All produce that grows from the earth1 in the Sabbatical year:2 whether it grew from seeds that fell into the earth before the Sabbatical year, it grew from roots whose plants were harvested previously, but nevertheless grew again - in both instances [such produce] is referred to with the term safiach3 - or grasses and vegetables that grew on their own accord [in the Sabbatical year], is permitted to be eaten according to Scriptural Law,4 as [Leviticus 25:6] states: "And [the produce that grows] while the land is resting shall be yours to eat." Even when a field was plowed thoroughly5 in the Sabbatical year, and produce grew in it, that produce is permitted to be eaten. The statement [ibid.:] "Do not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest" means that one should not reap it in the same manner as one does every year.6 If one reaps it according to the ordinary manner, he is worthy of lashes. For example, he harvested the entire field, set up a grain heap, and threshed it with cattle or harvested it for the sake of tilling the land as we explained.7 Instead, he should reap it little by little, beat it,8 and partake of it.
According to Rabbinic decree, all the sifichim are forbidden to be eaten. Why was a decree established concerning them? Because of the transgressors, so that they could not go and sow grain, beans, and garden vegetables in one's field discretely and when they grow, partake of them, saying that they are sifichim. Therefore the Sages prohibited all the sifichim that grow in the Sabbatical year.
Thus we have learned that the only produce of the Sabbatical year of which one may partake are fruit from trees9 and herbs that are not sown by most people,10e.g., rue, amaranth,11 and the like. With regard to vegetables that most people sow in their gardens and species of grains and beans, by contrast, anything that grows from these species is forbidden according to Rabbinic decree. One who gathers them12 is liable for stripes for rebellious conduct.
When sifichim grow in an underdeveloped field,13 a field that was plowed, a vineyard, and a field where crops had been sown,14 they are permitted to be eaten.
Why was the above decree not applied to these places? Because a person will not sow these fields. [He will not sow] an underdeveloped field, because no one pays attention to it. When a field has been plowed, [the owner] desires that it remain lying fallow. With regard to a vineyard, no person will cause his vineyard to become forbidden.15 And when a field has been sown, the aftergrowth will spoil it. Similarly, straw that grows in the Sabbatical year is permitted in all places; no decree was issued against its use.16
When sifichin from the Sabbatical year17 enter the following year, they are forbidden to be eaten.18 We may not uproot them by hand. Instead, one should plow [the land] in its ordinary fashion or [let] an animal pasture in its ordinary fashion.19
Until when are the sifichin of the Sabbatical year forbidden in the eighth year? From Rosh HaShanah until Chanukah. From Chanukah and onward, they are permitted.20 When a person sows the sifichin of the Sabbatical year after the Sabbatical year, the produce that grows from this is permitted.21
When onions of the Sabbatical year enter the eighth year, they are permitted when there is enough time for produce of that size to have grown [in the eighth year].22 If not, they are forbidden.23
Similar concepts apply with regard to other produce. They should not be purchased in the eighth year24 until produce of that size could have grown in the eighth year. When, in the eighth year, the produce which grows rapidly reaches [the size of the produce which grew in the Sabbatical year], the prohibition is lifted from the produce that remains.25 It is permitted to purchase garden vegetables in the eighth year immediately.26
When is a person permitted to purchase wild onions in the eighth year? When the new produce exceeds [the old].27
The first of Tishrei is Rosh HaShanah with regard to the Sabbatical and Jubilee years.28 [The following rules apply with regard to] produce of the sixth year that enters the Sabbatical year. Grain, legumes, or fruit29 that reached the stage when tithes are required to be separated30 before Rosh HaShanah [of the Sabbatical year] are permitted [to be reaped]. Even though they are gathered in the Sabbatical year, they are considered like produce of the sixth year in all regards.31 If they did not reach the stage when tithes are required to be separated until after Rosh HaShanah, they are considered as produce of the Sabbatical year.32
Grain and legumes are forbidden to be eaten33 as sifichin and the fruit of trees must be eaten with consideration for the holiness of the Sabbatical year.34
When rice, millet, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and Egyptian beans are sown to produce seed,35 [the ruling depends on] when the produce completes its growth.36 If its growth is completed before Rosh HaShanah, these [seeds] are permitted [to be harvested] in the Sabbatical year like the produce of the sixth year. If their growth is completed after Rosh HaShanah, even though [the plants] took root before Rosh HaShanah, they are forbidden as sifichin.
