Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson
based on ruling 81093 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts

Granting a House to a Neighbor’s Son – part I


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Tamuz 7 5782
Case: The defendant (=def) is a yishuv in the Shomron, which has only three lots slated for single-family homes. The right to build on them is to be raffled off among residents of def. The plaintiff (=pl) rents in the yishuv. Pl’s widowed mother owns a house adjacent to one of the lots, and pl wants to receive rights to it without a raffle because only if he lives there can he arrange things to best serve his mother’s needs. This would exercise his mother’s dina d’bar metzra rights (see below). Def counters that if someone receives a lot in such a manner, it will cause public accusations and acrimony.

Ruling: Introduction to land acquisition in Yehuda V’Shomron – Due to various factors, one cannot buy land in these areas, but families can apply to the Jewish Agency Department for Settlement for one bar reshut (long-term permission to build and/or live on a certain plot). The Jewish Agency’s longstanding policy is to accept the recommendation of a yishuv’s administration as to who should receive a bar reshut.

Introduction to dina d’bar metzra (=ddbm) – Ddbm is an extra-judicial Rabbinical institution that gives an adjacent neighbor of land that was sold to an outsider the ability to force the buyer to sell it to him at his purchase price unless the neighbor had waived the right. The logic to give the neighbor that right is that he has a unique opportunity to maximize the land, whereas others lack such an advantage from this land (see sugya starting with Bava Metzia 108a).

One question is whether ddbm is incumbent upon the seller or just the buyer, upon whom the gemara focuses. Rashi (ad loc.) implies that it is only on the buyer, which would explain why if a non-Jew bought it, ddbm does not apply (see Perisha, Choshen Mishpat 175:36). The seller has only a moral obligation to prefer the neighbor. The Rama (CM 175:34) writes that if the neighbor is not around, it is best that he ask beit din to contact someone to represent the neighbor’s needs. The implication is that if he did not, nothing can be done to the seller.

Does def, as a public institution, have an obligation to pl based on the general moral obligation? There are two reasons that they should: 1. They are representatives of the buyers, who are obligated. 2. A community should be held to higher standards than individuals are. On the other hand, public officials have a responsibility to do what is best for the community as a whole, and that includes the family that has a chance of winning in the raffle instead of pl. We cannot ignore the situation that Israeli law does not follow ddbm, and it is not something that is in the mindset of even religious people. Other people with connections to officials can "walk in the door left open" by ddbm. Therefore, it is acceptable for def to not go beyond the letter of the law in applying a halacha that is itself beyond the letter of the law, so def can follow set procedures (i.e., raffling off the lots).
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