The Avot and Mitzvot – Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz “Because Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My instructions.”  “Minded My mandate [Referring to] precautionary measures for the purpose of avoiding [transgressing] on prohibitions [set forth] in the Torah, such as [the prohibition to marry] “second-degree” relations and the Rabbinic prohibitions concerning Shabbos. My commandments. [Referring to] things that even if they were not written, would be fit to be included in the commandments, such as [the prohibitions against] robbing and killing. My decrees. [Referring to] things that the evil inclination and the nations of the world argue against, such as [the prohibitions against] eating pork and wearing garments of wool and linen for which there [apparently] are no reasons, but are the edicts of the King and His decrees upon His subjects. And My teachings. To include the Oral Law— laws given by G-d to Moshe at Sinai.” Based on the above mentioned pasuk and Rashi’s comment on it, one of the most spoken about issues in this weak’s Parsha is the marriage of Yaakov Avinu to two sisters- Rachel and Leah. According to Chazal in the Midrash, an opinion taken up as well by many of the commentators including Rashi, Ramban and others, the Avot kept all the mitzvoth, and therefore how can it be explained that Yaakov Avinu married two sisters, an action clearly forbidden in the Torah? As mentioned, this question has been dealt with extensively ever since the times of the Rishonim up until this day. A quick search on the internet will instantaneously refer to hundreds (if not more) of articles and divrei Torah that deal with the question, summarize the various answers that have been suggested over the generations, and still offer new explanations. Possibly the most famous of all the answers given, is that of the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah: ” Now it appears to me from a study of the opinions of our rabbi’s that Avraham our father learned the entire Torah by Ruach Hakodesh and occupied himself with it’s study and the reason for its commandments and its secrets, and he observed it in its entirety as ‘one who is not commanded but nevertheless observes it.’ Furthermore, his observance of the Torah applied only in the landof Israel, whereas Yaakov married two sisters only when outside the Land, and similarly with Amram who married his aunt. For the Mitzvot are ‘the ordinance of the G-d of the Land,’ even though we have been charged with personal duties in all places. Our Rabbis have already alluded to this secret and I will yet call your attention to it with the help of G-d.” However one could still ask on the Ramban, granted that the Mitzvot in essence are intended for Eretz Yisrael, still we have an obligation to keep the Mitzvot even outside of Eretz Yisrael, as the Ramban himself mentioned. In fact, even though according to the Ramban keeping the Mitzvot outside of Eretz Yisrael is only for the sake of not forgetting the Mitzvot, they are still full fledged Mitvot De’oraita. If so, it seems that we are still left with our original question. If the Avot kept the Mitzvoth, then why didn’t they keep them when outside the Land as well? The Gemara in Masechet Berachot relates the following incident: “When Chananiah the son of R. Yoshua’s brother went down to the Diaspora, he began to intercalate the years and fix new moons outside of the Land of Israel. So they [the Beth din] sent after him two scholars, R. Yose b. Kippar and the grandson of R. Zechariah b. Kevutal. When he saw them, he said to them: Why have you come? — They replied: We have come to learn Torah [from you]. He thereupon proclaimed: These men are among the most eminent of the generation. They and their ancestors have ministered in the Sanctuary … Soon they began to declare clean what he declared unclean and to permit what he forbade. Thereupon he proclaimed: These men are worthless, they are good for nothing. They said to him: You have already built and you cannot overthrow, you have made a fence and you cannot break it down. He said to them: Why do you declare clean when I declare unclean, why do you permit when I forbid? — They replied: Because you intercalate years and fix new moons outside of theLand of Israel. He said to them: Did not Akiva son of Joseph intercalate years and fix new moons outside of Palestine?— They replied: Don’t cite R. Akiva, who left not his equal in the Land of Israel. He said to them: I also left not my equal in the Land ofIsrael. They said to him: The kids which you left behind have become goats with horns, and they have sent us to you, bidding us, ‘Go and tell him in our name. If he listens, well and good; if not, he will be excommunicated. Tell also our brethren in the Diaspora [not to listen to him]. If they listen to you, well and good; if not, let them go up to the mountain, let Achia build an altar and let Chananiah play the harp, and let them all become renegades and say that they have no portion in the G-d of Israel’. Straightway all the people broke out into weeping and cried, Heaven forbid, we have a portion in the G-d of Israel. Why all this to-do? — Because it says, For out of Tzion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim ”  Rav Kook in his book “Eiyn Ayah” a commentary on the “Eiyn Yaakov” explains why these two Rabbis employed a strange method to rebuke Chananiah for his actions. Why did they “declare clean what he declared unclean and to permit what he forbade.” He explains that even though it goes without saying that all the details and intricacies of Torah are holy and woe to one who disregards even one nuance of even a small mitzvah, at the same time it must be clear that the holiness of the details stems from them being branches of the main core, the central principle. Since the central principle that the whole Torah depends on is the existence of the nation of Hashem in its complete and full form, it is only possible when it is in Eretz Yisrael. The sanctifying of the months and times is central to the whole infrastructure of Torah and is indicative of it’s eternity as we control time and are not controlled by it. Because of its importance and centrality it must be done only in Eretz Yisrael, to show that it is not possible for the Torah to be recognized as a religion separate from it’s ultimate purpose – the existence of the nation of Hashem in its complete and full form. Since evidently Chananiah, who was sanctifying the times in the Diaspora had lost sight of this, the two Rabbis were showing him that caution in other areas of Halakha was meaningless.  In a similar vein it is relevant and interesting to note that according to the Rambam the absence of Jews in Eretz Yisrael actually removes the Halachik basis for our reliance on our calendar and should such a reality ever occur we would not be able to rely on it at all. The Rambam notes however that he is not concerned that this could ever happen as Hashem has promised that he would never destroy the nation of Israel completely.  The Chatam Sofer deduces from this Rambam that the absence of Jews from Eretz Yisrael is in fact the cessation of the Jewish People even if there still are Jews in the Diaspora! Based on the above perhaps it is possible to suggest that the reason the Avot never kept Mitzvot outside of Eretz Yisrael was because when they were outside the land there was no existence of the Jewish people, as they were themselves the entire nation at the time and they were then not in the land. The central principle of Torah had ceased and therefore the adherence to mitzvoth would be meaningless. There is a saying in Hebrew that goes “meirov eitzim lo roim et ha’ya’ar” – can’t see the forest because of all the trees. It is important to remember that being committed and devout to Torah and Mitzvot and all of their fine details does not excuse us from being focused on their main goal. On the contrary, if we lose sight of it, then what is their value?