Parashat Sh’lach: A Torah Perspective on the Timing for Returning to the Land of Israel

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The question of when the Jewish people should return to the Land of Israel, especially in the context of the Final Redemption, is a deeply complex and significant issue in Jewish thought. This discussion becomes particularly pertinent when considering the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 by secular Zionists. In examining the Torah, Tanakh, and rabbinic sources, it becomes clear that a premature return to the land without the coming of Mashiach is not only inadvisable but also a potential violation of divine will.

Context from Numbers 14:40-42

The incident in Numbers 14:40-42 provides a crucial lesson on the importance of timing and divine command in entering the Land of Israel. After the negative report of the spies and HaShem’s decree that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for forty years (Numbers 14:34-35), the people attempted to rectify their mistake by ascending to the hill country. Moshe warned them, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies” (Numbers 14:41-42). This illustrates that even with the best intentions, actions taken against HaShem’s current command lead to failure.

Prophetic Visions of Return

The Prophets, particularly Ezekiel and Isaiah, describe the return to the land as part of a divine process led by Mashiach. Ezekiel speaks of a spiritual renewal accompanying the physical return: “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). This return is characterized by HaShem’s direct intervention and a transformation of the people’s hearts: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Isaiah similarly envisions a Messianic era where peace and divine knowledge fill the earth: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). These prophecies highlight that the true return is tied to a comprehensive redemption and the establishment of divine justice and peace.

Rabbinic Interpretations

Rabbinic interpretations emphasize the necessity of divine timing and guidance. The Ramban (Nachmanides) strongly supports the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel (Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 4), yet he acknowledges that the ultimate redemption must align with divine will. Rambam (Maimonides), while not listing living in the land as one of the 613 mitzvot, underscores its significance in the Messianic context (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 11:1).

The Talmudic notion of the “Three Oaths” (Ketubot 111a) further advises against a mass return before Mashiach’s arrival. These oaths, as interpreted by many, including the Satmar Rebbe, assert that:

• Israel should not ascend to the Land of Israel en masse.
• Israel should not rebel against the nations.
• The nations should not oppress Israel excessively.

These oaths suggest that any attempt to establish a state before the divine time may contravene HaShem’s plan.

Modern State of Israel and Premature Return

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 by secular Zionists is viewed by some as a violation of these principles. The Satmar Rebbe, in his work “Vayoel Moshe,” argues that the secular founding of the state contradicts the waiting for Mashiach as ordained by divine command. He posits that true redemption involves not only a physical return but also a spiritual transformation and divine guidance.

Spiritual Readiness and Unity in Diaspora

The current task of the Jewish people in the Diaspora involves spiritual preparation and unity. The Torah and prophetic writings emphasize repentance and adherence to HaShem’s commandments as prerequisites for redemption (Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Malachi 3:7). Ezekiel’s vision of a renewed heart signifies the need for internal transformation before a physical return (Ezekiel 36:26).

Furthermore, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Song of Songs 905) states that the redemption will come when Israel is united in teshuvah (repentance). The focus on unity and spiritual growth in the Diaspora prepares the Jewish people for the ultimate redemption led by Mashiach, ensuring that the return to the land aligns with HaShem’s perfect timing.


In light of the Torah, Tanakh, and rabbinic teachings, it is evident that the return to the Land of Israel should be undertaken only with divine approval and guidance. The premature return, as seen in the case of the Israelites after the incident of the spies, leads to failure and misalignment with HaShem’s will. The Jewish people are currently called to focus on spiritual readiness, unity, and adherence to HaShem’s commandments in the Diaspora. The true and final redemption, led by Mashiach, will herald the appropriate time for the return to the land, fulfilling the divine promises and prophecies.

This perspective is supported by numerous sources, including Numbers 14:40-42, Ezekiel 36:24-28, Isaiah 11, Ketubot 111a, and the teachings of Ramban, Rambam, and the Satmar Rebbe. By adhering to these teachings, the Jewish people can ensure that their return to the land will be in accordance with HaShem’s will, leading to lasting peace and fulfillment of the divine covenant.

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