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Most of this week we focused on the korban omer. This was the korban mincha consisting mostly of barley that was offered on the second day of Pesach. Prior to its offering, the consumption of new produce (chadash) was prohibited. The Mishnah (10:7) also teaches that prior to the omer, harvest of the five grains was also prohibited. The Bartenura explains that harvest was prohibited only until the omer was cut and not until it was offered.
The difficult with this Mishnah is that the day before we learnt (10:5) that as soon as the omer was offered the markets were full with new produced. R’ Meir and R’ Yehuda argue whether the Chachamim were happy with this since the produce was clearly harvested and processed prior to the omer being offered. R’ Meir argued that the Chachamim were upset since they were concerned that those that processed the produce early might eat them too early as well. It appears that neither was concerned about the harvest itself being in violation of the prohibition of harvesting before the omer was harvested. Indeed the next Mishnah (10:8) teaches that one could harvest produce from beit hashlachim (fields requiring irrigation) located in valleys. We need to understand this prohibition of harvesting prior to the omer.
The Gemara (71a) citing a Beraita cites a pasuk that appears to contradict itself. “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you shall enter the Land that I give you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring an Omer from your first harvest to the Kohen” (Vayikra 23:10). On the one hand “you reap its harvest” prior to the omer, yet the omer is the “first harvest”. R’ Binyamin explains that the prohibition of harvesting only applies to those locations/fields from which the omer may be brought.
Returning to the Mishnah the Tosfot (68a) cites Rashi who explains that the produce from beit hashlachin are inferior and the omer was not offered from barley that came from such fields. The Tosfot however notes that the Mishnah (8:2) taught that even thought ideally omer would not be brought from beit hashalchin, if one did, the korban would be valid. Consequently since it ideally would not be brought from such areas, it qualifies as “a place from which the omer would not be brought”.
The Tosfot continue however that that Mishnah also included beit hazevalim (fields requiring fertilizing) and beit ha’ilan (orchards) as other locations from which the omer was not brought, yet they are not listed in our Mishnah as fields that can also be harvested prior to the omer. They answer that the Chachamim may have ruled more stringently regarding those fields, much like they added stringencies after the permissible harvesting preventing stacking before the omer. The leniency accorded to beit hashlachin was simply that delaying necessary harvest for such dry fields could lead to a loss of crops.
They however provided another answer based on our version of the Mishnah that refers to beit hashlachin in the valleys. While bringing the omer from beit hashlachin is not ideal but nevertheless valid, from the beit hashlachin in the valleys, which is even worse, is invalid. Based on this understanding, harvesting from regular beit hashlachin prior the omer would be forbidden.1 Nevertheless based on a Torat Kohanim they understand that extending the prohibition of harvesting to regular beit hashlachin is rabbinic and the permission to harvest beit hashlachin in the valleys is due to the fragile nature of the crop.
1 The Tosfot cite a Tosefta that support this position.