In this week's portion, Matot, we learn that the tribes of Gad and Reuben wanted to remain on land on the east side of the Jordan, and not settle in the Promised Land. (Moses granted that, with stipulations.) We also know from Midrash Tanchuma, Beshalach 1:4 that 80% of the Israelites stayed in Egypt and died in the plague of darkness.

Was there ever a clear commandment from God that all Israelites had to settle in Eretz Yisrael?

  • Why do you say that land east of the Jordan is not the Promised Land? sefaria.org/Genesis.15.18?lang=bi
    – Joel K
    Jul 13, 2020 at 11:04
  • Yes, but in the context of Matot it is not the Promised Land. Remember, Moses is right there and he is not supposed to be allowed in the Promised Land. Jul 13, 2020 at 11:30
  • @JoelK I don't want to put words in Maurices mouth but, despite your very good source showing otherwise, the general impression of the narrative is that it was meant to be not part of the promised land. For example, in the previous parsha (pinchas 27:12) the pasuk makes it seem that the general area was not the intended promised land. "The LORD said to Moses, “Ascend these heights of Abarim and view the land that I have given to the Israelite people." see sefaria.org.il/Numbers.27.12?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en
    – Geltman
    Jul 13, 2020 at 11:32
  • @Maurice, I did this 2x in one day. While I searched for a source, you submitted what I was writing up. Do not think I am copying you.
    – Geltman
    Jul 13, 2020 at 11:33
  • Honestly, I don't care if you are. :-) Jul 13, 2020 at 11:39

2 Answers 2


Yes, there is a mitzvah to go and live in the promised land.

However, in gemara moed katan 14a, there is a dispute as to whether one may leave eretz yisroel (and presumably to live outside of eretz yisroel). Rava holds that it's ok for livelihood purposes but not for "greater profit".

The Ibn Ezra points out that the lands yazer and gilad were good for pasture lands. The pasuk ibid points out that reuven and gad had a lot of cattle and thus they'd need such lands.

So apparently they justified not living in eretz yisroel for their livelihood (cattle) based on Rav's opinion.

  • 1
    If the only heter to live in ever hayarden is for parnassah, why can't a husband force his wife to make aliyah from ever hayarden to yehuda or the galil? sefaria.org/Ketubot.110a.21?lang=he&with=Rashi&lang2=he
    – Joel K
    Jul 13, 2020 at 13:21
  • "When the LORD your God has cut down before you the nations that you are about to enter and dispossess, and you have dispossessed them and settled in their land," That is not a commandment. Jul 13, 2020 at 14:43
  • Here is the Rambam's list of 613 mitzvot: jewfaq.org/613.htm. Where do you see a commandment to live in Eretz Yisrael? Jul 13, 2020 at 14:49
  • @MauriceMizrahi See Ramban’s glosses to Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvot - ‘Forgotten positive commandments’ number 4
    – Joel K
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:00
  • @MauriceMizrahi sefaria.org/Numbers.33?lang=bi
    – Joel K
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:05

The Mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisroel is found in Bamidbar 33:53

וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּ֥ם אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וִֽישַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֑הּ כִּ֥י לָכֶ֛ם נָתַ֥תִּי אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ לָרֶ֥שֶׁת אֹתָֽהּ׃

And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess.

The Ramban on that passuk states that it is a mitzvahs asei m'doraysa to settle in Eretz Yisroel. He mentions that Rashi seems to disagree with him, and as mentioned in the comments, so does the Rambam.

However the Pasuk in Bamidbar 33:51 states

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כִּ֥י אַתֶּ֛ם עֹבְרִ֥ים אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃

Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,

This seems to indicate that the mitzvah only begins AFTER they cross the Jordan River. Therefore, those who stayed behind were perhaps never included in the mitzvah. Once they conquered Eretz Yisroel, it could be, that Ever Hayarden was included as part of the mitzvah, as evident in the fact that a husband can't force his wife to move from Ever Hayarden to Eretz Yisroel.

In fact, the Netziv in Haamak Davar on this passuk, (Bamidbar 33:51) says something along these lines.

כי אתם עוברים את הירדן וגו׳. אבל כ״ז שלא עברו את הירדן לא״י לא הוזהרו להאביד ע״ז בעה״י. דאזהרה זו היא משום קדושת הארץ. ואין עה״י מתקדש אלא אחר שנתקדש א״י כמו לענין ערי מקלט שאינן קולטות עד שיהיו נגמר גם בא״י משום דערי מקלט תלוי בקדושת הארץ בזמן שהיובל נוהג. ויובל תלוי בזמן שכל ישראל על אדמתם וע׳ להלן ל״ה י׳ ומש״ה לא הוזהרו לבער ע״ז מעה״י עד שיטהרו מא״י:

When you cross. As long as they had not yet crossed the Yardein into Eretz Yisroel, they were not ordered to destroy the idol worship on the other side of the Yardein. This commandment depended on the holiness of the Land of Israel; the other side of the Yardein did not become sanctified until Eretz Yisroel was sanctified. This is similar to the concept of the Cities of Refuge that did not take in accidental murderers until those in Eretz Yisroel would also be sanctified, because the activation of the Cities of Refuge depends on the holiness of Eretz Yisroel which in turn is only when the Jubilee year is being observed.

This would also answer why, as mentioned in the comments, the Pesukim seem to say that Ever Hayarden was not counted as Eretz Yisroel while Moshe was alive, but today (or anytime after kivush haaretz) it is considered to have some kind of status of kedushas Haaretz.

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