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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Bikkurim - Chapter 12, Shemita - Chapter 1, Shemita - Chapter 2

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Bikkurim - Chapter 12

1

It is a positive commandment1 for every Jewish man2 to redeem the first [male]3 issue of a donkey with a seh. If he does not desire to redeem it, it is a mitzvah for him to behead it,4 as [Exodus 13:13] states: "The first issue of a donkey you shall redeem with a seh.5 If you do not redeem it, you shall decapitate it."

These two mitzvot apply in all places and at all times.6 The mitzvah of redemption takes precedence over the mitzvah of beheading [the donkey].7

א

מצות עשה לפדות כל אדם מישראל פטר חמור בשה ואם לא רצה לפדותו מצות עשה לעורפו שנאמר ופטר חמור תפדה בשה ואם לא תפדה וערפתו ושתי מצות אלו נוהגות בכל מקום ובכל זמן ומצות פדייה קודמת למצות עריפה:

2

The seh with which it is redeemed is given to the priest, as [Numbers 18:15] states: "All first issues of the womb... and the firstborn of an impure animal you shall redeem."8

ב

השה שפודין בו נותנו לכהן שנאמר כל פטר רחם וגו':

3

The "impure animal" mentioned in the verse refers only to donkeys.9

ג

ואת בכור הבהמה הטמאה תפדה בהמה טמאה האמורה כאן היא החמור בלבד:

4

It is forbidden to benefit from the first issue of a donkey until it is redeemed. If it is sold before it is redeemed, the money received for it is forbidden.10 If it died before it was redeemed or it was decapitated, it should be buried, because it is forbidden to benefit from it even after its decapitation, since it was not redeemed. Therefore if he did not redeem it, but instead gave the first issue of the donkey itself to the priest, it is forbidden for the priest to benefit from it until he redeems it with a seh and takes the seh for himself11 or he decapitates it and buries it.

The priests are suspect regarding this matter.12 Hence, it is forbidden for an Israelite to give the first issue of a donkey to a priest unless the priest redeems it in his presence.

ד

פטר חמור אסור בהנאה עד שיפדה ואם מכרו קודם פדיון דמיו אסורים ואם מת קודם פדיון או שערפו יקבר מפני שהוא אסור בהנאה אף לאחר עריפה הואיל ולא נפדה לפיכך אם לא פדהו ונתן פטר החמור בעצמו לכהן אסור לכהן להשתמש בו עד שיפדהו בשה ויקח השה לעצמו או יערפנו ויקבר והכהנים חשודים על דבר זה לפיכך אסור לישראל ליתן פטר חמור לכהן אלא אם כן פדהו הכהן בפניו:

5

When a person set aside [a seh] for the redemption of a donkey and it died before he gave it to the priest, he is not liable to replace it.13 Instead, he should give the corpse to the priest to benefit from.14 If the first issue of the donkey dies after it was redeemed, he should give the seh to the priest.15 It is permitted to benefit from [the donkey's corpse,] because it has been redeemed.

ה

הפריש פדיון פטר חמור ומת השה קודם שיתננו לכהן אינו חייב באחריותו ויתן הנבלה לכהן ליהנות בה מת פטר החמור אחר שפדהו יתן הטלה לכהן ומותר בהנייתו שכבר נפדה:

6

From when is he obligated to redeem [a firstling donkey]? From the time it was born16 until it reaches the age of 30 days.17 After 30 days, if he desires to decapitate it, he may [still do so]. If he desires to redeem it, he may. All that was involved was a delay in fulfilling the mitzvah.

ו

מאימתי חייב לפדותו משיולד ועד שלשים יום ומאחר שלשים יום אם רצה לערפו עורפו אם רצה לפדותו פודה ואין כאן אלא מצות עיכוב בלבד:

7

If he does not desire to redeem [the firstling donkey], he should decapitate it with a butcher's hatchet18 from behind,19 as [Exodus 13:13] states: "If you do not redeem it, you should decapitate it." One may not kill it with a staff, a reed, an axe, or a saw, only with a hatchet. One may not place it in a room and lock the door until it dies, for [the verse] states: "And you shall decapitate it."

ז

לא רצה לפדותו עורפו בקופיץ מאחוריו שנאמר ואם לא תפדה וערפתו ואין ממיתין אותו לא במקל ולא בקנה ולא בקורדום ולא במגירה אלא בקופיץ ולא יכניסנו לחדר וינעול הדלת בפניו עד שימות שנאמר וערפתו:

8

We may not redeem [a firstling donkey] with a calf,20 a wild beast, a slaughtered seh, nor an animal that is deathly ill, nor with a hybrid, nor with a ko'i,21 as [ibid.] states: "Redeem it with a seh." [The term] seh refers to a sheep or a goat that is alive.

ח

אין פודין לא בעגל ולא בחיה ולא בשה שחוט ולא בטריפה ולא בכלאים ולא בכוי שנאמר תפדה בשה ואין קרוי שה אלא כבשים ועזים חיים בלבד:

9

One should not redeem [a firstling donkey] with a seh that resembles another species. If one redeems it in that manner, the redemption is effective.22 One may use a ben pekua23 for the redemption, but not a consecrated animal that was disqualified [and redeemed], for [Deuteronomy 15:22] equates such animals with "the deer and the hart." Just as a deer and a hart may not be used for this redemption,24 so too, a consecrated animal that was disqualified may not be used.

ט

אין פודין בשה הדומה [למין] לאחר ואם פדה פדוי ופודין בבן פקועה אבל לא בפסולי המוקדשין שהרי נאמר בהן כצבי וכאיל מה צבי ואיל אין פודין בו אף פסולי המוקדשין אין פודין בהם:

10

One may redeem [a firstling donkey] with a seh, whether a male or female, whether blemished or unblemished, whether small or large.

י

פודין בשה בין זכרים בין נקבות בין תמימים בין בעלי מומים בין קטנים בין גדולים:

11

When a seh was purchased with money that came from the sale of produce of the Sabbatical year,25 it should not be used to redeem a donkey that is definitely a firstling.26 It may, however, be used to redeem a donkey whose firstling status is questionable.27

If [the owner of a firstling donkey] does not own a seh to redeem it, he may redeem it for its value,28 paying its worth to a priest.29 The Torah did not mention a seh to be stringent with him,30 but rather to be lenient with him, i.e., if he possessed a firstling donkey worth ten selaim, he could redeem it with a seh that is worth a dinar.31 [The rationale is that the redemption of the firstling donkey] should not be considered more stringent than [the redemption of] consecrated property which may be redeemed with its monetary value.

יא

שה שלקחו מדמי שביעית אין פודין בו את הודאי אבל פודין בו את הספק אם אין לו שה לפדותו פודהו בשוויו ונותן דמיו לכהן לא אמרה תורה שה להחמיר עליו אלא להקל עליו שאם היה לו פטר חמור ששוה עשר סלעים יש לו לפדותו בשה שוה דינר ולא יהיה זה חמור מן ההקדש שנפדה בכסף בשוויו:

12

When does the above32 apply? When the value of the firstling donkey was three zuzim33 or more. If, however, its worth was less than three zuzim, it may be redeemed only with a seh or with three zuzim.34A generous person should not give less than a sela, a parsimonious person should give half a sela and an average person, three zuzim.

יב

במה דברים אמורים כשהיו דמי פטר חמור משלשה זוזים ולמעלה אבל אם היו דמיו פחות מג' זוזים אין פודין אותו אלא בשה או בג' זוזים ועין יפה לא יפחות מסלע ועין ראה בחצי סלע ובינונית בג' זוזים:

13

When a person redeems a firstling donkey belonging to a colleague, the redemption is effective,35 but the donkey belongs to its owner.

יג

והפודה פטר חמור של חבירו ה"ז פדוי והחמור לבעליו:

14

Priests and Levites36 are exempt from the redemption of a firstling donkey, as [Numbers 18:15] states: "The firstborn of man and the firstborn of an impure animal you shall redeem."37 All of those who are obligated to redeem a firstborn human are obligated to redeem the firstborn of an impure animal. Those who are exempt from redeeming a firstborn human38 are exempt from redeeming the firstborn of an impure animal.

