Models of Medieval Zionism:The Tosafists, Nachmanides and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi
1 א

Letter of Maimonides

“On the third day of the month of Sivan, I left the ship in peace at the port of Akko, having been delivered from destruction and arrived in the land of Israel. I made a vow that this would henceforth be a day of joy and happiness, in which I would enjoy a festive meal and give charitable gifts to the poor, as would my household, until the end of time.”


The Rambam continues his letter by telling us what he did a few months later in the month of Marcheshvan. “On the fourth day of the month of Marcheshvan, in the year 4926 from the time of creation, I left Akko and set out for Jerusalem, encountering many dangers along the way. I entered the Great and Holy House and prayed there on the sixth of the month of Marcheshvan. On the ninth of the month, I left Jerusalem and set out for Hebron, to visit the graves of our Forefathers in the Cave of Machpelah. On that day I stood and prayed at the cave – may G-d be praised for everything! These two days, the sixth and ninth of Marcheshvan, I vowed will be for me like festival days, filled with prayer and happiness, food and drink… Just as I merited being able to pray in its (the Holy Temple’s) ruins, may I soon see its comfort (rebuilding) speedily – amen!”

2 ב

תוספות מסכת מגילה דף ד עמוד א

רבינו יוסף איש ירושלים תירץ דסלקא דעתך למיפטרה מגזירה שוה דט"ו ט"ו דחג הסוכות כדפי' פרק אלו עוברין

3 ג

Solomon Ibn Verga, c. 1560-1654

In the year 4971 [1211 C.E.] God inspired the rabbis of France and England to go to Jerusalem. They numbered more than 300 and were accorded great honor by the king. They built for themselves syngaogies and houses of study. Our teacher the great kohen R. Jonathan haKohen went there as well. A miracle occurred. They prayed for rain and were answered, and the name of Heaven was sanctified because of them.

4 ד

הוא אומר לעלות כו'. אינו נוהג בזמן הזה דאיכא סכנת דרכים והיה אומר רבינו חיים דעכשיו אינו מצוה לדור בא"י כי יש כמה מצות התלויות בארץ וכמה עונשין דאין אנו יכולין ליזהר בהם ולעמוד עליהם:

5 ה

Kuzari Part II

9. Al Khazari: I understand what thou meanest by 'His people,' but less intelligible is what thou sayest about 'His country.'

10. The Rabbi: Thou wilt have no difficulty in perceiving that one country may have higher qualifications than others. There are places in which particular plants, metals, or animals are found, or where the inhabitants are distinguished by their form and character, since perfection or deficiency of the soul are produced by the mingling of the elements.

11. Al Khazari: Yet I never heard that the inhabitants of Palestine were better than other people.

12. The Rabbi: How about the hill on which you say that the vines thrive so well? If it had not been properly planted and cultivated, it would never produce grapes. Priority belongs, in the first instance, to the people which, as stated before, is the essence and kernel [of the nations]. In the second instance, it would belong to the country], on account of the religious acts connected with it, which I would compare to the cultivation of the vineyard. No other place would share the distinction of the divine influence, just as no other mountain might be able to produce good wine.

13. Al Khazari: How could this be? In the time between Adam and Moses were not prophetic visions in other places granted to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldaeans, Ezekiel and Daniel at Babylon, and Jeremiah in Egypt?

14. The Rabbi: Whosoever prophesied did so either in the [Holy] Land, or concerning it, viz. Abraham in order to reach it, Ezekiel and Daniel on account of it... Thus the agriculturer finds the root of a good tree in a desert place. He transplants it into properly tilled ground, to improve it and make it grow; to change it from a wild root into a cultivated one, from one which bore fruit by chance only to one which produced a luxuriant crop. In the same way the gift of prophecy was retained among Abraham's descendants in Palestine, the property of many as long as they remained in the land, and fulfilled the required conditions, viz. purity, worship, and sacrifices, and, above all, the reverence of the Shekhinah.

23. Al Khazari: If this be so, thou fallest short of the duty laid down in thy law, by not endeavouring to reach that place, and making it thy abode in life and death...

24. The Rabbi: This is a severe reproach, O king of the Khazars. It is the sin which kept the divine promise with regard to the second Temple, viz.: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion' (Zech. ii. 10), from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, whilst the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs.

6 ו

Kuzari Part V

22. The Rabbi was then concerned to leave the land of the Khazari and to betake himself to Jerusalem. The king was loth to let him go, and spoke to him in this sense as follows: What can be sought in Palestine nowadays, since the divine reflex is absent from it, whilst, with a pure mind and desire, one can approach God in any place. Why wilt thou run into danger. on land and water and among various peoples?

23. The Rabbi answered: The visible Shekhināh has, indeed, disappeared, because it does not reveal itself except to a prophet or a favoured community, and in a distinguished place. This is what we look for in the passage: 'Let our eyes behold when Thou returnest to Zion.' As regards the invisible and spiritual Shekhināh, it is with every born Israelite of virtuous life, pure heart, and upright mind before the Lord of Israel. Palestine is especially distinguished by the Lord of Israel, and no function can be perfect except there. Many of the Israelitish laws do not concern those who do not live there; heart and soul are only perfectly pure and immaculate in the place which is believed to be specially selected by God. If this is true in a figurative sense, how much more true in reality... This sacred place serves to remind men and to stimulate them to love God, being a reward and promise, as it is written: 'Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace the dust thereof' (Ps. cii. 14 sq.). This means that Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust...

