Vol 25.14 - Chayei Sarah 1         Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5745) The special advantage of the ownership of the Jewish People (and the Levites) on the city of Hebron (and the hint in Gen. Rab. 58:4) versus their acquisition over other parts of Eretz Yisroel (And also versus the ownership of the Levites over the other Cities of Refuge and cities of Levites) (Vol XXV 25 Pg 91)



1. The first place of Eretz Yisroel whose ownership was actually transferred to Avraham Avinu, was Chevron, as it states:

“The cave of the field of Machpeilah, facing Mamre, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan”.

Even though previously, in the Covenant between the Parts, the entire land of Eretz Yisroel was given to Avraham Avinu, and his descendants after him, as it states, “To your descendants I have given this land,”

(And even before this, G-d told him “Rise, walk through the land--- its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.")

Nevertheless, the ownership (that was acquired through a “kinyan” - a method of acquisition) in actuality and in public “before the eyes of the sons of Chet, in the presence of all who had come within the gate of his city.” – first occurred at (the Cave of Machpeilah that is in Chevron.

From then on, the Cave of Machpeilah in Chevron belonged to Avraham Avinu, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and to their descendants – to Bnei Yisroel

(As it states in the Midrash regarding the Cave of Machpeilah:

“This is one of the three places about which the nations of the world cannot defraud Yisroel and say ‘this is stolen property in your hands.’ They are – the cave of the Machpeilah, the Holy Temple and the grave of Yosef.”

This means that the Jewish ownership, in actuality, over Eretz Yisroel began with Avraham Avinu purchasing the Cave of Machpeilah (for Sarah’s burial).

As it states in the Ibn Ezra, this is one of the reasons that “this Parsha is remembered” – “to fulfill G-d’s word to Avraham Avinu that it should be an inheritance for him”.

All aspects that are connected with Torah are the epitome of precision. Therefore, it is understood that the reason that the first inheritance of Yidden, in Eretz Yisroel, is in Chevron - is because it is connected with a special aspect that Chevron possesses.

Moreover, one could say:

Since with Chevron, the ownership of the Yidden over Eretz Yisroel began, therefore, this very ownership on Chevron was publicized – before all the nations of the world, in a revealed manner even in other times.

According to this, one could explain the words of the Midrash in our Parsha.

Namely, that one of the reasons that Chevron is called “Kiryat Arba” is because it,

“Was attained through lots (like the translation of the Matanot Kehuna) of four: First to Yehuda, then afterward to Caleb, then afterward to the Kohanim, then afterward to the Levites” .

Seemingly, what difference does it make (and what is the advantage) in that which Chevron had four owners?

However, one could say that this conveys a special aspect with regard to the ownership of the Yidden over Chevron, as will be explained.

2. Seemingly, one could say that one of the qualities (in the ownership of Yisroel over) Chevron is, that Chevron is one of the “Cities of Refuge”.

(As it is also alluded to in our Parsha, according to how the Rogotchover Gaon explains the debate between Avraham Avinu and the Bnei Chet. Namely, that Avraham Avinu wanted to purchase the Cave specifically at the edge of his field, for “The gravesites of the Cities of Refuge are specifically outside of the city” (For he was concerned that they would uproot the graves). However, the Bnei Chet answered “you are a prince of G-d in our midst etc.” and “the grave of a king and prince is not uprooted”).

The Cities of Refuge were given to the Levites. In the ownership of the Levites over their cities, one finds a quality compared to the ownership of Yidden over their portions.

The law is that if the Levites:

“Sold fields from the fields of their cities, or homes from the homes in their walled cities - they do not redeem their property according to the procedures explained above

(Where Rambam explains concerning other Bnei Yisroel, where a field may be redeemed until two years and the home in a walled city that was not redeemed within the year is decided in the Yovel/Jubilee.).

Instead, they may sell their fields even directly before the Jubilee and redeem them immediately. If they consecrated a field, they may redeem it from the possession of the Temple treasury after the Jubilee. They may redeem houses in a walled city whenever they desire, even after several years, as it states: "The Levites will have eternal rights of redemption."”

This seemingly shows that their ownership is constant – even when, in actuality, the house or the field is in the domain of the Temple treasury (Hekdash) or in another’s domain. Nevertheless, they maintain a semblance of ownership over them. Ownership is not (completely) taken from them.

It comes out that the ownership of Chevron (as one of the Cities of Refuge which belongs to the Levites) belongs to the Levites in a manner of “eternal rights of redemption”.

3. However, if it is because of this, namely, that Chevron is a City of Refuge, which was handed to the Levites – it is seemingly the opposite. For one finds that the ownership of the Levites over their cities is weaker than the ownership of the other tribes over their inheritance:

The law is that:

“The entire tribe of Levi are commanded against receiving an inheritance in the land of Canaan”.

They do not possess any inheritance in Eretz Yisroel. The reason that they were given the forty-eight cities (the six Cities of Refuge and “and in addition to them, you shall provide forty-two cities”) is only (like the precise wording of the verse) “cities for dwelling”. From this is implies that the Levites do not have complete ownership over their cities.

