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I have seen the same phrase or pasuk in the front cover of many Sefarim. I think it’s “L’HaShem ha’aretez u’mloah”. Why this, and where does it come from? I assume there is a source for this because I’ve seen it multiple times from different individuals.

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    The idea is signify that everything belongs to Hashem, including this book. Often people will add "bechezkat--" (this is in the possession of--) so people won't misunderstand and take the object.
    – Harel13
    Dec 7, 2021 at 8:14
  • @harel13 why only Sefarim? Why not something else, maybe a car?
    – Chatzkel
    Dec 7, 2021 at 11:52
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    @Chatzkel Is it common to write your name on your car?
    – Alex
    Dec 9, 2021 at 0:00
  • @alex perhaps a car isn’t a good example, what about a Tallis bag?
    – Chatzkel
    Dec 9, 2021 at 5:36
  • @Chatzkel see my answer below, it may partly answer your question.
    – Harel13
    Dec 9, 2021 at 17:38

1 Answer 1

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According to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, this isn't really a minhag, it's something recent, and indeed, if it was a necessity, then technically, the verse should be written on every object in one's possession.

However, there are those that disagree:

Rabbi Menachem Giat explained that the minhag is based on the gemara in Shabbat 119a which says:

""Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said: One time I was hosted at the home of a homeowner in Laodicea and they brought before him a table of gold that was so heavy it required sixteen people to carry it, and there were sixteen chains of silver attached to it, and there were bowls and cups and pitchers and flasks attached to it, and there were all sorts of food, and delicacies, and fragrant spices on it. And when they placed it there they would say: “The earth and all that fills it is God’s, the world and all that inhabit it” (Psalms 24:1). And when they removed it they would say: “The heavens are God’s heavens, but the earth He gave to mankind”"

The minhag itself seems to have evolved out of what Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid wrote in his Tzavaah:

"לא יכתוב אדם על ספרו שלי הוא אלא יכתוב שמו עליו בלי שלי."

A person should not write upon a book "my book", but rather should write his name without "my"."

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Shteren wrote similarly in Otzar Hayediot Hashalem, pg. 103.

Side-note: I'm not sure why, but Rabbi Gavriel Tzinner in his book Nit'ei Gavriel, pg. 98, understood this halacha in the Tzavaah to refer to Sifrei Torah specifically.

On the other hand, in the journal Tz'funot no. 19, pg. 26 it says that in a manuscript by Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Grishober, rabbi of Paks, Hungary, in the late 18th and early 19th century (and author of this book) he wrote on the top of the page:

"תקנ"דל לה' הארץ ומלואה ומתנה גדולה נתן לעבדו להתחיל לכתוב פנקס יא שלי הק' יצחק איזק גריסהאבר מקרקא פה פאקש..."

"1822 The earth and all that fills it is God’s and a great gift He gave to his servant to begin writing my eleventh journal, the small Yitzchak Isaac Grishober of Krakow here in Paks..."

Similarly, we find:

  • In a 1783 copy of The Travels of Binyamin of Tudela, the owner wrote:

"The earth and all that fills it is God’s and in this Hashem blessed me, Refael son of etc" (Kedem Auction Catalogue no. 15)

  • In a 1710 copy of Torat Moshe (the Alshech's commentary), it says:

"The earth and all that fills it is God’s Shmuel Tzi[ltz?]" (Kedem Auction Catalogue no. 13)

and so forth in other catalogues. All dates (that I've found from a quick search) are from the early 18th century and onwards.

So there seems to be a fairly-old basis for the tradition.

References to the tradition write that it's so that a person will remember that everything he receives in this world is a loan from Hashem (see Tur Yo"D 247 for example).

But as Rabbi Aviner wrote, it doesn't really make sense to only write on books. This was also noted by Rabbi Giat.

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  • My friend in Yeshiva used to write והארץ נתן לבני אדם on the first page of this sefarim... Dec 9, 2021 at 23:19

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