A person who sells a house in a city surrounded by a wall1 may redeem it throughout a twelve month period from the day2 he sold it whenever he desires, even on the day he sold it. When he redeems it, he returns all the money he received and does not deduct anything from the purchaser.3
Relatives may not redeem it,4 only the seller himself if he obtains the means. He may sell his property and redeem it,5 but he may not borrow to redeem it, nor may he redeem it partially.6
If the purchaser dies, [the original owner] may redeem it from his son. Similarly, if the seller dies, his son may redeem it for the duration of the twelve months.7
If [the seller] sold it to one person and he sold it to another, the reckoning is made from [the date of] the first [sale]. When the first year is concluded, the house is established8 as the property of the [second] purchaser. For the [second] seller9 sold to the second [purchaser] all the rights that will accrue to him [with regard to this property].10 If twelve months pass and it is not redeemed, it is established as the property of the [second] purchaser.
Similarly, if [a person] gave a house as a present and did not redeem it within these twelve months, it is established11 as the property of the recipient of the present.12
During a leap year, the permanent disposition of the property is not brought about until the end of the year,13 as [Leviticus 25:30] states: "Until a complete year is completed for it." [This wording indicates that] the extra month [of the leap year] is included.
[The following rules apply when a person] sold two houses, one in the middle of Adar 1 and the other on Rosh Chodesh Adar II. When the month of Adar arrives in the following year,14 the year for the house sold on Rosh Chodesh II is completed.15 The year for the house sold in the middle of Adar I is not completed until the middle of Adar in the following year, for the purchaser took possession in the middle of the extra month [of the leap year].
If the final day of the twelfth month arrives and [the seller] cannot find the purchaser to redeem his field from him,16 he may deposit his money in the court, break down the door, and enter his home.17 Whenever the purchaser comes, he may take his money.
When a person consecrates a house in a walled city and another person redeems it from the Temple treasury, when a year passes from the time that it was redeemed from the Temple treasury without it being redeemed by its [original] owner, it becomes established as the property of the one who redeemed it [from the Temple treasury].18 For the Temple treasury does not become the permanent owner, the purchaser does, as [implied by Leviticus 25:30]: "the one who purchases it for his generations."19
When a person sells a house in a walled city and the Jubilee arrives within the first year after the sale, the house does not revert to its owner in the Jubilee.20 Instead, it remains in the possession of the purchaser until the seller decides to redeem it throughout the year after its sale or it becomes established as the property [of the purchaser] after that year is completed.
When a person sells a home in a settlement or in a city that is not surrounded by a wall in the appropriate manner,21 he may redeem it according to the advantages that apply with regard to both the redemption of an [ancestral] field and the redemption of a home in a walled city.
What is implied? If he desires to redeem [the home] immediately, he may,22 as is the law with regard to a home [in a walled city]. If the twelve months pass and he does not redeem it, he may redeem it until the Jubilee, as is the law regarding a field.23 When he redeems it, he makes a reckoning with the purchaser and subtracts the value of the benefit he received.24 If the Jubilee arrives without having redeemed it, the house returns [to the owner] without payment, as is the law with regard to fields.
Any [residential property] within a city's wall, e.g., gardens, bathhouses, and dovecotes, is considered as a house,25 for [ibid.] states: "that are in the city." Fields that are located in the city may be redeemed according to the rules applying to fields outside the city, as [implied the phrase (ibid.)]: "And the house that will be within the city will be established." [This includes] houses and anything resembling houses, not fields.
When a house is not four cubits by four cubits, it does not become the permanent property of the purchaser like the houses in a walled city.26 A house does not become the permanent property of a purchaser in Jerusalem.27 A house that is built in the wall is not considered as a home in a walled city.28
When the roofs of a city serve as its walls29 or the sea serves as it wall,30it is not considered as a city surrounded by a wall.31
A city is not referred to as a walled city unless it has three or more courtyards and in each of the courtyards, it has two or more houses.32 [Moreover,] it must have been surrounded by a wall first and then the courtyards were built in its midst. If, however, a place was settled and afterwards, surrounded [by a wall] or it did not have [at least] three courtyards with [at least] two houses [each], it is not considered as a walled city. Instead, its houses are like the houses of a settlement.33
We rely only on a wall that surrounded [a city] at the time of the conquest of the land.
