1) REDEEMING "BATEI HA'CHATZERIM" FOR "TWELVE MONTHS"
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that Batei ha'Chatzerim (houses in unwalled cities) have the most advantageous laws for the seller from the laws of both Batei Arei Chomah and Sedeh Achuzah. The Mishnah explains that they may be redeemed immediately after the sale, for twelve months (like Batei Arei Chomah). They return to the original owner at Yovel, and they are redeemed based on Gira'on Kesef (like Sedeh Achuzah).
However, one statement in the Mishnah seems to be phrased in an odd way. The Mishnah says that "they may be redeemed immediately and for all twelve months like houses." Why does the Mishnah need to say that they may be redeemed for twelve months? Once the Mishnah says that they may be redeemed immediately after the sale, it is obvious that this includes the entire first year; there is no reason to limit the time for redemption to less than a year. Moreover, once the Mishnah teaches that Batei ha'Chatzerim have the best terms for the seller, we know that he may redeem his house after the first year as well, like a Sedeh Achuzah. Why, then, does the Mishnah not say that he may redeem the house "after twelve months"? Indeed, when the RAMBAM (Hilchos Shemitah 12:10) records this Halachah, he writes that the house may be redeemed immediately and "after twelve months." What is the reason for this odd wording of the Mishnah?
(a) The RASHASH suggests that Batei ha'Chatzerim cannot be redeemed during the second year at all, although it can be redeemed during the first year (before the second year), and it can be redeemed after the second year. There is a logical basis for this. The Mishnah compares Batei ha'Chatzerim to Batei Arei Chomah and Sedeh Achuzah. Neither of these can be redeemed during the second year after the sale.
However, the Rashash rejects this proposal based on the Gemara later (Rav Papa's explanation), TOSFOS (DH Mishum), and the MAHARSHA in Kidushin (21a). The OLAS SHLOMO and SEFAS EMES similarly propose this idea but conclude that Batei ha'Chatzerim may be redeemed in the second year after the sale as well.
(b) The Rashash concludes that the Mishnah is teaching that during the first year, the house is redeemed like Batei Arei Chomah, which are not redeemed through Gira'on Kesef. The price of the house is not reduced based on the fact that the buyer has lived there for nearly one year. Only after the first year has passed does the redemption price of the house go down due to Gira'on Kesef. This explanation is also suggested by the Olas Shlomo and the LIKUTEI HALACHOS. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE REDEMPTION OF BOAZ
QUESTIONS: The Gemara derives from the verse (Vayikra 25:33) that the rights of permanent redemption applies to a Levi who buys a house from another Levi. The verses teaches that there is no time limit within which a Levi must redeem his house, and that, nevertheless, a house that was sold by a Levi and not redeemed before the Yovel year returns to the Levi.
The RAMBAN on this verse proposes a novel meaning for the term "redemption," which he uses to explain a difficulty in the account of the redemption of the property of Elimelech that was sold by Naomi.
The verses in Megilas Ruth (4:3-10) relate that "he (Boaz) said to the redeemer, 'Naomi, who has returned from the fields of Moav, has sold the portion of land that belonged to our brother, Elimelech.... If you will redeem [the property], redeem it, and if not, then inform me, so that I may know, because there is no one else [with rights to redeem it] before you, and I am after you....' Boaz said to the elders and to all the people, 'You are witnesses this day that I have purchased all that was Elimelech's and all that was Machlon's and Kilyon's from the ownership of Naomi.'"
The accepted practice was that the nearest of kin has priority in the redemption of property of a relative. Elimelech, Naomi's husband, had a living brother who was his next of kin. Boaz was only a nephew to Elimelech (Salmon, the father of Boaz, was Elimelech's brother). This is what Boaz meant when he told the potential redeemer, "If you will redeem [the property], redeem it, and if not, then inform me, so that I may know, because there is no one else [with rights to redeem it] before you, and I am after you."
