Stumped Tree

Sheviit (1:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 20 days ago

Masechet Sheviit opens by discussing when various field work must stop prior to Shemittah during the sixth year. This period where field work is prohibited is referred to as tosefet sheviit (see 13(19)). Regarding the prohibition of ploughing around trees, we have seen that there is a difference whether we are dealing with mature trees (1:1) or saplings (1:6) (see 17(19)). We learnt that if there are ten saplings spaced out in an area of a beit seah, then the entire area may be ploughed for the benefit of the saplings until Rosh Hashanah. R' Shimon (1:8) adds that if a tree has been cut down such that less than a tephach of the stump remained, and new branches grew from the stump, then it is considered like a sapling.

The Bartenura explains that according to R' Shimon they would not only be considered like saplings for this law of tosefet sheviit, but also for the law of orlah. In other words, for the next three years, any fruit that is produced would be forbidden.

The Bartenura's explanation is based on the Yerushalmi that explains that both R' Shimon in our Mishnah and R' Eliezer ben Yaakov maintain the same position. R' Eliezer ben Yaakov explains that if one cuts their vine to less than a tephach from the ground and new branches grow, then the prohibition of orlah applies. It is important to note that it applies due to maarit ayain. In other words, to an onlooker that regenerated vine would appear like a newly planted vine so it must be treated as orlah. The Chachamim however argue that it would only be considered orlah if the vine was cut down to the ground.

If the prohibition of orlah is due to maarit ayin, it would imply that it is not really considered a sapling. If R' Shimon and R' Eliezer ben Yaakov maintain the same position, why then can these stumps be considered like saplings for tosefet sheviit?

The Mishnah Rishona suggests that when R' Shimon treats the stumps as saplings, he is only applying a stringency (much like a stringency of orlah). Recall that for mature trees, if three trees can produce enough for a kikar deveila, it is sufficient to plough the beit seah. For saplings, even if they produce a kivar deveila three trees are not enough -- ten are required. It is this law only that R' Shimon applies to the stumps. If ten stumps do not produce enough, he does not apply the leniency of ten saplings that the entire area can be ploughed until Rosh Hashanah. The Mishnah Rishona however notes that when the Rambam rules like R' Shimon he does not explain that they are treated like saplings only with respect to the stringency.

If R' Shimon understands that the stumps are considered like sapling in all respects, how then can we understand the alignment of R' Shimon and R' Eliezer ben Yaakov?

R' Chaim Kanievsky (in the commentary on Yerushalmi) explains that the two opinions are indeed dependent on one another. The reason why there is an issue of maarit ayin (for the law of orlah) is because when they are cut down so close to the ground, the ground around it needs to be ploughed and cared for to the same extent needed for a young sapling. Likewise, R' Shimon maintains that this greater need means that, just like for saplings, the ground can be ploughed until Rosh Hashanah.

The Rash Sirilio however notes that the Rambam rules like R' Shimon for tosefet sheviit, yet do not rule like R' Eliezer ben Yaakov for orlah. If they maintain the same position, ruling only like R' Shimon is difficult to understand.

R' Chaim Kanievsky (Biur Halacha, Shemitah VeYovel 3:8) cites the Chazon Ish who answers that for tosefet sheviit it depends on whether the plant will die without ploughing the soil around it. The Rambam rule like R' Shimon that these small stumps require the extra care. The extra care however does not mean that the law of orlah should then apply. What then does the Yerushalmi mean that R' Shimon and R' Eliezer ben Yaakov say the same thing? The Chazon Ish explains that they do not share the same position or understanding, but instead simply share the same shiur for their respective laws -- the importance of a stump being under a tephach.1


1 R' Chaim cites the Tosfot in a few places as precedent for this explanation.

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