Real Estate and Shavuos
Based on Likutei Sichos Vol. 18 p 28-34
Among the many Halachos dealing with Real Estate transactions is the law
of Bar Metzrah or "Laws of a Neighbor." Namely, that notwithstanding the
right one has in selling his property (land, farm, house etc.) to anyone
he pleases to - his neighbor has a right of first refusal. Meaning that
ones neighbor must be given the first option to buy the property
The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 175) devotes almost an entire
chapter detailing this property law. The reason for this law is simple:
A neighbor should be given the ability to have his property holdings
adjacent to each other, thus making life easier for him. By allowing
your neighbor to extend his farm contiguously, or by increasing the size
of his back yard, allows for easy access.
This Mitzvah is derived from the Verse (Devorim 6:18) Ve'osiso Ha'Yoshor
Ve'Hatov. One should do what is proper and beneficial to you fellow man.
Based upon this Halacha we find in a number of Sephardic Seforim an
explanation to a esoteric story relating to a dialog between Moshe
Rabeinu and the angels at the giving of the Torah.
The Gemora Shabbos (88b) relates: When Moshe ascended to the heavens
the angels protested to G-d "what is a human being doing amongst us?"
G-d replied " He is here to accept the Torah." When the angels said
"such a heavenly treasure you wish to grant to lowly humans," G-d told
Moshe to answer them.
" Indeed," Moshe tells them, "what is written in the Torah? I am your
G-d=85 who has redeemed you from Egypt. Have you ever been enslaved in
Egypt? Do you live amongst idol worshipers that you need the commandment
'you shall not have any other G-d'? Do you have parents? Is there
jealousy between you? Do you engage in the world of business? " Etc.
Upon hearing Moshe's reply the angels consented that the Torah is indeed
fitting to be given to the Living Jew.
The above commentators explain that the Halachik basis for the objection
of the angles is the "Law of a Neighbor." Since the Torah is currently
in Heaven, if it is to be given away, it is fitting that angels, who
reside in heaven, receive it.
A truly Halachik justifiable complaint!
What was Moshe's response to this? The following answers are given:
The above are very fine explanations but all share one problem. Nowhere
are these answers even hinted to in the text of the story as related in
- The law of Bar Metzrah applies only to property and not to moveable
objects. A seller is not obligated to offer his car, for example, to his
neighbor first. It is only when he puts up his house or land for sale
does his next-door-neighbor come first. The Torah, being an article
not tied down to the ground, is therefore exempt from this Halacha. (See
Tanya chapter 4 concerning the descent of the Torah "from there it
- The Law of Bar Metzrah does not apply to a gift. One may bequest
properties despite his neighbors want for it. Thus the Torah being given
as a present to the Jews was exempt from the obligation of offering it
first to the angels!
- Jews are considered "children" to G-d. The above law allows one to
grant or even sell real estate to relatives with out the constraints of
the Bar Metzrah laws.
- Moshe himself was, as the Medrash (Devorim Rabbo 11:4) says, a
person half human and half a "person of heaven- man of G-d." He
therefore was a neighbor to the Torah in his own right - equal to
- Being a Dayan - a judge amongst his people granted Moshe the status
as a "partner to G-d." (Shabbos 10:1) Once again, the right of a
neighbor to buy the adjacent land does not apply if the buyer is a
partner of the seller. In our case- the buyer -Moshe - is G-d's
partner! The angel's complaint is therefore with out merit.
On the contrary, the last three explanations underscore the relationship
of Moshe (and every Jew) to G-d, his bond to heaven and his partnership
to the Creator. Whereas the Gemora seems to emphasize (in Moshe's
response) the exact opposite: Torah is associated with the physical and
mundane aspect of this world. Bnei Yisrael, as opposed to angels,
experienced slavery, were born to human parents, are exposed to jealousy
By prefacing another law pertaining to Bar Metzrah we can shed some
light on this. Maimonides (Laws of neighbors 12:5) brings from the
Gemora the Halacha pertaining to a unique situation. The
next-door-neighbor wants the property. But not for the purpose of
building a house. He wants to expand his farm. On the other hand, the
non-neighbor-potential buyer is planing to build a residence on the lot.
The Halacha is quite clear in such a case. The neighbor receives no
preference. The construction of homes overweighs the laws of Bar
Metzrah. The Mitzvah of home building - as an extension of populating
and settling this world - takes preference.
This is what Moshe Rabeinu replied to the angels. Isn't the concept and
goal of the Torah to create a "home for the Creator." (Tanchuma Noso 16)
The true meaning of "house" is where a person can unwind, where he can
feel his natural self. G-d waits for His "house" to be ready for Him to
"move into." This "homebuilding" is accomplished by (Jews observing) the
Giving the Torah to the angels will not accomplish this. For they poses
not the "tools" to construct this abode. They have no association with
the hardships of this world. They have not been enslaved in Egypt, they
have no jealousy etc. It is only through overcoming the hardships of
this physical world that one acquires the means to build for his creator
a home - Dirah B'tachtonim.
It is the human who toils in the physical world around him (and within
him) that is constructing a home for his creator. The Jew utilizes the
Torah for "homebuilding." It is he who deserves receiving the Torah.