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Monday, March 19, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 3: Svara and Second Problem)

In order to clarify these Rambams, we can say that there are 2 frameworks under which to view the uniqueness of Eretz Yisroel:

1a) Eretz Yisroel as a land of אחוזת נחלה, a permanent inheritance, to Bnei Yisroel. In אחוזת נחלה, the landowner is given a permanent tie to the land he receives. Even if he sells it, it returns to him or his descendants at יובל. The conquest of the מלך המשיח will initiate a new establishment of those lands under the system of נחלה.  The land will be divided as a אחוזת נחלה to all Jews.  In the system of  נחלה, the King is treated like another one of the other tribes, and therefore only receives a 1/13 portion of the inheritance.  This is the situation the Rambam is discussing in 4:8.  The only other time there was a comparable instance of נחלה was in the times of Yehoshua.

Note: We are not referring to נחלה simply as the technical halachic mechanism of transferring property upon death, but rather to a land being identified with a person as his permanent inheritance,  אחוזת נחלה as a חלות שם in the land.  We are going to use the 3 terms of נחלה, אחוזת נחלה and אחוזת עולם in a semi-interchangeable manner.  The three terms refer to different aspects of one core idea, that the mechanism of inheritance (נחלה) combined with the idea the return of lands at יובל, gives a person and his descendants a permanent grip on a piece of land (אחוזת עולם).

1b) However, by the conquest of an ordinary King, there is no such division of lands. When the Rambam states (4:10) that an ordinary King acquires rights to all the land he conquers, the Rambam is not refering to land under the system of  נחלה.  The land never becomes a permanent inheritance to its new owners.  Rather, the King gives out parcels to himself and his servants as he sees fit. This distribution creates transient monetary relationships between the land and its new owners. Selling this land severs all ties to it, and it would not be returned at יובל.  This idea is supported by the Rambam in Hilchos Smita V'yovel 11:1 which clearly states that the prohibition of selling land in Eretz Yisroel permanently, only applies to land that was divided to the tribes:
  א"י המתחלקת לשבטים אינה נמכרת לצמיתות שנאמר והארץ לא תמכר לצמיתות

2) Eretz Yisroel as a land of קדושה.  The Rambam in 5:6 is speaking in terms of  קדושת הארץ, or the sanctity of the land (i.e. תרומות ומעשרות are only ordained by the Torah in Eretz Yisroel).  In this respect, all lands conquered by any King are identical in terms of sanctity.

In short, the answer to the Minchas Chinuch's question is that the rights of the מלך המשיח are not inferior to those of a regular King.  They are vastly superior, as 1/13 of an eternal possession is infinitely greater than all of a transient one.

This answer raises a further question that will help elucidate the above differentiation in a King's rights, as well as the concept of  אחוזת נחלה.  Since Yehoshua was also a King (Rambam 1:3) during the only other time there was a division of the land, why wasn't he zocha to 1/13 of Eretz Yisroel just like the מלך המשיח?


  1. I still havent fully digested this post, but in the meantime, I have a factual Q that is bothering me about what you said. You indicated that 4:8 and 4:10 are talking about different situations of nachala: in 1-b you stated "When the Rambam states (4:10) that an ordinary King acquires rights to all the land he conquers, the Rambam is not refering to land under the system of נחלה." In 4:8, it is talking about nachala. From where did you derive this distinction? (I am wondering if you took it from the fact that in 4:8 it says that it is a "chok le'olam", and it does not use such terms in 4:10. But this does not seem to me to be a NECESSARY inference).


    1. that is one reason to say it. the main reason is the rambam's source in bava basra clearly calls 4:8 a nachala, while 4:10 con not be nachala as it is never divided to the tribes


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