יד

כהנים ולוים פטורין מפטר חמור שנאמר בכור האדם ואת בכור הבהמה הטמאה תפדה כל שישנו בבכור אדם ישנו בבכור בהמה טמאה והפטור מבכור אדם פטור מבכור בהמה טמאה:

15

When a person purchases the fetus of a donkey belonging to a gentile or sells the fetus of his donkey to a gentile - although he is not allowed to do so39 - he is exempt from [redeeming] the firstborn. We do not penalize him for such an act.

If the gentile was a partner40 in the mother or the firstborn - even if he only owned a thousandth share - the animal is exempt.41 Should [the gentile own] only one limb or organ of the fetus or the mother42 - e.g., its forefoot or its hindfoot, even its ear, any limb or organ that if cut off would cause the animal to be disqualified as blemished - it is exempt from [the obligations of] a firstborn. If, however, the portion belonging to the gentile would be cut off, the animal would not be considered as blemished for the altar,43 he is obligated.44

Similarly, one who receives a donkey from a gentile to care for on the condition that they divide the offspring45 or a gentile received [a donkey] from a Jew on that condition, they are exempt from [the obligations of] the firstborn, as [indicated by Exodus 13:2]: "The first issue of the womb within the children of Israel, in humans and in animals." [Implied is that] it must entirely belong to an Israelite.

טו

הלוקח עובר חמורו של עכו"ם או המוכר עובר חמורו לעכו"ם אף על פי שאינו רשאי ה"ז פטור מן הבכורה ואין קונסין אותו על דבר זה היה העכו"ם שותף באם או בבכור אפילו לא היה לו אלא אחד מאלף בו הרי זה פטור היה לו בו או באמו אבר אחד כגון ידו או רגלו אפילו אזנו כל שאילו יחתך יהיה בעל מום ה"ז פטור מן הבכורה ואם כשיחתך חלק העכו"ם לא יהיה בעל מום למזבח הרי זה חייב וכן המקבל חמור מן העכו"ם להיות מטפל בה והולד ביניהם או עכו"ם שקיבל מישראל הכל פטור מן הבכורה שנאמר פטר רחם בבני ישראל באדם ובבהמה עד שיהיה הכל בישראל:

16

When a convert converts and it is not known whether his donkey gave birth before he converted46 or afterwards,47 he is obligated to decapitate it48 or redeem it.49 If he redeems it with a seh, the seh belongs to the convert, [because we follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.50

טז

גר שנתגייר ואין ידוע אם עד שלא נתגייר ילדה חמורו או אחר שנתגייר הרי זה חייב לערוף או לפדות ואם פדה בשה השה של גר שהמוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה:

17

When a gentile separates a firstling donkey, he should be informed that he is not obligated [to redeem it].51 It is permitted for him to use its shearings and to work with it.52

יז

עכו"ם שהפריש פטר חמור מודיעין אותו שאינו חייב והרי הוא מותר בגיזה ועבודה:

18

When a cow gives birth to an offspring resembling a donkey or a donkey gives birth to an offspring resembling a horse, it is exempt. [This is derived as follows. Twice53 the Torah states:] "The first issue of a donkey you shall redeem with a seh and the first issue of a donkey...." By mentioning "the first issue of a donkey" twice, [the Torah] indicates that both the mother and the offspring must [resemble] donkeys. If such an offspring has some of the identifying marks of a donkey, there is an obligation to redeem it.54

יח

פרה שילדה כמין חמור או חמור שילדה כמין סוס פטור שנאמר ופטר חמור תפדה בשה ופטר חמור ב' פעמים עד שיהיה היולד חמור והנולד חמור ואם יש בו מקצת סימני חמור חייב בבכורה:

19

When a donkey had not given birth before and it gives birth to two males, [the owner] should give a lamb to a priest.55 If it gives birth to a male and a female [and it is not known which was born first], a lamb should be set aside to remove its holiness so that it will be permitted to benefit from it, for perhaps the male was born first.

The lamb that is set aside belongs to the owner and not to the priest. [We follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.56

יט

חמורו שלא בכרה וילדה שני זכרים נותן טלה לכהן ילדה זכר ונקבה מפריש טלה אחד כדי להפקיע קדושה ממנו עד שיהיה מותר בהנייה שמא הזכר נולד תחלה וטלה זה שהפריש לבעלים ואינו לכהן שהמוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה:

20

When two donkeys that have not given birth yet give birth to two males, [the owner] should give two lambs to a priest. [If they give birth to] a male and a female or two males and a female, he should give one lamb to the priest.57

כ

שתי חמוריו שלא בכרו וילדו שני זכרים נותן שני טלאים לכהן זכר ונקבה או שני זכרים ונקבה נותן טלה אחד לכהן:

21

[If these donkeys] gave birth to two females and a male or [even] two males and two females, the priest does not receive anything.58 Moreover, [the owner] need not [even] set aside a lamb that he can keep for himself. [The rationale is that] there are many doubts involved: Maybe one gave birth to a male and the other gave birth to two females. Or perhaps one gave birth to a female and the other to a male and then a female or a female and afterwards a male. Similarly, there are many doubts when two males and two females were born.59

If there were two donkeys - one had given birth previously and one had not - and they gave birth to two males and they became intermingled, [the owner] should give one lamb to the priest.60 If they gave birth to a male and a female, he should separate a lamb for himself and he need not give it to the priest, because its status is doubtful.61 [Hence, we follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.

כא

ילדו שתי נקבות וזכר או שני זכרים ושתי נקבות אין כאן לכהן כלום ואינו צריך להפריש טלה לעצמו לפי שיש כאן ספיקות הרבה שמא האחת ילדה זכר והשנייה ילדה שתי נקבות או שמא זו ילדה נקבה והאחרת זכר ואחריו נקבה או נקבה ואחריה זכר וכן ספיקות הרבה יש בשני זכרים ושתי נקבות אחת בכרה ואחת שלא בכרה וילדו שני זכרים ונתערבו נותן טלה אחד לכהן זכר ונקבה מפריש טלה אחד לעצמו ואינו נותנו לכהן מפני שהוא ספק והמע"ה:

22

Similarly, when a person purchases a donkey from a gentile and it gives birth to a male, but it is not known whether it gave birth previously or not, he should redeem it with a seh - which he may keep - because its status is doubtful.

כב

וכן הלוקח חמור מן העכו"ם ואין ידוע אם בכרה או לא בכרה וילדה זכר פודה אותו בשה והוא לבעלים מפני שהוא ספק:

23

When a person possesses ten lambs - each of them having been separated because of a first issue of a donkey of a doubtful status - they are considered as ordinary property in every context.62 They should be tithed like other animals.63 One of them should be separated as the tithes and the others remain his property, as they were previously.

כג

מי שהיו לו עשרה טלאים כל אחד מהן הפרישו על ספק פטר חמור הרי הן כחולין לכל דבר ומתעשרין כשאר הבהמה ומפריש אחד מהן מעשר והשאר שלו כשהיו:

24

When an Israelite possesses at home ten donkeys whose status as firstlings is definite which he inherited from his maternal grandfather who was a priest who in turn inherited them from his maternal grandfather who was an Israelite, he should separate ten se'in for them.64 They, however, [may be kept] as his own65 and, hence, he is obligated to tithe them.66

כד

ישראל שהיו לו עשרה פטרי חמורים ודאין בתוך ביתו שנפלו לו מבית אבי אמו כהן ואותו אבי אמו הכהן נפלו לו מבית אבי אמו ישראל ה"ז מפריש עליהן י' שיין והן שלו וחייבין במעשר:

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

סליקו להו הלכות בכורים:

Footnotes
1.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 81) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 22) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

2.

In contrast to the mitzvah of redeeming one's firstborn son, this obligation is incumbent on both males and females.

3.

If, however, the first issue of the donkey is female, it need not be redeemed.

4.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 82) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 23) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The Ra'avad objects to this being considered as a separate mitzvah. In Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit., the Rambam explains that he considers the two as separate mitzvot, because Bechorot 13a refers to them as such and draws a parallel between these mitzvot and the mitzvot of yibbum and chalitzah which are accepted as separate mitzvot.

Bechorot 10b explains the rationale for this mitzvah, since the owner caused a priest a loss (by not redeeming the firstling donkey), the Torah decreed that he suffer financial loss. In his Moreh Nevuchim, loc. cit., the Rambam explains that this mitzvah is a safeguard to insure that the mitzvah to redeem the firstling donkeys is observed.

