Kilayim in the heart of the kerem

Kilayim (5:5) | Pinchos Chalk | 15 years ago

he Mishnah in Kilayim (5:5) says:

“If someone plants a vegetable in a vineyard or [sees it growing and] leaves it, 45 vines around the vegetable become prohibited. When is this so, if the vines are planted either 4 amot (cubits) apart or 5 amot apart. However if they were planted 6 amot apart or 7 amot apart then only the vines that are within a radius of 16 amot become prohibited. We consider a circle and we do not square off [the area].”

The reason that we take a radius of 16 amot from the vegetable is because 16 amot is the maximum amount of space that you can have between vines in a vineyard and still say that the vines form a vineyard. If the space between the vines is greater than this then they are considered as individual vines. As the Mishnah (4:9) says:

“If someone plants his vineyard with a spacing of more than 16 amot he is allowed to plant other seeds in between.”

Subsequently any vine that is growing within 16 amot of the vegetable is considered to be growing together with the vegetable and is prohibited.

In a case where the vines are planted 4 amot apart the Mishnah is simple to understand. Consider the following diagram:

You have 49 vines in a grid of 7 × 7. Each vine is four amot apart. There is a vegetable growing in the centre of the grid and a circle of 16 amot radius is drawn around the vegetable. The circle includes all the vines except the 4 corner ones, 49 – 4 = 45.

The Mishnah is more difficult to understand in the case where the vines are planted 5 amot apart as in the following diagram:

In this case there are three vines at every corner that are not included in the 16 amah line. 49 – (3×4) = 37. Only 37 vines should become prohibited, why does the Mishnah say that 45 become forbidden?

The Rambam answers this question by explaining that not only do vines that are within the circle become forbidden but also any vine that is within 4 amot of the circle becomes forbidden. This is because the area around each vine is cultivated for 4 amot in order for the vine to grow properly. If the circle intercepts the 4 amah area around the vine then the vine is considered to be growing together with the vegetable and becomes forbidden. Therefore effectively you have to consider a circle with a 20 amah radius. This includes all the vines in the grid except for the four corners, giving you 45 vines.

The Rambam is difficult to understand. If you always extend the 16 amah circle by 4 amot, because you are concerned not only about the vines that are within the circle but also about the vines that are within 4 amot of the circle, then why does this not also apply in the case of the vineyard that is planted at a spacing of 4 amot? Why do you not even consider vines that are exactly on the perimeter of the circle? Because of this question the Rambam’s explanation of the Mishnah is rejected by the Kesef Mishnah and the Rosh.

I would like to suggest the following answer:

If a vineyard is planted at a spacing of 4 amot then the vines are not considered independently. They do not have individual significance. Each vine is considered only as a part of the overall vineyard. This is for two reasons.

  1. Each vine shares its 4 amot (kedei avodat hakerem) with a number of other vines.

  2. 4 amot was the typical spacing for a vineyard.

Therefore when you draw the circle around the vegetable that is growing in the centre of the vineyard, the circle is drawn precisely, cutting a swathe through the vineyard. Any vine that falls within the circle is prohibited because this area of the vineyard becomes a prohibited kilayim area. Any vine that is outside of the area is not within the problematic area of the vineyard and is permitted.

If, however, the vines are planted at a spacing of 5 amot, each vine has its own individual cultivated area surrounding it. Therefore each vine is considered individually to see whether it is within the 16 amah proximity of the vegetable. If the vegetable is within 16 amot of the vine’s individually cultivated space, then the vine is considered to be growing together with the vegetable and is assur because of kilayim.

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