It states in the Talmud Yerushalmi that this is a debate of the Tannaim:

  • R’ Meir states that the kohanim and Levites do not declare (a declaration of the tithes) because “they did not take a portion in the land”.

(Note: It is a positive commandment to make a declaration before G-d after all the presents from the agricultural products. This is called the declaration of the tithes).

  • R’ Yose states that they do make a declaration since, “they were granted cities in which to dwell”


  • This means that R’ Meir maintains that “they were given for housing” (“and not that they are their inheritance and possession”).
  • Whereas R’ Yose maintains that “they were given as a possession” (namely, that the cities “were given to the Levites as their portion and possession”).

It comes out that according to the view of R’ Yose, the “Cities granted for dwelling” belong to the Levites, as their portion in the land.

Indeed Rambam rules so.

For although Rambam rules that regarding declaration, the person says:

"And the land that You gave us."


“Levites may make the declaration. For even though they did not receive a portion in the division of the land, they were granted cities in which to dwell.”.

Therefore one sees that the “Cities granted for Dwelling” are indeed called a portion of the Levites in Eretz Yisroel.

And although Rambam rules that:

“A killer who lives in a designated city of refuge does not have to pay rent. If, by contrast, he lives in another one of the cities of the Levites, he must pay his landlord rent”.

Which according to the view of the Talmud Yerushalmi, the debate of whether “they would pay rent to the Levites” is dependent upon the aforementioned debate whether “they were given to them as their inheritance of the Land” or whether “they were given to them merely to dwell in”-

It appears from this that the “Cities granted for dwelling” which belong to the Levites are (according to Rambam’s opinion) just the forty-two cities. However it does not apply to the six Cities of Refuge (which were “set aside as cities of refuge”.

Therefore, they serve as havens, “whether one enters them with the intent of taking refuge or one enters them without that intent”. Whereas, the “other cities of the Levites serve as a haven only when one enters with that intent in mind”).

However, according to the Talmud Bavli it does not appear so. For from the Talmud Bavli it comes out that the reason that a killer does not have to give rent to a Levite in the six Cities of Refuge is

(not because there is a lack of ownership of the Levites over these cities, but rather)

because it is a specific law, as the Talmud states that one derives this from the verse, “These cities shall serve you as a refuge“ - ”to you for all of your needs”.

This is indeed apparent from the plain wording of Rambam (namely, that the ownership of the Levites over the Cities of Refuge and the other Levite cities, have the same scope):

To clarify:

Yisroel was already commanded to give the Levites cities to dwell in, and their open spaces and cities (which) are the six Cities of Refuge; and along with them the forty-two cities. Moreover, when we add Cities of Refuge in the time of Moshiach, all of it is for the Levites. From this, it appears that in their relation to the Levites, they have one scope.

4. We find even more than this:

 In the Talmud, it is derived from the verse:

“And I will appoint for you a place (where he may flee)”.

The Talmud expounds:

“(G-d said to Moshe): I will appoint for you, during your lifetime, a place from your place, (meaning the Levite camp) that provides refuge for unintentional murderers. This teaches that Yisroel provided refuge in the wilderness. Where did they flee – to the Levite camp.”

Rashi explains, “a place from your place” – “that the camp of the Levites serve as havens, and even the Cities of Refuge shall be Levite cities”.

From Rashi’s explanation it seemingly implies that the reason that the Cities of Refuge serve as havens is because they are Levite cities.

(Moreover, it is extremely problematic to say that Rashi is speaking only with regard to the other Levite cities, namely, the forty-two cities which were not separated to serve as havens and only serve as havens because they were given to the Levites –

For if so Rashi should have stated, “and even the Levite cities serve as havens”, and so forth. From his plain wording “and even the Cities of Refuge shall be Levite cities” it appears that he is mainly speaking with regard to the six Cities of Refuge).

This means that the reason that the six Cities of Refuge were given to the Levites is not an ancillary   (זייטיקער) law that is related to the gift of the cities. Namely, that in addition to that which they are Cities of Refuge, there is a law here that one must give them to the Levites.

Rather this is a law in the boundary of the aspect of “Cities of Refuge”, of the cities. The reason that they (become) Levite cities (also) effects a law of refuge.

(This means that in the six cities, there are two boundaries:

  1. They serve as havens since they are Cities of Refuge (which were “set aside as havens”). Accordingly, they serve as havens, “whether with intent or without intent”.

And before this,

  1. They serve as havens since they are Levite cities.

And although one is included in the other (“”) one could say that there is an actual ramification:

When one of these conditions of the six Cities of Refuge is missing, such as the law

that they do not become cities of refuge until all six of them admit unintentional murderers as one, – nevertheless they would serve as havens since they are Levite cities (when one has intent)).

This is also apparent from the continuation of the Parshiot in Parshat Ma’asei:

Beforehand, in the Torah, the Parsha states:

“Have them give to the Levites from their hereditary possession, cities in which to settle . . Along with the cities that you shall give the Levites shall be the six refuge cities which you shall provide (as places) for a murderer to flee; and in addition to them, you shall provide forty-two cities.”

