Keeping our Cities Clean

Bava Batra (2:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The second chapter of Bava Batra discusses restrictions on personal activities or construction that can cause damage to other private or public property. A number of the Mishnayot deal with things that must be placed a distance from the edge of the city. We will focus on a few.

The Mishnah teaches that a dovecote cannot be placed any closer than twenty-five amot to the edge of the city. Rashi explains that the concern is that any closer and the doves will cause a loss the seeds in the nearby vegetable patches (ginot). The Tosfot however explain that the concern was regarding produce that was spread on the roofs for drying. They however flatly dismissed that the concern would be regard produce in the fields since fields were situated at a distance of one thousand amot from the city. In Arachin (33b) we learn that the first thousand amot were left as an open expanse (migrash). Beyond that the area was cultivated (sadeh). This law maintains that aesthetic beauty of the city while ensuring the agricultural sustainability. One was not allowed to convert any of these zone, e.g. migrash to sadeh or sadeh to migrash. Consequently, that close to the city there would have been no field nearby.1

With this in mind a later Mishnah requires some thought. The Mishnah (2:7) teaches that trees must be distanced from the city twenty-five amot. The Gemara explains that this is also to maintain the aesthetic beauty of the city. The Gemara question whether trees can be planted at all in this area; as we explained earlier it is meant to be migrash, an open expanse. It answers that while it is true that fields of produce may not be planted in a migrash, tree can.

The Gemara continues by bringing proof that there is a distinction between produce and tree. Those learning daf yomi will recall that one is allowed to carry on Shabbat in a large enclosure (karpaf) that was designated for residential use. If it was not designated as such, then in order carry within it, it must small – less than two beit se’ah. The Beraita (Eiruvin 23b) teaches that if one converted a majority of a large karpaf to a vegetable patch, then it is prohibited to carry inside it since it is no longer fit for dwelling. If however one planted trees in a majority of a large karpaf it is still considered a large karpaf that is designated for dwelling since one is able to stroll amongst the trees and it is permitted to carry in its borders. Consequently we find that planting trees in an area does not change the status of that area; it would still be considered a migrash since people would be able to walk there (Ritva). The distance of twenty-five amot is still however required in our case, for that sake of the city’s beauty.

In our Mishnah however, there is another opinion. Abba Shaul argues that only fruit bearing trees can be twenty-five amot from the city. Non-fruit bearing trees however must be at a distance of fifty amot. The Rambam in his commentary to the Mishnah, rules like Abba Shaul. The Chatam Sofer, based on a comment of the Ramban explains that there are two reasons why one would think to distance trees from a city. The first, as explained by Ulla is for the beauty of the city. The second is that if planted in close proximity, they can eventually cause damage. The Chatam Sofer explains that the Rambam understood that the Tana Kama and Abba Shaul were engaged in a more substantive debate about the nature of the prohibition. The Tana Kama was concerned about potential damage and there should be no different whether the tree concerned bears fruit. Abba Shaul however understood that the prohibition was related to the maintaining the beauty of the city. Consequently, the entire discussion that follows in the above quoted Gemara was according to the opinion of Abba Shaul. Since the focus of the Gemara according to this understanding was on Abba Shaul, the Rambam ruled according to his opinion.2


1 The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that the Bartenura explains that like the Tosfot. He suggests that the version of Rashi that the Bartenura had access two read gagotinstead of ginot.

2 The Chatam Sofer continues that since the Rambam brings that the reason for distancing fruit trees from a city is because of the city’s beauty, the Rambam must of retracted from his ruling in his commentary in the Mishnah.

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