In this masechet many rabbinic laws have been studied that restrict the manner in which different produce may be planted so that it will not appear that the owner of the field is engaged in kil’ei zeraim or kil’ei kerem. In other words, even though there is no biblical prohibition against planting different species next to each other, the primary motivation for these rabbinic restrictions has been countering possible suspicion of transgression – ma'arat ayin (eg, 3:5). One Mishnah (4:3) included the leniency that if a field contained a fence that divided between grapes and grain, each could be planted next to the fence without the ordinarily required empty space.
The definition of a continuous wall is important in the laws of Shabbat (eruv) and sukkah. The Mishnah (4:4) goes one step further adopting further leniencies from these halachic categories:
A partition of (unconnected standing) reeds – if between reed and reed be less than three handbreadths (t’fachim) sufficient for a kid to enter, it counts as a valid partition (- this principle is known as levud). A fence that is breached up to a space of ten cubits is considered as an entrance; if it be more than this, planting opposite the breach is forbidden. If breaches be made therein, if what remains standing exceeds what is broken down it is permitted but if what is broken down exceeds what remains standing then opposite the broken down parts is forbidden.
Interestingly, even though the primary concern is ma’arat ayin, since a fence with multiple breaches6 is considered a complete fence in other halachic area, an imaginary line is drawn connecting the standing fence and one can even plant grapes and grain each on either side of the breach.7
How does one understand the first law of the Mishnah - levud? The Tana simply wrote that provided that the space between each of the reeds is less than three t’fachim then the fence is valid. Accepting that the fence is valid how does one treat the empty spaces between the reeds? Rashi (Eiruvin 16a) explaining the Gemarah that considers this reed fence, writes that even if the sum total of the space between the reeds adds up to a majority of the permitter of the fence, the fence is still valid. Unlike small breaches which are viewed as permissible empty spaces or openings, Rashi explains that the principle of levud enables the reeds and spaces between them to be viewed as if they are one continuous standing section of fence.
A priori, there are two ways one could understand how levud enables one to see the fence as a continuous section. One could simply ignore the empty space and imagine it did not exist. Alternatively view the space as being filled in. Rashi (Shabbat 97a) writes that the levud is the basis for the rule that if a raised area in a public domain is less the three t’fachim high, it is annulled and considered part of the public domain. At first glance this would appear that levud enables one to ignore this difference in height. Nevertheless, one could still suggest that levud is being used to smooth (or fill) the difference in height of the two regions such that it is considered continuous.
The principle of levud is also used when validating a sukkah wall that is hanging less than three t’fachim above the ground. Rashi (Shabbat 97a) states explicitly that the empty region is considered to be filled in. Furthermore the Ran (Sukkah 4a) agrees with this assertion, claiming that if one was to imagine that the space did not exist, then the levud could not be used to complete the height of a small (ten t’fachim) sukkah.
6: Provided they are each less than ten amot and in total less than a majority of the length of fence.
7: One should note that in hilchot Shabbat, if the breaches exceed the standing fence that the fence is ineffective at defining the area as a private domain, and one cannot carry inside that area, even next to the fence. With kil’ei kerem, one does not need to define the area as a domain; instead they simply require a division. Therefore if the breaches exceed the standing fences then one can still plant on either sides the parts of the fence that are still standing provided that they are at least four t’fachim long (see Eiruvin 16a).
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