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ב"ה

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Shemita - Chapter 13

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Shemita - Chapter 13

1

Although the tribe of Levi does not have an ancestral portion within Eretz [Yisrael],1 the Jewish people were commanded to give them cities2 to dwell in3 and [additional] residential property.4 The cities include the six cities of refuge and 42 additional cities.5 When cities of refuge will be added in the era of Mashiach,6 all will be given to the Levites.

א

שֵׁבֶט לֵוִי אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק בָּאָרֶץ כְּבָר נִצְטַוּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִתֵּן לָהֶם עָרִים לָשֶׁבֶת וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶם. וְהֶעָרִים הֵם שֵׁשׁ עָרֵי מִקְלָט וַעֲלֵיהֶן שְׁתַּיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים עִיר. וּכְשֶׁמּוֹסִיפִין עָרֵי מִקְלָט אֲחֵרוֹת בִּימֵי הַמָּשִׁיחַ הַכּל לַלְוִיִּם:

2

[The obligation to give] the non-developed land around the cities is explicitly mentioned in the Torah as being [a radius of] three thousand cubits in every direction from the wall of the city outward, for [Numbers 35:4-5] states: "From the wall of the city onward, 1000 cubits on all sides" and continues: "You shall measure from the outside of the city 2000 cubits on the eastern side." The first thousand are left as [additional] residential property and the 2000 that are measured outside this residential property are for fields and vineyards.

ב

מִגְרְשֵׁי הֶעָרִים כְּבָר נִתְפָּרְשׁוּ בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁהֵם שְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים אַמָּה לְכָל רוּחַ מִקִּיר הָעִיר וְחוּצָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה ד) "מִקִּיר הָעִיר וָחוּצָה אֶלֶף אַמָּה סָבִיב". וּלְהַלָּן הוּא אוֹמֵר (במדבר לה ה) "וּמַדֹּתֶם מִחוּץ לָעִיר אֶת פְּאַת קֵדְמָה אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה" וְגוֹ'. אֶלֶף הָרִאשׁוֹנִים מִגְרַשׁ וְאַלְפַּיִם שֶׁמּוֹדְדִין חוּץ לַמִּגְרָשׁ לְשָׂדוֹת וּכְרָמִים:

3

Every city is given a cemetery outside these boundaries, for they do not bury their dead within their cities, as [implied by ibid.:3]: "The residential area will be for their animals, their property, and all their vital needs." [This land] was given "for their vital needs" and not for burial.7

ג

וְנוֹתְנִין לְכָל עִיר בֵּית הַקְּבָרוֹת חוּץ לִתְחוּם זֶה. שֶׁאֵין קוֹבְרִין מֵתֵיהֶם לִתְחוּם עָרֵיהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לה ג) "וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶם יִהְיוּ לִבְהֶמְתָּם וְלִרְכֻשָׁם וּלְכל חַיָּתָם" לְחַיִּים נִתְּנוּ וְלֹא לִקְבוּרָה:

4

In the cities of the Levites, the city itself should not be transformed into an outlying residential area and the outlying residential area should not made part of the city. This outlying residential area should not be converted to fields, nor should the fields be converted into such a residential area, as [Leviticus 25:34] states: "The fields of the residential area of their cities should not be sold."

ד

אֵין עוֹשִׂין בְּעָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם עִיר מִגְרָשׁ וְלֹא מִגְרָשׁ עִיר וְלֹא מִגְרָשׁ שָׂדֶה וְלֹא שָׂדֶה מִגְרָשׁ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כה לד) "וּשְׂדֵה מִגְרַשׁ עָרֵיהֶם לֹא יִמָּכֵר":

5

According to the Oral Tradition,8 it was taught that the phrase "should not be sold" should be interpreted as "should not be changed."9 Instead, all of the three, field, a residential area, and a city should remain in its original circumstances forever.

