Kilei Zeraim – Wheat and Spelt

Kilayim (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

After completing the third masechet, this week we begin masechet kilayim. The masechet deals with the various forbidden mixtures relating to grains (kilei zeraim), grains planted in vineyards (kilei kerem), animals (kilei behema) and fabrics (kelei begadim). The masechet opens with kilei zerayim detailing pairs of grains that, despite being different, may be planted together and would not violate the prohibition of kilayim. A closer look at the Mishnah can teach us much about the prohibition of kilei zerayim.

The Bartenura points out that even though the pairs of grain listed do not constitute kilayim, two grains for different pairs would. For example, wheat and spelt (kusmin) would not be allowed to be planted together.

The categorisation of species listed in this masechet is not specific to kilayim. The Mishnah (Trumot 2:6) teaches that anything listed in our masechet as being different types is considered different types for trumot u’ma’asrot. This means for example that one would not be able to separate trumah from spelt for tevel wheat.

The Bartenura notes however that when discussing the laws of challah,the Gemara (Menachot 70a) teaches that kusmin is a type of wheat. He explains that for the laws of challah, wheat and spelt can combine to make the minimum quantity thereby requiring the separation of challah. Yet, for the laws of kilayim they are considered different species. Note that for the laws of challah not all grains combine – they must be of the same “type” (Challah 4:2)1. Why then is there a difference between the laws of kilayim and the laws of challah?

The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger explains that for kilayim and trumah the focus is one the species of products in question; trumah is separated from grain. For challah however, since challah is separated from dough, the issues is with the similarity in the dough form (isa).2 The Mishnah Rishona understands that this assessment is based on similarities in appearance and taste of the bread. How is categorisation assessed for kilayim?

Citing the Tosfot Yom Tov(1:5), the Mishnah Rishona explains that for kilayim the differences in physical appearance are of prime importance, even if their tastes are similar. The apparent difficulty with this assertion is that that Yerushalmi teaches that two species of wheat are not considered kilayim even if their colour is different!3 The Mishna Rishona therefore refines his explanation. In the case of varieties of wheat their taste is identical; consequently differences in appearance are not significant. With the pairs in our Mishnah however, there are minor variations in taste. Because their appearance is similar, they are not considered kilayim if planted together. If their appearance was different it would be considered kilayim.*That said, if there is a large variation in taste, then even if the species have a similar appearance, they would be considered kilayim*.


1 The Bartenura (Menachot 10:6) explains that this is when the types of dough are kneaded separately yet “bite” into one another. If however the grains are kneaded together, then even different types combine.

2 See the Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger for an another answer.

3See Kehati’s introduction to this Mishnah, for the Yerushalmi.

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