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Kedushat Arei Choma

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
            The mishna in Keilim perek 1 mishna 6 describes the ten levels of kedusha which inhere in our physical world.  These ten levels represent 10 different 'rings' all of which are part of Eretz Yisrael.  The concept of kedushat makom does not apply outside the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael - quite the opposite - chutz la-aretz is metameh mi-derabanan.  The climax of these kedushot is the kodshei ha-kodashim while the 'lowest' level is the general kedusha of Eretz Yisrael manifested by the ability to bring bikkurim and shtei ha-lechem - mitzvot which can only be performed with produce of Eretz Yisrael.  The second level (in ascending order after Eretz Yisrael) relates to kedushat arei choma - walled cities within Eretz Yisrael.  This article will attempt to dissect the anatomy of these cities and their kedusha.
            The principle manifestation of 'kedushat arei choma' is that metzora'im must exit these cities during the period of their leprosy.  Grasping the essence of kedushat arei choma would seem to warrant analyzing this halakha - the primary manifestation of these cities' kedusha - very carefully.  Of course, this halakha of shiluach metzora'im is reminiscent of another zone of kedushat Eretz Yisrael - namely Yerushalayim.  Can we compare arei choma to Yerushalayim and thereby discover something of the essence of the former?
            The sources for shiluach metzora'im from Yerushalayim can be found in two locations in the Torah.  Firstly in Tazria Vayikra 13:46 the Torah writes "badad yeishev mi-chutz la-machaneh moshavo - he should remain in isolation, outside of the encampment should be his dwelling."  In Bamidbar 5:1-4 the Torah writes "ve-yishalchu min ha-machaneh kol zarua...el mi-chutz la-machaneh teshalchum ve-lo yitamu et machaneihem...(they should send a metzora outside of their machaneh... they should be sent out of the machaneh so that the machaneh is not defiled."  These pesukim inform us that the metzora is the most stringent form of tum'a at least vis-a-vis departing machanot.  During the desert encampment three distinct machanot were established:  machaneh kehuna which included the mishkan, machaneh leviya where the levi'im dwelled, and machaneh Yisrael which included the area of the general population.  Unlike other people who are tamei, the metzora must depart from all three machanot.  The Tosefta in Keilim (perek 1) as well as the gemara in Zevachim (116b) each determine that this 'machaneh' structure existed even in Eretz Yisrael with Yerushalayim serving as machaneh Yisrael.  Hence the chiyuv upon the metzora to depart Yerushalayim stems from these pesukim which instruct him to withdraw from all three machanot - including machaneh Yisrael - Yerushalayim. 
            What about batei arei choma?  What is the source for the halakha of shiluach metzora'im from these cities?  The Rash Mi-shantz, in his comments to the mishna in Keilim, groups this halakha with the overall halakha of Yerushalayim.  According to the Rash evidently, these walled cities as well, have a din of machaneh Yisrael just like Yerushalayim and hence, a metzora must withdraw.  Rashi reiterates this position in Erchin (32b) when he maintains that the walled cities were granted kedusha with the very same ceremony used to install kedushat Yerushalayim (two korban todot, shir, Beit Din mehalkhin etc.  See gemara Shavuot (15a) which describes this process).  Interestingly enough, Rashi in Shavuot (15a) writes "I don't know how they were mekadesh arei choma."  Rashi in Pesachim (67a) Dibbur Ha-matchil Lifnim, however, does seem to equate kedushat arei choma with that of Yerushalayim. 
            In contrast to this first position, which equates arei choma with Yerushalayim, the Vilnaer Gaon in his comments to the Tosefta in Keilim asserts that this halakha of shiluach metzora'im from arei choma isn't universally accepted.  This raises the possibility that according to some positions shiluach metzora'im doesn't EVEN APPLY.  Indeed, Tosafot themselves in Erchin wonder what the mekor for shiluach metzora'im from arei choma could be; evidently they are unwilling to deem it machaneh Yisrael.  Even if we were to determine that the halakha does in fact apply we might consider it a de-rabanan, not stemming from any specific pasuk in the Torah.  These positions all discriminate between shiluach metzora'im from Yerushalayim and from arei choma. 
