Changing Conditions

Bava Metzia (9:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah discusses existing field worker arrangements in the face of changing conditions and how or if these changes impacts the original agreement. One arrangement is where a person accepts to work another’s field on the condition that the owner will receive a percentage of the yield. This arrangement is referred to as arisut. The second, chakirut, is where the worker agrees to provide the owner a specific amount of the yield.

The Mishnah (9:8) teaches that if someone accepts a field to plant barley he is not allowed to plant wheat. If however it was under the assumption that he was going to plant wheat, then he is allowed to plant barley. Rashi explains that since wheat weakens the soil more than barley, the change from barley to wheat has a greater negative impact on the land and is therefore forbidden without prior agreement.

One question discussed in the Rishonim is to which arrangement does the Mishnah refer? Arisut or Chakirut?

Rashi (106b) understand that the Mishnah is referring to chakirut – where the payment is fixed. In a case of arisut however, since the owner stands to receive a percentage of the yield, the change from barley to wheat would be in his favour. The owner would prefer to receive a superior product even at the expense of a relative increase in degradation to the soil.

The Ramban, as cited by the Magid Mishneh (Sechirut 8:9) however disagrees. In a situation of arisut, since the owner has a share in the yield the worker would not be able to digress at all from the original agreement. Nevertheless he holds, like Rashi, that the Mishnah is referring to a case for chakirut.

The Gra (Choshen Mishpat 434:4) explains that Rashi and Ramban argue about the statement of Rav Papa. The Gemara (104a) cites the position of Rav Papa that from the third Mishnah onward in this perek, each Mishnah applies only to chakirut or arisut. We have also seen this in our study this week that the Mishnah regularly switched between the two.

The Gra (435:1) explains that Ramban understands the statement of Rav Papa that each Mishnah discusses one arrangement exclusively and the law discussed cannot apply to the other arrangement. Consequently in this case only in chakirut can one change (from wheat to barley) but certainly not in arisut.

Rashi however understands the statement of Rav Papa differently. He is not stating that it applies to arrangement and not to the other. Instead the intention is that the ruling of Mishnah is necessary for one, while that ruling is obvious for the other. The Gra cites Rashi’s comments on the Mishnah (8:4 & 8:7) that are in this vein. We understand therefore that if the case is referring to chakirut and it was teaching that changing from wheat to barley is permitted then it follows that it was unnecessary to teach that that is the case in arisut since it is most certainly permitted.

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