Laws and customs of the Land of Israel in Judaism

Laws and customs of the Land of Israel in Judaism

Laws and customs of the Land of Israel in Judaism (Hebrew: מצוות התלויות בארץ‎; translit. Mitzvot Ha'teluyot Be'aretz) are special Jewish laws that apply only to the Land of Israel. According to a standard view, 26 of the 613 mitzvot apply only in the Land of Israel.[1] Overall, the laws and customs may be classified as follows:

  • Laws in connection with Jewish civil and military government, as those relating to the king, to covenants with foreign countries, to taking the census, and to military affairs.
  • Laws concerning the products of the land: the heave-offering for the priests; the tithes to the Levites; the poor man's right to the gleanings, the forgotten sheaf, and the unreaped grain in the corners of the field; the use of young trees (prohibited during the first three years); the mixing of different kinds of vegetables (kil'ayim); the Sabbatical year.
  • Health laws: the quarantine regulations; the defilement and purification of persons, dwellings, and garments, and their examination by a qualified priest.
  • Laws connected with the functions of the Sanhedrin in the Jewish state: Ordination; Sanctification of the New Moon and the arrangement of the calendar; the laws of the Jubilee and the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur to announce the Jubilee; the laws of Jewish servants; the right to sell a thief should he fail to make restitution for his theft; the regulations for the cities of refuge; corporal punishments and fines (capital punishment ceased seventy years prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, owing to the encroachments of the Roman rule, which began to assert its influence in Judea).


Rabbinical distinctions

After the destruction of Jerusalem all the special laws of the Land of Israel became obsolete according to a strict interpretation of Mosaic law. However, the Rabbis, desiring to maintain a distinction between the Land of Israel and the rest of the world, and for other reasons stated below, kept in force some of the special laws. These are recognized as "mi-de-Rabbanan" (by virtue of the Rabbis) in contradistinction to "mi-de-Oraita" (by virtue of the Mosaic law).

Those of the laws of the Land of Israel that were extended after the Exile were originally enacted for the purpose of protecting the judicial administration and economic interests of the Land, and with a view to encourage settlement there. Hence the semikah was still left in the hands of the judiciary, with power to inflict the penalties of stripes and fines, and to announce the day of the new moon on the evidence of witnesses. (See Hebrew calendar.) But the power of the Sanhedrin was of short duration in consequence of incessant persecution, which drove the Talmudists to Babylon. The fixed calendar was then accepted everywhere, yet there still remained the difference between the Land of Israel and the rest of the world as to the observance of the second day of holy days (see Conflict of Laws).

If a gentile living in Israel claimed to have been converted to Judaism his claim was valid; but the same claim made by a gentile living abroad was accepted only when corroborated by witnesses (Gerim iv.; Yeb. 46b).

Similarly, a divorce signed by witnesses in Israel was valid on prima facie evidence; but such a writ abroad was not valid unless verified by the oral testimony of the signing witnesses before the rabbinate, that "it was written and signed in our presence". [2]

Agricultural restrictions

The Rabbis prohibited the exportation of provisions which are necessaries of life, such as fruits, wines, oils, and firewood, and ordered that these provisions should be sold directly to the consumer in order to save to the purchaser the middleman's profit (B. B. 90b, 91a). Another ordinance was directed against the raising of small stock, as sheep and goats except in woods or barren territory, in order to preserve the cultivated lands from injury (B. Ḳ. 49b).

To secure an adequate supply of servants, the Mosaic law providing for the freedom of a servant who had fled from his master (Deut. xxiii. 15) was made applicable to a servant escaping from other lands, but not to a servant escaping from the land (Git. 43a; 'Ar. 49b).