[The ruling regarding] vegetables [depends] on the time they were harvested.37
With regard to an esrog, even if it was the size of a bean before Rosh HaShanah [of the Sabbatical year] and grow to the size of a loaf of bread in the Sabbatical year, it is obligated to be tithed like the produce of the sixth year.38 [Conversely,] even if it had reached the size of a loaf of bread in the sixth year, since it was reaped in the Sabbatical year, it is considered as the produce of the Sabbatical year.39 As a stringency, the tithes are separated like the produce of the sixth year.
Similarly, when the produce of the Sabbatical year is reaped in the eighth year: With regard to grain, legumes, and the fruit of the trees, [the ruling depends on when the produce reached] the stage when tithes are required to be separated.40 When rice, millet, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and Egyptian beans are sown to produce seed, [the ruling depends on] when the produce completes its growth.41 [The ruling regarding] vegetables [depends] on the time they were harvested.42
When one sowed Egyptian beans for seed in the sixth year and the produce was completed before Rosh HaShanah of the Sabbatical year, both its vegetables and its seed are permitted in the Sabbatical year.43 If one sowed it to use as a vegetable44and it entered the Sabbatical year, both its vegetables and its seed are forbidden like the sifichin of the Sabbatical year. Similarly, if he sowed it both for its seed and to use as a vegetable, it is forbidden.45
[The following rules apply if] one transgressed and sowed [such beans] in the Sabbatical year, [their growth was completed in the Sabbatical year,] but they remained [in the ground] until eighth year: If they were sown for seed,46 both the seed and the vegetables are forbidden in the eighth year like other sifichin. If one sowed it to use as a vegetable, since it was harvested in the eighth year, both its vegetables and its seed are permitted.47 If he sowed it both for its seed and to use as a vegetable, its seed is forbidden as sifichin and its vegetables are permitted.
Since white figs48 take three years before their growth is completed, if they reach the stage when tithes are required to be separated before Rosh HaShanah of the eighth year,49 they should be eaten in the second year of the seven year cycle according to the restrictions50 governing fruit of the Sabbatical year.
Onions that will not produce scallions51 and Egyptian beans from which water was withheld for 30 days before Rosh HaShanah and onions that do produce scallions52 from which water was withheld for three irrigation periods53 before Rosh HaShanah are considered as the produce of the sixth year.54 If water was withheld from them for a shorter period, they are considered as sefichin from the Sabbatical year.55
[The following laws apply with regard to] gourd plants which were maintained [in the ground] to produce seed. If they became hard56 before Rosh HaShanah and thus were unfit for human consumption, it is permitted to maintain them in the Sabbatical year, for they are from the produce of the sixth year.57 If not,58 they are considered as sefichin from the Sabbatical year.59
Similar [laws apply with regard to] vegetables. Any ones that become hard before Rosh HaShanah are permitted to be maintained in the Sabbatical year.60 If they were soft,61 it is forbidden to maintain them, as [is the law regarding] sefichin.62
We do not require a person to uproot wild onions. Instead, we allow him to leave them in the ground as they are.63 If they grow in the eighth year, they are permitted. Similarly, we do not require him to uproot an artichoke plant.64 All that is necessary is to cut off its leaves.65 If it grows again in the eighth year, it is permitted.
Wild onions [grown]66 in the sixth year, summer onions,67 and madder68 which completed their growth before the Sabbatical year may be uprooted in the Sabbatical year with metal hatchets. This is not considered as tilling the land.69
When, in the Sabbatical year, rain descended upon onions70 and they sprouted leaves, the leaves are permitted as long as they are light green.71 If they have turned dark,72 it is considered as if the plants were planted in the earth and those leaves are forbidden as sefichin. In both situations, the onions themselves remain permitted.73
When an onion was uprooted in the Sabbatical year and replanted in the eighth year and its growth exceeded its original size, the additional growth elevates the original mass74 and the entire [onion] is permitted. [The rationale is that] since the prohibition of the Sabbatical year comes about via the earth,75 it can be removed via the earth.76
Fruits produced by a tree in the Sabbatical year should not be reaped in the same manner as they are reaped every year,77 as [Leviticus 25:5] states: "The grapes you had designated you shall not gather."78 One who reaps grapes to improve the vine or in the ordinary manner of reaping is liable for lashes.
