When we talk about moving to Israel, the expression that we use is aliyah – moving up. Where does this concept come from?
The source for the halakha of zaken mamre – an elder Sage who rebels against the decision of the Sanhedrin – appears in Sefer Devarim (17:8-13), where the Torah teaches that the individual who purposefully rejects the teaching of the High Priest or the judge will be killed. According to the Mishna (86b) the Sage is brought to the courts in Jerusalem where he presents his understanding of the law, which is then clarified by one of the three courts that sit in the area of the Temple. If they disagree with his interpretation and he returns to his community where he offers a practical ruling against that of the court in Jerusalem, he will be punished. If, however, he teaches his understanding as a theoretical matter, then he will not be held liable.
The Gemara quotes a baraita that describes how this process takes place, basing itself on the pesukim in Sefer Devarim that describe how a difficult legal question will need to be brought to the priests and the judges in the place chosen by God, i.e. to Jerusalem. The language that the Torah uses is ve-kamta ve-alita – that you should rise and move upwards – which the baraita understands to mean that you must go to the Temple in Jerusalem, which is the highest place in Israel, while Israel is the highest place in the world. The Gemara notes that while the Temple is clearly identified as the highest point in Israel based on the command ve-kamta, our view that Israel is the highest land is based on the passage in Sefer Yirmeya (23:7) that describes the ultimate return of the Jewish people up to Israel at the end of days.
Tosafot note that there are clearly other places in Israel that are higher than the Temple in Jerusalem, and hint to the fact that the concept “higher” may not be a physical elevation, but a spiritual idea of aliyah. Still, given that the Earth is a sphere, it is possible to place Israel at the top of the globe simply by properly choosing where to place one’s reference point when looking at it.