Abstract

What was the Purpose of the Tannaim in Describing the Borders of the Land of Israel?

Meir Bar-Ilan

The borders of the Land of Israel described in the Mishnah have been discussed from two principal aspects: (a) The topographical identification of the places mentioned (b) The historical background of Jewish settlement reflected by the borders and by the place-names mentioned in connection with these borders.

In the present article, the author attempts to clarify the border tradition from yet another standpoint: the relativity of the borders. Changes in the borders were not limited to the historical sphere, since they were affected by Jewish law as well. The halakha does not recognize one specific border (or 'the border'), of the Land of Israel, but postulates different borders for different purposes. The borders of the Land of Israel have been described in the Mishnah in conjunction with the following laws:

  1. Laws dependent on the Land of Israel (mizvot hatluyot ba`arez);
  2. The Sabbatical year and the law of Hallah;
  3. The laws concerning the delivery of a bill of divorce;
  4. The laws of purity and impurity.

Aftre discussing the Sitz im Leben of these relative borders of the Land of Israel, the author presents a Form-Critical study of the opening section of the Mishnah, Tractate Gittin. It is suggested that the borders of the Land of Israel described in Gittin 1:2 were transferred to that location from Seder Zeraim or Seder Toharot.

The electronic address of this file is:
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last updated: February 3, 1997