The third perek begins by discussing the limitations placed on one wishing to form dungheaps during the shemittah year. The law is based on the concern that it could appear as though one is fertilizing their field – which is prohibited throughout shemittah. The limitations are in both the time after which one is allowed to begin, and the form and number of piles.
One debate relates to whether one form the piles gradually. R’ Elazar ben Azarya forbids it. The Bartenura explains that he was concerned that the owner would not be able to pile the minimum permissible quantity, and it would appear as though he was fertilizing his field. R’ Elazar ben Azarya however does provide a solution. Either one could from the piles in a recess that is three tephachim deep, a raised area that is three tephachim high or on a rock face. In all this cases, it is visually apparent that he forming the pile for storage and not fertilizing his field.
The Gemara (Moed Katan 4b) finds the position of R’ Elazar ben Azarya difficult as it appears to contradict his opinion in a different Mishnah. There (Moed Katan 1:1) R’ Elazar ben Azarya forbids one forming channels during Shemittah or Chol HaMoed. The reason is debated by R’ Zeira and R’ Abba bar Mamal in the Gemara. One opinion is that while he is creating the channel, it appears that he is hoeing his field. The second opinion is that as he forms the channel, he improves the soil on the newly formed banks (for planting) with the soft soil he places there. The practical difference between these two opinions is when one removes the extracted soil and does not place it on the banks. According to the first opinion, the concern that it appears as if he is hoeing his field is still present, while according to the latter opinion, the banks or not being improved.
Ameimar raises a question, based on our Mishnah. If the concern is that it appears one is digging his field during the Shemittah year, then why is R’ Elazar ben Azarya not also concerned in our Mishnah when digging a surface that is three tephachim deep?
Again, R’ Zeira and R’ Abba bar Mamal each provided answers. One explains that in our Mishnah that deeper surface was already prepared prior to the shemittah year. In other words, R’ Elazar ben Azarya is consistent in that one would not be able to dig either the channel or lower surface during shemittah. The other answer is that this case is different since the dungheap he places on that surface after it is prepared demonstrates that he was not hoeing his field.
The Ritva asks why it was necessary for R’ Zeira and R’ Abba bar Mamal to both provide solutions. Recall, that the difficult raised by Ameimar is only on the opinion that R’ Elazar ben Azarya was concerned that it looked like he was hoeing.
The Ritva answers that despite the fact that our Mishnah was a difficulty for only one opinion, the other side still presented a solution for his opponent. This should not surprise us, as we regularly find in the Gemara that one side will volunteer a solution for question raised against his opponent.1
The Chazon Ish however answers, that our Mishnah also provides a difficulty for the opinion that is based on one improving and preparing the soil. He draws our attention to the fact that R’ Elazar ben Azarya not only permits forming the heap on lowered surface, but also on a raised surface. Constructing such a surface would result in a surface with fertile soil ready for planting. Since our Mishnah provided a difficulty for both opinions, both Amoraim provided solutions.
1 This is the first answer of the Ritva. See inside where he provides other solutions.
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