Judah Halevi

He believed the Land of Israel is necessary for living a complete Jewish life.

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For Halevi, Cain and Abel fought over who would rule the Land of Israel, while midrash speaks only of two alternative motives, con­trol of the whole world or of the site of the Temple (Genesis Rabbah 22).

Halakhic (Legal) Level

Halevi bases on the impor­tance of the Land of Israel halakhic rulings that are sometimes contrary to standard le­gal positions. Thus he argues that the Inter­national Date Line must pass through China. Since the earth is round, it has no natural mid-point; a view contrary to the biblical and rabbinic perception of the Land of Israel as the world's center.

Halevi, by contrast, places the Land of Israel in the middle of the inhab­ited world (covering the area from China to England, since, of course, the people of Spain in his day were unaware of the New World). Halevi reinforces this perspective by situat­ing the date line in China, thus proposing that world time is determined in accordance with the principle that the Land of Israel is at the center of the earth. He also argues that days begin in the Land of Israel: When the sun sets there on Saturday evening, the coming clay is first referred to as "Sunday;" only 18 hours later will it be Sunday in China as well. Thus the whole question of world time is dependent on the Land of Israel.

Judah Halevi accordingly formulated a comprehensive doctrine of the importance of the Land of Israel. But his greatest intellec­tual achievement was to define the land as a necessary condition for the perfection of any Jew. As this perfection depends on a series of factors that are indifferent to reason (the genetic constraint, according to which only a Jew can become a prophet; the religious con­straint, according to which only fulfillment of all the commandments by all parts of the Jewish people makes prophecy possible), the Land of Israel itself assumes a non-rational dimension (we should not say "irrational," since Halevi was speaking of indifference to, but not rejection of, reason).

Halevi drew much from the Shiite Muslim notion of safwa, that is, uniqueness or inherent reli­gious superiority; but he laid the foundations for the idea of the very soil of the Holy Land as a necessary component in the personal and collective perfection of the Jew.

This doctrine would reach its full, extreme impli­cations only in the near future, as developed by kabbalah [Jewish mysticism]. As to the possible link between Halevi's conception of the Land of Israel, his intended immigration to the land, and his messianic activism, in the sense of the call to actual immigration, opinions are still divided

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Dov Schwartz

Dov Schwartz is a professor in the philosophy department at Bar Ilan University.