The second Mishnah of the fifth perek discusses the distance that one must be from Yerushalaim such that they can transfer the kedushah of kerem reva’i produce to money. The intention is that after redeeming the kerem reva’i, one then takes this money to Yerushalaim and purchases fruit there.
The question arises of what does one do today with the fruit that has grown in - is one still bound by these laws? This is discussed in the Gemarah (Beitzah 5a), which records an episode where Rebbi Eliezer, who lived to the east of Lod after the destruction of the second Temple, wanted to give the fruit to the poor people of his town to eat in Yerushalaim. His students questioned him and asked ‘nowadays there is no longer an obligation to take fruit [to Yerushalaim]’.
To fully understand the statement of the disciples, we must first understand the following idea. When the Bnei Yisrael first conquered and settled the , the final stage of the fourteen year process was marked with the consecration of the land. Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik tzl once explained that within the world of Halacha holiness is always something that man imbues into an object. Nothing is holy without man expressing the kedushah within it. Therefore, once the Jewish people had settled the land they were able to reveal the kedushah of the land. However, once the Jewish people were exiled and the first was destroyed according to some commentators the kedushah left, as they believe that the kedushah is only expressed when the people are in their land. However, when the people can back after the seventy years of exile they were able to re-imbue the land with a new kedushah.
There is a dispute among the commentators as how to understand the actions of Rebbi Eliezer. Rashi explains that he thought that the original kedushah was forever lasting. Therefore he asked the poor to bring the food to Yerushalaim to eat it there. However the disciples explained that even though there might still be a level of kedushah within the city, there was no need to beautify the city as it was in ruins and being controlled by non-Jews.
Tosfot offers another explanation that even if we hold that the kedushah is not eternal, one is still not allowed to leave the fruit to spoil. Rebbi Eliezer had the further complication that he lived too near to be allowed to redeem the kedushah onto a coin. Consequently, it had to be taken to Yerushalaim. Other things that would not ruin however should be left until the would be rebuilt (since they were unaware that this exile would last over 2000 years!)
The Rambam in Hilchot Ma’aser Sheni (2:2) writes, “It is an expression of chasidut to redeem the fruit nowadays as they did in the times of the ”. The Rambam here appears to follow the opinion that the kedushah is not forever. However the Rambam in Hilchot Beit haBechira (-15) explains that the area that was made Kadosh by King Shlomo which was the Kedushah of the courtyard and that of Yerushalaim, lasts forever. Therefore one can eat kodshim and kodshim kalim in their correct places even without the .
Many have noted that the Rambam seems to contradict himself. On the one hand he rules in Ma’aser Sheni that it is only an “act of righteousness**”** to redeem the fruit, which would imply that the holiness of Yerushalaim has either ceased or at least is at a different level. Yet, in Beit haBechira the Rambam writes that the level of holiness is not dependent on the standing.
According to Rav Kapach tzl the Rambam is explaining two ideas. The first is that Yerushalaim remains in its complete state of Kedushah i.e. the ability to eat Ma’aser Sheni even without the Beit Ha’Mikdash standing. The second is the practical status of the at that moment. If the majority of world Jewry is not living within its borders the land-dependent Mitzvot do not apply at that time.
Interestingly it is believed that in the next generation the majority of world Jewry will be living in the , which will bring about a ‘new’ Halachic reality that has not been for over 2000 years.
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