Settlement in the Land of Israel

For the benefit of settlers it was decreed that the owner of a town in the Land must leave a public thoroughfare on all four sides of the town, and that a Jew about to purchase real property from a gentile in the Land of Israel may have the contract drawn up on Sabbath to facilitate and bind the bargain, though such a proceeding is prohibited in other lands, [3]

Residence in the Land of Israel is regarded as becoming immediately permanent. For example, a rented dwelling outside Israel need not have a mezuzah during the first thirty days, as the tenancy is considered temporary for the first month; but in Israel the posting of the mezuzah is immediately obligatory. [4]

The regulation of migration to and from Israel had in view the object of maintaining the settlement of the Land. One must not emigrate unless the necessaries of life reach the price of a "sela" (two common shekels) for a double se'ah-measure of wheat, and unless they are difficult to obtain even then (B. B. 91a). A person may compel his or her spouse, under pain of divorce, to go with them and settle in Israel, which is not true for any other travel. [5]


Besides these legal variations there were many differences, especially in the early periods, between Jewish practices in Israel and Babylon (sometimes called "the East"). The differences are fifty in number according to one authority, and fifty-five according to another. The most important ones are as follows:

  • The fast-day after Purim in memory of the persecution of the Jews in Alexandria by the Greek general Nicanor prior to his defeat by the Maccabeans was observed in Israel only. [6]
  • The cycle of the Pentateuch reading, which in Israel was completed in three or three and one-half years, was elsewhere completed in one year, on Simchat Torah.
  • In Israel one of the congregation was honored in being permitted to take the scroll from the Ark, and another was similarly honored in being permitted to return it to its place ("hotza'ah" and "haknasah"): elsewhere it was considered an honor only to restore the scroll to the Ark.
  • In Israel seven persons constituted minyan for kaddish and barakut: elsewhere no less than ten persons were required.
  • In Israel the Sabbath was announced every Friday afternoon by three blasts on the shofar: this was not done elsewhere.
  • In Israel no one touched money on the Sabbath: elsewhere one might even carry money on that day. Jews who are strictly shomer shabbos will not carry anything except, for this one condition, permitted items for which the eruv allows.
  • In Israel the nuptial ceremony was distinguished by the sanctification of the ring given by the groom to the bride. In Babylon the ring "was not in sight" (this phrase is ambiguous, and some interpret it as meaning that the presentation of the ring occurred not in public at the synagogue, but in private [see "Sha'are Ẓedeḳ," responsum No. 12]).
  • In Israel the law that a widow should not be permitted to marry within twenty-four months after her husband's death if when he died she had a suckling babe, for fear she might commit infanticide, was enforced even if the child died within that period; in Babylon she was permitted to marry within that time if the child died.
  • In Israel mourning was observed for any infant: in Babylon, not unless it was older than thirty days.
  • In the Land of Israel a pupil was permitted to greet his teacher with "Peace to thee, master": in Babylon, only when the pupil was first recognized by his teacher.

Another difference between the Jerusalem and the Babylonian schools was in the degrees of confidence shown in supernatural remedies and charms; these occur much less frequently in the Jerusalem Talmud than in the Babylonian. In particular, those in the Land of Israel did not believe in the apprehension of danger from the occurrence of even numbers, known as "zugot". [7]


  1. ^ HaCohen, Yisrael Meir. The Concise Book of Mitzvoth: The Commandments which can be Observed Today, Trans., Charles Wengrov. Feldheim, 1990.
  2. ^ Gittin i. 1
  3. ^ Bava Kama 80a, b
  4. ^ Menachot 44a
  5. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha'ezer, 75, 4
  6. ^ Soferim xvii. 4
  7. ^ Pesachim 100b

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain. The Jewish Encyclopedia article was written by its Editorial Board Executive Committee & Judah David Eisenstein.

  • Ishtori Haparchi Kaftor Ve-Ferach, ch. x.:
  • Israel Shklov, Pe'at ha-Shulchan, Safed, 1837;
  • Zizling, Yalkut Eretz Yisrael, Vilna, 1890;
  • Müller, in Ha-Shachar, vols. vii. and viii.

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