Deuteronomy 12:29 When the Lord, your God cuts off the nations to which you will come to drive them out from before you, and when you drive them out and dwell in their land
Sifri: From here they say that the [fulfilling] the commandment of living in the land of Israel is equal to fulfilling all the commandments in the Torah.
Torah Temimah – Colloquial translation of Note #114
It is not explained explicitly the reason for equating fulfilling the commandment of living in the land of Israel is equivalent to fulfilling all the commandments of the Torah. The most likely answer is that it is only possible to fulfill all the commandments in all the their details in the Land of Israel. The reason for this is that many of the commandments actual depend on the land as is well known. [Examples are leket, shichah, peah, yovel, shmittah, etc.] Even commandments that are obligatory on the individual no matter where he lives [like: tefillin, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbos] are still primarily geared towards fulfilling them in the Land of Israel. This is explained in many places in the Torah with phrases like “when you come into the land” [you will give charity…] and other similar phrases. We keep these commandments even when we are in exile only for the purpose of not forgetting them at the time that we return from exile.
This is explained clearly in the Sifri on Parshat Eikev Chapter 10, Verse 18. There it says “G-d said to the Jewish people, even though I am exiling from your land, nevertheless you are still obligated to fulfill the commandments, in order that when you return to the Land of Israel, they will not seem like something new to you.”
So, according to all that is noted above, this is the reason why living in the Land of Israel is equal to all the commandments. The reason is that the Land of Israel is the foundation and the basis for the fulfillment of all the commandments. This is alluded to by the proximity of the previous verse “You should guard and heed all of these things which I command you…” with the following verse commanding to live in the Land of Israel.
All of this is an explanation of the words of the Ramban in the Book of the Commndments. There he adds a commandment which the Rambam left out [in his list of commandments.] In Positive Commandment Number 4, the Ramban mentions this explanation of the Sifri [as noted in the beginning of this note.]
Indeed it is the view of some Rishonim [such as the Ramban] that the commandment of living in the Land of Israel is applicable and in force even today. However this is not the opinion of the Rambam. He omitted this commandment from his count of commandments and so did other Rishonim. Their opinion is that there is no commandment to live in the Land of Israel until the final redemption comes. However, after the [Roman] exile there is not current commandment to live in the Land of Israel until the final redemption.
Through this explanation that we have written that the reason why living in the Land of Israel is weighed equally to all the other commandments is due to the Land being the foundation and enabler of all the commandments in the Torah, it would appear that the core reading of this commandment is according to the Rambam and his supporters. The reason for this is because in our day, even in the Land of Israel, it is impossible to fulfill all the commandments. This is because many of those unfulfilled commandments depend on the building of the [third] holy temple. [This being the case, the principal value of living in the Land of Israel as the enabler of fulfilling all the commendments of the Torah is not currently active.] Check out the Gemora Sota 14(a) and the explanation of Rabbi Simlai there and you will find support for our opinion.
Translator Note: The translator is very aware that there is a wide, wide difference of opinion amongst religious Jews on this topic. I have chosen to translate this note to inform readers of some of the differences of opinion and to publicize the Torah Temimah’s opinion. To the translator (me) this has nothing to do with a debate over Zionism. Rather, the Torah Temimah is discussing whether there is a technical commandment to live in the Land of Israel in our times.