The Rambam (Melachim 5:9 - English here) lists the conditions whereby one is allowed to leave the Land of Israel. (Also discussed here).

Once one moves to the Land of Israel, it would appear that he is only allowed to leave if those conditions are met.

If someone moves to the Land of Israel with the intention of only living there for a limited amount of time (i.e. intending to move back to Diaspera after some time), is he halachicaly allowed to leave when that time comes if none of the conditions listed in the Rambam are met?

Or do we say that the condition he made when moving to Eretz Yisroel is null and void, since it goes against Halacha (and he is no longer halachically permitted to move back to Diaspera)?


3 Answers 3


We must consider the practical realities of the time in which the Rambam (and many other important rabbinic figures) lived.

There were no airplanes. Travel by boat was expensive, difficult, and dangerous. Travel by land was not much easier, and usually not much less dangerous.

If a Jew managed to make it to the Holy Land, and survived the trip, he wasn't coming for a two week vacation, or even a year of learning in yeshiva. At the very least, he was there for an open-ended stay.

Now we can see why Rambam, and others, don't discuss the difference between "aliyah" and just coming for a visit. There was no practical difference in their times!

I highly recommend two excellent sefarim on this topic.

Eim HaBanim Smeicha and MeAfar Kumi

I know that Eim HaBanim Smeicha is available in English, and I read recently that an English translation of MeAfar Kumi is coming out soon, if it isn't out already.

Both of these sefarim bring an overwhelming multitude of sources, which prove that living in Eretz Yisrael is always a positive commandment, and binding obligation.

Like any other positive commandment, there are times when one may be temporarily exempt.

However, being born and raised in Exile, in and of itself, is not an exemption.

Thefore, the answer to the original question is NO. One cannot conditionally make aliyah, because a Jew is already obligated to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Regarding the post high-school programs for English speakers in Israel, which are very popular among English speaking Exile Jews:

In general, they are wonderful programs. In addition to a high level of learning, these programs give young Jewish men and women an opportunity to experience their homeland, and hopefully they will choose to fulfill their obligation of living in it.

If these students choose to leave Eretz Yisrael after one or two years, we can be "m'lamed zchus" in the following ways:

  • they are going to gather their belongings together and return home to Israel.

  • they are going to get a specific type of education, which they cannot get in Israel, and which will enable them to return home to Israel and make a living in the future.

  • they are going to find a spouse, they assume (rightly or not) that they will be more compatible with another Exile Jew, and will return once they are married.

  • they have an immediate family member who cannot care for him/herself, and they are the best equipped to care for this individual.

  • they have some other very specific Torah obligation that only they can do while in Exile.

All of the above reasons are valid for a TEMPORARY absence from Eretz Yisrael.

Even if one spends many years, or G-d forbid his/her whole life in Exile, one must at the very least consider his/her stay there temporary, and actively work towards fulfilling the mitzvah of living in the Holy Land.

Again, sources for the above comments can be found in Eim Habanim Smeichah and MeAfar Kumi, which in turn cite a very wide variety of halachic sources.

  • 1
    But weren't/aren't there many gedolim who don't move to EY (e.g. R' Moshe Feinstein)? As well as the many who visit and then return to chutz la'aretz (e.g. R' JB Soloveitchik)? What does "actively work[ing] towards fulfilling the mitzvah of living in the Holy Land", mean?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 16:04
  • And to add to @HodofHod's point, Rambam (Hil. Melachim 5:7) states flatly that "it is permissible to live anywhere in the world, except in Egypt." (How Rambam himself lived there, seemingly in violation of this, is a whole other question). But that seems a pretty clear statement that one is not in violation of halachah by living outside Eretz Yisrael. (I haven't read the two sefarim you quote; if indeed they deal with this question, as no doubt they must, I'd be interested in hearing what they say.)
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 20:44
  • @Alex: The Kaftor V'Perach claims that the Rambam himself said he was transgressing three prohibitions daily (see here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/8662/603 ) but as you pointed out on a comment to another question, the veracity of this has been questioned: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/3285/603
    – Menachem
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 22:51
  • Look at the last "limud z'chus" on students, as well as all Jews, who leave Eretz Yisrael. R' Feinstein, R' Soloveitchik, and other major communal leaders, are/were doing a specific mitzvah that no one else is/was capable of doing. If you're a gadol hador, and by you leaving your community, thousands upon thousands of people will lose their connection to the other 612 mitzvos, then you may have to stay - temporarily. (until the people leave that town, die, or move to Israel). This does not apply to the average shul rav, only eminent gadolim.
    – user1095
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 8:03

When asked why he doesn't visit Israel Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that once he visits he won't be able to leave (which would be an issue as the Ohel of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe is in America, and as most Jews live in America, it would be more difficult to affect them from Israel).

If one could conditionally make Aliya, he would be able to come conditionally and then leave.

  • I think this argument can be generalized to "no one has suggested it even when it would be useful so it probably doesn't work".
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 19:46
  • 1
    But the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe visited Israel?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 20:00
  • 1
    @HodofHod, maybe (although I don't know of any source to substantiate this) a distinction might be drawn between visiting for the purpose of going to the mekomos hakedoshim, vs. coming for other reasons. The Previous Rebbe gave that explicitly as the reason for his visit: being unable (after having been forced to leave the USSR in 1927) to visit the graves of the previous Rebbeim of Chabad, he wanted to have the chance to visit Me'aras Hamachpelah and the graves of other great tzaddikim in Eretz Yisrael.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 20:48
  • FWIW Nowadays there are more Jews in Israel than the USA
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:02
  • 1
    collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=21641 -- A new book claims the Rebbe was going to visit Israel with the Frierdiker Rebbe in the 1930s and reveals why it didn't happen.
    – Menachem
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 19:45

I am not aware of any "After highschool Yeshivah" who teaches their students that they are now halachaically required to stay in Israel.

I would presume then, that any "conditional aliyah" is really described as a "visit" and not as actually moving there.

However, just because nobody teaches that publicly doesn't mean the sources support it. :)

  • That was actually a follow-up question I was considering. The Rambam doesn't talk about "Aliyah", he talks about leaving Eretz Yisroel. Why isn't going to Israel (even to visit) considered like a one way trip, unless the conditions for exit are met? What is the halachic source that just because I'm visiting, I'm allowed to leave?
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 14:08

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