Chapter 3: Mishna 5: Part 2
What about walking on the road alone? G-d created man to live in places which are populated. One who lives in areas which are uninhabited has deviated from this natural order.
We are taught this principle in Brachoth (31a). Rav Yossi bar Chanina said: “…in a land through which no man passed and where no person settled” (Yirmiyahu 2:6). If no man passed, how could someone have settled there? (The more encompassing exclusion of “a land through which no man passed” has already excluded “a land where no person settled”!) Rather, it is to inform you that any land which Adam decreed should be settled was (eventually) populated. And any land which was not decreed by him to be settled was never populated.
The question that needs to be asked is: Why did Adam decree certain lands to be settled and not others?
Man’s place (“makom”) has a particular relationship to him. For each thing in the world has a place which is specific to it, and this place is its natural habitat.
(The Maharal is about to negate the possibility that the entire earth should be viewed as man’s “place,” as opposed to limited and localized places.)
It is not correct to say that the entire earth is, in general, the place of mankind.
The “place” of each thing is exactly what is appropriate and needed for that thing, never exceeding what is necessary for it. Any place which is not necessary for the object is an excess, and can’t be termed “its place.” Since we find many places in the world which are desolate and barren, with no people settled there, and it impossible that the entire earth is considered man’s place. Furthermore, there would not be places for “the beast of the land” (Breishith 1:24-25) if man’s place was the entire earth. Finally, if man didn’t have a specific place appropriate for him, that would make him less significant than all other creatures, each of which has a place reserved for it.
Since every man has his own place, “place” becomes part of the identify of the individual, where we say “So-and-so is from place so-and-so.” And (in the laws of divorce documents) if there was an inaccuracy in the name of the place of the individual, it is equated with an inaccuracy in the name of the person.
(There is a biblical requirement that a divorce document be written specifically for the husband and wife for whom it is being used, and it must contain accurate and positive identification of these individuals. The Rabbis legislated that this identification be done through the name of the individual, the father’s name, and the name of the place from which they come. Any inaccuracy in any of these invalidates the divorce document. The Maharal uses this fact to demonstrate how fundamental a person’s place is (or is supposed to be) to his or her identity.
(In most Yeshivas in Europe, individuals were known by their first name and the city from which they came, rather than by their last names. Whenever the name of Rav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, was mentioned, my father, who was a young boy in Slabodka in the early twenties when Rav Hutner was there, would say “Oh, you mean Yitzchak Varshaver” (Yitzchak the Warsawn) since Rav Hutner came to Slabodka from Warsaw, and that is how everyone in Slabodka knew him. In our modern, and very mobile society, the significance of place has pretty much been lost. Most people’s identities have very little attachment to their place of origin or of dwelling. A Torah perspective does not view this as a positive development.)