5.

The Hebrew term seh can refer either to a sheep or a goat, as stated in Halachah 8.

6.

I.e., its observance is not limited to Eretz Yisrael, nor to the time when the Temple is standing.

7.

I.e., the initial preference is to redeem the animal rather than behead it.

8.

The verse establishes an association between the redemption of a firstborn son and the redemption of a firstling donkey. Just as the money for the firstborn is given the priest, so to, the seh for the firstling donkey is given him (Radbaz). Nevertheless, as evident from Halachot 5-6, the association is not complete in all of its particulars.

9.

The Rambam clarifies this because from a simple reading of the verse, one might infer that all the firstborn of impure animals must be redeemed. Although all firstborn humans must be redeemed and all firstborn kosher animals must be sacrificed and/or given to a priest, among non-kosher animals, it is only among donkeys that the firstborn is designated as unique and requiring redemption. In his Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. III, ch. 39, the Rambam explains that this mitzvah is also connected with the commemoration of the exodus when God slew the Egyptian firstborn. It is associated with donkeys and not other beasts, because donkeys are a necessity in an agricultural society. Rashi (Exodus 13:13) focused on different dimensions of this concept, stating that donkeys are used as an analogy for the Egyptians, and b) the donkeys assisted the Jews in their redemption, for they carried the wealth of Egypt upon them.

10.

The Ra'avad questions the Rambam's ruling, asking: "Why can he not give the money he received for the donkey to the priest? Why is it forbidden?" After all, it is permitted to redeem the donkey for its value (Halachah 11).

The Radbaz explains that if the person would desire to pay the donkey's worth to the priest he could. Here, however, he sold the donkey and once, it was sold the money he received is forbidden. Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:8) quotes the Rambam's ruling. The Rama states that if the seller notifies the buyer that it is the first issue of a donkey, stipulates that the buyer will redeem it with a seh, and states that he is selling him the difference between the value of the seh and the value of the donkey, the sale is permitted

11.

I.e., the priest sets aside a seh and redeems the donkey with it. He then takes the seh as his own.

12.

For they say: "Why should I redeem it when I am entitled to keep the seh with which I redeem it?" (Sifei Cohen 321:6).

13.

As soon as the seh was set aside, the holiness of the donkey is transferred to it. Hence, when the seh dies, it is considered that the priest's property died and the owner is not under any further obligation (Rashi, Bechorot 9a).

14.

For the seh already became the priest's property [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:4)].

15.

Again since the redemption is already a fait accompli, the priest deserves the seh regardless of what happens to the donkey.

16.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:1) states that the mitzvah is "to redeem it immediately, so as not to postpone the observance of the mitzvah."

17.

In this, we see a difference between the redemption of a firstling donkey and that of a firstborn son. For the son must be redeemed after 30 days, not before (Chapter 11, Halachah 17).

18.

Our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:7).

19.

This is implied by the Hebrew term erafto that is connected to the Hebrew oref, meaning "neck." One must decapitate the animal, severing its neck (ibid.).

20.

The (Turei Zahav 321:3 notes that, as stated in Halachah 11, one may redeem the firstling donkey for its value. Hence, if one tells a priest that by giving him a calf or the like, he is redeeming the donkey for its value, the redemption is effective.

21.

See Chapter 9, Halachah 5, and notes, with regard to the definition of this term.

22.

For even if it does not appear to be a seh, it is of that species. Bechorot 12a raises this question and does not resolve it. Hence, as an initial preference, one should not use such an animal, but after the fact, it is acceptable (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).

The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:3), but the Tur and the Rama differ and maintain that the status of such a redemption is questionable.

23.

This term refers to an animal that was being carried as a fetus when its mother was slaughtered and remained alive despite that slaughter (see Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 5:14). The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:4), but the Tur and the Rama differ and maintain that the redemption is invalid.

24.

As stated in the previous halachah.

25.

See Hilchot Shemitah VeYoval, ch. 6, which explains the laws governing the use of money received for the sale of the produce of the Sabbatical year in detail.

26.

The sheep purchased with money from the sale of produce of the Sabbatical year is considered as the produce of the Sabbatical year itself. And the produce of the Sabbatical year should not be used for the purchase of a non-kosher animal (ibid. 6:10).

27.

As stated in Halachah 21, when redeeming a donkey whose firstling status is questionable, it is necessary to separate a sheep, but one does not have to give it to the priest. Hence, using a sheep for this process is not considered analogous to the purchase of a non-kosher animal with the produce of the Sabbatical year.

28.

See the Minchat Chinuch (mitzvah 22) who concludes that when the owner does possess a seh, he must redeem the donkey with the seh rather than pay its value.

29.

See the Or Sameach and the Minchat Chinuch (loc. cit.) who question whether, after the fact, the redemption of a firstling donkey is effective if one gave less than its worth. One might argue that the priest receiving the article could say: "For me, this is worth the value of the donkey." Indeed, Hilchot Arachin 7:8 states that when one redeems consecrated property for less than its value, the redemption is valid. This position, however, is not accepted by all authorities. Compare to Chapter 11, Halachah 7.

30.

And require that a sheep be given, regardless of the difficulty involved.

31.

A dinar is equivalent to one fourth of a sela.

32.

That a firstling donkey should be redeemed for its value or for a seh.

33.

A zuz is equivalent to a dinar.

34.

The Rambam's ruling is based on his interpretation of Bechorot 11a. Rashi and the Ra'avad offer a different interpretation of that passage. In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro questions the Rambam's ruling, stating that the Ra'avad's interpretation appears closer to the version of the Talmud we possess. Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:5), Rav Yosef Caro quotes the Rambam's view.

35.

Note the Minchat Chinuch (loc. cit.) who questions whether the mitzvah is incumbent on the owner of the donkey and the person is thus acting as the owner's agent or whether the mitzvah to redeem it is incumbent on the Jewish people as a whole and any person has the right to observe. There would be a practical difference between these two views if the owner protested against the other person redeeming his firstling donkey.

36.

The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 321:19) states that this also applies to women of the priestly and Levitical families. Nevertheless, this applies only to the donkeys that they personally own. Those owned by their husbands are liable.

37.

I.e., the initial preference is to redeem the animal rather than behead it.

38.

And the priests and Levites are exempt from the redemption of their firstborn, as stated in Chapter 11, Halachah 9.

39.

This refers to the second clause. He is forbidden to sell his firstling donkey as a fetus to a gentile, for by doing so, he exempts himself from the mitzvah of redeeming it and thus causes the priesthood a loss. There is, however, no prohibition against purchasing a firstling fetus owned by a gentile (Radbaz).

40.

In general, it is forbidden to enter into a partnership with a gentile (Hilchot Shiluchim VeShutafim 10:5). In particular, this applies in the present instance, for he is depriving the priesthood of the presents due them. Nevertheless, he is not penalized for doing so.

41.

For, as the Rambam concludes, the firstling donkey must belong entirely to a Jew.

42.

The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:20) state that, in this regard, the laws that apply to a firstling donkey are the same as those applying to the firstborn of a kosher animal and they are discussed in sec. 320 which deals with that subject.

There the Tur asks why is it necessary for the Rambam to speak of the limbs of an animal when he already mentioned that any small percentage of a partnership in the animal disqualifies it. The Kessef Mishneh explains that in this clause, the Rambam is speaking about an instance where the gentile is not a partner in the entire animal. He owns only a portion of the particular limb or organ in question. Hence, it is necessary to clarify that even in such an instance, he is exempt.

43.

I.e., if such a blemish were to exist in a kosher animal. These blemishes are mentioned in Hilchot Issurei Mizbeach, ch. 2.

44.

For the portion owned by the gentile is not significant.

45.

This was a common practice in the Talmudic era. A person would give a colleague a donkey (or other animal) to raise. As payment for raising it, he is given a half share in the donkey's offspring. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:1).

46.

In which case he would be exempt from redeeming its firstborn.

47.

In which case he would be obligated.

48.

When quoting this law, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:18) does not mention the option of decapitation, implying that even in this instance, redemption is the preferable option.

49.

This instance is different from that involving the presents of meat given to the priests (Chapter 9, Halachah 13). The rationale is that in this instance, the owner is forbidden to benefit from the firstling donkey unless he redeems it. Hence, he must redeem it rather than risk that transgression. Moreover, as the Rambam proceeds to explain, he does not suffer any loss through this redemption.

