Leket Mixed in a Pile

Peah (5:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

This week we began to look more closely at the leket – the obligation to leave the individual stalks that have fallen during harvest, for the poor. As with the other matanot aniyim about which we have learnt, leket becomes the property of the poor and is exempt from separating trumot and ma’asrot (ma’asort for short). An issue that the Mishnah (5:2) deals with is if one stalk of leket becomes mixed into a pile that belongs to the owner. Clearly the owner must provide the ani (poor person) with a replacement. The difficulty is that the ani is due a stalk that is exempt from separating trumot and ma’asrot. Randomly selecting a replacement stalk would not satisfy as the obligation of separating ma’asrot would apply (unless the original leket was selected). The Mishnah explains that one must take one stalk, designate a place from which its ma’asrot will be separated and then hand the ani that stalk. What does this mean?

A word of introduction is required. One is allowed to separate ma’asrot from one pile to satisfy the requirement of another. The condition is however, that both piles are tevel – bother require ma’asrot to be separated. The Bartenura, citing the Yerushalmi, explains that the owner separates two stalks (A and B) and declares: If A is the original leket then fine, if however it is not, then I designate that its ma’asrot will be separated from stalk B. The intention is that he will give the ani stalk A. The difficult then faced is that if stalk B is the original leket, his original declaration is invalid – one is not allowed to designate that the ma’asrot will be separated from something that is exempt. Consequently, he takes a third stalk (C) and declares: If B is the original leket, then I designate that A’s ma’asrot will be separated from stalk C. Since there was only one stalk of leket he can then safely give the ani stalk A which will be exempt from ma’asrot.

The Rambam (Matanot Aniyim 4:10) however explains the solution as follows: “...he must separate two stalks, and declare on one that if it is leket it is for the poor, and if it is not then its ma’asorot are fixed in the second stalk. He then returns and makes a condition on the second one and then gives one to the ani and the other is ma’asrot.” The Kesef Mishnah questions if anything is being achieved by this solution. Recall that cross designation only works if they are both tevel. If one is leket then the second will remain tevel and there is a risk that that one will be given to the ani. How do we explain Rambam’s solution?

The Kesef Mishnah explains that when the Rambam states “and return and make a condition on the second” it is not exactly the same as the first condition, instead he states “and if the second stalk is leket then that is fine.” In other words at the end he is left with one stalk that is chulin and another with ma’asrot.Since we are not sure which one is chulin, he gives both to the ani. The ani will then sell both to the kohen for the price of one, i.e., the chulin one that belongs to him.

The Tifferet Yisrael (Boaz 3) notes that leket has no sanctity. Consequently the leket that was mixed in should be considered annulled in the majority that outweighed it. So why are we bothering with all these complex condition; simply pay the ani the value of the leket! He answers that the solution must only be in a case where providing him money is not an option. Either money is not readily available when the ani is present or the ani specifically requires these stalks and does not want to be bothered with going elsewhere to purchase a replacement. With this in mind however, the Tifferet Yisrael has a difficulty with the Kesef Mishnah’s explanation of the Rambam. According to his answer, the ani has to take both stalks and find a kohen to sell them to and then presumably take that money to buy the food he requires. Surely it would be easier if the owner give him money straight away.

The Mishnah Rishona suggests a different explanation of the Rambam.Each time the owner takes one we can apply the principle “if something is separated we can assume it came from the majority”. Consequently, two stalks are enough, and he can separate from one to the other assuming they are both tevel. The Mishna Rishona however admits that according to this understanding, the Rambam should not required a second stipulation as he specifies.1


1See also the Tosfot Anshei Shem’s explanation of the Rambam.Note that many other issues in this Mishnah have not been addressed: The debate between the Tana Kama and R’ Eliezer; how the owner should separate ma’asrot from his pile that might still have leket mixed in with it; etc.

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