Similarly, in the other cities of [Eretz] Yisrael, the outlying residential area should not be converted to fields, nor should the fields be converted into such a residential area. The city itself should not be transformed into an outlying residential area and the outlying residential area should not be made part of the city.

ה

ומִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁזֶּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כה לד) "לֹא יִמָּכֵר" לֹא יְשׁוּנֶה אֶלָּא הַשָּׂדֶה וְהַמִּגְרָשׁ וְהָעִיר כָּל אֶחָד מִשְּׁלָשְׁתָּן כְּמוֹת שֶׁהוּא לְעוֹלָם. וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר עָרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

6

A person should not destroy his home to make it into a garden, nor should he plant a garden in his ruin, lest one destroy Eretz Yisrael.10

ו

לֹא יִסְתֹּר אָדָם אֶת בֵּיתוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ גִּנָּה וְלֹא יִטַּע חֻרְבָּתוֹ גִּנָּה שֶׁלֹּא יַחֲרִיבוּ אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל:

7

The priests and the Levites who sold fields from the fields of their cities or homes from the homes in their walled cities do not redeem their property according to the procedures [explained above].11 Instead, they may sell their fields even directly before the Jubilee and redeem them immediately.12 If they consecrated a field, they may redeem it from the possession of the Temple treasury after the Jubilee.13 They may redeem houses in a walled city whenever they desire, even after several years,14 as [Leviticus 25:32] states: "The Levites will have eternal rights of redemption."

ז

כֹּהֲנִים וּלְוִיִּם שֶׁמָּכְרוּ שָׂדֶה מִשְּׂדֵה עָרֵיהֶם אוֹ בַּיִת מִבָּתֵּי עָרֵי חוֹמָה שֶׁלָּהֶן אֵין גּוֹאֲלִין כַּסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה. אֶלָּא מוֹכְרִין הַשָּׂדוֹת וַאֲפִלּוּ סָמוּךְ לַיּוֹבֵל וְגוֹאֲלִין מִיָּד. וְאִם הִקְדִּישׁוּ שָׂדֶה גּוֹאֲלִים מִיַּד הַהֶקְדֵּשׁ לְאַחַר הַיּוֹבֵל. וְגוֹאֲלִים בָּתֵּי עָרֵי חוֹמָה כָּל זְמַן שֶׁיִּרְצוּ אֲפִלּוּ אַחַר כַּמָּה שָׁנִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא כה לב) "גְּאֻלַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה לַלְוִיִּם":

8

When an Israelite inherits property from his maternal grandfather who was a Levi,15 although he is not a Levite, he may redeem [the property] as if he was a Levite. Since these cities or fields belong to the Levities, they may be redeemed forever. For this law is dependent on [the characteristics of] these places, not of the owners.16

ח

יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיָּרַשׁ אֶת אֲבִי אִמּוֹ לֵוִי הֲרֵי זֶה גּוֹאֵל כִּלְוִיִּם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ לֵוִי הוֹאִיל וְהֶעָרִים אוֹ הַשָּׂדוֹת שֶׁל לְוִיִּם גּוֹאֵל לְעוֹלָם. שֶׁדִּין זֶה תָּלוּי בִּמְקוֹמוֹת אֵלּוּ וְלֹא בַּבְּעָלִים:

9

When a Levite inherits the property of his maternal grandfather who is an Israelite,17 he does not have the redemption rights of a Levite, only those of an Israelite, for the verse "The Levites will have eternal rights of redemption" applies only in the cities of the Levites.

