You shall not move your fellow man’s boundary, which the earlier ones established, in your inheritance that you shall inherit, in the Land that the Lord, your God, gives you to possess it. (19:14)
The Midrash (Sifrei) comments:
What does this verse teach us? Does [the Torah] not already state, You shall not steal? Rather, it teaches that anyone who uproots his friend’s border transgresses two negative commandments. One might assume that this applies outside the Land (in Chutz LaAretz) as well. Therefore, it says, In your inheritance that you shall inherit, in the Land: In Eretz Yisrael a person transgresses two negative commandments; in Chutz LaAretz he transgresses only one [i.e., You shall not steal].
That is to say, this particular prohibition against stealing land (hasagat gevul) – one of the 613 mitzvot – simply does not apply outside the Land of Israel. Actually, there are many such mitzvot; and I am not only referring to the obvious ones, like terumot, ma’asrot, and the other agricultural mitzvot. Rather, many mitzvot that seemingly have nothing to do with the Land, apply only there. Furthermore, many sources indicate that all of the mitzvot are really meant to be kept in the Holy Land. (See Toldot, “Home of the Mitzvot”; Eikev, “Practice Makes imperfect.”)
What is most interesting, however, is the Torah Temimah’s commentary on the above-cited Midrash. He writes:
It seems to me that the reason for this [why hasagat gevul applies only in Eretz Yisrael] is simple. In Eretz Yisrael, everything a person owns belongs to him in an absolute sense, for all generations. In Chutz LaAretz, on the other hand, [where we are] in exile among the nations, a Jew does not have absolute rights to his land. Therefore, [if one steals someone else’s land] we cannot call it true hasagat gevul. Instead, [the land] is considered mere chattel (moveable property), over which a person transgresses [the prohibition of] You shall not steal.
The lesson, I believe, is obvious: Our only true and permanent homeland is Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, this lesson has been learned the hard way throughout our tumultuous history in exile, especially during the most recent calamity that befell our people (the Holocaust). Let us hope that from now on we will learn it the easy way – through the words of our venerable Sages.
Reprinted from Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah by R’ Moshe D. Lichtman