Rabbi Louis Jacobs delivers a lecture on the importance of the Land of Israel in halakhic literature. He starts with a historical overview, exploring the tension that existed in the late Antiquity between Israel and Babylon. While semikhah (rabbinical ordination) existed solely in the former, only in the latter did a system of enforcement exist, under the authority of the Exilarch. In the course of time, as Jewish communities spread throughout the Diaspora, the centrality of the Land of Israel would be maintained in the Talmud, law codes, and responsa literature, even following the abolition of semikhah and in spite of the practical difficulties preventing Jews from dwelling there.
The tractate of Ketubot in the Babylonian Talmud therefore ends with numerous instructions emphasizing the supremacy of the Land of Israel over the Diaspora. Medieval commentators – most famous among which were Nahmanides, Maimonides, and the Tosafists – debate the exact nature of the commandments relating to the Holy Land. Yet on numerous halakhic issues, which Rabbi Jacobs reviews in some detail, special circumstances apply, still governing today the individual Jew’s relationship with the Land of Israel.
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