Vegetable After Shemittah

Sheviit (6:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 months ago

The Mishnah (6:4) asks when one can purchase vegetables after shemittah and answers that it is from the time that those vegetables grown in the eighth year are ready. We shall try to understand the concern that this Mishnah addresses.

The Bartenura provides two answers. The first is that at that point in time, one can assume that he is purchasing food grown after shemittah. The second answer is that from that point, the permissible food will be in the majority and annul any forbidden food. What is the difference between these two answers?

The Mishnah Rishona suggests that the difference is the reason why it is prohibited to purchase vegetables prior to that point. At a first reading of the Mishnah, it would seem that the concern is doing business with shemittah produce. However, if that was the concern, then the first answer of the Bartenura would be unsatisfactory. Considering that the prohibition of doing business is biblical, a simple "assumption" that one is purchasing new produce is not enough. Consequently, the concern must instead be the rabbinic prohibition that applied to sefichin -- any vegetables that grew during shemittah. The second answer however, that relies on bitul, would work even if the concern was doing business with shemittah produce.1

The Mishnah however continues that Rebbi permitted purchasing vegetables immediately after shemittah. The Barertenura once again provides two explanations. The first is because Rebbi permitted importing vegetables.2 Consequently there would immediately be a majority of permitted vegetables. The Yerushalmi teaches that Rebbi permitted the imports when commenting on the Mishnah. The Rash therefore explains that this is indeed the reason why Rebbi permitted purchasing vegetables from the beginning of the eighth year. If that is the case, why would this rationale also not apply during shemittah itself? The Mishnah Rishona explains that it would only be towards the end of the year, when the shemittah produces had depleted, that one could be sure that the imported produce was the majority.

The second answers the Bartenura brings is because vegetables could grow rapidly, in two or three days, and new permitted produce would be quickly available. The Gra (Shenot Eliyahu) brings this explanation and cites the Yerushalmi (Peah 7:3) as proof. The Gemara recounts that Rebbi was with R' Preida when they were presented with radishes between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur after shemittah. Rebbi assumed that they were sefichin and prohibited. R' Preida explained that they had grown in a few days. Having seen how fast the new produce grew, the Gemara explains that Rebbi reacted with law presented in our Mishnah. Even though the Yerushalmi mentioned that Rebbi permitted the imports, that can be understood as raised amongst other heteirim (permissible rulings) of Rebbi.

R\' Chaim (Biur Halacha, Shemittah 4:7) suggest that perhaps both reasons are needed. Relying on imports alone is not enough (as we saw above). One needs to ensure that the imported produce is truly the majority. It would be enough however in combination with the new fruit that begins to become available. Relying on R' Preida alone would not immediately permit new produce. It would only be after "two to three days". However, since there is an abundance of imported produce, there was leniency even in the first few days. R' Chaim asserts that when the Rash explains that the imported produce was in the majority it must mean in combination with the new produce. If not, the logic would be enough to permit vegetables during the shemittah year. Furthermore, since other produce was also imported, other produce should also be permitted in immediately in the eighth year. Consequently both answers are necessary.


1 The Mishnah Rishona cites the Mishnah (7:7) that prior to the time of bi'ur the regular laws of bitul apply. The Tosfot Anshei Shem explains that based on the assumption, one fully treats the vegetables like produce of the eighth year. In other words, they need not treat the vegetables as if they have kedushat sheviit and can continue to store them after time of bi'ur (removal). Interestingly, he adds that that would clearly not be the case if he knew it was shemittah. Nevertheless, after the time new produce has grown, the prohibition of sefichin would not apply.

2 Prior to that, there was a concern that some soil will be brought in with the vegetables. Since the Chachamim decreed that soil of chutz la'aretz was tameh, potentially importing that soil was forbidden.

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