Continuing uncertainty over Brexit arrangements have led to stagnations in Britain’s property market. In biblical times, over and above economic conditions, there were Torah restrictions in buying and selling land and houses in perpetuity.

In summary:

  1. Land should not be sold unless there is dire need.
  2. Land sold may be redeemed after two years by the vendor or his relatives.
  3. Land not redeemed automatically reverts back to the original owner with the onset of the Jubilee (50th) year.

An exception is the sale of a house in a walled city. Here the situation is almost in the reverse:

  1. The owner (or, upon his death, his heirs) may only redeem the house during the first year of its sale.
  2. After this time, no redemption is possible. The house remains with the purchaser even with the onset of the Jubilee. The only way the house can change hands is a regular sale on the open market.

The Meshech Chochma (early 20th century) explains that walled cities played a major role in the defence of the country. A cohesive community is essential in protecting a country from invaders. For this reason, it is better that owners stay with their properties, thereby strengthening social ties rather than allowing for the major upheavals that follow when land holdings revert in the Jubilee.

Whilst the laws of the sale of houses in walled cities do not apply today, the underlying idea of protecting communities is particularly relevant. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin (contemporary US rabbi) points out that our synagogues or Houses of G-d, are like the walled city houses of old. They create bulwarks in society, enabling us to better defend ourselves against the turbulence of modern life.

As we offer our warmest good wishes to our new team of Honorary Officers and Council of Management, and express our enormous thanks for the outstanding contributions of the outgoing team, we appreciate how vital our community of St. John’s Wood is, to the spiritual defence of Jewish life. More than only being a house of prayer, we are a place where people can experience a variety of davening. Our shul promotes the development of extended family relationships where people can share each other’s joys and sorrows, study together and play together, drawing lessons from each person’s life and experiences. Together we build a community that helps us develop the strengths to thrive in today’s world.