Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 38b-39a
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תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף לח עמוד ב-- לט עמוד א
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אתמר, שבוי שנשבה. רב אמר: אין מורידין קרוב לנכסיו, שמואל אמר: מורידין קרוב לנכסיו. בששמעו בו שמת - כולי עלמא לא פליגי דמורידין, כי פליגי - בשלא שמעו בו שמת. רב אמר: אין מורידין, דלמא מפסיד להו. ושמואל אמר: מורידין, כיון דאמר מר שיימינן להו כאריס - לא מפסיד להו. …תקינו ליה רבנן, כי היכי דלא לפסדינהו.
It has been stated: If a man is taken captive, Rav said: His next of kin is not authorised to enter upon his estate [i.e. to plant and farm his land]; Samuel said: His next of kin is authorised to enter into his estate. Now, if it was heard that he was dead, all agree that he is authorised to enter. They differ where it was not heard that he had died: Rab said: We do not authorise him to enter, lest he cause them [the fields] to deteriorate; but Samuel said: We authorise him to take possession, for since a Master said, ‘We value it for them as for an tenant farmer’ [i.e. we assume that he will care about the land as much as a tenant farmer would], he will not permit deterioration. ...the Rabbis enacted a measure on his behalf [of the captive], so that he [the tenant] might not cause them [the abandoned land of the estate] to deteriorate. [translation adapted from Judaic Classics Library translation]
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

Can you think of any modern circumstances which could be addressed in a similar way?

What can this teach us about rabbinic perspectives on sustaining land?

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Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)