There are several difficulties with the account of the redemption of the property of Elimelech.
1. Why does Boaz say, "You are witnesses this day that I have purchased all that was Elimelech's... from the ownership of Naomi" (verse 9)? He did not purchase it from Naomi; Naomi had already sold the property to someone else (verse 3)! It is from the ownership of the third party that the redemption was taking place, and not from the ownership of Naomi.
2. Redemption is not permitted until at least two years have passed after the sale (Erchin 29b). The verse (4:3) relates that Naomi sold her husband's field upon returning destitute from Moav. Naomi and Ruth returned to Eretz Yisrael "at the beginning of the barley harvest" (1:22), which precedes the wheat harvest, in early spring. Ruth stayed in the field of Boaz until the end of the wheat and barley harvests (2:23). During the winnowing process that followed the harvest, Ruth approached Boaz and brought the redemption of the field to his attention (3:2). Boaz acted upon his obligation of redemption the very next day (3:18). This event must have taken place no longer than several months after the beginning of the barley harvest, which was when Naomi sold the property. Since two years had not passed, how was he permitted to redeem the property that had been sold?
ANSWER: The RAMBAN (in his commentary to Vayikra 25:33) proposes that the term "redemption" applies to a situation other than the one discussed by the Gemara here. In former times, when a person found it necessary to sell his ancestral property due to poverty, it was customary (although not obligatory) for a relative of his to offer to buy the field directly from him. This was done in order to keep the property in the family and to prevent it from going into the hands of a non-relative. The Ramban asserts that this form of purchase is referred to by the Torah as "redemption." The Ramban writes that although such "preventative redemption" was not a Mitzvah, it was nevertheless an ancient custom, worthy of praise.
Accordingly, the Ramban suggests that the property being redeemed by Boaz still belonged to Naomi; she and Ruth had never sold the fields! Nevertheless, the verses refer to Boaz's act as one of "redemption," because he stepped in to ensure that the property would not be sold to a stranger. This seems to be the opinion of Rashi as well (Ruth 3:9 and 4:5).
The Ramban's explanation clearly answers the questions posed above. The sale indeed took place directly from Naomi and Ruth to Boaz. It also explains how the redemption could be carried out before the necessary two-year waiting period had passed. It is obvious that the waiting period is necessary only when redeeming a field from a purchaser, but not when buying a field directly from one's relative in a "preventative" type of redemption. (For a more extensive discussion of the redemptive purchase of Boaz, see Parshah Page, Shavuos 5756.)
3) MAKING A "MIGRASH" OF A YISRAEL INTO A "SADEH"
OPINIONS: The Tana Kama says that a Sadeh (a field for planting crops) may not be made into a Migrash (a field for aesthetic purposes, such as a garden or park), and a Migrash may not be made into a Sadeh. Similarly, a Migrash may not be made into an Ir (city), and an Ir may not be made into a Migrash. Rebbi Eliezer says that this applies only to the cities of the Leviyim. In the case of cities of Yisrael, however, Rebbi Eliezer says, "Osin Sadeh Migrash (v'Lo) Migrash Sadeh, Migrash Ir v'Lo Ir Migrash."
The second statement of Rebbi Eliezer is clear: the Migrash of Yisrael may be converted into a city, but the cities of Yisrael may not be made into a Migrash. His first statement, however, needs clarification. The Gemara records his statement with the word "v'Lo" ("and not") in parentheses. The insertion or omission of this word will alter Rebbi Eliezer's opinion entirely. If his statement is read with the word "v'Lo," then Rebbi Eliezer maintains that a Migrash of Yisrael may not be made into a Sadeh. If his statement is read without the word "v'Lo," then he maintains that a Migrash of a Yisrael may be made into a Sadeh. Is there any way to prove what is the proper wording of Rebbi Eliezer's statement?
