Upon research for the book, Miracles from Israel, I was surprised to learn that there is a long list of Commandments that are applicable only, or in rare cases, ideally, when the Jewish people are living in the Land of Israel. For the most part they relate to tithings on agriculture, the shemitta year in which the Land is supposed to lay fallow, pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the three Festivals, and the overall commandment to settle the Land. In fact, the prerogative to separate a piece of dough when baking a large batch of bread is practiced universally today, all over the world, but optimal performance of the commandment is within the borders of the Land of Israel.
There is no one who can observe all of the commandments, as they vary, and some deal with very particular circumstances that can only apply to a segment of the population (women, men, priests, landowners), so perhaps the group of commandments which can be performed only or ideally in Israel are just another group that rely upon a particular set of conditions, but are just not relevant to others.
This is not the case. As an ideal, God’s plan was for the people to live in the Promised Land, and attain a spiritual closeness with Him through performance of His commandments.
As stated simply by God, “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt to give you the Land of Canaan, to be your God’” (Lev. 25:38). The purpose of the exile and redemption from it was to create a nation to which God could gift his Torah and his Land.
And while the Torah was given to the people at Mount Sinai in the desert, that does not mean that it was meant to be observed primarily in that locale. The Israelites were entrusted with the commandments so that they could learn them and practice them in preparation for entry into the Land, which necessitated strict adherence to them. Had the Israelites attempted to conquer the Land, settle it, and only then accept upon themselves the model for a Godly existence, they would not have merited God’s aid in the conquest of the Land. “‘Keep, therefore, all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today, so that you may have the strength to enter and take possession of the Land that you are about to cross into and possess, and that you may long endure upon the soil that the Lord swore to your fathers to assign to them and to their heirs, a Land flowing with milk and honey’” (Deut. 11:8-9).
As the great Biblical commentator Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman) explains, commandments were meant to be ideally performed in the Land of Israel, but are still obligatory even in the times of exile so that they should not become obscure or lost before ideal circumstances are applicable again. Today we are so lucky to be once again living in the Land of Israel, with at least half of the world’s Jewry within the territory that God granted the Jewish people. The rendering of the commandments as almost fully applicable again places the Jewish people living in Israel in a unique situation of attaining spiritual highs, opportunity for optimal performance, and extra divine Providence in the practice of worshipping God.