houses of prayer had been engulfed by the flames of Nazism.


Written off by many at the time as a relic of days gone by, Orthodoxy in the 21st century finds itself on the upswing, be it spiritually, demographically, socially, or economically.


Consider for example the United States, where more Torah is being studied on the continent than at any time since the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus.


Minyanim have proliferated to the extent that there are smartphone apps to help one locate the closest Mincha or Ma’ariv service, and you can even join one during the seventh-inning stretch at numerous baseball stadiums throughout the country.


Kosher food is plentiful in ways that previous generations could only dream of, with a selection of restaurants ranging from Chinese to Mexican to good old-fashioned deli. And U.S. supermarket shelves are lined with products labeled with a cornucopia of letters indicating which of the dozens of kosher certification agencies oversee their production. It has arguably never been easier for a Diaspora Jew to observe kashrut than it is today in the United States of America.


Demographic data also bears out the explosive growth of Torah-observant Jews in America. As Professor Steven M. Cohen noted in an article in the Forward newspaper (“Dramatic Orthodox growth is transforming the American Jewish community,” Dec. 19, 2016), careful analysis of figures compiled by the Pew Research Center over the course of three generations of American Jewry reveals that, “Counting up all Orthodox Jews, we find 79,000 ‘grandparents,’ nearly 200,000 ‘parents,’ and over 340,000 ‘children.’”


In other words, over two generations, Orthodox Jewry in America pretty much quadrupled in size.


Cohen further pointed out that, “The growth of the Orthodox and the decline of the others means that the Orthodox ‘market share’ has been soaring. Among the oldest generation, they're 5% of all Jews. Among the middle generation, they rise to 15%. And among children, the Orthodox are home to 27% of the total. Within two generations, the Orthodox fraction of the Jewish population has more than quintupled. And it continues to grow.” If current trends continue, the majority of American Jews will be Orthodox within a few generations.


Underlining this success is the fact that with Donald Trump’s move into the White House, it marked the first time in history that an American commander-in-chief has an Orthodox Jewish daughter and son-in-law.


And yet, despite its phenomenal expansion, there is one area where American Orthodoxy, as well as others, has clearly failed to deliver: aliyah to the Jewish State.


Each year, an average of just 3,000 North American Jews immigrate to Israel, over 80% of whom are Orthodox. That translates to about 2,400 Orthodox Jews who annually make the long journey home to Zion, which is approximately one-third of 1% of American Orthodox Jews. That is little more than a drop in the bucket, and an embarrassing one at that.


After all, the measure of a community's success is not necessarily by size, wealth, or the number of tons of kosher sushi it consumes per annum. Orthodoxy is a set of ideals, one that is supposed to inform and guide every sphere of a person's life.


And yet, for some reason, when it comes to fulfilling the Jewish dream of making aliyah, most Orthodox Jews don't seem to give it much consideration.


What makes this so troubling is that even a cursory glance at traditional Jewish sources indicates the importance that is attributed to living in the Land of Israel.


The Torah describes Israel as “The land which the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12).


And the Midrash on Devarim known as the Sifrei definitively states that, “Dwelling in the Land of Israel is the equivalent of all the mitzvot in the Torah.”


Centuries later, the Ramban (Nachmanides), the great medieval commentator, ruled unambiguously that the commandment to live in Israel is incumbent upon every Jew and applies even if the Land is under foreign control.


The author of Pitchei Teshuvah, in his 19th century commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, notes that all the earlier and later authorities agree with the Ramban that there is a positive Torah commandment to live in Israel.


To be sure, there are other opinions as well, but even those who say there is no obligation to make aliyah nonetheless concede that doing so is a tremendous mitzvah, rife with spiritual benefit.


On all sorts of issues, religious Jews seek halachic guidance from their local rabbi in order to ensure that their behavior conforms to Jewish law. A dairy fork was used to eat meat? Call the rabbi! A certain kind of medicine needs to be taken on Shabbat? Ask the scholar!


But how many Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, New York, or Golders Green, London, or Marais in Paris have bothered to ask their rabbi a similar question about whether they are obligated to make aliyah?


My intention is not to cast aspersions on anyone or their personal decisions. But if people are concerned enough about halachah to ask questions about what they put in their mouths, shouldn't they also ask for guidance about where they choose to live out their days on this earth?


This book is not intended to berate or preach. Its goal is far more simple: to bring a small sampling, a drop in the ocean (as the title states), of the various statements made by the Sages throughout the millennia underlining the importance of the Land of Israel and its centrality in Jewish destiny and eschatology.


This may sound like an exercise in reminding people of the obvious, but this volume is full of surprising statements from unexpected quarters. We might think that we grasp the importance of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish thought and belief, but the more one reads and studies the sources contained in this book, the clearer it becomes that we do not truly fathom just how vital it is (or should be) to anyone who identifies as a religious Jew.


The sources were culled and collected from the vast sea of rabbinic literature by my friend Rabbi Moshe Lichtman, who has devoted much of his career to raising the banner of Eretz Yisrael. He has lovingly and carefully translated them into English, thereby making them accessible to a much larger audience.


The idea for this book came to me one day when I was considering the growing number of daily study programs that now exist, which cover everything from the Talmud to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah to the works of the Chafetz Chaim. These undertakings have proven tremendously successful in elevating Jewish knowledge among the public. By taking large and otherwise daunting works, and breaking them down into daily doses of intellectual and spiritual nourishment, such initiatives have enriched Jewish learning and observance.


It occurred to me that what was lacking from the bookshelves in many English-speaking Orthodox homes was a similar daily study program centered around Eretz Yisrael, one that could be used by teachers and students, rabbis and laymen, to enhance their own appreciation for our nation’s Holy Land.


And so I approached Rabbi Lichtman with the concept for this book, which was polished and refined and ultimately resulted in the manuscript that you now hold in your hands.


I pray that many of my fellow Jews in the Diaspora who take the Torah and its commandments seriously, who value the words and insights of our Sages, and who seek to live lives of meaning and purpose, will be inspired by what they read within these pages.


And perhaps even more importantly, I hope that you the reader will take a look in the mirror and ask yourself one simple yet straightforward question, with unembellished honesty: as a religious Jew who strives to serve God, where is it that I truly belong?



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