Acquiring Peah for a Poor Person

Peah (4:9) | Yisrael Bankier | 17 years ago

The Mishnah (Peah 4:9) states:

Whoever cuts peah and says “this is for such-and-such a poor person”, R’ Eliezer says, he has acquired it for him. The Chachamim say, he must give it to the first poor man he meets.

The Gemarah (Bavli, Gittin 11b, and Bava Metzia 9b) explains that the Mishnah is referring to a case where a wealthy person is trying to take peah for a poor person. R’ Eliezer argues that one can apply the legal principle of “migo” (literally meaning “since”) twice. In other words, firstly, since the wealthy person can instantly become poor by renouncing ownership of his property and be able to take peah, the peah is considered appropriate for him. Secondly, now that the peah is appropriate for him, since he can acquire it for himself, he can acquire it for another poor person. The Chachamim however argue a migo can only be applied once.

The Gemarah continues, that everyone agrees that a poor person can acquire peah for another, because in that situation only one migo would apply. In other words, since this poor person can acquire the peah for himself, he can also acquire it for his friend.

Rashi (B.M. 9b) explains that the Gemarah refers to a wealthy person other than the owner of the field. If however the owner of the field tried to acquire peah for someone else, even if he was poor, the migo would not apply. Rashi appears to argue that since the owner is commanded to leave peah for the poor, one can no longer say “since he can acquire it for himself…”

The Tosfot (see Ritva B.M. 9b) however argue that once the owner has renounced ownership of the field the commandment to leave peah no longer applies. How does one then explain Rashi’s opinion?

When clarifying Rashi, the Ritva explains that it is a Torah decree (gzeirat ha’katuv) that even if he annuls his property the issur still applies. Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger explains further that the obligation to leave peah is affective at the time of harvest, and since at that point he owns the field, the peah become assur to the owner forever.

The Gra”ch (stencil 2, p 139) explains that there are two issues involved in this case. The first is a monetary issue of property rights, i.e. that only a poor person can take peah. The owner however also has a further prohibition of not taking peah for himself. A migo, he explains, can only be applied in monetary issues and not for issurim. For this reason Rashi argues that the Gemarah cannot be referring to the owner of the field.

Rabbeinu Kreskas (G. 11b) provides support for Rashi explaining that in the case of a poor owner, two migos would still be required. One that since he can renounce ownership of his field, the peah is appropriate for him, and the second that since he can acquire it for himself he can acquire it for others.

The Gemarah Yerushalmi however specifically states that the Mishnah is referring to a wealthy owner. Furthermore other Rishonim argue that the Gemarah (cited above) does not exclude the owner of the field (Rambam Matanot Ani’im 2:1, Tosfot Rosh B.M., Rashi Gittin 11b). How does one then respond to Rabbeinu Kreskas’ proof?

Rabbeinu Kreskas explains a different, single migo is being applied: since the poor owner can acquire other poor gifts, he can acquire the peah for another poor person. The Shittah Mekubetzet however argues that this is an unwarranted extension of the migo rule and that it cannot be applied me’inyan le’inyan.

The Ritva however explains that the poor owner can in fact acquire his own peah. Being poor, he can acquire any peah. Since however he is the owner of the field there is a Torah obligation that he must now give it to a poor person. Consequently the single migo would be phrased as follows: since the poor owner can acquire the peah to give to someone else, he can acquire it for another poor person directly.

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