Searching Out Israel’s Chametz
Illustration: Bread Seller in Jerusalem by Steve Evans [CC BY-NC 2.0] via Flickr
Every year as Pesach (Passover) rolls around, Jews around the world clean their houses of chametz (leavened dough). Many Jews stress about this and flip their houses upside down, looking for every possible crumb in every corner of each room.
Some turn it into a type of “spring cleaning,” and use it as a productive excuse to go through their entire house to see what they do or do not need. Some start cleaning even from after Tu B'Shvat, although most start after Purim.
Doing an intense cleaning of the house is all well and good, but is it really all there is to the holiday of Pesach? Is chametz really just about looking for leavened bread in our personal homes, or is there a deeper message behind it? To get a better sense of the idea behind chametz, we must first learn how bread is made. Dough will more than double as it rises. Even after it is rolled, it continues to rise.
Our rabbis tell us to cleanse ourselves not only of the physical chametz that has accrued, but also of the personal inner chametz. They explain that chametz is connected to human attitudes, such as haughtiness, ego, and arrogance.
While dough is baking in the oven, it rises — just like our egos can. When we search for chametz and then burn it, G-d is telling us that not only the physical concept of chametz must be cleansed, but also our own arrogance, haughtiness, and ego must be bent, controlled, and harnessed towards the will of G-d. By doing this we recognize that He is the one true G-d, the G-d of Israel and the Supreme Ruler of the entire universe.
Aside from being an important message on the personal level, this concept is greatly relevant to our modern times when the Jewish national presence has been restored.
The State of Israel came into being through G-d’s ultimate and boundless Grace 71 years ago. After a 2,000-year hellish exile in which we suffered pogroms, expulsions, inquisitions, crusades, and Holocausts as a minority under the gentiles, G-d opened up the gates to the Land of Israel for the Jewish people to finally return home and build their Jewish empire, which we had yearned for ever since being exiled after the Second Temple was destroyed.
Now that we finally have Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, certain Torah laws concerning our existence in the Land that were considered simply unrealistic, irrelevant, and even primitive suddenly became pertinent.
Nearly the majority of all world Jewry currently lives in Israel, but there are also a few million non-Jews living in the land. What does Judaism say about their status?
According to the Torah, non-Jews are not allowed to claim possession over the Land of Israel:
In the steppes of Moab, at the Jordan near Jericho, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you shall dispossess all the inhabitants of the land; you shall destroy all their figured objects; you shall destroy all their molten images, and you shall demolish all their cult places.
And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess. You shall apportion the land among yourselves by lot, clan by clan: with larger groups increase the share, with smaller groups reduce the share. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. You shall have your portions according to your ancestral tribes.
But if you do not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, those whom you allow to remain shall be stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land in which you live; so that I will do to you what I planned to do to them. (Num. 33:50-56)
However, we learn from the Oral Law that under Jewish sovereignty, non-Jews are, in fact, allowed to live in Israel as a ger toshav (resident stranger) under three conditions as detailed by the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Kings and Wars 6:1). They must recognize that G-d is the Ruler of the universe — giving up idol worship — and that the Jewish people are the sole owners of the Land of Israel; they must observe the seven Noahide Laws; and they must pay taxes as a ger toshav.
Once a non-Jew has accepted these conditions and the status of ger toshav in making peace with Israel, it is forbidden for the Jews to not uphold their end of the covenant with him, for doing so would be a desecration of G-d’s Name (Kings and Wars 6:3). However, if the non-Jews do not accept the Noahide Laws even if they agree to a peace deal, the Jews are to wage war against them as long as they are in our Land (Kings and Wars 6:4).
There are specific halakhic requirements stipulating that once we make a peace deal with the non-Jews we must honor, adhere, and respect it to the fullest. However, if the non-Jew does not fulfill all three conditions, he is simply not allowed to live here.
It is clear from Rambam’s explanations of the halakha (Jewish law) that the status of a non-Jew in the Land of Israel under Jewish sovereignty is a serious matter because Israel is G-d’s land that He has given solely to the Jewish people.
That being said, the State of Israel has been defined not only as a Jewish state in its Declaration of Independence, but also as a democratic one that grants full citizen rights to everyone, including non-Jews.
In the name of democracy, equality, tolerance, and freedom of speech, we unfortunately allow non-Jews to live in Israel who not only threaten but also openly incite against and attack its very unique social fabric and Jewish character, as well as its Jewish citizens. These non-Jewish citizens incite against Israel and the Jewish people, whether it be on college and university campuses, inside the Israeli Knesset, in Shechem around Kever Yosef (the Tomb of Joseph), Ma’arat HaMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron, or on the holiest site in Judaism — the Temple Mount, where Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Turkish flags are waved proudly out in the open for everyone to see.
Clearly while these non-Jewish citizens who exhibit blatant anti-Semitism are legally allowed to live in the State of Israel, halakhically they are banned from living in the Land of Israel at all. As former MK Rabbi Meir Kahane HY”D and his son Rabbi Binyamin Kahane HY”D said: “Permitting murderous anti-Semites to dwell in Israel is not only suicidal but halakhically forbidden.”
No, this is not Western-style democracy — this is Torah Judaism. And just as we thoroughly examined our private homes in preparation for Pesach, the holiday of national redemption, so too we must set our national home in order.