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Shabbat Parashat Behar| 5765

Real Estate Tycoons

Harav Yosef Carmel

 Recently there has been public discussion about the influence of real-estate tycoons on the government. Their great resources can afford them the possibility of advancing personal agendas by problematic means. In our first parasha, the Torah proclaims : “The Land shall not be sold for eternity, for the Land is Mine, and you are sojourners and inhabitants with Me. In all the Land of your inheritance, you shall give redemption for the Land” (Vayikra 25:23-24).
 One reason for this commandment is to prevent a situation whereby wealthy people will gain control of the lands of the lower social strata and take advantage of them. However just a few p’sukim later, the Torah says: “Should a man sell a house in a walled city, he shall be able to redeem it until the completion of a year from the time of his sale…[afterward] the house that is in the city will be established as the buyer’s for eternity for his generations” (ibid 29-30). We have to try to understand why the Torah strayed in this case from the aforementioned principle. The Sefer Hachinuch (#330) tries to answer by saying that the finality of the sale in walled cities is a penalty the Torah placed upon the seller because of the love of the Land. But what is the nature of this penalty?
 The laws of the walled city may be an example of conflicting interests. On one hand, the Torah opposes a person’s acquiring permanent ownership by buying land in Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, homes in a walled city have great significance from a security perspective, and there is a public interest that their ownership not be transferred often. Therefore, the Torah penalized the seller by saying that if he sells the house, he will have only a year to redeem it. It is the latter, security concern that prevails here.
 There are at least another two halachot where the public, security concerns take precedence over even spiritual considerations.
1) There is a halacha of ir hanidachat, that a city where most inhabitants are involved in idolatry is destroyed. However, the laws of ir hanidachat do not apply to a border city, because its destruction would make it easier for the enemy to infiltrate and destroy the country (Rambam, Avodah Zara 4:4). This exception to the rule gives precedence to security concerns over the spiritual danger of keeping the city intact.
2) In general, no monetary considerations justify violating Shabbat. Yet, when a border city is under siege, even if the stated issue is monetary, Jews can go out on Shabbat and use normal means to defend it (including chillul Shabbat, because of its strategic, security importance (Eruvim 45a).
Let us pray for the coming of days when the laws of walled cities will apply without fear of real-estate tycoons usurping power and when security factors will be only a theoretical factor.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
Eliezer ben aharon Presser on the occasion of his second yahrzeit. His life exemplified growth through learning.
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.,
Yitzchak Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson o.b.m.

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