Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Comparing Slaves and Land

By: Reb Yonataon Sapir

The Torah has a hekesh which equates slaves with land. Our Gemora says that although slaves might be considered as land, there are differences between the two stemming from the fact that slaves are movable and land is not. Therefore, our Gemora says that even if people consider slaves like land, they don’t mean to include them is the sale of the city. All real land is included in the sale.

There are other instances where the actual difference between slaves and land causes them to have different halachos as well. Rav Chaim HaLevi quotes a Raavad who differentiates between these two categories. If one steals a slave and the owner gives up hope of retrieving him, the owner loses ownership of him. This is not the case with land. Why should there be a difference? Rav Chaim answers that if giving up hope is related to the ability the Torah gives thief to acquire a stolen object, there would be no difference between the two. Anytime an object is out of the possession of the owner, and the owner has lost hope of retrieval, he relinquishes ownership. It doesn’t matter whether the object was lost or stolen. Therefore what matters is whether the object in reality is out of the owner’s possession. Slaves, which move, can be considered out of the owner’s possession. Land, which is stationary, is always considered in the owner’s possession. Thus, even though there is a halachic comparison between the two categories, sometimes the different properties of each will determine differences in halachah.