In a shiur by Rabbi Binyanim Tabory exploring the teshvuot of Rabbi Menachem Kasher (here), I came across a teshuva that resonates very strongly with me at the moment.
In a question (Divrei Menachem 4:3 – here) about placing a mezuzah on the gates of courtyards, he has a general discussion about the role of mezuzah as protection. He notes that the Gemara in Menachot 44a says that if one rents a house in the Diaspora, one is exempt from putting up a mezuzah for thirty days. There are varying opinions as to whether this means that one is always exempt from putting up a mezuzah for the first thirty days even if one intends to be there long term, or if the exemption only applies to people who are planning to live in a given place for less than thirty days. Either way, the Gemara then says that one who rents in Israel must put up a mezuzah immediately because of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Rashi explains that because one is not allowed to remove the mezuzah, he will be reticent to move out, or alternatively, when he does move out he will quickly be able to rent it out to someone else. In other words, yishuv Eretz Yisrael refers to living in Israel and the relationship between this Halacha and mezuzah is accidental. The Sefat Emet disagrees, and argues that because a mezuzah functions to protect the house, by putting up a mezuzah you are protecting Israel, and this is intrinsically a fulfillment of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. R. Kasher notes that according to this position, not only would it be a mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael when you have to put up a mezuzah, but it would be a mitzvah to ensure that your door fits all the requirements to be obligated in mezuzah so that you would be able to put up a mezuzah, this despite that fact that mezuzah is really a mitzvah kiyumit, an obligation that only devolves upon a person if he chooses to do certain volitional actions – in this case build a house with proper doors. R. Kasher further adds that a mezuzah also is supposed to deter one from sinning, as the Rambam famously captures it, claiming that when one sees the mezuzah he remembers God and will remember that the most important thing in life is to serve God.
רמב”ם הלכות תפילין ומזוזה וספר תורה פרק ו
חייב אדם להזהר במזוזה מפני שהיא חובת הכל תמיד, וכל זמן שיכנס ויצא יפגע ביחוד השם שמו של הקדוש ב”ה ויזכור אהבתו ויעור משנתו ושגיותיו בהבלי הזמן, וידע שאין דבר העומד לעולם ולעולמי עולמים אלא ידיעת צור העולם ומיד הוא חוזר לדעתו והולך בדרכי מישרים, אמרו חכמים הראשונים כל מי שיש לו תפילין בראשו ובזרועו וציצית בבגדו ומזוזה בפתחו מוחזק הוא שלא יחטא שהרי יש לו מזכירין רבים והן הם המלאכים שמצילין אותו מלחטוא שנאמר חונה מלאך יי’ סביב ליראיו ויחלצם
He argues that preventing sin also prevents the punishments that come because of sin, including those that drive us from Israel. Thus, preventing sin is also a fulfillment of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.
If putting up a mezuzah is considered a special fulfillment of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, can there be any doubt of how great a mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael it is to have built and run the Iron Dome which protects so many of us here in Israel? And those soldiers risking their lives in Gaza so that Israel can be safe – is there any more fundamental mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael than that? So to all those protecting us – tizku l’mitzvot, thank you so much for all you do, and may Hashem protect all of the soldiers in IDF.
Parenthetically – the other explanation suggested by many for the distinction between Israel and the Diaspora is that living in a house in Israel is by definition significant or permanent. That interpretation is no less critical to understanding the nature of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.
I will try to deal with some interesting issues in terms of the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael in the future.