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What are the Halachic boundaries of Eretz Yisroel?

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What are the Halachic boundaries of Eretz Yisroel? – Double AA Dec 24 '13 at 16:39
up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are two sets of boundaries that define "Israel" with respect to Halacha.

Generally speaking, the Western border is well enough defined as the Mediterranean. (Though see the Gemara in Gittin Chapter 1, and Tosfos' commentary ...)

The first set is the Biblical borders, as given in Numbers Chapter 34. The southern border is nahal mitzraim, generally translated as Wadi El Arish. Many printed translations of the Torah now include a map representing these borders according to the view of rabbinic cartographers such as Kaftor VaFerach.

The second, much smaller borders, are found in the Talmud, Mishnah Gittin 1:2:

From Rekem and eastward, including Rekem [is not Israel]; from Ashkelon and southward, including Ashkelon; from Ako and northward; Rabbi Yehudah considers Ako itself outside, Rabbi Meir disagrees.

The latter borders are the ones that define, for instance, "the land of Israel" with regards to agricultural laws such as tithes (terumot umaasrot) and the requirement for a sabbatical year (shemitah).

In his yutorah.org lecture on halachic issues related to the Gaza Disengagement, Rabbi Hershel Schachter points out that Gaza is within the Biblical borders (north of Wadi el Arish) but outside the Talmudic borders (south of Ashkelon). The halachic implications of that are a very lengthy discussion.

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Can you link to the Shi'ur? – Seth J Mar 14 '11 at 17:55
@Seth, done. Kol tuv. – Shalom Mar 14 '11 at 18:21
What about when G-d tells Avraham that he will give to his offspring from the River Nile to the River Euphrates, as delineated in Genesis chapter 15? – Adam Mosheh Jan 31 '12 at 5:53
I thought the offspring of Abraham already rule from the Nile to the Euphrates, or don't the descendants of Ishmael count among Abraham's offspring? – Sam Feb 10 '12 at 8:47
You say that there are two sets of boundaries, but R. Schachter himself actually says that there could be more. I'm sure it's online somewhere but I've heard him say that there are seven distinct dinim of eretz Yisrael, and each might have its own border – Matt Dec 22 '14 at 2:19

Well there are Biblical borders, and then there are the Talmudic borders. (Much of your question is addressed there). The Talmudic northern border is Ako (as given in Mishna Gittin Ch. 1). The Biblical northern border is addressed by Numbers 34:7--9:

34:7 This shall be your northern boundary. From the Mediterranean Sea, draw a line to Hor Mountain.

34:8 From Hor Mountain draw a line along the Chamath Highway, so that the extreme edge of the boundary is toward Tzedad.

34:9 The border shall then extend through Zifron, with its extreme end at Chatzar Eynan. This shall be your northern border.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan identifies "Chamath Highway" as the modern-day Homa, Syria. See his commentary for more. Most of the other locations identified by Rabbi Kaplan's translation can be found on Wikipedia and/or Google Maps.

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Why are the Talmudic borders different? Would that have ramificiations for the halachic borders of today? – avi Nov 4 '11 at 7:47
Administrative note: This was given as an answer to the later question "Where are the borders of Eretz Israel nowadays?", which was then merged into this question. – msh210 Nov 4 '11 at 8:16
The Talmudic borders are much narrower; when the Jews returned to build the Second Temple, they sanctified a much small swath of land. Agricultural mitzvot that only pertain to "the land of Israel" currently apply only to the Talmudic borders. The Biblical borders are still interesting for various reasons; Ritva for instance holds they are the borders for 1 day of yomtov vs. 2. – Shalom Nov 4 '11 at 14:07

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