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Shabbat Parashat Shelach| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Status of the East Bank, the West Bank, and the Mikdash - Part I - Condensed from Chavot Binyamin, siman 95
The gemara (Chagiga 3b) relates that R. Eliezer was informed that it was decided in the beit midrash that ma’aser ani was to be given in the areas of Ammon and Moav (on the east bank of the Jordan) during the shmittah year. [Ed. note- we must add that during the shmittah year, ma’asrot are not given. Therefore, this statement says, in effect, that the laws of shmittah that are observed in that place, do not apply to the fullest extent.] He cried and recited the pasuk, “The secret of Hashem is to those who fear Him, and His covenant to inform them.” R. Eliezer sent a message that he had an ancient tradition based on halacha l’Moshe miSinai along those lines. He explained that “many cities were captured by olei Mitzrayim and not by olei Bavel (in the time of bayit sheni). Because the first kedusha was for its time and not for the future, they (olei Bavel) left them in order that the poor would have a place to depend on during the shmittah year.”
Tosafot (ad loc.) asks how it is possible to say that the East Bank was not sanctified in regard to shmittah,as sources say explicitly. Tosafot distinguishes between the lands of Ammon and Moav and other areas of the East Bank. They bring two opinions if Ammon and Moav, where shmittah does not fully apply, refer even to the areas that were first taken from them by Sichon and Og prior to Moshe’s conquest or only to those that had remained in the hands of Ammon and Moav. It is difficult to understand the former opinion, that even areas that went through the hands of Sichon and Og were not sanctified. After all, the reason for conquest outside the normal borders of Eretz Yisrael to not work is that they are inappropriate before all of Eretz Yisrael is conquered. However, the battle against Sichon and Og was Divinely mandated.
We can learn from Tosafot elsewhere (Yevamot 16a) that indeed the lands of Ammon and Moav that were “purified” by Sichon, were sanctified by Moshe. Their lack of kedusha during bayit sheni was because they were not re-sanctified by olei Bavel. But that approach has its own problems. Firstly, the gemara elsewhere was unable to determine if R. Eliezer held that the initial kedusha was permanent or not, yet according to this approach, it must clearly not be? Also, there were many lands even within Eretz Yisrael proper, which were not recaptured by olei Bavel. So why were these lands singled out as not receiving renewed kedusha?
The Rambam (Shmittah V’yovel 4:28) says that the laws of sefichin (a stringency within the laws of shmittah) did not apply on the East Bank, as that area should be no more stringent than areas of Eretz Yisrael which were taken only by olei Mitzrayim. The Ra’avad comments that there should be no need to learn from areas on the West Bank, as it is simply enough to say that these areas were not taken by olei Bavel? The Kesef Mishne responds that it is not so clear that no areas on the East Bank were captured in the time of bayit sheni.
It appears that the Rambam and Ra’avad disagree on the following point. The gemara (Arachin 32b) says that the opinion that the initial kedusha was permanent learns the pasuk, “that your fathers inherited and you shall inherit it” (Devarim 30:5) that once it was inherited by the fathers, its status remains. But in order to have this permanence, the land must be conquered in a way that enables it to be called, “the fathers’ inheritance.” This only applies to areas in Eretz Yisrael, which were designated originally for Bnei Yisrael. The East Bank, even the areas which were captured properly, had a kedusha but not one of “the fathers’ inheritance.” Therefore, their sanctity lasted only as long as the conquest continued. It can be debated whether the lands of Sichon and Og that were not taken from Ammon and Moav were originally designated for Bnei Yisrael. But the lands that were originally earmarked for the sons of Lot certainly were not.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to
the memory of R’ Meir ben Yechezkel
Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.