50.

A priest who is claiming that he is entitled to the seh for the redemption would have to prove that the conversion took place before the donkey was born. The owner is allowed to keep the seh, for there is no holiness associated with it. The question is only one of monetary law and is governed by the principle stated by the Rambam.

51.

We inform him, lest he think that the Jews are lax in the observance of sanctified aticles (Sifei Cohen 321:13).

52.

For the mitzvah only applies to the Jewish people.

53.

Exodus 13:13, 34:20.

54.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 315:6) is more lenient, stating that there is a doubt whether it must be redeemed.

55.

Even though he does not know which one is the firstborn, one of them obviously is. Hence, an obligation exists.

56.

A priest who is claiming that he is entitled to the seh for the redemption would have to prove that the male donkey was born first.

57.

For it is only certain that one of the males was the firstborn. The female could have been born before the second one. See Chapter 11, Halachah 22. Although there is a possibility that the second donkey gave birth to a male first, there is no probability that it did so. Hence the Rambam does not require that a lamb be separated for it. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:14) maintain that since there is a possibility that the second male is also a firstborn, the owner should separate a lamb to remove the possibility of any holiness being attached to the donkey, but he may keep the lamb as his own.

58.

Because there is no probability that the donkeys gave birth to a male first. In each instance, it is possible that the donkey gave birth to a female before the male.

59.

The Ra'avad and other commentaries question the Rambam's logic and ruling, because this is not the usual instance of a sefek-sefeka. When the situation is analyzed, the only real question is: Was the male born after a female or not? Hence since there is a doubt it would seem appropriate for a lamb to be separated (and kept by the owner) to remove the possibility of the donkey being holy. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:14) follows the Rambam's view, while the Tur and the Rama require that a lamb be set aside. As Sifei Cohen 321:11 writes, since the owner will not suffer a loss by separating a lamb, why shouldn't he?

60.

For one of the males is definitely a firstborn.

61.

For perhaps the donkey that gave birth previously gave birth to the male.

62.

The fact that originally, there was a claim against them is not significant. Since the owner is allowed to maintain possession, as stated in the above halachot, there is no difference between these lambs and the remainder of his property.

63.

See Hilchot Bechorot, ch. 6, which describes this mitzvah. Since these lambs are ordinary property and are not consecrated, they must be tithed.

64.

For since, they originally belonged to an Israelite, there is an obligation to redeem them.

65.

His grandfather, the priest would not have to give the lambs he set aside to redeem them to another priest, because he himself is entitled to them. He bequeaths that right to his grandson, the Israelite. Hence he may keep them as his own.

66.

For they are not consecrated.

Shemita - Chapter 1

Introduction to Hilchos Shemita

They contain twenty-two mitzvot: nine positive commandments and thirteen negative commandments. They are:

1) That the earth should rest in the seventh year from all labor performed because of it;
2) Not to perform agricultural work during this year;
3) Not to perform work with trees during this year;
4) Not to harvest produce that grows on its own in an ordinary manner;
5) Not to harvest grapes in an ordinary manner;
6) To give up ownership of all the produce of the earth;
7) To renounce all debts;
8) Not to pressure a debtor, nor to demand payment from him;
9) Not to refrain from lending before the Sabbatical year so that one will not forfeit his money;
10) To count the years in sets of seven;
11) To sanctify the fiftieth year;
12) To sound the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei [of the fiftieth year] so that the servants will be released as free;
13) Not to perform agricultural work during this year;
14) Not to harvest produce that grows on its own in an ordinary manner;
15) Not to harvest grapes in an ordinary manner;
16) To provide for the redemption of the land during this year; this refers to the laws pertaining to ancestral fields and purchased fields;
17) That the land never be sold in a permanent manner;
18) The laws pertaining to [the sale of] homes in walled cities;
19) That the tribe of Levi should not receive a tribal inheritance in Eretz Yisrael; instead, they are given cities to live in as presents;
20) That the tribe of Levi not take a portion of the spoils [of war];
21) To give the Levites cities to dwell in [together with] their open land;
22) That the open land of their cities never be sold [permanently]; instead they have the opportunity to redeem it whether before the Jubilee year or afterwards.

These mitzvot are explained in the ensuing chapters.

הלכות שמיטה ויובל - הקדמה

הלכות שמיטה ויובל יש בכללן שתים ועשרים מצות תשע מצות עשה ושלש עשרה מצות לא תעשה וזהו פרטן:

(א) שתשבות הארץ בשביעית ממלאכתה
(ב) שלא יעבוד עבודת הארץ בשנה זו
(ג) שלא יעבוד עבודת האילן בשנה זו
(ד) שלא יקצור הספיח כדרך הקוצרים
(ה) שלא יבצור הנזירים כדרך הבוצרים
(ו) שישמט מה שתוציא הארץ
(ז) שישמט כל הלואתו
(ח) שלא יגוש ולא יתבע הלוה
(ט) שלא ימנע מלהלוות קודם שמיטה כדי שלא יאבד ממונו
(י) לספור השנים שבע שבע
(יא) לקדש שנת החמשים
(יב) לתקוע בשופר בי' בתשרי כדי לצאת עבדים חפשי
(יג) שלא תעבד אדמה בשנה זו
(יד) שלא יקצור ספיחיה כנגד הקוצר
(טו) שלא יבצור נזיריה כנגד הבוצרים
(טז) ליתן גאולה לארץ בשנה זו וזהו דין שדה אחוזה ושדה מקנה
(יז) שלא תמכר הארץ לצמיתות
(יח) דין בתי ערי חומה
(יט) שלא ינחל כל שבט לוי בארץ ישראל אלא נותנין להם ערים מתנה לשבת בהם
(כ) שלא יקח שבט לוי בבזה
(כא) ליתן ללוים ערים לשבת ומגרשיהן
(כב) שלא ימכר מגרש עריהם אלא גואלים לעולם בין לפני היובל בין לאחר היובל

וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו:

1

It is a positive commandment to rest from performing agricultural work or work with trees1 in the Sabbatical year, as [Leviticus 25:2] states: "And the land will rest like a Sabbath unto God" and [Exodus 34:21] states: "You shall rest with regard to plowing and harvesting."2

When a person3 performs any labor upon the land or with trees during this year, he nullifies the observance of this positive commandment and violates a negative commandment,4as [Leviticus 25:4] states: "Do not sow your field and do not trim your vineyard."

א

מצות עשה לשבות מעבודת הארץ ועבודת האילן בשנה שביעית שנאמר ושבתה הארץ שבת ליי' ונאמר בחריש ובקציר תשבות וכל העושה מלאכה מעבודת הארץ או האילנות בשנה זו ביטל מצות עשה ועבר על לא תעשה שנאמר שדך לא תזרע וכרמך לא תזמור:

2

According to Scriptural Law, a person is not liable for lashes except for [the following labors] sowing, trimming,5 harvesting [grain], and harvesting fruit - both from vineyards and from other trees.6

ב

אינו לוקה מן התורה אלא על הזריעה או על הזמירה ועל הקצירה או על הבצירה ואחד הכרם ואחד שאר האילנות:

3

Trimming is considered in the category of sowing.7 And harvesting fruit is considered in the category of harvesting grain. If so, why did the Torah single them out?8 To teach that one is liable [for lashes] for performing these two derivatives alone. For the other derivatives that involve working the land9 and the other major categories of labor that were not mentioned explicitly [by the Torah] in this context, one is not liable for lashes. He is, however, given stripes for rebellious conduct.

ג

וזמירה בכלל זריעה ובצירה בכלל קצירה ולמה פרטן הכתוב לומר לך על שתי תולדות אלו בלבד הוא חייב ועל שאר התולדות שבעבודת הארץ עם שאר האבות שלא נתפרשו בענין זה אינו לוקה עליהן אבל מכין אותו מכת מרדות:

4

What is implied? When a person digs or plow10 for the sake of the land, removes stones,11 fertilizes the land, or performs another similar type of work on the land or extends,12 grafts, plants, or performs other similar types of work with trees, he is given stripes for rebellious conduct.

