Planting Grain Near a Vineyard

Kilayim (4:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

The biblical prohibitions of kilayim discussed recently have been: planting seeds from different grains or vegetables together (kilei zerayim) and planting grape seeds and grain together (kilei kerem). The focus of most of the week was on the rabbinic requirements of distinct configuration of, or spacing between different grains and greens so that they do not have the appearance of kilayim. By the end of this week however our attention turned to the space required next to a vineyard before one can plant other produce.

The first case involves an empty space in the middle of the vineyard that had been cleared of vines – karachat ha’kerem(4:1). If one wishes to plant produce in that space, Beit Hillel maintain that it must be sixteen amot wide. Four amot was required next to the vineyard for the oxen and wagons during ploughing and harvest time. This space is referred to as the avodat ha’kerem(“work area”) and is considered part of the vineyard, on both sides of the clearing. Yet there is also a requirement that the newly planted grain must be at least eight amot wide. To explain, Beit Hillel maintain that the minimum width of a field is four amot. In order not to have an appearance of kilayim there must at least be a field-size amount of grain. In this case however, since there is a vineyard on either side of the grain, the grain section must be the size of two “fields” to avoid the appearance of kilayim. The Rash clarifies that with a vineyard on each side, the field would be considered split in two. If each half is less than four amot it would be consider batel (annulled) to each vineyard and as if planted inside them.

Beit Shammai however require a greater distance of twenty-four amot. Why? Most commentaries explain that Beit Shammai maintain that the minimum size of a field is eight amot rather than four. Therefore two fields (8 + 8) and the two work-areas (4 + 4) add up to the minimum space. It is important to note that according to this explanation everyone agrees that avodat ha’kerem is four amot wide.

After presenting this explanation, Rashi (Eiruvin 3a) however provides an alternative one. Beit Shammai do not disagree that the minimum field is four amot wide. Instead they argue that the workspace of a vineyard is eight amot wide.

The Mishnah Rishona however questions this second explanation. The Mishnah (4:5) discusses a case where grain was planted within four amot of the vineyard. Beit Shammai maintains that one row of the vineyard becomes assur while Beit Hillel argues that two rows should. It appears for this Mishnah however that the avodat ha’kerem is four amot wide. Under instruction from the Tifferet Yaakov well shall look at the solutions of the Pnei Moshe and the Rashash.

The Pnei Moshe (Yerushalmi 4:1) answers that the focus of that Mishnah is the debate regarding the number of rows of the vineyard that become prohibited as a result of planting in the avodat ha’kerem; not the debate regarding its width. Consequently the reason four amot was chosen was because it was a space in which all agree is part of avodat ha’kerem. Nevertheless Beit Shammai defines the avodat ha’kerem as being eight amot wide.1

The Rashash (Eiruvin 3a) answers that indeed Beit Shammai define the avodat ha’kerem as being eight amot wide. This measure is required so that the karachat ha’kerem does not become batel and absorbed as part of the vineyard. However once the requisite space is achieved, one can plant to within four amot of the vineyard. How do we understand the explanation of the Rashash?

Perhaps the answer can be found based on another statement of the Yerushalmi. R’ Yochanan comments that Beit Shammai rule more stringently in our cases where part of the vineyard was cleared, than when the vineyard and grain were originally design and planted in that manner. Why should there be a difference?

One can explain that prior to clearing away some of the vines, the entire area was defined as a vineyard. Now even though Beit Shammai agree that one can plant up four amot close to a vineyard, this is unquestionably only outside of the vineyard. Consequently Beit Shammai require enough room two change the halachic status of that area from a vineyard to an open space – two work areas of eight amot and two fields of four amot.2


1 The Mishnah Rishona raises another difficult from Mishnah (6:1). See the Pnei Moshe for his resolution.

2 The Raavad (Kilaymi 7:3) discusses a similar idea relating to a different question from which the above suggestion was born.

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