Aliya - "A Midda Ha-Chasidus"
Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel commenting on Aliya Forum:
In the previous posts there is a mixture of halachic and hashkofic viewpoints (amongst others as well). One can only consider these clearly if the halachic baseline is determined first.
The nature of the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel absent the Beis Mikdash is not a clear cut chiyuv. The earliest halachic (non-aggadic) reference is Ramban commenting on Bamidbar 33:53, which is the potential makor of the chiyuv. According to the Ramban, there is a chiyuv d’oraisa to pack up and move to Eretz Yisroel. However, later Rishonim and the Acharonim wrestle with the fact that the Rambam does not include this mitzvah in his enumeration of the 613 mitzvos.
Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch is mum on this issue. While the Mechaber paskens repeatedly that certain mizvos operate differently or apply differently in the Land, there is no actual statement that one must pack up and move there.
Many meforshim have tried to explain the omission in the Rambam. Some explain that yishuv Eretz Yisroel is only a hekhshar mitzvah (see Rashbam to Bava Basra 91a). Others explain that the mitzvah was abrogated with the destruction of the Beis Mikdash (see sefer Megillas Esther on the Rambam – I have several kashos on this deah, though). Then, of course, there is the aforementioned comment of the Tosafos to Kesubos 110b that there is no mitzvah due to the hardship associated with living in the land. Incidentally, this remark doesn’t actually state that there is no mitzvah, only that one is potur due to the hardship. In our days, however, we can legitimately question the applicability of this svora.
The le-maase question of whether one is obligated to pack up and move to Eretz Yisroel was the subject of Teshuvos from both Rav Moshe ztz”l (Igros Moshe, Even ha-Ezer I:102) and Rav Ovadia Yoseif, shlit”a (written in several places, and heard personally many times).
According to Rav Feinstein, the mitzvah of yishuv ha-aretz is a reshus, meaning that one is under no halachic obligation or pressure to make aliya. However, if one did, then he is praiseworthy and accredited a mitzvah. The understanding that there is no chiyuv of yishuv is found in many other Ashkenazi Acharonim: see Rav Yaakov of Lissa to Kesuvos 110b and the Chofetz Chayyim in his Mikhtavim. They both state the halacha is like the Rambam and that there is no chiyuv of yishuv in our days. Such appears to have been the interpretation of the majority of the Ashkenazi poskim.
Among the Sefardim, the poskim tended to read the Ramban literally and hold that the mitzvah of yishuv is a chiyuv. In the early 1980’s Rav Yosef became the strongest proponent of this interpretation and has argued strongly against Rav Moshe.
All in all, that is the halachic baseline: for the Ashkenzaim, according to the rov, yishuv is at best a mitzvah reshus and not a chiyuv ( Rav Kook ztvk”l was a minority in his view). For the Sephardim, it is a chiyuv.
Knowing this, I read Rav Breiter hy”d (of whom I am a BIG fan) as stating that, while there is no halachic chiyuv of yishuv, one must do everything possible to go. In this sense it is a midda ha-chasidus, potentially akin to donning Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin, or going daily to the mikva. Note that he says “Every day of your life, yearn, pray and make a practical effort to live in Eretz Yisroel, or at the very least to walk four steps there.” If we were talking halachic chiyuv, then there would be no “at least.” A chiyuv d’oraisa is a chiyuv (in all honesty, though there is wiggle room to say that concepts of lechatchila & b’dieved do exist by d’oraisa’s that are halachos le-moshe misinai – see the Pri Megadim’s hakdama to hilchos shechita, however here we are talking about a d’oraisa she nikhtav be-kra). One may legitimately say, though, that this midda ha-chassidus is stronger than that of wearing Rabbeinu Tam since it has a makor be-kra, but it is very hard to split hairs in this area.
Practically, then, it means that if your are one who holds of the Breslov shitta (which is Rav Breiter) then you should always endeavor and make it one’s goal to live there. However, since it is a midda ha-chasidus, mitigating factors will be much more influential in creating leniencies.