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Bava Batra 11

You from around here?

One of the most common questions on meeting someone new is, “Where are you from?” If you’re like me — born in New Jersey, raised outside of Philadelphia, now a resident of Toronto — it’s likely not easy to answer. Where am I from? It depends on the interpretation of that question.

Today’s daf presents a similar question with a particular purpose. Back on Bava Batra 7b, in the context of a mishnah concerned with when a person is required to contribute to public expenses, we find the following:

How long must one live in the city to be considered like one of the people of the city? Twelve months. But if he bought himself a residence in the city, he is immediately considered like one of the people of the city.

This seems pretty straightforward. If you’ve lived in the city for twelve months, you’re an official resident who reaps enough of the advantages of the city that you should be chipping in for the common good. Buying a residence demonstrates your commitments and puts you on a fast track for the responsibilities of citizenship.

The Gemara, though, notes that this opinion isn’t universal:

The mishna is not in accordance with the opinion of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, as it is taught in a beraita that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: If he bought any amount of land in the city, and not necessarily a residence, he is immediately considered like one of the people of the city.

For Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, buying any land in the city — regardless of size or purpose — demands payment. Now we have a second conflict to consider:

But isn’t it taught otherwise in a different beraita that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: If one bought land that is suitable for a residence, he is immediately considered like one of the people of the city. 

This comes close to what we read in the mishnah but contradicts the other beraita. So the Gemara answers: 

This is a dispute between two tannaim (early rabbis) who disagree with regard to the opinion of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.

The problem is not that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel contradicted himself, it’s that one version of his teaching was transmitted incorrectly — we just don’t know which.

While the Gemara doesn’t resolve this bundle of disputes, later commentators do. The Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Arukh side with the mishnah and rules that twelve months of residence or purchasing a home triggers civic responsibilities. The latter explores some additional nuances, like if someone inherits a residence in a city. Where you live, this may not apply directly, of course — renters might not owe property taxes, even if there are plenty of other ways they contribute to public coffers. But the upshot for us may be that once you’ve lived somewhere a year, or purchased a home, you’re entitled to say that’s where you’re from.

Read all of Bava Batra 11 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on July 6, 2024. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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