Amirah L'Akum during Shmittah

Sheviit (3:1) | Yehudah Gottlieb | 17 years ago

The Mishnah in Shviit (3:1) states:

From when can one take out the manure (zevel) to the dung-heaps? From the time that the workers have finished working - this is the opinion of R’ Meir. R’ Yehudah says when the moisture has dried up. R’ Yosi says when it has hardened.

The Mishnah Rishona comments on this Mishnah stating that the language seems to indicate that the prohibition for taking out the zevel during Shmittah would apply only to a Jew. A Jew however, would be allowed to appoint a non-Jew to be his shaliach to take the zevel out to the field.

The Mishnah Rishona’s stance seems very strange. After all, the Minchat Chinnuch states that a person is commanded to rest his field during Shviit. How so?

There is a pasuk in Vayikra (25:4) which states: “(in the Seventh year) your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune”. From this pasuk, we derive that there are certain actions which are prohibited during the seventh year. However, there are two more p’sukim outlining the chiyuv of the seventh year:

(1) “A resting year for the land” (Vayikra 25:5)

(2) “And the land shall observe a Shabbat rest for Hashem”

> (Vayikra 25:2)

These two p’sukim seem to give the land during the Shmittah year, the same law that applies to animals and keilim on Shabbos8. Therefore, there are two aspects of the Shmittah year, not only against doing any prohibited work on the field during Shmittah, but also there is a positive commandment to lie the field fallow (make it ‘rest’)9.

Consequently, how can the Mishnah Rishona state that it is permissible for a non-Jew to take out the zevel in the field belonging to the Jew in the Shmittah year? Does this not constitute a violation by the Jew of the positive mitzvah of Shvitat Karkah?

The Mishnah Rishona brings a number of alternative answers to this question. However, all these answers are based on the fact that moving zevel to the field is only a problem on Shviit due to Maarit Ayin. The Rabbanan were worried that people would see a person moving zevel to their field during Shviit which would appear as though the person was fertilizing his field and assume that they could go and work their own land (even though it was the 7th year). Therefore, they decreed that moving this zevel to the land would be assur during Shviit.

Therefore, why is a Jew able to send a non-Jew to do this for him on Shmittah? What is the difference between this and the din of Amirah L’Akum that applies on Shabbos?

The Mishnah Rishona explains that this is different because:

(a) In this case (moving the zevel) the three piles of zevel are spread out over the field (as the Mishnah goes on to explain in Mishnah 2), therefore, it is recognizable as rubbish (zevel) rather than actual working or using the land. Therefore, it is not a violation of Shvita.

(b) The case of sending an akum (non-Jew) to be a shaliach for oneself on Shviit is not as strict as that of Shabbos. On Shabbos, we would be worried about someone seeing a non-Jew doing a Melacha for us (Maarit Ayin) but we are not as worried during Shmittah. This is because we are not as machmir as to forbid sending a non-Jew to do the work for you, when dealing with a Rabbinic gezeirah (as opposed to the Amirah L’Akum where the activity performed is biblically prohibited for a Jew).


8: It is forbidden to use the animal of a Jew to do Melacha on Shabbos (Shvitat Behema). According to Beit Shammai this prohibition extends to the Keilim of a Jew as well (See Masechet Shabbos 18a).

9: A further proof to this fact can be found in the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 15b) where there is a machloket Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai over whether a person is able to sell their land during (or just before) Shviit. Beit Hillel holds that one is permitted to sell his land provided that it is laid fallow by the buyer. Beit Shammai holds that it is forbidden to sell the land in case the buyer will work on the land during Shviit. However, according to both these opinions the din of Shvitat Karkah (resting of the land) applies.

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