And afterward the Parsha states:

“You shall provide cities for yourselves, which shall serve as refuge cities for you, so that a murderer can flee there, one who accidentally killed a person.”

This means that before there is the law of actual havens for the six cities they must be Levite cities.

This is explicitly stated in the Chinuch, who explains the reason why the Levite cities serve as havens.

The Chinuch writes:

(“And from these forty-eight cities of the Levites, there were cities that were specified to be a refuge for the killer. However, all of them would shelter him”)

“because of the greatness of their stature and the fitness of their deeds and the 'grace of their worth,' their land was chosen over the lands of the other tribes to shelter any one that kills by mistake - maybe their land that is sanctified with their holiness would atone for him“ (the land of the Levites).

It comes out that even the six Cities of Refuge have the scope of “Levite cities” (like the other forty-two cities). From this, it is understood that even the six Cities of Refuge were given over to their ownership.

Therefore, because of this (also) the cities obtain the law of havens.

5. According to all the aforementioned, the difficulty returns:

Since the cities were given to the Levites as their portion in the land – why does the verse state that these cities are just for “dwelling”?

One could say that the explanation of this is:

The reason that these cities belong to the Levites is:

  1. Bnei Yisroel (all the tribes) gave to them, from their inheritance of the tribes. Therefore, we find a critical difference. The forty-eight cities were scattered throughout the inheritance of many and even more so – all the tribes
  2. It is a general ownership (בעלות כללית) of the entire tribe – the forty-two cities were given to the tribe of Levi. However, each individual Levite did not have individual ownership over his individual house. It was just his for “dwelling”.

This is one of the explanations in that which, the order in which the cities came to the Levites was:

“(Bnei Yisroel) gave to the Levites from their hereditary possession, cities in which to settle”

This became the “hereditary possession” of Bnei Yisroel and Bnei Yisroel gave these cities to the Levites.

6. According to all the aforementioned, one can also understand the innovation of the Midrash with regard to Chevron that “it was attained through lots of four: First to Yehuda, then afterward to Caleb, then afterward . . to the Levites”:

Chevron was not just a general gift of Bnei Yisroel to the tribe of Levi. Rather Chevron came to the tribe of Levi from Caleb. In other words, after it had passed from general ownership (of the tribe of Yehuda) to the individual ownership of Caleb.

On this the Midrash states:

“It was attained through lots of four”

In other words, in the same manner as the ownership was in the beginning given to (Yehuda and to) Caleb which was an individual ownership, so too, it was given in this manner to the Levites. This means that the Levites also have an individual ownership in Chevron.

Since the connection between the Levite cities to the Levites is in a manner of “eternal rights of redemption” (as above Par. 2) – it comes out that the “eternality” of the ownership of the Levites over Chevron is more than all the other portions of Eretz Yisroel:

This is in two manners:

  1. With regard to the inheritance of Bnei Yisroel, who do not possess the quality of “eternal rights of redemption”.
  2. With regard to the other Levite cities, which do not possess individual ownership.

The explanation of this according to Pnimiyut is:

The inner reason why the Cities of Refuge must belong to the Levites is (like the reason of the Chinuch – aforementioned in Par. 4). Namely, because this is connected with the protection and atonement (הגנה וכפרה) of one who inadvertently kills another.

The sin of a murderer is two-fold:

(The sin and separation) between

  • Man and G-d, and between
  • Man and his fellow

Therefore, his atonement is through the Cities of Refuge, which are Levite cities. The name Levi is from the word “attached” (ילוה). The aspect of connection (a new connection as it states – “This time (my husband) will become attached to me”) and attachment, which is the opposite of separation.

This is the aspect of the Levites:

  1. “They were set aside to serve G-d and to minister unto Him” and their aspect is also, “to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments”. Due to their attachment to G-d they are “His portion and inheritance” which effects an atonement and rectification to the sin and separation between man (the killer) and G-d, so that he can reconnect with G-d.
  2. In their Avodah, as it states,”they shall join you, and serve you”. This is manifested the aspect of Achdut Yisroel (Jewish Unity). This is in addition to that which even in the “instructing people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments”, there is manifested the aspect of (public/ הרבים) Ahavat Yisroel.


Because of this, their cities are a rectification for the sin and separation between man and his fellow, which pertains to one who killed another.

This is an aspect in all the Cities of Refuge. However, in Chevron, the aspect of Achdus is more pronounced. For Patriarchs and Matriarchs of all Bnei Yisroel, are buried there. Therefore, prayers are directed Above through Chevron, and prayer is called ‘Chevron’, due to the connection of the Middot, Chesed, Gevurah and Tifferet. This represents the connection of the Yidden with G-d which is the atonement for the aspect of ‘between man and G-d’, that is in one who killed.

Since they are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Klal Yisroel, through the connection of the Avot and Imahot of Klal Yisroel together, there is also the true connection in the sons and daughters who descend from them. The atonement for the sin between man and his fellow.

This aspect of connection is so much that it comes visibly in “the name by which it is called in the Holy Tongue” – the name of the city – Chevron, which is from the word attachment (חיבור).

MSichas Simchat Torah, Shabbat Parshat Bereshit 5737

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