Land Ho!

Quiz time.  Can you name seven countries that grant their citizens rights to own real property and that protect those rights thus empowering their citizens to sell, mortgage or rent their property for their own benefit?

No? Let me help. Here are a few in the top twelve:  Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Holland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here, in contrast, are seven in the bottom twelve: Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan.

You might note that hungry hordes are desperately trying to leave all countries in the second list in order to immigrate, legally or not, to any country in the first list.  You might attribute that to a coincidence, but if you’re a long-time happy warrior, you will already have heard from me many times that the Lord’s language, Hebrew, lacks a word for coincidence.  Not only are people urgently fleeing countries with low regard for property rights, but all the countries to which they wish to go are societies founded with regard for a majestic book of mysterious origins that we call the Bible.  And that too is no coincidence.

Owning land is of course unnatural.  Nothing in nature owns land.  It goes without saying that the territorial instinct displayed by your Rottweiler or by the weaver birds in your garden has nothing to do with property ownership.  The former is merely an instinct exerted against others of its species.  For instance, the weaver bird becomes agitated only when what it perceives as its territory is invaded by another weaver.  However, if a duck or a robin enter its space, it remains oblivious. The Rottweiler won’t tolerate invasion by another dog but barely notices the cow wandering into its zone.  By contrast, human ownership comes with various rights and obligations and was originally adopted chiefly by cultures in contact with the Bible.

It was the Bible that asserted God’s approval of people owning land.  Genesis 23 details Abraham’s rejection of the Hittite offer to  bury Sarah wherever he wishes.  He meticulously educated them on the idea of property ownership and thereafter accedes to the ridiculously high price they demanded for the land he desired. From this point onwards, one of the biggest differences between primitive cultures and those building a superior civilization was everyone able to own his own land.

The second governor of the Plymouth colony, William Bradford, described in his history of Plymouth how the colony only began to thrive three years after its founding. At that point,  by common consent, they abandoned the community ownership model foisted upon them by English investors and allowed each man to farm his own land.

Other than the Bible there was no model of land ownership.  In nature, no animal owned land and no primitive culture ever came up with such a revolutionary idea.  Animals don’t put fences around the land they occupy, why should humans?  For this reason, early in Genesis, the Bible emphasizes the difference between people and animals.

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth…
(Genesis 2:7)

And the Lord God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky…
(Genesis 2:19)

According to the English translation I used, it does appear as if God made humans and animals in exactly the same way. Even the same verb, formed, is employed.  God formed man out of the dust of the earth. God formed animals out of the earth. And that word ‘formed’ seems to imply that whatever process God used for man was replicated when he created animals, which seems to be contrary to what I’m asserting which is that there is an enormous  difference between humans and animals.

However, in the original Hebrew text, the two verbs show a crucial difference.  The word translated as ‘formed’ in Hebrew is VaYitzer. In verse 19 it looks like this:   וַיִּצֶר֩  However, when used to describe God forming mankind, the word sounds the same but looks like this:  וַיִּיצֶר

Now I recognize you might not read Hebrew yet and that’s just fine because I’m going to show you that man and animal were not created in the same way. In verse 7 the word is Vayitzer:  “and He formed,”  made up of five letters.  The second and the third letters —we read Hebrew from right to left—are these tiny little letters. In fact, they are  the 10th letter of the alphabet and the smallest one — named Yud. This word meaning ‘and He formed’ contains two Yuds.  Verse 19 also uses the word Vayitzer and it also means “and He (God)  formed”. But notice what happened. There’s only one Yud in this case.  Now the King James translators of the Bible never made this distinction. They didn’t say, “Oh, wait a second, there is an important difference in these  words. They look the same, they sound the same, but they aren’t the same.”

Every single letter counts in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh [Scripture]. And the letter Yud, using the least ink, is the most spiritual of the letters. It’s the main letter that identifies the name of God himself.

So it’s not surprising at all that when we look at the Hebrew word describing the formation of human beings there are two Yuds implying an extra spirituality. However, verse 19, discussing the forming of animals, contains only one letter Yud. We can all relate to that, even if, like me, you are very fond of animals. Nonetheless, we can recognize that the level of spiritual sensitivity, the level of spiritual awareness that an animal has is completely different from that possessed by a human being.

Animals do not own land. People should. God created people with a deep and valid desire to own land.  Not surprisingly, the Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual informs us of the social and economic systems that work best for people, among them ownership of land.  It is not at all surprising that Germany outperforms Bangladesh or that Holland works better than Zimbabwe.  The more you follow the Manufacturer’s directions, including allowing people to own their land,  the more successful your society will be.

14 thoughts on “Land Ho!”

  1. Yikes! That’s what Strong’s Concordance says! Please keep helping us understand the accurate meanings for the Hebrew!

    Still appreciative of Mr. James Strong’s exhaustive work and the well-spent time he poured into it, thank you Rabbi Lapin for the clarity!

    By the way, Mark Twain and I share a birthday! (Not a coincidence though!)

  2. Thank you Rabbi Lapin,
    So, so amazing, everything that God has woven into His Word. Mankind is certainly the highest order of His Creation, who therefore also is first entrusted / commissioned to be most responsible and most godly to the rest of His Creation, hopefully becoming the closest representation of His Image and Likeness in all ways. Any further insight as to why man is specified as being formed out of the DUST of the earth, and animals just from the earth? And also just a question, what lessons using Ancient Jewish Wisdom help shed light on why the name “Adam” means, among other things, “hypocrite”? Love to drink in the inspired wisdom that you pay the price to dig out and compile for all your readers, most of all LOVE the God behind it all Who is always yearning to draw us closer to Him! Oh that reminds me of something that I would like to send to you INCOG- (nito that is), I have an email address for one of your staff, hope it is still valid! Best wishes and thank you!!!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Celesta,
      How nice to receive this letter from you. We actually plan on soon explaining the difference you raise between dust of the earth and just earth. It will probably be in a forthcoming Thought Tool. An aphorism often attributed to Mark Twain (though there is no evidence for this) says, “It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So.” That is our attempt to politely say that the word Adam has no meaning of hypocrite in Hebrew.
      Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you via our office at

  3. Thank you for bringing out once again the importance of God making man after His own image in such a vivid way!
    Living in Switzerland and having the privilege of owning a house and some land around it, I’m of course fond of the fact that you mentioned Switzerland first on your list.
    God bless you!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      That’s so interesting, Manfred,
      Very happy you own some land in Switzerland!
      I appreciate you writing.

  4. Thank you! I was thinking about this the other day and couldn’t remember what I’d heard you say in an interview.

  5. You reminded me of how this phrase,” the reward if the laboring man is sweet.” I got the phrase wrong. It is “. his sleep he enjoys.” Yet, is not the similarity there, since it feels good to get something out of effort? Like taste buds. The right flavor makes us eat! Motivation. Wow.

  6. I’ve always read that the Torah was originally written in “Paleo Hebrew” and later transcribed into the Aramaic square alphabet during the Babylonian exile. If that is correct, then it appears that originally Yud was not originally the smallest letter. Am I missing something?

    1. You may find this helpful: (Ed: Thank you for writing. We’ve edited out the URL you supplied because we do not agree with the opinion of Rabbi Shurpin which you quoted. Blessings ~ RDL.)

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Eric
      I wish I knew how to say this more politely, but not everything one reads is so. I can’t imagine where you’ve always read that the Torah was written in Paleo Hebrew It just ain’t so. So, I suppose that in answer to your question of whether you are missing something, yep! You are. The correct information on Hebrew script known as Ktav Ashurit. I hope this helps.

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