Talmud Tips

For the week ending 5 November 2022 / 11 Cheshvan 5783

A Land Without Sin

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rabbi Elazar said, “Anyone who lives in the Land of Israel dwells without sin.”

He learns this from a verse in Isaiah (33:24) that states, “One who lives there will not say ‘I am ill’; (because) the nation that dwells there is forgiven of sin.” The word “ill” is understood to be synonymous with sin. This statement is codified by the Rambam (Laws of Kings 5:11).

Does this really mean that just by living in Israel a person automatically and constantly has a “clean slate”? Can this be true? Numerous Rishonim and Achronim offer various approaches to help understand this teaching. One approach is that our gemara is speaking about a person who lives in the Land of Israel for the sake of the mitzvah, and wants to live in a place of this kedusha (holiness) to help prevent him from sinning. Such a person, even if he does sin, will very likely regret it and will return to G-d-in teshuva (repentance), thereby being free of sin (Pnei Yehoshua).

Rav Anan said, "One who is buried in the Land of Israel is as if he is buried under the Altar

Rav Anan teaches that burial in the Land of Israel provides a degree of atonement, just as the Altar did, based on comparing two verses in the Torah (Deut. 32:43 and Ex. 20:22). This teaching is also cited by the Rambam (Laws of Kings 5:11).

Man was formed from a place of his atonement, the ground, as we are taught that the Altar is made from the ground. The idea that Man receives atonement from burial in the ground points to his lofty nature. Just as his non-physical soul returns in purity to the place from which it originated, so too the physical “ground” of body returns to a place of purity from which it was originally formed. (Maharsha)

  • Ketuvot 111a

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