ט

וְלֵוִי שֶׁיָּרַשׁ אֶת אֲבִי אִמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל גּוֹאֵל כְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא כִּלְוִיִּם שֶׁלֹּא נֶאֱמַר (ויקרא כה לב) "גְּאֻלַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה לַלְוִיִּם" אֶלָּא בְּעָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם:

10

The entire tribe of Levi are commanded against receiving an inheritance in the land of Canaan,18 and they were commanded against receiving a share in the spoil when the cities are conquered,19 as [Deuteronomy 10:9] states: "The priest and the Levites - the entire tribe of Levi - should not have a portion and an inheritance among Israel." "A portion" [refers to a portion] of the spoil; "an inheritance" refers to [a portion of] the land. And [Numbers 18:20]: "You20 shall not receive a heritage in their land, nor will you have a portion among them," i.e., in the spoil. If a Levite or a priest takes a portion of the spoil, he is punished by lashes.21 If he takes an inheritance in Eretz [Yisrael], it should be taken from his possession.22

י

כָּל שֵׁבֶט לֵוִי מֻזְהָרִין שֶׁלֹּא יִנְחֲלוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן. וְכֵן הֵן מֻזְהָרִין שֶׁלֹּא יִטְּלוּ חֵלֶק בַּבִּזָּהּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁכּוֹבְשִׁין אֶת הֶעָרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יח א) "לֹא יִהְיֶה לַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם כָּל שֵׁבֶט לֵוִי חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל". חֵלֶק בַּבִּזָּה וְנַחֲלָה בָּאָרֶץ. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (במדבר יח כ) "בְּאַרְצָם לֹא תִנְחָל וְחֵלֶק לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ בְּתוֹכָם" בַּבִּזָּה. וּבֶן לֵוִי אוֹ כֹּהֵן שֶׁנָּטַל חֵלֶק בַּבִּזָּה לוֹקֶה. וְאִם נָטַל נַחֲלָה בָּאָרֶץ מַעֲבִירִין אוֹתָהּ מִמֶּנּוּ:

11

It appears to me23 that the above applies only with regard to the land for which a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their descendants inherited it and it was divided among them. If, however, other lands will be conquered by a king of Israel, the priests and the Levites have the same rights as the entire Jewish people.24

יא

יֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁאֵין הַדְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים אֶלָּא בָּאָרֶץ שֶׁנִּכְרְתָה עָלֶיהָ בְּרִית לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב וִירָשׁוּהָ בְּנֵיהֶם וְנִתְחַלְּקָה לָהֶם. אֲבָל שְׁאָר כָּל הָאֲרָצוֹת שֶׁכּוֹבֵשׁ מֶלֶךְ מִמַּלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם בְּאוֹתָן הָאֲרָצוֹת וּבְבִזָּתָן כְּכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

12

Why did the Levites not receive a portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael and in the spoils of war like their brethren? Because they were set aside to serve God and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments, as [Deuteronomy 33:10] states:25 "They will teach Your judgments to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel." Therefore they were set apart from the ways of the world. They do not wage war like the remainder of the Jewish people, nor do they receive an inheritance, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power. Instead, they are God's legion, as [ibid.:11]: states: "God has blessed His legion" and He provides for them, as [Numbers 18:20] states: "I am your portion and your inheritance."26

יב

וְלָמָּה לֹא זָכָה לֵוִי בְּנַחֲלַת אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבְבִזָּתָהּ עִם אֶחָיו מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֻבְדַּל לַעֲבֹד אֶת ה' לְשָׁרְתוֹ וּלְהוֹרוֹת דְּרָכָיו הַיְשָׁרִים וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו הַצַּדִּיקִים לָרַבִּים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לג י) "יוֹרוּ מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ לְיַעֲקֹב וְתוֹרָתְךָ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל". לְפִיכָךְ הֻבְדְּלוּ מִדַּרְכֵי הָעוֹלָם לֹא עוֹרְכִין מִלְחָמָה כִּשְׁאָר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא נוֹחֲלִין וְלֹא זוֹכִין לְעַצְמָן בְּכֹחַ גּוּפָן. אֶלָּא הֵם חֵיל הַשֵּׁם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לג יא) "בָּרֵךְ ה' חֵילוֹ". וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא זוֹכֶה לָהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יח כ) "אֲנִי חֶלְקְךָ וְנַחֲלָתְךָ":

13

Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world27whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him and minister to Him and to know God, proceeding justly as God made him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies.28 God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.29 And thus David declared [Psalms 16:5]: "God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot."

