Masechet Bikurim opens by defining when one brings bikurim (first-fruits) to the Beit HaMikdash and when one recites the declaration when doing so. One case that is debated is if one purchases two trees in another’s field (1:6). The Chachamim maintain that the purchaser brings bikurim but without making the declaration, while R’ Meir maintains that he would.
The Gemara (Bava Batra) explains the debate as follows. If one does not own the land on which his trees grow then he cannot bring bikurim. R’ Meir maintains that when one purchases two trees in another’s field, he has purchased the land on which they grow as well. The Chachamim however are doubtful. Rashi explains that the doubt is whether the land is included as part of the sale of the trees. We learn later (1:11) that if one however purchased three trees, then everyone agrees that the land is part of the sale and the purchaser would bring bikurim and make the declaration.
How can one bring bikurim based on a doubt? The Gemara (Bava Batra 61b) is concerned that if the fruit is not bikurim then one would be bringing chullin into the azarah; which is forbidden. The solution proposed is that one also consecrates the fruit intending that its value be used as for a korban. Now since if it is bikurim the kohen must eat it, the fruit must then be redeemed. Furthermore since it might have been chullin, trumot and maaserot are also separated and given to the appropriate kohanim. The final hurdle is that since the declaration might need to be made if it is bikurim but cannot be made since it might be chullin, the fruit are sent to Yerushalaim with a shaliach thereby removing the requirement of making the declaration (1:5). That is the delicate solution to the Chachamim’s safek.
One question that is raised is that according to the Chachamim despite there being a doubt whether the land was part of the purchase, since the purchaser cannot lay claim to the land in practise, it should not be considered his for the purposes of bikurim – therefore bikurim should not be brought. The Mishnah Rishona suggests that since Eliyahu might come and resolve this halachic matter, for the purposes of the bikurim it should remain a doubt despite currently not belonging to him for financial purposes. Ultimately however, the Mishnah Rishona is not satisfied with this answer.
There are a number of solutions presented to the question, from which we shall present one. The Ohr Sameach begins by first answering another question. Earlier we noted that if one purchased three trees, then he would both bring bikurim and make the declaration. We explained that in that case, everyone agrees that the purchaser acquired the land with the trees. The Rambam however rules that even if at the time of purchase it was stipulated that the land is not included in the sale, the law would not change for bikurim. Why?
The Ohr Sameach explains that in our same Mishnah we learn of a debate regarding fruit from a tree that was cut down. R’ Yehuda maintains that it can be treated as regular bikurim while the Chachamim maintain that the declaration cannot be made as there is no longer land. The Gemara(Berachot 40a) explains that R’ Yehuda maintains that the fruit grows primarily from the ground. Consequently here, since the land is still present, the declaration can be made. The Chachamim however maintain that fruit grows primarily from the tree. In the declaration, the reference to “the land that You gave me” includes the tree and if it is detached, the declaration cannot be made.
Returning to the Rambam; how can the declaration be made if he specifically purchased the trees without the land? The Ohr Sameach explains when one purchases three trees it is significant enough to be qualified as “the land that You gave me” as the land is batel to the trees. The significance of the quantity is evident of the fact that if one sold the trees without specifically mentioning the land, it is included in the sale.
Now returning to our original question: if in the sale of two trees, the ownership of the land is not transferred, why is there a doubt regarding bikurim? The Ohr Sameach answers: with the sale of the three trees we have explained that the land is secondary. With the sale of one tree the tree is clearly secondary to the land (as it is not included in a standard sale). With the sale of two trees, just as there is a doubt whether the land is included in the purchase, there is a doubt for bikurim regarding which is the ikar and which is the tafel – the land or fruit tree. The practical ownership of the land has no baring for bikurim since if the trees are the ikar then the obligation of bikurim would apply even if the land remained the property of the original owner (as explained according to Rambam above).
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