ט״ז בתמוז ה׳תשע״ט (July 19, 2019)

Arakhin 34a: Levitical Cities

As we learned above (dapim 31 and 32) there are a number of unique laws associated with walled cities, among them the rule that a house that was sold in such a city must be redeemed by the seller within 12 months or else it will remain the property of the purchaser and will not be returned to the original owner in the Jubilee year. While this is true in most cases, there is an exception to the rule. If someone from the tribe of Levi sells a house in a walled city, the 12 month limitation does not apply to him, and he has the right to redeem the house from the purchaser at any time (see 25:32-34).

Upon entering the Land of Israel, each of the tribes received an area of the land as their inheritance, which was divided between the families of the tribe. The exception to this rule was the Tribe of Levi, whose 48 cities were spread out throughout the land belonging to the other tribes. As noted, these cities, together with the fields around the cities had their own, unique, set of laws.

The Gemara on yesterday’s daf quotes a baraita that appears to deny the possibility that Levitical cities could possibly have had walls surrounding them. The baraita teaches that “the cities of the Levites may not be either little villages nor large walled cities, but cities of average size.” In response, Rav Yosef the son of Rav Sala Ḥasida suggests that the walled cities must have been those captured from the Canaanites upon entering the land of Israel. On today’s daf Rav Ashi explains that although the walls of such cities would have had to have been destroyed, in order to fulfill the requirement of the baraita that Levitical cities must be of average size, nevertheless the laws of walled cities did not apply to them and the Levite could redeem his house forever.