Blessed be the Merciful One who provides assistance.

יג

וְלֹא שֵׁבֶט לֵוִי בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל אִישׁ וְאִישׁ מִכָּל בָּאֵי הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר נָדְבָה רוּחוֹ אוֹתוֹ וֶהֱבִינוֹ מַדָּעוֹ לְהִבָּדֵל לַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי ה' לְשָׁרְתוֹ וּלְעָבְדוֹ לְדֵעָה אֶת ה' וְהָלַךְ יָשָׁר כְּמוֹ שֶׁעֲשָׂהוּ הָאֱלֹהִים וּפָרַק מֵעַל צַוָּארוֹ עַל הַחֶשְׁבּוֹנוֹת הָרַבִּים אֲשֶׁר בִּקְּשׁוּ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הֲרֵי זֶה נִתְקַדֵּשׁ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים וְיִהְיֶה ה' חֶלְקוֹ וְנַחֲלָתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וּלְעוֹלְמֵי עוֹלָמִים וְיִזְכֶּה לוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דָּבָר הַמַּסְפִּיק לוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁזָּכָה לַכֹּהֲנִים לַלְוִיִּם. הֲרֵי דָּוִד עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם אוֹמֵר (תהילים טז ה) "ה' מְנָת חֶלְקִי וְכוֹסִי אַתָּה תּוֹמִיךְ גּוֹרָלִי":

Test Yourself on This Chapter

Footnotes
1.

I.e, all the other tribes were given portions of the land as an ancestral heritage. Levi was not given such a portion. Indeed, as stated in Halachah 10, a Scriptural prohibition is involved in them receiving such a portion.

2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 183) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 408) include the commandment to provide cities for the Levites among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

3.

One might infer from this wording (borrowed from Numbers 35:2) that the cities do not belong to the Levites per se. They are merely given the right "to dwell" in them. Nevertheless, from the Rambam's rulings: a) (Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 11:17) that the Levites must recite the declaration after separating the second tithes for they possess these cities; and

b) his ruling (Hilchot Rotzeach 8:10) that an accidental killer who flees to the cities of the Levites must pay rent, we can conclude that they are the owners of these cities in a way similar to the other tribes' ownership of their ancestral heritages (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XXV, p. 93).

4.

Our translation follows the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 9:8) which defines the term migrash as "the settlements close to the city which we refer to as outlying districts where shepherds and workers dwell."

5.

Numbers 35:2, 6 states: "Command the children of Israel that they shall give to the Levites... cities for dwelling and residential property.... The cities that you shall give the Levites are the six cities of refuge... and in addition, you shall give 42 cities." The names of these 42 cities are mentioned in Joshua, ch. 21.

Based on Hilchot Rotzeach, loc. cit., Likkutei Sichot, differentiates between the Levites ownership of the 42 cities and their ownership of the cities of refuge. For in Hilchot Rotzeach, the Rambam states that an accidental killer who flees to the cities of refuge need not pay rent. With regard to these cities, the Levites are mere caretakers.

6.

In Deuteronomy, ch. 19, the Torah commands the Jewish people to set aside three cities of refuge in the portion of Eretz Yisrael west of the Jordan and three in TransJordan. It then continues (Deuteronomy 19:8-9) states: 'When God will expand your borders... you must add three more cities.' In Hilchot Melachim 11:2, the Rambam refers to this command as a proof of Mashiach's ultimate coming, for "This command was never fulfilled. [Surely,] God did not give this command in vain." Ultimately, there will come an era, the era of Mashiach, when this command will be fulfilled and these cities will be separated. See also Hilchot Rotzeach 8:2-4, 9-10.

7.

