Peah After the Fact

Peah (2:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

As we discussed last week, a farmer is obligated to leave some uncut produce for the poor and that this “gift” is referred to as Peah. If however a farmer harvested his entire field, he must still separate some of the cut produce and give it to the poor. We shall try and understand this obligation.

The Chazon Yechezkel (2:6) explains that there are two ways of understanding the requirement of separating Peah from the cut produce. The first is that this is part of the original obligation that rests on the field from the first moment of harvest. As we learnt, the obligation is from the pasuk, “you shall not complete your reaping to the corner (peah) of the field” (Vayikra 19:9). Alternatively, one might understand that the obligation after the harvest is a new one based on the pasuk also cited last week, “you shall leave”. This new obligation is one that comes to repair the violation committed when the farmer harvested his entire field.

The Chazon Yechezkel suggest that the Mishnah learnt this week (2:7) appears to be a proof for the later understanding. We learnt that if the owner of the field harvested half the field and then bandits harvested the remainder, the owner is not obligated to leave any peah. This would even be the case if they left the wheat behind. If the obligation to leave peah from cut produce stems from the original obligation to leave peah and that obligation rested on the wheat at the beginning of harvest1, then the owner should be required to separate produce for peah. The obligation already existed and all the wheat is here. If however the obligation is only to repair the violation of harvesting the entire field the Mishnah, it is easier to understand. Since the owner did not harvest to the end of the field he did not violate this prohibition. Consequently, we can understand why he is exempt from separating peah now.

The Chazon Yechezkel however continues that this point appears to be a debate. We find in Yoma (36b) the Gemara concluding that the debate there between R’ Yossi and R’ Akiva is regarding whether Peah is a lav ha’nitak le’asseh. In other words, is the instruction that the “you shall leave” written in response to a violation of not leaving peah and thereby coming to repair it. The practical ramification is whether the violation of not leaving Peah is punishable with lashes since a lav ha’nitak le’asseh is not. R’ Yossi maintains that “you shall leave” is coming after one violates the prohibition. R’ Akiva however understanding that “me’ikara mashma”. In other words, the instruction applies from the outset warning the farmer to leave the Peah in the field. The Rashash explains that R’ Akiva understands that “you shall leave” is an instruction the farmer to leave Peah for the poor to collect and not distribute it evenly (see 4:1). If, however it is already harvested, then it must be distributed.

The Chazon Yechezkel cites the Tosfot Yeshanim who finds the position of R’ Akiva difficult. If “you shall leave” is an instruction from the outset, why should the farmer separate peah from cut produce at all? Once he has violated the prohibition of cutting all the produce, there is no positive commandment that can repair his violation.2

The Chazon Yechezkel answers by explaining that this debate expresses the distinction we brought in the beginning of the article. R’ Yossi is understood. He maintains that “you shall leave” expresses a new obligation; this explains why it is a lav she’nitek le’aseh. The violation relates to the individual and “you shall leave” comes later in response to it. R’ Akiva however understands that the obligation is part and parcel of the original of obligation to leave Peah. Importantly, this obligation rests on the field and its stalks from the beginning of harvest. This is the case even if it is cut. They are the same stalks and must be given to the poor.3


1 See Volume 7, Issue 6 for a more detailed treatment of the timing of the obligation of Peah. The article also resolves a number of seemingly contradicting Mishnayot we learnt this week.

2 See the Sefat Emet (Yoma 36b) on this point. He raises the question of tashlumin and how it impacts this debate.

3 According to the understanding that the obligation is from the outset and not a response to the violation, the question remains how we can understand our Mishnah. The Mefarshim explain that the exemption of the nochri, listim or other examples brought in the Mishnah is based on the pasuk, “when you cut”. We also suggested at the end of the article that according to this understanding the obligation is not on the individual, but rather on the field itself. We learnt (2:8) that if one cuts half the field and then sells it, the purchaser is obligated to separate all the Peah. Consequently, this obligation stays with the field even though the new owner was not the one to begin the harvest. Furthermore, much like we explained the position of the Rash last week, the we may suggest that “when you cut” is requirement that relates to the field. That being the case, once the bandits cut the wheat to the end of the field, the requirement of “when you cut” is not satisfied. Consequently, the obligation to leave Peah, standing or cut, does not apply.

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