For the week ending 10 November 2012 / 24 Heshvan 5773

Who Gets the Gold?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: At the peak of their long and warm friendship Reuven took an oath to give Shimon as a present a plot of land that he owned, and even made a kinyan to transfer the ownership according to the halacha. Their friendship soured, however, before Shimon actually took possession. Reuven realized that he had no way of backing out of his commitment but he did make plans to bring hundreds of workers to remove, under cover of darkness, the gold nuggets which were piled on that plot so that Shimon would be left with only the land. Was this the right thing to do?

Answer: Such a case actually happened between two friends in Bochara half a century ago. When consulted on this matter, Rabbi Dov Ber Wiedenfeld, the rav of Tshebein who spent his last years in Jerusalem, ruled that the treasure belonged to Shimon. As proof he cited a point made by Ramban in his commentary on the Torah.

When a Jew made his declaration about fulfilling his obligations regarding tithing his produce, he concluded with an appeal to G-d to look mercifully upon His people and the "land which You gave us in fulfillment of Your oath to our ancestors to give them a land flowing with milk and honey" (Devarim 26:15). In G-ds oath, comments Ramban, we find only that He committed himself to giving them the land. No mention is made of its flowing with milk and honey. The conclusion then is that since Eretz Yisrael was indeed flowing with milk and honey when the oath was made, it is considered as if these ingredients were included in the commitment. In similar fashion, since the gold treasure was on the plot of land when Reuven transferred ownership to Shimon, Reuven has no right to remove the gold which is considered part and parcel of the land which was gifted.

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