The Chofetz Chaim on living in Israel

I came across a very interesting piece in the sefer חפץ חיים על התורה, which is a collection of the teachings of the Chofetz Chaim on the parsha. It was put together by Rabbi Shmuel Greineman, who clearly knew the Chofetz Chaim personally. At the beginning of the book, he printed the following letter from the Chofetz Chaim:

To my esteemed friend, the great rav Shmuel Greineman,
I am quite surprised that I was not informed any further as regards our previous correspondance, which I recall fondly, whether the project we discussed had been distributed far and wide. Certainly there would be at least some benefit for all. I am of a similar mind to you, as we both worked on this mitzvah, and it is like a person who who planted a vineyard, which Baruch Hashem was successful and produced fruit, and yet he is lazy in regards to collecting it. Therefore, my friend, find the addresses and send it out to all. In this merit, we will both be mentioned as part of the assembly of Israel on the holy festival for good and blessings. If there are any costs, I will pay.
Your friend who blesses you with all the best,
Yisrael Meir Hacohen (The Chofetz Chaim)

The following is a piece the Chofetz Chaim wrote on next week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, concerning the proper Torah Hashkafa on the concept of living in Eretz Yisrael

ארץ זבת חלב ודבש שמות” י״ג:ה׳” “A land of milk and honey”

The Torah and Eretz Yisrael are two things Hashem acquired in His world. Their connection to each other is like the soul to the body. The soul is the Torah, while the body is Eretz Yisrael.

The soul can not exist on its own – it needs a body. The body itself is just a clump of dirt, dust of the earth, and is in need of a soul.

The soul of the Jewish people is the Torah, and its body is the land of Israel. The soul certainly can not survive without a body, and all the commandments that are dependant on The Land can not be fulfilled without Eretz Yisrael. Our nation can not last in exile, and it is forbidden for us to remain here, nor to go elsewhere to be involved in business. Here they attempt to catch us and accuse us, nevertheless we live and survive, if but in difficulty.

But Eretz Yisrael without Torah is nothing but a clump of earth, a body without a soul. Only the two of them together are good, like the statement of the prophet Yeshaya (42), “He spreads out the land and its offspring, and gives a soul to the nation upon it.”

Rav Shmuel Greineman, in the footnotes on this vort, brings down a number of stories of the Chofetz Chaim, in regards to his thoughts on Eretz Yisrael. These stories are very interesting, and I hope to post more over the next few days. For now, here is the first one.

The Chofetz Chaim never let his mind wander from the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael.

I remember, in the winter of 5678 (1918), when the Chofetz Chaim was told about the tremendous joy that spread throughout Jewish homes in reponse to the Balfour declaration. The Chofetz Chaim burst out crying, and said, “What does joy accomplish? Hashem promised us that we would ‘burst forth westward, eastward, northward, and southward.’ This is a guaranteed document that Hashem will pay up in its appointed time.
“Now people have come and only admit to a small part of Hashem’s document, and everyone is getting excited as if the redemption has almost arrived!
“People are ready to be satisfied with a small amount… They don’t expect more… Woe unto us!” And he continued to cry.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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