The Debate over Ne’evad

Sheviit (4:2) | Zamir Pollak | 11 years ago

“Sadeh she’nitaivah – Beis Shamai omrim: Ein ochlin peiroseha b’Shvi’is, u’Veis Hillel Omrim: Ochlin.”

(Shvi’is 4:2)

There are numerous factors that could possibly prohibit the consumption of Shvi’is produce. Over the course of Mishnah Yomit, we have already been introduced to one example, sefichim (1:4) which we will return to in the ninth perek. In our Mishnah (4:2), we encounter a machlokes over the status of fruit that has grown from land that was worked on Shvi’is, which is called in the language of the Mishnah (6:1) ne’evad. Beis Shammai hold that it is assur to eat such fruit, while Beis Hillel permit their eating.

While we do not paskin Halacha directly from the Mishnah, if we were to do so and take this Mishnah in a vacuum thereby ignoring all other possible sources, it would come out that ne’evad is permitted, since the Halacha almost always follows Beis Hillel. For this exact reason the father of the Tiferes Yisrael, cited by his son (6:1), rejects an interpretation of that Mishnah that says that ne’evad is prohibited.

It would seem that there is a simple reason why we cannot conclude decisively that ne’evad is permitted. According to the Yerushalmi’s explanation of our Mishnah, the Mishnah does not necessarily speak about the standard case of ne’evad, in which the produce grew from land worked on Shvi’is. The Yerushalmi says that there is a machlokes between the rabbanim of Eretz Yisrael and Bavel about the meaning of two key words in our Mishnah: “niskatzvah” and “nitaivah”. Only the latter needs to be focused on for our purposes as quoted above. The amora’im of Bavel assert that “nitaivah” means that ploughing was done to improve the land, which of course is forbidden. According to this interpretation, we would again be able to say that ne’evad is permitted as per the opinion of Beis Hillel.

However, the opinion of the amora’im of Eretz Yisrael is that the Mishnah refers to a specific period of time in which the non-Jewish government ruling over Eretz Yisrael decreed that a land-tax must be paid to the king. Chazal saw there was a need to plough, so they permitted just one charishah so that the fields would produce the crop necessary to pay the king. However, to plough the fields twice, i.e. “nitaivah”, which would improve the quality of the field even further, was assur. If a field was nitaivah during Shvi’is, chazal fined the transgressor and ruled that it would be prohibited to plant in that field during motzai Shvi’is. Whether the produce produced by that field may be eaten is precisely the machlokes of Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. According to this interpretation of our Mishnah the standard case of ne’evad, a case when there was no decree of a land-tax, cannot be extrapolated from this Mishnah. It might very well be that Beis Hillel only permitted the consumption of ne’evad in that particular case due to the nature of how the ne’evad came about. However, when there is no sinister land-tax that must be dealt with, perhaps even Beis Hillel would say that ne’evad is assur. (The Rambam (Shmittah 4:1) paskins that ne’evad is permitted. See the Derech Emunah there for further details and information.)

While not related to the topic of ne’evad, it is interesting to note that the Bartenura in his peirush on the Mishnah does in fact give the opinion of the amora’im of Eretz Yisrael and adds in that that the governmental pressure was a situation of ones, duress, leaving the Jews with no choice and thus Chazal permitted one charishah. The Chazon Ish (Shvi’is 14:2) questions this addition of the Bartenura and says that the Gemara in Sanhedrin (26a) clearly demonstrates that in a case of ones it is mutar lechatchila to plough. If so, there would be no reason for Chazal to have to permit the charishah from its prohibited status. Moreover, the Chazon Ish (Shvi’is 10:6) says that it cannot be that this machlokes of Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel is one of duress. It would seem that the Chazon Ish is asking that if Klal Yisrael had no choice but to plough in order to meet the land tax quota, how could Beis Shammai say that the fruit cannot be eaten?! If all of Eretz Yisrael had to be ploughed, then according to Beis Shammai there would be no permissible produce in the entire country! Thus, the machlokes cannot be extreme case of ones. The Chazon Ish points out that the other major peirushim on the Mishnah don’t mention ones when explaining the shitah of the amora’im of Eretz Yisrael.


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