Shabbat Parashat Noach | 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Areas Occupied by the Kuttim - From Eretz Hemdah I, 4:11
There were areas which were captured by Bnei Yisrael when they originally entered the land but were not reoccupied by the returning exiles from Bavel (Chagiga 3a). [We have omitted discussion on these borders, as they are too technical for this forum.] The gemara (Chagiga 25a) reports that a section of land, occupied by the Kuttim, effectively separated the lands of Yehuda and Shomron. [The Kuttim were brought in by the Assyrians to inhabit the area (Shomron) from which the Ten Tribes were exiled.] What was the status of this area?
The Yerushalmi (Shvi’it 6) quotes Rav Avahu that there were cities of Kuttim where there was a practice of leniency (that terumot and ma’asrot did not need to be taken) from the time of Yehoshua. The gemara brings a contradiction on the matter and gives a cryptic answer that is understood in two different ways by the commentators. Rash Sirilio explains that the area had been captured during the First Commonwealth, yet the land was exempt from terumot because it was set aside for the [non-Jewish] king. The P’nei Moshe explains that the land had never been conquered in a complete manner.
According to Rash Sirilio, the land had a full status of Eretz Yisrael and was apparently also sanctified by the olim from Bavel, as the exemption was only because of the connection of the non-Jewish king. (According to the Rambam, the olei Bavel are irrelevant, for he holds that the original sanctification was sufficient to obligate in terumot, even if it was not renewed). Even according to the P’nei Moshe, it appears that only some of the cities were exempt, not the entire strip of Kuttite settlement. This is logical, as the pasuk describes the Kuttim as occupying territory in place of Bnei Yisrael, implying that it was previously under the full control of Bnei Yisrael. Additionally, the mishna (D’mai 7:4) talks about the need to determine whether ma’aser had been taken from produce one had bought from the area of the Kuttim. In other words, this land was considered a full part of Eretz Yisrael at that time. Later on, there was an injunction against the Kuttim, which included treating their land with the status of impurity assigned to chutz la’aretz. This impurity applied to the entire strip of land, whereas the exemption from terumot applied only to a few cities for the reasons we mentioned above.
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