Understanding the Obligation of Peah

Peah (2:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 14 years ago

A number of Mishnayot learnt this week could lead to confusion if not learnt properly. The Mishnah (2:8) taught that if a person reaped half his field and then sold the field to another, the buyer must leave peah for the entire field. A later Mishnah (3:5) however taught that if one sells trees1 in his field, the purchaser/s must leave Peah for each of the trees individually. R’ Yehuda (based on the explanation of the Gemara Chulin 138a) explains that if however the owner began reaping the field prior to selling the tree, the seller must leave peah for his field and all the trees. Solving this problem reveals a deeper understanding about the obligation of leaving peah.

The Gemara explains that as soon as the owner begins to harvest, he is obligated to leave peah for the entire field. If so, how do we explain the earlier Mishnah where once the buyer purchased the remaining half, the buyer was required to leave peah? The Tosfot Yom Tov, explains that in that case the original owner sold the entire remaining half of the field leaving him nothing, whereas in this case the tree-seller had produce left standing from which to separate peah.2To clarify, the Bartenura explains that implicit in the sale of the second half was that he was not selling the peah that original owner was required to leave – half-minus-peah – with the price fixed accordingly (Mishnah Rishona). 

Having established that the obligation to leave peah is at the beginning of reaping a number of questions arise. The first relates to a Mishnah (2:7) learn last Shabbat where if the second half of the fields was cut by thieves there is no obligation to leave peah. The difficulty is that if the obligation has already begun, where did it go? We know that if the owner had harvested the entire field he would have been required to separate some of the cut harvest for peah. To this the Bartenura explains that the obligation is to leave peah standing in the field. If and only if the owner himself cuts it is he required to separate a replacement (since he did not “leave” peah). Consequently, since thieves cut it, he is not required to replace it.    

The next question comes from the subsequent Mishnah (2:8) where we learn that if someone cuts half the field, sanctifies it, and then someone redeems it, then harvests the rest, the redeemer must leave peah for the entire field. The Tosfot Chadashim derives from the Mishnah that had the gizbar harvested the field while in the property of hekdesh and then the someone redeemed it; there would be no obligation to leave peah. This understanding is similar to Mishnah we will learn this week (4:7) that if one sanctifies a field of standing wheat and then redeems it after it has been harvested; he is exempt from leaving peah. The significant difference is that this Mishnah implies that the ruling would be the same even if the owner had sanctified the field after beginning the harvest – after the obligation of separating peah

Based on this understanding the Tosfot Anshei Shem cites the question from the sefer Hon Ashir. We will learn soon learn (7:8) that if one sanctifies a vineyard that contains olelot(particular bunches that must be left for the poor) the olelot are not sanctified because they already belong to the poor – one cannot sanctify something that he does not own. The question therefore is: how can the Mishnah imply that one can sanctify the remaining half of the field if he is already obligated to leave half for the poor?

The Tosfot Anshei Shem therefore explains that the obligation of leaving peah is different. Olelot immediately belong to the poor without conditions. Even if they were blown off the vines by strong winds, they belong to the poor. With peah, granted that as soon as the owner begins cutting, there is an obligation to leave peah, nevertheless nothing yet belongs to the poor – the entire field still belongs to the owner. He is only warned not to harvest the entire field and must leave peah.  Consequently if thieves, ants or even hekdesh cut the remained of the field, he is not required to replace the peah with standing crop.3 

1There are a number of explanations for the kilchei ilan that are being sold. We shall simplify by referring to them as trees.

2 This is according to the understanding that in the case of the trees the owner had standing produce remaining. See the Tosfot Anshei Shem that who explains that the Bartenura does not require the owner to have anything left over and his resolution of our question.

3The Tosfot Anshei Shem explains that if the second half is sold (as discussed earlier) the purchaser only acquires the original owner rights and therefore must leave peah for the entire field.


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