(a) The TZON KODASHIM, SHACH (CM 155:12), and others assert that the word "v'Lo" does not belong in the statement of Rebbi Eliezer. This is evident from the Gemara in Bava Basra (24b). The Mishnah there states that trees must not be planted in close proximity to a city. Ula explains that the reason why trees should be distanced from a city is in order to beautify the city. (RASHI there explains that trees tend to clutter the city and take up space, and it is nicer when a city has space.) The Gemara asks that Ula should not need this reason; he should explain simply that since the first thousand Amos next to a city is called a Migrash (see Rashi here, DH Sedeh Migrash), it follows that one may not plant trees there, since the Torah prohibits one from making a Migrash into a Sadeh! (The Gemara there, at this stage, assumes that trees cannot be considered part of a Migrash.) The Gemara answers that the Mishnah's statement that trees must be distanced from a city is necessary according to Rebbi Eliezer, who says that one may make a Migrash into a Sadeh.
The Gemara there explicitly says that according to Rebbi Eliezer, a Migrash of a Yisrael may be made into a Sadeh, which clearly indicates that the word "v'Lo" in the Mishnah here is incorrect. The Shach concludes that although there is such a text in the Yalkut, the compiler of the Yalkut erred and overlooked the Gemara in Bava Basra.
(b) However, the word "v'Lo" appears in Rebbi Eliezer's statement not only in the Yalkut, but also in the Mishnayos. It does not seem reasonable to suggest that the printers of the Mishnayos also erred.
The HAFLA'AH SHEB'ERCHIN points out that the SHITAH MEKUBETZES quotes two texts of the Gemara in Bava Basra, both of which have a different understanding of the Gemara there according to the text of "v'Lo." Accordingly, "v'Lo" is not a mistake, but it is a valid alternative text, consistent with the alternative text in the Gemara in Bava Basra. (Y. MONTROSE)
4) WALLED CITIES OF LEVIYIM
QUESTION: The Mishnah says that the Leviyim have the right to redeem their sold properties permanently; they have no time limit within which they must redeem their properties. The Beraisa mentions three laws that do not apply to Leviyim due to this special right of redemption that they have. One of these laws is the law of Batei Arei Chomah: a Levi has the right to redeem his house in a walled city even after one year has passed.
The Gemara asks, how can a Levi own a house in a walled city? The Halachah is that Leviyim are not given walled cities, but only medium-sized, unwalled cities. The Gemara answers that it is possible for a Levi to live in a walled city if the city was settled before it was walled, and later it was walled.
RASHI (DH Ein Osin, and DH v'Lo Kerachin Gedolim) explains that the reason why the Leviyim are not given small cities or large cities is based on logic. The cities of the Leviyim serve as the Arei Miklat for accidental murderers. Accordingly, they must be large enough for those extra inhabitants to find places to live. However, they must not be so large that the victim's Go'el ha'Dam can enter unnoticed and find the murderer and kill him. The reason why the Leviyim are not given walled cities is based on the same logic (since the Gemara equates walled cities with large cities, it must be that the same reasoning applies to both): the city may not be walled so that the accidental murderer can enter quickly and easily.
This logic seems problematic. If the reason why Leviyim do not receive walled cities is that it must be easy for accidental murderers to enter the cities, then the same logic should prohibit building a wall around the city even after it was settled. (MISHNEH L'MELECH, Hilchos Rotze'ach 8:8)
ANSWER: Perhaps the Halachah does not prohibit building a wall after the city is settled because it does not want to make life difficult for the inhabitants. The needs of the residents of the city (such as security and livelihood) -- which require the building of a wall -- certainly take precedence over the needs of the murderers who flee to the city for refuge. The Halachah prohibits building a wall around a city of the Leviyim only at the time the city is originally given to the Leviyim; at that moment the city must satisfy the needs of the murderers as well (and thus not be walled or excessively large). Since the Chachamim were empowered with the right to choose what cities would be the Arei Miklat, when they originally chose the cities they were to choose medium-sized, unwalled cities. (M. KORNFELD)