How should one conduct himself?79 Figs of the Sabbatical year should not be set out to dry in the place where they are usually set out to dry. They can, however, be left to dry in a ruin.80 We may not crush grapes81 in a vat, but they may be crushed in a kneading trough. Olives should not be crushed82 in a press, but they may be squeezed and placed in a very small press. One may grind them83 in the oil press and place them in a small press. Similarly, with regard to other matters, [the fundamental rule is]: One should deviate from the norm in whatever way possible.
It is a positive commandment84 to divest oneself from everything that the land produces in the Sabbatical year, as [Exodus 23:11] states: "In the seventh [year], you shall leave it untended and unharvested."
Anyone who locks his vineyard or fences off his field in the Sabbatical year has nullified a positive commandment.85 This also holds true if he gathered all his produce into his home. Instead, he should leave everything ownerless. Thus everyone86has equal rights in every place, as [ibid.] states: "And the poor of your people shall partake of it." One may bring a small amount into one's home, just as one brings from ownerless property,87e.g., five jugs of oil, fifteen jugs of wine.88 If he takes more than that, it is permitted.89
[The laws of] the Sabbatical year are observed only in Eretz Yisrael alone, as [Leviticus 25:2] states: "When you will come to the land...."90 It is observed while the Temple is standing and when the Temple is not standing.91
In the entire area taken possession of by the Jews who ascended from Babylonia until Kziv,92 it is forbidden to work the land and the sifichin that grow there are forbidden to be eaten. In the entire area that was taken possession of only by the Jews that ascended from Egypt, i.e., from Kziv to the River [of Egypt]93 and to the Umanum Mountains,94 even though it is forbidden to till [the land] in the Sabbatical year, the sifichin that grow there are permitted to be eaten. From the River [of Egypt] and from the Umanum Mountains [onward], one may till [the land] in the Sabbatical year.95
Although the Sabbatical year is not observed in Syria96 according to Scriptural Law, [our Sages] decreed that it would be forbidden to till it in the Sabbatical year like Eretz Yisrael, so that [the Jewish people] would not abandon Eretz Yisrael and go and settle permanently there. In Ammon, Moab,97 Egypt, and Babylonia, by contrast, though the tithes must be separated according to Rabbinic Law,98 the Sabbatical year is not observed.
The Sabbatical year is observed in Transjordan by Rabbinic decree.99 The sifichin of Syria and Transjordan are permitted to be eaten.100 [The restrictions in] these lands need not be more stringent than those in [the portions of] Eretz Yisrael that were inhabited by the people ascending from Egypt.
When a gentile purchases land in Eretz Yisrael and sows it in the Sabbatical year, the produce is permitted.101 For our Sages decreed that sifichin should be forbidden only as a safeguard against transgressors and the gentiles are not commanded to observe the Sabbatical year. Thus there is no need to institute a safeguard for them.
In the cities of Eretz Yisrael that are close to the border, we appoint a trustworthy watchman so that the gentiles will not spread [through the land] and take the produce of the Sabbatical year.102
As indicated by Halachah 9, this refers to produce that reached the stage of growth that obligates the separation of tithes - i.e., one third of its growth - after Rosh HaShanah of the Sabbatical year. If the produce reached this stage of growth beforehand, it is permitted to be harvested in the Sabbatical year.
The Radbaz questions the Rambam's statement, for seemingly, the Rabbinic decree was against eating, not gathering. He, however, states that from the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 9:1), it would appear that the decree also included gathering the aftergrowth.
Apparently, this refers to a field where crops had been sown in the sixth year and they reached more than a third of their growth in that year. Hence, it is permitted to harvest them in the Sabbatical year.
If the aftergrowth of the Sabbatical year was allowed, it is possible that transgressors would sow their fields at the end of the Sabbatical year and then say that the crops that are growing are merely an aftergrowth.
And in that way, destroy the crops. We are not concerned with the fact that they will fertilize the field or serve as food for his animals, for there is no prohibition against benefiting from the aftergrowth.
For by that time, the majority of the produce will have grown in the eighth year. The Ra'avad questions the Rambam's source. The commentaries maintain that it follows the wording of the version of the Jerusalem Talmud, Demai 2:1, possessed by the Rambam.
The rationale is that this produce is brought about by a combination of two factors: one (the earth) which is permitted and one (the aftergrowth) which is forbidden. In such situations, the produce is permitted. See Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 10:21.
For it is possible that these are onions of the eighth year. And if they are from the Sabbatical year, it is possible that they increased their size to the extent that the majority of their growth took place in the eighth year (Radbaz).