And additional land must be given for that purpose. Nevertheless, a person who accidentally killed a colleague and who fled to one of these cities should be buried within these cities, as stated in Hilchot Rotzeach 7:3 (Radbaz).

8.

See Arachin 33b.

9.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 228) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 342) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

10.

I.e., the intent should be to make the land a residential center.

11.

See Chapter 11 which describes the redemption of a field that is an ancestral heritage. See Chapter 12 which describes the redemption of a home in a walled city.

12.

In contrast to the fields of an ancestral heritage that must be sold for at least two years, as stated in Chapter 11, Halachah 9.

In the listing of the mitzvot at the beginning of these halachot, the Rambam mentions giving the Levites the potential to redeem the land as part of the prohibition against selling the lands of the Levite. This enables that mitzvah to be understood in two contexts:

a) the halachic understanding expressed in halachot 4-5, that the status of the properties should not change,

b) the simple understanding of the verse, that the Levites' property should never be permanently sold, but rather there should always be the opportunity to redeem it.

13.

When, by contrast, an ordinary person who does not redeem his field after consecrating it, it becomes the property of the Temple treasury in the Jubilee (Hilchot Arachin 4:20-21).

14.

While an ordinary person can redeem such houses only during the first year (Chapter 12, Halachah 7).

15.

I.e., his maternal grandfather had no sons and his property was therefore inherited by his daughter. The daughter was married to an Israelite and so her children are Israelites. Whether she dies in her father's lifetime or afterwards, his property is inherited by her son, an Israelite.

16.

And when the Israelite inherited his grandfather's property, he inherited all the rights his grandfather possessed.

17.

I.e., a Levite married an Israelite women who gave birth to a son. That son is an Levite. If his maternal grandfather (an Israelite) dies without sons, his mother inherits his property and when she dies, the son who is a Levite inherits it from her.

18.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 169) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 504) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

19.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 170) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 505) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit., elaborates in explanation why the two charges are counted as separate commandments.

20.

The verse is addressed to Aaron as the leader of the entire tribe of Levi.

21.

The Radbaz states that it would appear that this applies only when one has destroyed the portion that he took. If, however, it can be returned, it should be returned and he is not subjected to lashes. (This is also the view of Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.) Nevertheless, the Radbaz concludes that it is possible to say that one may not compensate for this prohibition by making financial restitution and hence, lashes are required in all circumstances.

22.

For land can never be misappropriated from its rightful owners. Hence, his taking it is of no consequence and therefore, he is not punished (Radbaz).

23.

This phrase introduces a ruling that the Rambam arrived at through deduction, without any explicit, prior Rabbinic source.

24.

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's statement, stating that if so, the priests and the Levites would not have the rights to terumah and the tithes in these lands, for (see the following halachah and Hilchot Bikkurim 105), these presents were given to the priests instead of an ancestral portion. The Kessef Mishneh strengthens the Ra'avad's argument, noting that were it not for a special Divine commandment, the priests and the Levites would not have been given a portion of the spoil gained in the war against Midian. Nevertheless, the Kessef Mishneh as well as the Radbaz explain that the spoils from the war against Midian can be used as a source to teach that similar concepts apply with regard to other wars.

25.

In Moses' blessing to the tribe of Levi.

26.

The Rambam cites the first portion of this verse in Halachah 10 as proof that the Levites are not entitled to a portion of the spoil nor an ancestral heritage in Eretz Yisrael. In this halachah, he explains the rationale for that exclusion. The Levites are set aside from material involvement so that they can devote themselves to the spiritual. God, however, promises that this exchange will not cause them any loss, for He will provide for their material needs.

27.

This wording could also imply gentiles.

28.

This expression is used by I Chronicles 23:12 to refer to the holiness of Aaron, the High Priest. The Rambam is implying that every individual can reach a similar level of holiness.

29.

I.e., the Rambam is explaining that the motif that applies with regard to the priests and the Levites can be extended and in truth applies with regard to any person who is willing to devote his life to God's service.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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