Taking Root in Shevi’is

Sheviit (2:6) | Zamir Pollak | 11 years ago

The topic of this Mishnah (3:6) is the prohibition of planting or grafting during tosefes shvi’is and shevi’is. A simple reading of the Mishnah indicates that all the tanna’im agree that it is forbidden to plant before shevi’is such that the plant will take root during shevi’is. However, there is a three way dispute regarding the length of time necessary for a plant to become rooted in the ground or in another plant into which it has been grafted. The first tanna holds that this period of time is 30 days, while R’ Yehuda holds three days and R’ Yose and R’ Shimon hold two weeks. It thus follows that it is forbidden to plant 30, 3, and 14 days, respectively, before shevi’is. This viewpoint is in fact the view of Rabbeinu Tam cited by the Rash on our Mishnah and found on Rosh Hashanah (10b).

According to Rashi on the aforementioned daf, our Mishnah is to be understood quite differently. That Gemara in Rosh Hashanah says that really the three opinions in our Mishnah also take the deoraisa period of tosefes shvi’is into account, which we know from Moed Katan (3b) is 30 days. Therefore, it is forbidden to plant 60, 33, and 44 before Rosh Hashanah, and if one did plant and the sapling becomes takes root during tosefes shvi’is, it must be uprooted. While this understanding is not the straightforward reading of the Mishnah, nevertheless, according to Rashi, that is how the Gemara instructs us to read it. (Rabbeinu Tam understands the Gemara to be referring to orlah and not tosefes shvi’is, so he maintains the simple reading of the Mishnah).

The Rash takes an intermediate stance saying that according to all the opinions in the Mishnah it is forbidden to plant during the 30 days of tosefes shvi’is, which is what the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah teaches, however only when the plant is rooted during shvi’is, must it be uprooted.

The question that must be asked on all three views is why must a plant that takes root during shevi’is, according to Rabbeinu Tam and the Rash, or during tosefes shvi’is, according to Rashi, be uprooted? The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 298) explains that there is a mitzvas asei on shvi’is of “v’shavsah ha’aretz” (Vayikra 25:2), which means that the land should rest. This mitzvah is very similar to shvisas beheimah, which is resting one’s animal on Shabbos. The Minchas Chinuch explains, if any work is done by the animal on Shabbos, even if not directly caused by the Jewish owner, (such as when the animal is borrowed by a non-Jew) nevertheless, the Jewish owner still violates an issur deoraisa; the same idea is true by this mitzvah of shvisas ha’aretz. Any melacha carried out on the land, even if not directly done by a Jew, is an issur deoraisa. The Minchas Chinuch continues, thus the rooting of a plant in the ground is as if the land’s owner planted right then (even though the sapling was planted days beforehand); it’s as if one planted on shevi’is! To explain Rashi, the Minchas Chinuch simply says this stringent issur of shvi’is also applies to tosefes shvi’is. In other words, this din to uproot a plant rooted on tosefes shvi’is is due to the issur of shvi’is. Therefore, Rashi would view the issur of rooting on tosefes shvi’is just as if the plant was rooted on shevi’is.

This interesting explanation of the Minchas Chinuch is debated amongst the achronim. Some fascinating questions are raised. One such example (that I believe was asked by the Chazon Ish) is that according the Minchas Chinuch, if it rains on shvi’is is it considered as if the land’s owner watered his field, which of course is assur (under certain conditions, see Moed Katan 2a)? This would be hard to believe. In any event, the Minchas Chinuch’s approach is validated in that it is found in the Rishonim, such as Tosafos R’ Elchanan on Avodah Zarah (see the footnotes in the Minchas Chinuch).

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