Numbers 33:53 and the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
This dvar deals with the question of whether living in the
2. Biblical View
The popular conception suggested by numerous Biblical passages is that the
נב והורשתם את-כל-ישבי הארץ, מפניכם, ואבדתם, את כל-משכיתם; ואת כל-צלמי
מסכתם תאבדו, ואת כל-במותם תשמידו.
נג והורשתם את-הארץ, וישבתם-בה: כי לכם נתתי את-הארץ, לרשת אתה
Reference  refers to it as the "central verse in the Torah for deriving this commandment":
The translations differ on the meaning of the verb "vehorashtem" in verse 53. Two typical examples are:
King James Version Numbers 33
52. Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: 53. And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.
New American Standard Bible Numbers 33
52. then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; 53. and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it.
Note that "horashtem" is the HIPHIL (causative) form of the verb "yarosh" meaning to inherit. If the standard pattern of HIPHIL were followed, "vehorashtem" would mean: you shall pass on as an inheritance (to your children) i.e. bequeath. This use does occur in Ezra 9:12
".. that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever"
However, in most cases "vehorashtem" means to drive out or disposes, as all agree it does in the previous verse (NUM:33:52). The KJV, Webster's Bible, JPS(1917), Hertz et. al. use this latter interpretation. Other translations (e.g. NAS, Darby, NJV-Etz Chaim) read it as "You shall take possession" - i.e. a sense similar to the "binyan kal".
It is interesting to note that although the Aramaic targums, Onqelos and Pseudo-Jonathan, read ותתרכון i.e. "drive out", there is also a variant reading of Onqelos which has ׳ותרתון i.e. "you shall take possession" , the same word used in Deut. 11:31 for the Kal form..
(See reference  for a further discussion of the biblical use of this verb.)
The meaning of the next verb phrase - "veyeshavtem ba" (you shall live or dwell in it) is also uncertain because it can interpreted as either a command or a promise. While Biblical Hebrew does have an imperative mood, it is not used with the inverting vav ("vav-hahipuch"). The form used here does not differentiate between the future and the imperative.
3. Medieval Commentaries
Two views stand out among the classical medieval Jewish Bible commentators:
A: Rashi (1040-1105) interprets "vehorashtem" as a command to drive out the Canaanites and "veyeshavtem ba" as a promise:
B: RAMBAN ( a.k.a. Nahmanides )(1194-1270) taking issue with Rashi, interprets "vehorashtem" as a command to take possession of the land (as in NAS, Etz Chaim, et. al.) and "veyeshavtem ba" as a command to dwell in it .
In his commentary on Maimonides' Sefer Hamitzvot (Enumeration of the 613
Commandments), Nahmanides discusses this topic in greater detail and criticizes
Maimonides for not including the commandment to dwell in the
4. Talmudic Literature
It is unclear whether the Rabbis of the Talmud considered Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
to be a mitzvah, binding for all time, or just an important goal with
Halachic implications. It is interesting to note that much of the material
related to this question occurs at the end of tractate Ketubot, dealing with
marriage contracts. This is because, in general, the Halachah grants a woman
the right to refuse her husband's request to move to another country. However,
if he wishes to move to
Still more remarkable, is that a similar law also applies to a slave, which
according to most commentaries (other than Rashi in Ketubot 110b) - means a non
Jewish slave. Thus if a slave wishes to perform Aliyah, the owner must
go along or sell the slave to someone who is willing to go. This ruling is
given in identical language in both Maimonides' Code (Hilchot Avadim
8:10) and the Shulhan Arukh ( Yoreh Deah 267:85 ) and both codes take
pains to specify that the law actually applies to their own time, when the Land
of Israel was not under Jewish sovereignty. . What
makes this so interesting, is that it attaches an importance to living in
"Even a Canaanite bondwoman who [lives] in the
5 . Contemporary Issues
One must differentiate between living in
The religious anti-Zionists base their halachic argument on the "Three Strong
Oaths" - a midrashic interpretation of Song of Songs 2:7, (given in
Ketubot 111a and in other Midrashim ) which
effectively forbids the Jews from rebelling against the nations of the world by
attempting to recapture the
6. Conclusions - Theory Versus Practice
Traditional Jewish sources are filled with teachings extolling the virtues
of dwelling in the
" If this be so, thou fallest short of thy religious duty by not endeavoring to reach that place and make it thy abode in life and death, although thou sayest: 'Have mercy on Zion, for it is the house of our life' and thou believest that the Shekinah will return thither".
The sage replies:
"this is a justified reproach O King of the Khazars!"
and concludes the discussion with the claim
that when people mention
" this is but as the chattering of a parrot or the chirping of a starling".
The Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
מצוות ישוב ארץ ישראל בראיה היסטורית
מצוות כיבוש ארץ ישראל ויישובה
הוריש - שלוש משמעויות
Three Strong Oaths
בענין סילוף דברי הרמב''ן במצות עשה ד' של ישוב ארץ ישראל
Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon
Mishneh Torah Hilchot Avadim 8:11
How Nachmanides Rebuilt
Ramban's Commentary on Numbers 33:53