ד

כיצד החופר או החורש לצורך הקרקע או המסקל או המזבל וכיוצא בהן משאר עבודת הארץ וכן המבריך או המרכיב או הנוטע וכיוצא בהן מעבודת האילנות מכין אותו מכת מרדות מדבריהן:

5

We do not plant even non-fruit-bearing trees in the Sabbatical year. Nor may one cut an abnormal outgrowth from a tree, remove dried leaves and branches, apply dust to the top of a tree,13 or smoke a tree so that worms [that infest it] die.14[Similarly,] one should not apply a foul-smelly potion to plants so that birds will not eat them when they are soft. One should not apply oil to unripened fruit, nor should one perforate them. 15 One should not bind plants,16 nor trim them, nor prepare a support for a tree of perform any other work with trees. If one performs any of these labors in the Sabbatical year, he is given stripes for rebellious conduct.

ה

אין נוטעין בשביעית אפילו אילן סרק ולא יחתוך היבולת מן האילנות ולא יפרק העלין והבדים היבשים ולא יאבק את צמרתו באבק ולא יעשן תחתיו כדי שימות התולעת ולא יסוך את הנטיעות בדבר שיש לו זוהמא כדי שלא יאכל אותו העוף כשהוא רך ולא יסוך את הפגין ולא ינקוב אותן ולא יכרוך את הנטיעות ולא יקטום אותם ולא יפסג את האילנות וכן שאר כל עבודת האילן ואם עשה אחת מאלו בשביעית מכין אותו מכת מרדות:

6

One may not light a fire in an overgrowth of reeds, because this is considered as working the land.17 We train a cow to plow only in sand.18 We do not test [the viability of] seeds in a flowerpot full of earth,19 but we may test them in a flowerpot full of dung.20 One may soak seeds in the Sabbatical year in order to plant them in the following year.21 We maintain aloe22 plants on top of the roof,23 but we do not water them.24

ו

אין מציתין את האור באישת הקנים מפני שהיא עבודת קרקע ואין מלמדין את הפרה לחרוש אלא בחול ואין בודקין את הזרעים בעציץ מלא עפר אבל בודקין אותן בעציץ מלא גללים ושורין את הזרעים בשביעית כדי לזורען במוצאי שביעית ומקיימין האלויי בראש הגג אבל אין משקין אותו:

7

We may apply red paint to a tree25 and we may load it with stones.26We may hoe under vines and under olive trees.27 If [these activities are intended] to make the trees flourish, they are forbidden. If they are intended to close their cracks, it is permitted.

ז

סוקרין את האילן בסקרא וטוענין אותו באבנים ועודרין תחת הגפנים והמקשקש בזיתים אם להברות את האילן אסור ואם לסתום את הפצימים מותר:

8

We may irrigate a beit hashilechin, i.e., a field that is sown [with grain] that is very arid, in the Sabbatical year.28 Similarly, we may cause water to flow from one tree to another in an orchard if there were ten trees dispersed in an area larger than that necessary to sow a se'ah [of grain].29 One should not, however, irrigate the entire orchard.30 If they are closer to each other than that, one may irrigate the entire orchard for them.31

Similarly, [when trees grow in] a field where they are planted distant from each other,32 we can sprinkle the earth with water for the sake of the trees that they will not be ruined.

ח

משקין בית השלחין בשביעית והיא שדה הזריעה שצמאה ביותר וכן שדה האילנות אם היו מרוחקין זה מזה יתר מעשר לבית סאה מושכין את המים מאילן לאילן אבל לא ישקו את כל השדה ואם היו מקורבין זה לזה עשר לבית סאה משקין כל השדה בשבילן וכן עפר הלבן מרביצין אותו במים בשביעית בשביל האילנות שלא יפסדו:

9

One may dig a pit at the roots of a grapevine [to collect water].33 One may make an irrigation ditch at the outset and one may fill the water reservoirs34 with water.

ט

ועושין עוגיות לגפנים ועושין את אמת המים כתחלה וממלאין את הנקעים מים:

10

Why were all these activities allowed? For if he will not irrigate [the field], the land will become parched and all the trees in it will die. Since the prohibition against these activities and the like is Rabbinic in origin, they did not impose their decrees in these instances.35 For according to Scriptural Law, a prohibition applies only to the two primary categories and their two derivatives, as explained.36

י

ומפני מה התירו כל אלה שאם לא ישקה תעשה הארץ מלחה וימות כל עץ שבה והואיל ואיסור הדברים האלו וכיוצא בהם מדבריהם לא גזרו על אלו שאין אסור מן התורה אלא אותן שני אבות ושתי תולדות שלהם כמו שביארנו:

11

When the number of those who impose their desires by force increased and the gentile kings required the Jews to supply food37 for their soldiers, [the Sages] permitted [the people] to sow only those crops that are necessary for the servants of the king alone.38 Similarly, if a person of force compelled someone to perform labor in the Sabbatical year without pay, for the service of the king or the like, he may do so.39

יא

משרבו האנסין והטילו מלכי עכו"ם על ישראל לעשות מחנות לחיילותיהן התירו לזרוע בשביעי' דברים שצריכין להם עבדי המלך בלבד וכן מי שכפאו אנס לעשות בשביעית בחנם כמו עבודת המלך וכיוצא בהן הרי זה עושה:

12

When a person plants [crops] during the Sabbatical year whether in inadvertent or willful violation, he should uproot them, because the Jews are suspect with regard to [the prohibitions of the] Sabbatical year.40 If we would allow a person who [sowed] inadvertently to keep the crops, a person who [sowed] intentionally would say: "I did so inadvertently."41

יב

הנוטע בשביעית בין בשוגג בין במזיד יעקור מפני שישראל חשודין על השביעית אם תאמר בשוגג יקיים יאמר המזיד שוגג הייתי:

13

When one plows his field, breaks its ground,42 or fertilizes it43in the Sabbatical year so that it will be better to sow in the following year, we penalize him and [prohibit] him from sowing it in the following year. He may not hire it out to others. Instead, he must leave it fallow. If he dies, however, his son may sow it.44

יג

החורש את שדהו או נרה או זבלה בשביעית כדי שתהיה יפה לזריעה במוצאי שביעית קונסין אותו ולא יזרענה במוצאי שביעית ואין חוכרין אותה ממנו כדי לזורעה אלא תהי בורה לפניו ואם מת יזרענה בנו:

14

When a person removes thorns from his field in the Sabbatical year to improve it for the following year or removes stones from it, even though he is forbidden to do so,45 we do not penalize him. He is permitted to sow it in the following year.

יד

המעביר קוצים מארצו בשביעית כדי לתקנה למוצאי שביעית או שסקל ממנה אבנים אע"פ שאינו רשאי לא קנסו אותו ומותר לו לזורעה במוצאי שביעית:

15

[The following laws apply when a person] buries turnips, radishes, and the like46 in the Sabbatical year. If some of their leaves were revealed, he need not be concerned.47 If not, it is forbidden.48 When someone buries wild onions or the like, he should place at least four kabbim in the height of a handbreadth49and place a handbreadth of earth above them. He should bury them in a place where people walk so that they will not grow.

It is permitted to rip off the protruding stalks of rice in the Sabbatical year,50 but one should not cut them off.

טו

הטומן לפת וצנונות וכיוצא בהן בשביעית אם היו מקצת העלין מגולין אינו חושש ואם לאו אסור הטומן את הלוף וכיוצא בהן לא יפחות מארבע קבים על גובה טפח וטפח עפר על גביו וטומנו במקום דריסת האדם כדי שלא יצמח ומותר למרס באורז בשביעית אבל לא יכסח:

16

At the outset, [the Rabbis] would say: A person may gather wood, stones, and grass from his field, provided he takes the larger ones51 alone, so that his intent is not to clear the land,52 but from his colleague's field, he may take small and larger pieces.53 When there was an increase in the number of transgressors, i.e., people who intended to clear their fields, but would excuse themselves, saying: "We are only taking the larger pieces," they forbade a person from gathering wood and stones from his own field, [permitting this] only from a colleague's field.54 Even then, [the leniency was granted] only when he does not do so in order that he exchange the favor,55 i.e., he does not tell his colleague: "See how much of a favor I did for you, for I have cleared your field."