28. Al Khazari: If this be so, it would be a sin to hinder thee. It is, on the contrary, a merit to assist thee. May God grant thee His help, and be thy protector and friend. May He favour thee in His mercy.

7 ז

צִיּוֹן הֲלֹא תִשְׁאֲלִי / ר' יהודה הלוי

צִיּוֹן, הֲלֹא תִשְׁאֲלִי לִשְׁלוֹם אֲסִירַיִך

דּוֹרְשֵׁי שְׁלוֹמֵךְ וְהֵם יֶתֶר עֲדָרָיִךְ

מִיָּם וּמִזְרָח וּמִצָּפוֹן וְתֵימָן שְׁלוֹם

רָחוֹק וְקָרוֹב שְׂאִי מִכֹּל עֲבָרָיִךְ

וּשְׁלוֹם אֲסִיר תַּאֲוָה, נוֹתֵן דְּמָעָיו כְּטַל

חֶרְמוֹן וְנִכְסַף לְרִדְתָּם עַל הֲרָרָיִךְ

לִבְכּוֹת עֱנוּתֵךְ אֲנִי תַנִּים, וְעֵת אֶחֱלֹם

שִׁיבַת שְׁבוּתֵך – אֲנִי כִנּוֹר לְשִׁירָיִךְ

לִבִּי לְבֵית-אֵל וְלִפְנִיאֵל מְאֹד יֶהֱמֶה

וּלְמַחֲנַיִם וְכֹל פִּגְעֵי טְהוֹרָיִךְ

שָׁם הַשְּׁכִינָה שְׁכֵנָה לָךְ, וְהַיּוֹצְרֵךְ

פָּתַח לְמוּל שַׁעֲרֵי שַׁחַק שְׁעָרָיִךְ

וּכְבוֹד אֲדֹנָי לְבַד הָיָה מְאוֹרֵךְ, וְאֵין

שֶׁמֶשׁ וְסַהַר וְכוֹכָבִים מְאִירָיִךְ

אֶבְחַר לְנַפְשִׁי לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּךְ בְּמָקוֹם אֲשֶר

רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים שְׁפוּכָה עַל בְּחִירָיִךְ

אַתְּ בֵּית מְלוּכָה וְאַתְּ כִּסֵּא אֲדֹנָי, וְאֵיךְ

יָשְׁבוּ עֲבָדִים עֲלֵי כִסְאוֹת גְּבִירָיִךְ

מִי יִתְּנֵנִי מְשׁוֹטֵט בַּמְּקוֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר

נִגְלוּ אֱלֹהִים לְחוֹזַיִךְ וְצִירָיִךְ

מִי יַעֲשֶׂה לִי כְנָפַיִם וְאַרְחִיק נְדוֹד

אָנִיד לְבִתְרֵי לְבָבִי בֵּין בְּתָרָיִךְ

אֶפֹּל לְאַפַּי עֲלֵי אַרְצֵךְ וְאֶרְצֶה אֲבָ

נַיִךְ מְאֹד וַאֲחֹנֵן אֶת-עֲפָרָיִך

אַף כִּי בְעָמְדִי עֲלֵי קִבְרוֹת אֲבֹתַי וְאֶשְׁ

תּוֹמֵם בְּחֶבְרוֹן עֲלֵי מִבְחַר קְבָרָיִךְ

8 ח

השגות הרמב"ן לספר המצוות לרמב"ם שכחת העשין

מצוה רביעית שנצטוינו לרשת הארץ אשר נתן האל יתברך ויתעלה לאבותינו לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב ולא נעזבה ביד זולתינו מן האומות או לשממה. והוא אמרו להם (מסעי לג ורמב"ן שם) והורשתם את הארץ וישבתם בה כי לכם נתתי את הארץ לרשת אותה והתנחלתם את הארץ.

9 ט

ומן הענין הזה אמרו בספרי (עקב מג) ואבדתם מהרה (דברים יא יז) אף על פי שאני מגלה אתכם מן הארץ לחוצה לארץ היו מצויינין במצות שכשתחזרו לא יהו עליכם חדשים משל לאדון שכעס על אשתו ושלחה לבית אביה אמר לה הוי מתקשטת תכשיטים שכשתחזרי לא יהיו עליך חדשים וכן אמר ירמיה (לא כ) הציבי לך ציונים אלו המצות שישראל מצוינין בהם והנה הכתוב שאמר (דברים יז יח) ואבדתם מהרה ושמתם את דברי אלה וגו' אינו מחייב בגלות אלא בחובת הגוף כתפילין ומזוזות ופירשו בהן כדי שלא יהו חדשים עלינו כשנחזור לארץ כי עיקר כל המצות ליושבים בארץ ה' ולפיכך אמרו בספרי (ראה פ) וירשתם אותה וישבתם בה ושמרתם לעשות (דברים יא לא לב) ישיבת ארץ ישראל שקולה כנגד כל המצות שבתורה