            A second example of distinction between the two can be found in the Rambam.  In Hilkhot Bi'at Mikdash (3;8) the Rambam maintains that a metzora receives malkut only if he enters Yerushalayim - not if he enters arei choma.  One might offer the following rationale for the Rambam's position.  There are two dimensions to shiluach metzora'im - at least from Yerushalayim.  The first is derived from the pasuk of "ve-lo yitamu et machaneihem (Bemidbar)" which is a prohibition of defiling machaneh Yisrael.  Only areas defined as machaneh Yisrael are included within this issur.  Hence, according to the Rambam, Yerushalayim - part of machaneh Yisrael - is included, while arei choma - not considered machaneh Yisrael - aren't included within this issur.  There is, however, a second dimension to shiluach metzora'im marked by the words "badad yeishev" in Tazria.  This commands the metzora to remain isolated and dwell in uninhabited areas.  This mitzvat assei has nothing to do with the area's halakhic definition as machaneh Yisrael.  Rather, it instructs the metzora to depart all populated areas.  In fact, the Torat Kohanim presents a hava amina that the metzora should depart ANY AND EVERY CITY, dwelling instead  where no one else lives.  This hava amina is rejected but the spirit of the halakha remains the same - the metzora must depart all large population centers - which generally were walled cities (which for security reasons attracted larger numbers).  A metzora has to depart arei choma even though they aren't considered machaneh, to fulfill the assei of badad yeishev.  However, this mitzva is only an assei, not a lav, and hence a metzora who enters an arei choma, though he has violated an assei does not receive malkut.  The Tzlach in Pesachim (67a) offers a similar distinction to explain the position of the Rambam. 
            In analyzing the nature of kedushat arei choma as manifested by shiluach metzora'im, we questioned whether it's similar to kedushat Yerushalayim or not.  The Rash Mi-shantz in Keilim and Rashi in Erchin and Pesachim equate the two by asserting a identical source for the halakha itself.  In addition, Rashi maintained that an identical process of conferring kedusha was employed, further convincing us of their similarity.  The Gaon distinguished between the two in suggesting that arei choma is not a unanimous halakha.  The Rambam himself, in applying the lav only to one who enters Yerushalayim, possibly contends that only Yerushalayim is considered machaneh and included within the Lav of 've-lo yitamu et machaneihem'.
            An additional machloket between Rashi and Tosafot which might revolve around this question appears in the gemara Berakhot (5b).  Rashi explains that shiluach metzora'im applies even when the laws of yovel no longer apply.  Tosafot, by contrast, claim that these laws cannot apply in a period when yovel doesn't.  According to Rashi that kedushat arei choma is identical to that of Yerushalayim there is no reason to condition its kedusha upon the applicability of yovel.  According to Tosafot, however, that kedushat arei choma is independent, it might reflect the overall status of kedushat Eretz Yisrael (an intensification of kedushat Eretz Yisrael) which itself might be contingent upon yovel. 
            Similar sentiments - that kedushat arei choma isn't comparable to kedushat Yerushalayim and hence may be contingent upon additional factors - appear in Tosafot Ketubot (45b) who maintain that if the majority of the population are Gentile, the ir choma losses it kedusha.  Obviously, this halakha doesn't apply to Yerushalayim, and its applicability with regard to arei choma might highlight the differences.  Since kedushat arei choma stems form an intensification of kedushat Eretz Yisrael, possibly the demographics of the city would influence its halakhic status. 
1.  As in the past, first question whether a halakha is based upon conventional models or is novel and unprecedented.  In this case we attempted to discern whether kedushat arei choma is based upon the conventional model of kedushat Yerushalayim, or represents a new halakha. 
2.  Inspecting the source of the halakha and comparing it to the source for the conventional one, helps illuminate their relationship, if any.
3.  Similarly, examining the scope and application of the halakha also helps determine its nature. 
1.  In terms of the process of installing kedusha to arei choma and the longevity of this kedusha see mishna la-melekh Hilkhot Shemitta perek 12 and Turei Even Megilla (10a).
2.  For a complete elaboration of kedushat arei choma see "Ir Ha-mikdash ve-kodoshav" by Rav Yechiel Tokshinsky, Part I chapters 3 and 4.