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Maaser Sheni Etrog

Sukkah (3:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 days ago

During the week we have learnt about the arabaat ha'minim with many Mishnayot detailing attributes that would render the minim invalid. One case (3:5) is the Etrog of maaser sheni. Recall that the second tithe in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the shemita cycle is taken to Yerushalaim and eaten there. The Mishnah explains that one should not use a maaser sheni Etrog. If one however does, it is valid.

The Gemara (35b) explains that the reason why that Etrog should not be used is the same one that applies to a terumah Etrog. When fruit is picked, it only becomes susceptible to tumah once it touches one of the seven liquids. Since they placed their lulavim in water, the Etrog ran a high risk of becoming susceptible to tumah. Given that the Torah warns us to keep terumah from becoming tameh, we want to avoid that outcome. The second opinion in the Gemara is because by handling the Etrog it would spoil, which should be avoided for both terumah and maaser sheni.

The Gemara explains that if however it was used, the mitzvah has been performed. The Gemara explains that this is because the reason that we invalidate an Etrog of orlah (produced in the first three years of the tree's planting) do not apply. With respect to Orlah, one reason it is invalid is because one is forbidden to eat it. Since the Torah states "u'lekachtem lachem" – you shall take them for yourselves – the arbaat haminim must be permissible for consumption. Since maaser sheni can be consumed in Yerushalaim this requirement is met. The second understanding for why an Etrog of orlah may not be used is because it has no monetary value. With respect to maaser sheni there is debate regarding its monetary definition. According to the Chachamim, it is considered mamon hedyot – the property of the owner. According to R' Meir however, it is considered mamon gavo'ah – the "property" of shamayaim. Consequently, according to the Chachamim, the Etrog of maaser sheni does have monetary value and would be valid.

The Mishnah only discussed the case where the maaser sheni Etrog was used in Yerushalaim. What would the law be if it was used outside Yerushalaim? The Bartenura explains that the mitzvah would not be fulfilled. Since the Etrog may not be consumed there, the requirement of lachem is not being met.

The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that there appears to be two reasons why the Etrog would not be fit for consumption. Either due to the location (as in our case) or an issue with the person. To explain, regarding a terumah Etrog its use is valid, even for a non-Kohen, since it is fit for consumption by a kohen. The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that the logic seems reversed. If we allow an Etrog that is fit for consumption for someone else, then surely an Etrog that one can consume in a different location should be permissible! He notes that that appears to the be the position of the Ran who maintains that if a maaser sheni Etrog was used, it would be valid even outside Yerushalaim.1

According to the Ran, why then did the Mishnah focus only on the case where it was used in the city? The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that it is simply to stress that even though one can eat maaser sheni in Yerushalaim, the Etrog should still ideally not be used (for the reasons stated above). The Tosfot R' Akiva Eiger cites the Ritva who explains that it is because there is more of a reason assume that it should be invalid there. Since the owner can no longer transfer the kedusha on to money one might think it would no longer be considered his property. Consequently, the Mishnah was stressing that even there, the use would be valid.

The Chidushei Mahariach however defends Rashi and the Bartenura's position maintaining that the logic is not reversed. He explains that the requirement of "lachem" might simply be that someone can consume it and not necessarily the owner. With respect to maaser sheni outside Yerushalaim at that point in time, it cannot be consumed by anyone and is therefore invalid. 2


1 The Tosfot Yom Tov however notes that according to the Ran a terumah Etrog is only valid for a Kohen.

2 He continues that the reason why the Ran maintains that it is valid is because outside Yerushalaim one could redeem the maaser sheni. Rashi disagrees since redeeming maaser sheni on yom tov is forbidden. The Ran however maintains that since that prohibition is rabbinic and on a biblical level there is an avenue, it is still considered lachem.

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