Bava Batra, Chapter Three Mishnah Two
Our mishnah divides the land of Israel into three distinct parts. As we shall see, this division is important for the rules of chazakah, which we began to learn in mishnah one of this chapter.
1) There are three regions with regards to possession: Judea, beyond the Jordan and the Galilee.
a) If the owner was in Judea and another took possession [of his property] in the Galilee;
b) Or if he was in the Galilee and another took possession [of his property] in Judea, such possession does not demonstrate ownership, until he is in the same region.
2) Rabbi Judah said: They have specified a period of three years so that if the owner was in Spain and another took possession [of his property] during one year, they could make it known to the owner during the next year and he could return in the third year.
If a person took possession of a field and another came within three years and protested that the field was his, the original owner would retain title to the property. Our mishnah deals with a situation where the original owner lived in a different region from his field and therefore he may not have known that another had taken possession of the field, in order to protest within the allotted three years. According to the opinion in section one, in such a case there is no demonstration of ownership through possession for three years. If the owner was in a different region, for instance in the Galilee and the field was in Judea, we cannot assume that the reason he didnt protest for three years is that he didnt own the field. Since he may not have heard there can be no ownership through possession. According to Rabbi Judah, the reason that the Rabbis allotted three years in order to establish ownership by possession is to allow messengers to travel up to a years distance, there and back, in order to alert the original owner that another had taken his fields. In other words, according to Rabbi Judah, three years time is meant to give the person a chance to protest on anothers possession of his property. If he doesnt do so, we do not assume that he didnt hear. Rather, we assume that he sold or gave away his property to the current possessor and therefore does not protest.
Questions for Further Thought:
What is the relationship of Rabbi Judah to the first part of the mishnah?