Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha


May 14, 2011
Leviticus 25:23:21
Modern Author: Adina Hoffman, House of Windows

KOSHI:  Why is a walled city different/unique when it comes to land redemption: What can it teach us about our Covenant-connection to the land?

V.23          The land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine; you are but resident aliens with Me

RASHI… The Hebrew term “liTz’mitut” really means “definitively.”  It must not be sold in a way that definitively severs the original owner’s connection with it. 

IBN EZRA… A verb from this root is found in Psalm 94:23: “The Lord our God will annihilatethem irreversibly.” For the Land is Mine…That is one heavy-duty reason.  Moses said the same thing in a different way: “O Lord,  You are our refuge in every generation…” [Ps 90]  That is, the only refuge…. “One generation goes, another comes…”[Eccl1:4]

 V.24         Throughout the land that you hold, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

RASHI… The straightforward purpose of “you are resident-strangers with Me” is to introduce the next section, about the one who has to sell part of his holding. He or a relative may redeem it as soon as two years have passed. “But if a man has no one to redeem him…”  [v.26] Is there any such thing as a Jew who has no one to redeem for him?  It means a man who has no one who is able to redeem on his behalf.

V.29-30   If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, it may be redeemed until a year has elapsed since its sale; the redemption period shall be a year. If it is not redeemed before a full year elapses,  the house in the walled city shall pass to the purchaser beyond reclaim throughout the ages, it shall not be released in the Jubilee…

RASHI…Technically, a “walled city” is on that has been surrounded by a wall since the time of Joshua…We translate “ahser lo chomah”—not as it is written but with vav—“which has a wall.”  Our Sages said: Even though it does not have one now, it is considered a walled city if previously it had one…The text is both, a kind of pun.

RALBAG… “ir chomah”—that is a place where the wall was built so that a city could be settled inside it, not a city that eventually had a wall built around it.

IBN EZRA…Literally “days”…Yet as the previous phrase shows, the intent is to wait until cold and heat, summer and winter have cycled back around to where the days were when the house was first sold.

RAMBAN…It is difficult for a man to sell his house, and he may well feel remorseful about having done so. Torah therefore wished to give him a chance to redeem it in that first year…But when a person moves into a new home, after a while, initial regret at leaving the old place passes…Not so with the land, which keeps him alive and reverts to its original owners in the Jubilee year.  But the old house need never be redeemed again.

SIFRA…The law of redemption is opposite to that of a field or a home in an open town, for whereas a field cannot be redeemed for the first two years and a house may be at any time, within a walled city, after the anniversary of sale, the dwelling passes to the new buyer in perpetuity.   

R’S.R.HIRSCH…The immediate consequence of these principles is a remarkable stabilization of the division of land between city and country.  Since properties in the vicinity of a town are not given up permanently, the law prevents towns from growing too large.  On the contrary, it tends to encourage agricultural pursuits.  And if the population of a city grows too dense, a new one must be founded.  By encouraging many small cities and towns rather than a few large ones, Torah is fostering a national character that is urban yet involved with agriculture… the solid faith of the farmer and the inventive spirit of the city folk, forming the personality of Israel.

MESHECH CHOCHMA…Why is the law with regard to dwellings in a walled city different from that pertaining to the sale of a field, in that the dwelling cannot be repurchased any later than one year from the sale, and it does not revert to its owner in the Jubilee?  Because of the special conditions obtaining in a walled city, for the “ir-chomah” was a fortress, designed to protect the inhabitants from enemy attack. For this reason all the inhabitants had to be familiar with every secret passageway, shelter or cave in the city. Moreover, it was vitally necessary that they be well acquainted with one another so as to act together for mutual protection.  If all the dwellings in a walled city reverted to their original owners in the Jubilee, the result would have been a wholesale change of owners, strangers with no knowledge of the city and its people.


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