טז

בראשונה היו אומרים מלקט אדם עצים ואבנים ועשבים מתוך שדהו והוא שיטול הגס הגס כדי שלא יתכוין לנקות הארץ אבל משדה חבירו נוטל בין דק בין גס משרבו עוברי עבירה שמתכוונין לנקות ואומרין הגס הגס אנו נוטלין אסרו ליטול אדם משדהו אלא מתוך שדה חבירו והוא שלא ילקט בטובה שלא יאמר לו ראה כמה טוב עשיתי לך שהרי נקיתי שדך:

17

When a person's animal is standing in his field, he may gather [all types of grasses]56 and bring them to it, for [the presence of] his animal indicates his [intent].57 Similarly, if his cooking range is located there, he may gather everything58 and kindle it, for [the presence of] his range indicates his [intent].

יז

היתה בהמתו עומדת בתוך שדהו מלקט ומביא לפניה שבהמתו מוכחת עליו וכן אם היתה שם כירתו מלקט הכל ומדליק שכירתו מוכחת עליו:

18

If a person cuts down a tree or two to use as wood,59 he may dig out their roots.60 If he cuts down three or more next to each other, he should not dig out their roots, because then he is improving his land.61 Instead, he should cut off the portion above the earth and leave the roots in the ground.

When does the above apply? In one's own field. In one's colleague's field, by contrast, it is permitted to dig out the roots.62

יח

הקוצץ אילן או שנים לעצים ה"ז מותר לשרשן קצץ שלשה או יתר זה בצד זה לא ישרש שהרי מתקן את הארץ אלא קוצץ מעל הארץ ומניח שרשיו בארץ בד"א מתוך שלו אבל משדה חבירו מותר לשרש:

19

When a person is chopping [branches from] an olive tree63 for wood, he should not cover the place [where the branches grew] with earth, because this involves performing work [with the tree].64 He may, however, cover it with stones or with straw.

יט

המבקיע בזית ליטול עצים לא יחפה מקום הבקוע בעפר מפני שהיא עבודה אבל מכסה באבנים או בקש:

20

One who trims the ends of branches of vines and cuts down reeds, may cut them in his ordinary pattern with a hatchet, a sickle, or a saw, or with any other utensil he desires.65

כ

המזנב בגפנים והקוצץ קנים ה"ז קוצץ כדרכו בקרדום ובמגל ובמגירה ובכל מה שירצה:

21

One should not chop wood from a wild fig tree from which wood has never been cut before66 in the same way as one cuts wood from it in other years, because trimming a tree is [one of the forbidden] tasks involved with trees, for through trimming the tree, it will grow and increase. If he needs its wood, he should trim it in an unusual manner.

כא

אין קוצצין בתולת שקמה בשביעית כדרך שקוצצין בשאר השנים מפני שקציצתה עבודת אילן שבקציצה זו תגדל ותוסיף ואם צריך לעציה קוצץ אותה שלא כדרך עבודתה:

22

How should he trim it? [He should cut either]the branches close to the ground or those higher than ten handbreadths.67

When a tree is split,68 it can be tied together in the Sabbatical year. [The intent is not that] it will mend,69 but that [the split] will not increase.70

כב

כיצד קוצצה מעם הארץ או למעלה מעשרה טפחים אילן שנפשח קושרין אותו בשביעית לא שיעלה אלא שלא יוסיף:

Footnotes
1.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 135) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 112) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

There is a difference of opinion among the commentaries if the mitzvah is incumbent on the gavra (the person himself) or on the land (the cheftza, the object). The commentaries note that the Rambam's wording in this halachah indicates that the mitzvah is on the person, he should rest. Nevertheless, the wording he uses when enumerating the mitzvot - that "the land should rest" - puts the emphasis on the land.

2.

The citation of this verse reflects a general principle in the Mishneh Torah: that the Rambam will occasionally favor the understanding of a verse proposed by the Jerusalem Talmud even though the Babylonian Talmud interprets it otherwise. To explain: the Babylonian Talmud (Mo'ed Kattan 4a) inteprets this verse as a prohibition to work the land on the Sabbath. It is the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 1:3) which understands it as referring to the Sabbatical year.

From Chapter 4, Halachah 1, it appears that here the Rambam is speaking of harvesting for the sake of improving the land, not for gathering its crops. The intent appears to be that harvesting produce will enable the land to produce better produce in the future.

3.

This mitzvah is incumbent both on men and women.

4.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 220) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 326) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

5.

As indicated by Halachah 20 and notes, the intent here is trimming the top of the tree and not the end of its branches.

6.

The term betzirah whose root is used in Leviticus 25:5 is usually employed specifically with regard to harvesting grapes. Nevertheless, in a wider sense, it refers to harvesting any fruit.

7.

Because like sowing, trimming contributes to the growth of the tree (Radbaz).

8.

In Leviticus 25:5: "The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap and the grapes you had designated you shall not gather."

9.

And performing work with trees.

10.

Plowing is explicitly mentioned in the positive commandment for observing the Sabbatical year, but not in the prohibition.

Although Mo'ed Kattan 3a uses techniques of Biblical exegesis to show that other labors are forbidden, the Rambam considers these teachings merely as asmachteot, citing a verse as support for a concept forbidden by Rabbinic Law.

11.

To improve the land, not because he needs the stones. See Chapter 2, Halachah 10.

12.

Implants the head of a branch of a vine or tree in the ground so that roots will grow to improve its nurture.

13.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:2), the Rambam writes that this is beneficial for certain trees.

14.

As will be explained (see Halachah 7), we are permitted to perform labor to maintain a tree's wellbeing. These activities, however, are intended to foster its growth.

15.

Both of these activities speed their ripening (ibid.:5).

16.

Bind their branches so that they grow upward rather than spread out (ibid.:6).

17.

For this prepares the land on which they grow to be used to plant crops.

18.

And not on land that could be used for crops in which instance, the plowing would benefit him.

19.

For this resembles sowing them.

20.

Because we do not usually sow in dung.

21.

For this does not involve working with the land.

22.

A fragrant herb, also used for medicinal purposes.

23.

I.e., prevent them from being damaged. The Radbaz questions why the aloe plant is singled out; seemingly the same principle applies with regard to all plants. He explains that since the aloe grows on the roofs, it is in need of shade. Our Sages permitted a person to construct a shelter to protect the aloe from the sun. This is not considered as forbidden labor.

24.

For that would promote their growth, not merely maintain them.

25.

Chulin 78a states that this is intended to attract notice to the tree and cause people to pray that its fruit do not fall prematurely. This is permitted because it does not involve caring for the tree.

26.

This weakens the tree's strength and thus prevents it from causing its fruit to fall prematurely (ibid.). Since it weakens the tree, it is permitted.

27.

The Kessef Mishneh quotes Rashi (Mo'ed Kattan 3a) who explains that the words oder and kishkush are synonymous. The difference is only with regard to the type of plants.

28.

For otherwise all the trees in the field will die, as stated in Halachah 10.

29.

Hilchot Shabbat 16:3 defines an area in which a se'ah of grain is sown as 50 cubits by 50 cubits. This leniency is permitted to make sure that the trees do not die.

30.

Since it is unnecessary to do that to provide the individual trees with water.

31.

For that is the most effective way of watering the trees, since they are close to each other.

32.

I.e., ten in an area larger than 50 cubits by 50 cubits. Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:10).

33.

Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Mo'ed Kattan 1:1).

34.

Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Kelayim 5:4).

35.

So the trees will not die.

36.

In Halachot 2-3.

37.

Our translation is based on the authoritative manuscripts and early printings of the Mishneh Torah. The standard publish text follows a slightly different version.

38.

This leniency was granted even though sowing is forbidden by Scriptural Law. It must, however, be emphasized that (as stated in Chapter 10, Halachah 9), from the later years of the First Temple period, the observance of the Sabbatical year only had the status of Rabbinic commandment. The Radbaz maintains that such leniency would be granted even if the Scriptural ordinance was in effect.

39.

For since he is being threatened, it makes no difference whether the person threatening him is a king or an ordinary person. Since there is danger involved, leniency is granted (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).

The Kessef Mishneh emphasizes that this leniency is granted only when the person does not receive payment for his activity. He is forbidden to take payment, even if he is being compelled for then a person could perform such labors and excuse himself, claiming that he was compelled to do so.

40.

There are many who sow their fields and reap their crops. See Chapter 8 which lists many safeguards instituted for that reason.