What is implied? When a city was not surrounded by a wall at the time when Joshua conquered the land even though it is surrounded now, [the houses in it] are considered as the houses of a settlement. [Conversely,] if a city was surrounded by a wall at the time of Joshua,34 even though it is not surrounded at present, it is considered as walled.35
When the Jews were exiled after the first destruction [of the Temple], the sanctity of the walled cities from Joshua's time were nullified.36 When Ezra ascended at the time of the second entry into the land, all of the walled cities of that time became consecrated. For the entry [into the land] at the time of Ezra, i.e., the second entry, was comparable to the entry at the time of Joshua. Just as [after] their entry at the time of Joshua, they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees, sanctified the homes in walled cities and were obligated in the tithes, so too, [after] their entry in the time of Ezra, they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees, sanctified the homes in walled cities and were obligated in the tithes.37
Similarly, in the Ultimate Future, upon the third entry to the land,38 we will begin to count the Sabbatical and Jubilee years and sanctify the homes in walled cities, and every place that will be conquered will be obligated in [the separation of] tithes, as [Deuteronomy 30:5]: "And God your Lord will bring you to the land that your ancestors possessed as a heritage and you shall possess." [The verse] equates [the Jews' ultimate] possession with that of their ancestors. Just as when your ancestors took possession of the land as a heritage, they practiced the renewal of all these observances, when you take possession of the land, you should practice the renewal of all these observances.39
As stated in Halachah 15, it is not significant whether the city is surrounded by a wall at the present time. Instead, we are speaking about cities that were walled when Joshua conquered Eretz Yisrael.
In contrast to the laws of a field that is an ancestral heritage, as mentioned in Chapter 11, Halachah 4. The return of the purchaser's money in full resembles a loan at interest - for the benefit he had in using the property is comparable to interest paid for the principal - nevertheless, because a sale is involved, there is no prohibition (Arichin 9:3).
The Rambam is referring to a difference of opinion in Arichin, loc. cit., whether after twelve months, the house remains in the possession of the second purchaser or reverts to the first. Although one might argue that the Torah specifies that if the house is not redeemed it becomes the property of the first seller, that rationale is not accepted for the reason the Rambam states.
This is an ordinance established by Hillel the Elder to protect the rights of the seller (Arachin 9:4). The rationale is that since the purchaser has no choice whether to accept the money or not, it is sufficient for the money to be deposited in the court for him (Arachin 32a).
We are not concerned with the date on which it was consecrated. Instead, it is the date from which it was redeemed from the Temple treasury which concerns us, for that is when it was sold and it is its sale that brings about a change in ownership.
Arachin 33a [quoted by the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 9:7)] explains that since the above verse specifies that these homes can be redeemed and that they are returned in the Jubilee, we derive the concept that their redemption involves a reduction of the cost of the field.
For a house is not considered a house unless it is at least four cubits by four cubits (Sukkah 3b). This concept applies in several different contacts, for example, the requirement to place a mezuzah (Hilchot Mezuzah 6:1) or to construct a guardrail (Hilchot Rotzeach 11:1).
As the Rambam states in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 7:14, Jerusalem was never divided among the tribes. For that reason, a person can never permanently acquire property there. Instead, houses there are bound by the laws that apply to houses in settlements (see Rashi. Arachin 32b; Bava Kama 82b).
Arachin 9:5 records a difference of opinion on this issue between Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Shimon. Both of them base their opinion on the exegesis of the Biblical story of Rachab's home in Joshua, ch. 2.
Megillah 5b explains that this refers to a situation where the city is not surrounded by a wall, but instead, its houses are built next to each other, so that it appears that it is surrounded by a wall (Rav Yosef Corcus).
The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam and maintains that once a city's walls are destroyed, the city loses its unique status. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh explain that the Rambam is referring to the situation in the First Temple era. If a city had a wall at the time of Joshua's conquest, but that wall was torn down, the status of the city did not change throughout that era. See also the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arichin 9:6).
As stated in those sources, in contrast to the sanctification in the time of Joshua, the sanctification of the land by Ezra was only Rabbinic in origin. In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam states that the cities that were walled at the time of Ezra were given the status of walled cities. From the Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh, it appears that the cities that were given the status of walled cities by the people who returned with Ezra were cities that were considered walled cities in the era of the First Temple.
The Ra'avad and others question the Rambam's statements, because he accepts the principal (see Hilchot Beit HaBechirah, loc. cit.) that through Ezra's consecration, the land was consecrated until and including the ultimate future. Kina'at Eliyahu suggests a resolution based on the fact that the sanctification of the land by Ezra was only Rabbinic in origin, while the sanctification by Mashiach will have the power of Scriptural Law. Hence, a new sanctification will be necessary.
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