In the final chapter of Maaser Sheni, the masechet turns its attention to a different, yet related, agricultural law – kerem or neta revai. During the first three years of a tree’s life, one is not allowed to eat from its fruit; this is known as orlah. The fruit of the fourth year, kerem/neta revai, must be taken to Yerushalaim and eaten there.
“In the fourth year, all its fruit shall be sanctified to laud (kodesh hillulim) Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:24)
Upon hearing this first law, the similarity of kerem revai is striking. Yet how far that similarity goes is the subject of debate.
The Mishnah (5:3) records that Beit Shammai maintain that unlike Maaser Sheni, when one redeems the sanctity of kerem revai with money, they are not required to add the extra**“fifth” onto its value. The second difference is that kerem revai does not require bi’ur (removal) prior to Pesach in the fourth and seventh years. Beit Hillel however argue that kerem revai shares these laws with maaser sheni as well. What is behind this debate?
The Gemara (Kiddushin 54b) explains that Beit Hillel understand that the Torah connects kerem revai and maaser sheni by means of a gezeirah shava having used the word “kadosh” in pasukim the refer to each. Consequently kerem revai adopts all the laws of maaser sheni.
The Tosfot raise a sharp difficulty. The Gemara in Berachot (35a) learns two things from the word “hillulim” quoted above. The first is that if one wants to eat kerem revai outside Yerushalim it needs to be redeemed with money (“chilul”). The second is, that biblically, kerem revai only applies to wine (as it is used for shirah- hillul). The Tosfot ask: why does the Gemara in Berachot need to learn the laws of redemption from the word hilllul when we have a gezeira shava that completely1 connects maaser sheni with kerem revai?
The Tosfot provide two suggestions. Recall that during the third and sixth years of the shmittah cycle, the second tithe is actually maaser ani – there is no maaser sheni. Consequently, with the gezeira shava alone, one might have thought that the laws of neta revai do not apply in those years. Kodesh hillulim is required therefore to teach that this is not the case.2
The second answer is that without the derivation from “kodesh hillulim” one might have formed a different gezeira shava and connected kerem revai to shmittah, thereby discounting any form of redemption.
The Nachalat Moshe asks, that a gezeirah shava is never innovated. They can only be used if there one has a tradition if it. He therefore explains that the Tosfot in their second answer mean that that Beit Hillel might have had a tradition of a gezeira shava based on the words “kodesh”, but were unsure between the maaser sheni and shemittah. In a similar manner, the Birkat Rosh explains that without the derivation of kodesh hillulim, Beit Hillel would have been forced to adopt the stringencies for kerem revai of both maaser sheni (that cannot be consumed outside Yerushalaim) and shmittah (that cannot be redeem). The derivation of kodesh hillulim therefore teaches that the gezeira shava only connects kerem revai to maaser sheni
1The Maharsha (Berachot 35a) explains “ein gezeira shava le’mechetza”.
2This comment of the Tosfot triggers off another debate. What is the law of kerem revai in the shmittah year itself? Is it like maaser sheni or does it still apply? The Rashba and R’ Chayim Tzarfati, as quoted by the Ritva appear to explain that kerem revai would also apply in the shmittah year as a result of the derivation from kodesh hillulim. Yet in the Yerushalmi it appears that there is a difference between the shmittah year and the third and sixth years. R’ Yosi explains there that while in the third and sixth year there is no maaser sheni there are other maasrot as opposed to the shmittah year where there are no maasrot at all.
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