41.

Terumot 2:3 contrasts sowing on the Sabbath with sowing during the Sabbatical year, explaining that the Jews are not suspect to violate the Sabbath. Hence, the results of the inadvertent violation of the Sabbath laws are not forbidden.

42.

This is the translation of the word nirah, based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 4:3, Pe'ah 2:1). The term differs from plowing in that it is a far less thorough activity. See Rashi's gloss to Jeremiah 4:3 which explains that it refers primarily to the removal of weeds, thorns, and the like.

43.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 4:2), the Rambam explains that this applies even if the field is fertilized by making it a corral for animals, so that their manure will fertilize it and improve its quality.

44.

For the penalty is imposed on him personally, not on the land. Note the contrast to Chapter 3, Halachah 11.

45.

As stated in Halachot 4 and 16.

46.

In these eras, there was no refrigeration and vegetables would be preserved by placing them in the ground.

47.

As long as the leaves are revealed, one is not planting in the ordinary manner (Radbaz). Burying the plants in this manner is permitted, because he does not desire that the plants grow in the earth; they are merely buried there [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Kilayim 1:9)].

48.

Because he appears to be planting them.

49.

If they are not packed so densely, burying them resembles planting [ibid. (Sh'vi'it 5:2)].

50.

Our translation is based on Rav Kappach's notes to the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (ibid. 2:10). There the Rambam explains the term yichsech, but does not explain the term mereis. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh interpret the latter term as meaning that it is permitted to sprinkle water on the rice plants. The contrast to the following clause supports Rav Kappach's interpretation.

51.

Those that stick out and attract attention [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Pe'ah 6:11; Sh'vi'it 4:1)].

52.

I.e., when clearing the land, one takes smaller stones and pieces as well as larger ones, so that the land will not have any foreign matter upon it.

53.

For we do not suspect that he will be intending to clear his colleague's field.

54.

It would appear that a person would be permitted to gather both larger and small pieces from his colleague's field. The Radbaz, however, grants this leniency only with regard to larger pieces.

55.

Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 4:1). There he emphasizes that the person clearing the field is expecting something in return.

56.

Not only the large ones permitted in the previous halachah. Even though the person's field will be cleared in this manner, since this is not his intent, and the labor of clearing a field involves merely a Rabbinic prohibition, stringency was not enforced.

57.

That he is seeking to provide his animal with food and not clear his field.

58.

The Radbaz states that this leniency is granted only when the owner takes both the large and small pieces. If he takes only small pieces, it is forbidden because he is obviously intending to clear his field.

59.

See Chapter 5, Halachot 17-18, which restricts cutting down trees for kindling once they have begun to grow fruit.

60.

Even though it involves work with the land, since he desires the wood, it is permitted.

61.

The place where three trees can grow is significant and can be used for planting. Thus by removing the stumps, it is as if he is clearing a field for himself [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 5:4)].

62.

The intent is not that one has uninhibited license to cut down a colleague's tree even in the Sabbatical year. Instead, if the tree has been cut down, one may uproot the stump.

63.

This law also applies to other species. See Sh'vi'it 4:5 and the gloss of the Ra'avad.

64.

This is forbidden by Scriptural Law.

65.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 4:7), the Rambam explains that there is no need for a deviation in the way he trims the branches, because he is not intending to trim the tree. To explain his statements: Although trimming is one of the activities forbidden by Scriptural Law, this refers to trimming the top of the tree, not the ends of its branches (Tifferet Yisrael to the above mishnah).

66.

Our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 5:5)].

67.

For cutting these branches is not that beneficial to the tree (Bava Batra 80b).

68.

Here, also, our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 5:5)], which quotes I Samuel 15:33 as support.

69.

I.e., that the split will be healed. This is forbidden, because this would be improving the tree.

70.

This is permitted, because this is maintaining the tree.

Shemita - Chapter 2

1

A person should not remove waste materials from his courtyard and place them in his field in the Sabbatical year, because it appears that he is fertilizing his field so that it will be improved for him to sow it.1 If he did remove them, but made a waste heap, it is permitted.2

He should not make a waste heap in his field until the time when it is common to fertilize the fields as is done when tilling the land passes, i.e., when the bitter3 [apples] become [very dried out and] knotted. He should not make a waste heap that contains less than 150 se'ah of waste, so that it will be obvious that it is a waste heap.4 If he wishes to add to it, he may. If he has a small amount [of waste matter placed in his field before the beginning of the Sabbatical year], he can continue to increase it [throughout the Sabbatical year]. One should not make more than three waste heaps in an area large enough to sow a se'ah of grain.5

א

לא יוציא אדם זבלים מחצירו ויתן בתוך שדהו בשביעית מפני שנראה כמזבל שדהו שתהיה יפה לזריעה ואם הוציא והעמיד ממנו אשפה מותר ולא יעשה אשפה בתוך שדהו עד שיעבור זמן שמזבלין בו לעבודת הארץ והוא משיקשור המתוק ולא יעשה אשפה פחותה ממאה וחמשים סאה של זבל כדי שתהיה ניכרת שהיא אשפה ואם ירצה להוסיף מוסיף היה לו דבר מועט מוסיף עליו והולך ולא יעשה בכל בית סאה יתר משלש אשפתות:

2

When a person desires to make waste heaps throughout his entire field, three in each area large enough to sow a se'ah, he may.6 If he desires to combine his waste into one large waste heap,7 he may.

ב

והרוצה לעשות כל שדהו שלש שלש אשפתות לתוך בית סאה עושה והרוצה לעשות זבלו אוצר עושה:

3

When a person would place waste on a rock, dug out three handbreadths of the earth and then made a heap of waste, or built [a platform] three handbreadths high above the earth and placed the waste upon them, there is no required measure. Even if he made several waste heaps in an area large enough to sow a se'ah of grain, it is permitted. [The rationale is] it is obvious that his intent is not to improve the land,8 but rather to collect his waste.9

ג

היה מעמיד הזבל על הסלע או שהעמיק בארץ ג' טפחים והערים הזבל או שבנה על הארץ גובה ג' והעמיד עליו הזבל אינו צריך שיעור אפילו עשה כן כמה אשפתות לתוך בית סאה בין גדולות בין קטנות מותר שהרי הדבר ניכר שאינן לעבודת הארץ אלא לכניסת הזבל:

4

A person is permitted to remove waste from a corral of sheep and place it in his field as [is permitted to] all those who collect waste.10

When a person makes a corral in his field in the Sabbatical year,11 he should not make it larger than an area it takes to sow two se'ah.12 [When it is that size,] he may bring his sheep into it. When they have fertilized the entire corral, he may leave one wall of the corral and make another corral on its side, [and then bring his sheep there]. In this manner, he can fertilize a portion of his field large enough to sow four se'ah.

ד

מותר לאדם להוציא זבל מן הסהר של צאן ונותן לתוך שדהו כדרך כל מכניסי זבל והעושה דיר בתוך שדהו בשביעית לא יעשהו יתר על בית סאתים ויכניס הצאן לתוכו וכשיזבלו את כל הדיר מניח דופן אחד מדפני הדיר ועושה דיר אחר בצדו נמצא מזבל בתוך שדהו בית ארבעת סאין:

5

If, however, his entire field was only large enough to sow four se'ah, he should leave a portion [unfertilized], because of the impression that might be created.13 [In this way,] everyone will know that the sheep deposited their wastes there and fertilized it and they will not say that the person fertilized his entire field in the Sabbatical year.

