The Torah and the Land of Israel


Dear Rabbi,

The Torah was given at Mount Sinai in the desert wilderness before the Jewish People entered Israel. But why wasn’t it given in Israel? Since Israel was given by God to the Jews to be a holy land for a holy nation, wouldn’t it make more sense to receive the holy Torah in the holy place of Israel instead?




  1. It is true that Israel is the Holy Land and it is also true that the quality of Torah and mitzvah observance there is considered more elevated than in any other place. Our Sages say that even the air of the Land of Israel is more conducive to spiritual growth than any other air.

    Nevertheless, God gave the Torah to the Jewish People before they entered Israel in order to prepare them for the elevating experience of living there. By receiving the Torah in advance of arrival in Israel, there would be national security for remaining in the land and not defiling it. Therefore, one reason for giving the Torah in the wilderness was in order to ready the Jewish nation for the unique spiritual status of Israel.

    Another reason was to indicate that even though the ultimate place for Torah learning and observance is the Land of Israel, nevertheless, Torah study and mitzvah observance are not dependent on being in Israel. Even in exile, the nation can connect to God through Torah and mitzvahs and traditional Jewish practice and values. While it’s best for the Jewish People to be committed to Torah in Israel, it’s better to be committed to the Torah outside of Israel than to be in Israel with no Torah at all.

    There are additional reasons mentioned in the sources why God did not give the Torah in Israel but rather in the wilderness: To teach that just as the wilderness is ownerless and freely accessible to all, so too the Torah is free and available to all; just as the wilderness is materially sparse and simple, so too the Torah is found among people who refrain from luxuries and are humble; just as the wilderness is traversed by all, so too should a Torah scholar be willing to be happy to share his knowledge of the Torah with all.

    Best wishes from the Team