The Land of Israel in Classical Jewish Sources

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Both these rabbinic traditions have their roots in the Bible, but the rabbis introduced new ideas about the Land as well. Living in the Land is said to atone for all sins (Sifrei Deuteronomy 333), and the importance of being buried in the Land is emphasized. This latter custom harkens back to the forefathers; however, a new reason emerged in the rabbinic era: the idea that those buried in Israel would be the first to be resurrected in the End of Days (Jerusalem Talmud, Kilaim 9:3).

The rabbinic sages lived after the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile that followed. The center of Jewish life shifted to Babylonia, though a community remained in Palestine, as well. Rabbinic texts about the Land reveal traces of an ideological battle between these two communities.

Some traditions originating in Palestine are wildly condemnatory of those living outside the Land. Thus it is written that one who "leaves the land in a time of peace it is as if he worships idols" (Tosefta Avodah Zarah 4:5). Meanwhile, Babylonian texts are, not surprisingly, more supportive of exilic existence. This position reaches its paradigmatic form in Rabbi Judah's statement that, "He who resides in Babylonia, it is as if he resided in the Land of Israel" (Ketubot 111a).

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