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Beit HaShlachin

Moed Katan (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 days ago

Moed Katan opens with by discussing the various activities that are permitted during chol ha'moed. In the past we discussed the parameters of the work that is permitted and why other activities are prohibited during this time (see volume 2 issue 46). The first Mishnah however discussed the beit ha'shlachin -- a field that requires irrigation. The Mishnah teaches that such a field can be watered during chol ha'moed.

The Bartenura explains that watering these fields during chol ha'moed is permitted since once irrigation has started, if they are not continually watered, then the produce will be lost. Consequently, it falls under that category of activities that are permitted during chol ha'moed to avoid a loss. The Bartenura continues that it follows that we are discussing fields of grain, and not orchards, since withholding irrigation will not harm the trees.

The Tosfot R' Akiva Eiger explains that even though watering a beit ha'baal (a field that gets sufficient rainwater) would be beneficial, it is not permitted. Refraining from watering those fields is not considered a loss, but rather missing out on additional profit. He explains that a loss is defined by the wasting away of what is visibly present and does not consider what additional growth might have been achieved.

The Mishnah adds that watering these fields is also permitted during shemittah. The Bartenura however differentiates between chol ha'moed and shemittah. He explains that while watering during chol ha'moed is restricted to beit ha'shlachin, during shemittah one is also allowed to water a beit ha'baal.

The Tifferet Yisrael however explains that during shemittah, field work is prohibited. Watering however is not included in what the Torah prohibits, yet is rabbinically prohibited. The Derech Emunah explains that watering is a toladah (derivative) of zoreah (planting) and for shemittah the toladot are rabbinically prohibited. Consequently, watering was permitted in a case of loss, much like during chol ha'moed. It follows then that the permit on shemittah is also be limited to a beit ha'shlachini -- when there is a loss.

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that the Bartenura's position is shared by Rashi. The Rambam however disagrees and does not differentiate between chol ha'moed and shemittah. The Chazon Ish explains that we rule like the Rambam (and Ritva) in this case, which is the simple understanding of our Mishnah. He does note the Mishnah (Shviit 2:10), where R' Shimon allows watering a sdeh lavan during shemittah. The Tosfot Yom Tov cites this Mishnah as a support for the Bartenura. Nevertheless, the Chazon Ish explains that we simply do not rule like R' Shimon. Alternatively, the watering permitted by R' Shimon is "harbatzah" which might only be a light spraying rather than proper irrigation.

The Tosfot Yom Tov adds a further difference between chol ha'moed and shemittah is that we find that for chol ha'moed only irrigation that does not require a lot effort is permitted in a beit ha'shlachin. For shemittah we do not find that restriction -- even according to the Rambam. He cites the Yerushalmi that explains that for shemittah it is a question of whether it is a avotdat karkah -- it is work that relates to the land. If it is not, then it is permitted irrespective of the tircha (exertion). For chol ha'moed however, which is a question of melacha, tircha is indeed important. Another answer that is brought is that shemittah is treated differently considering that it lasts a year rather than seven days.



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