The mention of fruit is somewhat problematic, because, as stated in Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 1:2, the fifteenth of Shvat is "the New Year of the Trees." The Radbaz, however, explains that there is no contradiction. Each "new year" is considered in its own context. With regard to the calculation of the cycle of the tithes and the laws of orlah, the fifteenth of Shvat is "the New Year of the Trees." With regard to the prohibitions of the Sabbatical year, by contrast, the new year begins on Rosh HaShanah.
The Shelah, however, states that even with regard to the Sabbatical year, the fifteenth of Shvat is the Rosh HaShanah of the Trees and wit regard to them, the laws of the Sabbatical year begin from that date. This is the present practice in Eretz Yisrael.
It is permitted to harvest them and partake of them without any restrictions. Nor are they endowed with the holiness of the crops of the Sabbatical year. Similar laws apply with regard to the separation of tithes (ibid.).
From Rav Kappach's translation of the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:8), it appears that the intent is that his purpose is to use the kernels as seed and not to partake of them. Others, however, interpret the Rambam's as meaning that he desires to eat the seeds and not the pods. Were the person concerned with eating the pods - or even the kernels according to the first interpretation - the plants would be considered like vegetables; see Halachah 14.
I.e., they are not considered like vegetables in which the time when they are gathered determines the ruling (Halachah 12), because they are not gathered immediately after their growth is completed, but rather left growing in the earth so that they dry. Nor are they considered like grain or beans in which instance, the time when they reach one third of their growth determines the ruling (Halachah 9), because they complete their growth at different times. See also Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 1:8 which sets these species aside from others.
The produce of the Sabbatical year need not be tithed. Nevertheless, as a stringency, the ruling governing an esrog is dependent on when the fruit first budded (Rosh HaShanah 15b). Hence, it is necessary to tithe such an esrog. Compare to ibid. 1:6.
As in Halachah 12. The Rambam does not mention the laws pertaining to an esrog, because since it is reaped in the eighth year, it is considered entirely as the produce of the eighth year. None of the restrictions of the Sabbatical year apply and tithes must be separated.
Since it was sowed for seed, that intent determines the ruling, and the laws stated in Halachah 11 apply. Since as a whole, the plant is considered as the produce of the sixth year, even if part of the plant is harvested as a vegetable, we are not concerned about when it was harvested and it is still considered as produce of the sixth year.
Because of the impression that might be created. With regard to this question, the standard published text of the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 5:5) states that the seed is permitted and the vegetable is forbidden. The Radbaz maintains that the Rambam's ruling should be interpreted in the same manner (as might be understood from the conclusion of the following halachah). The Kessef Mishneh suggests that perhaps the Rambam had a different version of the Jerusalem Talmud.
For the ruling concerning vegetables depends on when they were harvested.
The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam's ruling, maintaining that there is no room for leniency with regard to produce that was sown in the Sabbatical year. The Radbaz justifies the Rambam's ruling, maintaining that it is based on a passage from the Jerusalem Talmud. Rav Yosef Corcus explains that even though sowing the land involves a transgression and in the Sabbatical year, the crops should be uprooted, if that did not happen, the vegetables are not forbidden.
Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:9). The term seris means "eunuch." It is used in this instance because generally, onions produce scallions if they are left in a moist place after being uprooted from the earth. Just as a eunuch cannot produce seed, this species does not produce scallions.
In that age, when water pumps and piping did not exist, irrigation was a much more complicated matter and plants would be irrigated at specific periods. When a farmer would like to harvest his produce, he begins withholding water from it beforehand, so that it will begin to dry.
Our translation is taken from Rav Kappach's notes to the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Uktzin 1:6). Our text follows the version of the Mishneh Torah published by Rav Shabse Frankel. The standard printed text offers a slightly different version. Since the artichoke plant grows primarily in the ground and that portion is not visible, it need not be uprooted.
The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's ruling, noting that the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 6:3) appears to imply that the leniency is granted only when the leaves of the onions were bent over. Otherwise, the onions remain forbidden. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh justify the Rambam's ruling, stating that it reflects the treatment of the subject in the Babylonian Talmud (Nedarim 59b). Moreover, even the Jerusalem Talmud can be interpreted in this manner.
The prohibition does not prevent us from reaping the fruits of the trees during the Sabbatical year. On the contrary, the fruits are ownerless and are meant to be eaten by people at large, as Leviticus 11:39 states, "[The fruit produced as] the land rests shall be yours to eat." The point of the mitzvah is that one may not reap in the same manner that he usually does [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 8:6)].
Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 134) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 84) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.
The Rambam's wording implies that the commandment is incumbent on the person; he must consider his property ownerless. Other commentaries note that Bava Metzia 39a speaks of "the land being declared ownerless by the King," i.e., that automatically, the person's right to his produce is removed from him by Divine order. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XVII, p. 287ff., which clarifies the difference between these perspectives.
The Kessef Mishneh quotes the Mechilta which explains that according to Scriptural Law, it would appear that one should rip down the fences around his fields. Our Sages did not require that. They did, however, forbid erecting new fences.
For this reason, the laws of the Sabbatical year were observed even before the Temple was constructed (Radbaz).
Although the laws of the Sabbatical year are not dependent on whether or not the Temple is standing, they are dependent on the presence of the majority of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, as stated in Chapter 10, Halachah 9. As stated in Halachah 8 of that chapter, after the exile of the tribe of Reuven and Gad, slightly more than a hundred years before the destruction of the First Temple, this criterion was not met and the Sabbatical year and many other mitzvot are observed only because of Rabbinic decree.
(As will be explained in the notes to that source, there is some difference of the opinion concerning both the actual ruling and the Rambam's stance on that issue.)
As the Rambam explains in Hilchot Terumah, ch. 1, and Hilchot Beis HaBechirah, ch. 6, when the Jews conquered Eretz Yisrael after the exodus from Egypt, the land became holy and all the agricultural laws incumbent on it took effect. After the exile of the tribes of Reuven and Gad, these laws no longer applied according to Scriptural Law. When Ezra led the people back from the Babylonian exile, he sanctified the land a second time according to Rabbinic decree. At this time, however, the people settled in a much smaller area than they had originally lived. Kziv was the northern boundary of that area and is considered outside the area. See the maps accompanying Hilchot Terumah, loc. cit. See also the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 6:1).
A mountain range in Northern Lebanon. This represents the boundaries of the land conquered by the Jews after the Exodus from Egypt. As the Rambam explains, our Sages imposed certain restrictions on this land as well.
"The lands which [King] David conquered outside of the Land of Canaan, e.g., Aram Naharaim, Aram Tzovah, Achlab [which are located slightly north of Eretz Yisrael]... before he conquered Eretz Yisrael entirely." See Hilchot Terumah 1:3 and the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Demai 6:11).
Transjordan refers to the area extending outward from the eastern bank of the Jordan. The tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menasheh settled there. Rav Yosef Corcus maintains that according to Scriptural Law, the Sabbatical year never had to be observed there (see Sifra, the beginning of Behar), because it is not part of Eretz Yisrael in certain contexts. Others maintain that according to Scriptural Law, in the era of the First Temple, the Sabbatical year was to be observed there. All agree that our Sages required its partial observance.
I.e., we are allowed to purchase this produce and partake of it. This applies even in the portion of the land where the Sabbatical year is observed according to Rabbinic decree.
The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh refer to the Kaftor VePerach who states that seemingly, although produce grown by a gentile in Eretz Yisrael in the Sabbatical year is permitted, it would have to eaten with respect to its holiness, as described in the following chapter. For as the Rambam states in Hilchot Terumah 1:10: "When a gentile purchases land in Eretz Yisrael, he does not cause it to be absolved from [the observance of] the mitzvot. Instead, its holiness is still intact." Thus although there is no reason to forbid one from partaking of the produce grown by a gentile, seemingly, it should be considered "holy."
They note that in their time this was not the common practice, (nor is it the practice in Eretz Yisrael today). They justify this conduct on the grounds that, according to certain views (see Chapter 10, Halachah 9, where this subject is discussed) that in the present era, the observance of the Sabbatical year is a Rabbinic ordinance (and not of Scriptural authority). And our Sages did not impose any restrictions on produce grown by gentiles.
In addition to the material motive involved, there is a ritual dimension to this restriction. We are forbidden to allow a gentile to partake of the produce of the Sabbatical year (Chapter 5, Halachah 13). The Radbaz questions if watchmen should be appointed to guard the fields of Jews in Eretz Yisrael that are not located on the border, but are near areas where gentiles are located and there is a possibility that they will take the produce that is left ownerless.
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"Although a fire descended from heaven upon the Altar, it is a mitzvah to add to it a humanly produced fire" (Talmud, Eruvin 63a, as per Leviticus 6). This rule applies to all areas of life: the gifts of life are bestowed upon us from Above, yet it is G-d's desire that we add to them the product of our own initiative