Matanot Aniyim... For Everyone (Revisited)

Peah (8:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

The first Mishnah in the final perek teaches that after a particular time, if any matanot aniyim are still left in the field, they are free for anyone to take. In the previous Mishnah Yomit cycle we analysed in detail the halachic mechanism that changes status of the matanot aniyim from belonging to the poor to becoming ownerless (Volume 1 Issue 9). In this article we shall look at some of the questions raised on this Mishnah.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 21b) explains that at the end of the time limit, the matanot aniyim become hefker – ownerless – as the poor have given up hope of retrieving anything more (yiush). It is for that reason that anyone is allowed to take them.

One question found in the Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger is that as soon the matanot become hefker they should immediately belong to the owner of the field. Even though the owner is not aware of each of the matanot, he should acquire them by virtue of them being in his field.1 R’ Akiva Eiger asserts that this question require great attention.

The Tosfot Anshei Shem answers that when the aniyim began to collect the matanot, the owner gave up any hope of retrieve anything – he was me’ya’esh first. Consequently an acquisition through his land cannot work. The Shiurei R’ Shmuel however questions this explanation. The owner’s yiush that was suggested is prior to the aniyim entering the field. After they have finished however, the owner can take interest in what is left and should be able use his field to acquire it all.

The Radvaz (Matanot Aniyim 1:11) however understands that our Mishnah should not be understood literally. Indeed, after the aniyim are finished collecting from the field everything goes back to the owner. When the Mishnah teaches that “everyone is permitted” it must therefore only be teaching that they are no longer the property of the poor. 3

Another question relates to how all the matanot can be considered ownerless at all. We explained that it was based on the yiush of the aniyim – they gave up hope. It therefore assumes that all aniyim gave up hope. How can we make such assumption? What about the aniyim in other cities?

The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger writes that since aniyim in other cities know that there are local aniyim, they immediately give up home of retrieving anything from that city. He however raises another question. Within the city there are minors that are poor and have a right to collect these matanot. Yiush of a minor however has no legal force.

The Ketzot HaChoshen (243:4) explains that matanot aniyim are different when it comes to minors. The Torah states that they should be left for the poor. To elaborate, according to the Torah,the matanot are left in the field for the poor to claim. Now since a minor cannot lay monetary claim on an object (ein lo yad lezakot) the pasuk does not apply to them - they have no legal rights to the matanot on a biblical level. Consequently yiush is not required from a minor.

Another solution that is raised is that the loss of ownership is not based on yiush. Rather it is based on another understanding. The pasuk states that the matanot should be left for the poor. The Gemara (Chulin 134b) understands that this means that it must be left for the poor but not for the birds and other wild animals. Therefore at that point, even if the general laws yiush cannot apply, the Torah renders them hefker.3


1 The R’ Akiva Eiger anticipates the suggestion that perhaps this field is considered unguarded – chatzer sheino mishtameret – and raises difficulties with that suggestion. See inside.

2 The Mishnat Ri suggests a different answer to R’ Akiva Eiger’s question. He explains that a chatzer can only acquire for the owner if he does not know anything about what it contains. In a case like this one, where he does know about the contents, the kinyan requires the intention of the owner.

3 See Volume 1 Issue 9 for more details on this understanding.

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