“A Man or Woman Can Force a Spouse to Move to Jerusalem”

["Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Bemidbar 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

“A man or woman can force a spouse to move to Jerusalem” – such is the ruling when one spouse wants to live in Jerusalem. He or she has the upper hand (Ketuvot 110b). Jerusalem is superior to all else, not in the sense of aloofness and arrogance, but in the sense of being the spiritual pinnacle of Eretz Yisrael.

After all, we have to ask: We’ve heard over and over again about the mitzvah of settling the Land, but where in the Torah is there a mitzvah of settling Jerusalem? We have to answer: True, there is no mitzvah of settling Jerusalem per se, but since it is the spiritual pinnacle of the entire land, the mitzvah of settling the Land is fulfilled there all the more. Scripture states, “Hashem loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Yaakov” (Tehillim 87:2). Obviously, this is referring to all of Jerusalem, including the new neighborhoods of West Jerusalem. Yet it is clear that the main thing is the Old City, Jerusalem between the walls.

And if we are relating to Jerusalem in terms of the mitzvah applying to the entire land, then we have to apply to Jerusalem all three aspects of that mitzvah. It is well known that the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael can be divided into three parts: 1) moving to the Land, 2) settling the Land “so as not to abandon it to desolation” and 3) sovereignty over the Land – conquering and liberating the Land (“we mustn’t abandon it to any other nation” – Ramban’s remarks on Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Addendum 4).

Here is the place to talk about settlement and conquest. Through G-d’s kindness, we have merited conquest. Yet as we all know, it is not enough to conquer. You have to hold on to what you conquered. And how does one do that? Through settlement. Our sages say regarding the verse, “Clear out the land and live in it” (Bemidbar 33:53) that it is by virtue of our clearing it out, that we will merit to live in it (see Rashi). Yet by the same token, it is by virtue of our living in it that we can succeed in clearing it out. The two are interdependent.

My words apply not only to Jerusalem between the walls but to the entire length and breadth of the Land, in which we are commanded to settle and to take hold everywhere, even if that is hard in our day. Yet in our ancient holy city, it is all that much harder. It used to be said that to settle one Jewish home in the Old City is as hard as establishing an entire settlement. Indeed, the Old City is like a human heart, both in its size and in its complexity.

Obviously, even to establish Jewish factories there is a precious deed, but the main thing is to establish, facing the site of our Temple, factories of Torah and the fear of G-d, of good character and the love of Israel. And in response to the misdeeds of the past, we must strengthen our hold on Jerusalem to make it “a city of unity” (Tehillim 122:3) – a city that unites Celestial Jerusalem with Terrestrial Jerusalem. Let us be strong and of good courage in rebuilding our holy city, and the entire length and breadth of our Land.