ה

היתה כל שדהו בית ארבעת סאין משייר ממנה מקצת מפני מראית העין כדי שידעו הכל שהצאן הטילו בה ונדיירה ולא יאמרו זיבל זה כל שדהו בשביעית:

6

A person should not open a quarry in his field14 at the outset in the Sabbatical year, lest it be said that he intended to improve his field by removing the rocks from it. If he began before the Sabbatical year and quarried from it 27 blocks - each block being one cubit by one cubit and one cubit high or larger - from a group of stones that were three cubits by three cubits and three cubits high, it is permitted to extract from it all one desires during the Sabbatical year.15

ו

לא יפתח אדם מחצב בתחלה לתוך שדהו בשביעית שמא יאמרו לתקן שדהו נתכוון שיסיר ממנה הסלע ואם התחיל מקודם שביעית ופצל ממנה שבע ועשרים אבנים ברבוע ג' על ג' על רום ג' כל אבן מהן אמה על אמה ברום אמה או גדולות מזו ה"ז מותר לנקר ממנו בשביעית כל מה שירצה:

7

[The following rules apply when there is] a stone wall that is ten handbreadths or more high and one desired to remove all the stones. If it contained ten or more stones, each one at least [large enough to require] two people to carry it, he may take them,16 for an observer will know that he is taking them because he needs the stones.17 If the wall was less than ten handbreadths high, there were less than ten stones or the stones were smaller [and did not require] two people to carry it, he may take them, but must leave [a row] a handbreadth high above the ground.18

ז

גדר של אבנים שיש בגבהו י' טפחים או יתר ורצה ליטול כל אבניו אם היו בו י' אבנים או יתר כל אחת מהן משוי שנים או גדולות מזו ה"ז נוטל שהרואה יודע שלצורך האבנים הוא נוטל היה פחות מי' או שהיו פחות מי' אבנים או שהיו אבניו קטנות ממשוי שנים נוטל עד שיניח טפח סמוך לארץ:

8

When does the above19 apply? When he intends to improve his field20 or he began to remove the stones in the Sabbatical year. If, however, he did not intend to improve his field21 or began removing them before the Sabbatical year,22 he may take everything he desires23 during the Sabbatical year, clearing away [the stones] until he reaches the earth. Similarly, if he was removing the stones from a colleague's field, even though he was a contractor,24 he may clear them away until he reaches the earth.25

ח

במה דברים אמורים בשנתכוון לתקן שדהו (או) שהתחיל ליטול בשביעית אבל אם לא נתכוון לתקן שדהו או שהתחיל מקודם שביעית נוטל בשביעית כל מה שירצה מכל מקום וגומם עד לארץ וכן אם היה נוטל משדה חבירו אף על פי שהוא קבלן גומם עד לארץ:

9

[The following rules apply when, in a field, there are] stones that would be dislocated by a plow or which were covered [by earth] and then uncovered. If there are two stones that are each large enough to require two people to carry them, it is permitted to remove them.26If they are smaller than this, he should not take them.27

ט

אבנים שראויות שתזעזע אותן המחרישה או שהיו מכוסות ונתגלו אם יש בהן שתים של משוי שנים שנים ה"ז מותר ליטול אותן היו קטנות מזה לא ינטלו:

10

When a person removes stones from his field because he needs the stones [for construction], he should remove the upper ones and leave those in contact with the earth. Similarly, if he has a pile of pebbles or of stones in his field, he should take the upper one's and leave those in contact with the earth. If there is a large rock or straw beneath them, he may take all of them.28

י

המסקל שדהו בשביעית מפני שהוא צריך לאבנים נוטל את העליונות ומניח את הנוגעות בארץ וכן אם היה לו בשדהו גרגר של צרורות או גל של אבנים נוטל את העליונות ומניח את הנוגעות בארץ ואם יש תחתיהן סלע או קש יטול את כולן:

11

A person should not fill a groove in the ground with earth or level it with earth, because he is improving his land.29 He may, however, make a divider before the groove, [separating it from the remainder of his field].30 He may take any stone [in the groove] that he can pick up if he stretches out his hand while he is standing at the edge of the groove.31

יא

לא ימלא אדם גיא עפר או יתקננו בעפר מפני שמתקן את הארץ אבל עושה הוא חייץ על פני הגיא וכל אבן שיכול לפשוט את ידו וליטלה והוא עומד על שפת הגיא הרי זו תנטל:

12

It is permitted to bring stones carried on one's shoulder - i.e., two or three are carried on one's shoulder at a time - from any place, whether from a colleague's field or from one's own field. Similarly, a contractor32 may bring stones, even small ones, from any place whether from the field he hired33 or from a field that he did not hire.

יב

אבני כתף והם הנטלות ב' ג' על הכתף מותר להביאן מכל מקום בין משדה חבירו בין משדהו וכן הקבלן מביא מכל מקום ואפילו אבנים גדולות בין משדה שקבלה בין משדה שלא קבלה:

13

[The following laws apply when there is] an open space [in a wall separating one's property from the public domain] that was filled with earth.34 If its [stones] do not create an obstacle block for people in the public domain, it is forbidden to rebuild it.35 If they create a stumbling block for people36 or it was not filled with earth, but instead open to the public domain,37 it is permitted to rebuild it.38

יג

פרצה שהיא סוגה בעפר אם אינה מכשלת את הרבים אסור לבנותה ואם היתה מכשלת את הרבים או שלא היתה סוגה בעפר אלא פתוחה לר"ה מותר לבנותה:

14

It is forbidden for a person to build a wall between his field and his colleague's field in the Sabbatical year. He may, however, build a wall between his field and the public domain.39 [When he builds the wall,] he is permitted to dig deeply until he reaches a stone.40 He may remove the earth and gather it in his field41 in the same manner as waste is gathered.42 Similarly, if a person dug out a cistern, a trench, or a storage cavity in the Sabbatical year, he may gather the earth in the same manner as all those who dig.

יד

אסור לו לבנות גדר בשביעית בין שדהו לשדה חבירו אבל בונה גדר בינו ובין ר"ה ומותר להעמיק עד הסלע ומוציא את העפר וצוברו בתוך שדהו כדרך כל מעמידין זבל וכן אם חפר בור ושיח ומערה בשביעית צובר העפר בתוך שדהו כדרך כל החופרים:

Footnotes
1.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 4, fertilizing is a task forbidden by Rabbinic Law.

2.

Because it does not appear that he is preparing to fertilize his field immediately.

3.

Our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 3:1)]. There he explains that although matok, the name the Mishnah uses, means "sweet," this fruit has a bitter taste and that term is used as a euphemism. Some have identified this species with the colocynth, a wild gourd with a very bitter flavor. The Radbaz identifies it with a bitter species of grass.

4.

Any thing smaller might convey the impression that he is fertilizing his field.

5.

Hilchot Shabbat 16:3 defines an area in which a se'ah of grain is sown as 50 cubits by 50 cubits. In this instance as well, if he makes more than three waste heaps, it might appear that his intent is to fertilize the field.

6.

I.e., we are not concerned that an onlooker might think that he is fertilizing his field.

7.

I.e., create one very large waste heap that encompasses a greater area than the three waste heaps in a 2500 sq. cubit area.

8.

By fertilizing it, for the waste is not in direct contact with the earth.

9.

For use after the Sabbatical year.

10.

I.e., according to the guidelines established in the previous halachot. Those halachot dealt with removing waste from one's home and courtyard. In this halachah, the Rambam is adding that the same rules also apply with regard to the waste from corrals. To establish this conceptual flow, the Rambam changes the order of the clauses in the mishnah (Sh'vi'it 3:4). The Radbaz offers this explanation to rebut the Ra'avad's objections.

11.

The Ra'avad cites the Jerusalem Talmud (Sh'vi'it 3:4) which emphasizes that the person's intent should not be to fertilize his field, but to take care of his sheep. When he does that, he can have a portion of his field fertilized as a by-product.

12.

100 by 50 cubits.

13.

I.e., when an observer will see that the entire field was not fertilized, he will realize that the person did not fertilize it by hand, because then there would be no purpose in leaving part of it unfertilized.

14.

The Radbaz explains that the Rambam's ruling applies whether the quarry is open or underground. There are, he explains, other opinions that maintain that if the quarry is open, there is no obligation to begin extracting the stones before the Sabbatical year.

15.

Provided one's intent is genuinely to quarry stone and not to improve the field (Radbaz).

16.

I.e., all the stones, even those smaller than the size specified.

17.

When a person is taking many stones of this size, the effort involved clearly indicates that he is intending to use them for building and not merely to improve his field.

18.

So that he will not have prepared his field by removing the stones.

19.

That he must leave a row of stones a handbreadth high above the earth.

20.

By leaving an additional area that he could sow in the following year.

21.

The Radbaz asks: We see that our Sages forbade certain activities because of the impression that an observer might derive. If so, what does the owner's intent matter? An observer may think that he is intending to clear his field. For this reason, he explains that the owner must perform an activity that makes it obvious that he is intending to use the stones for building, for example, using them for construction that is presently being performed on his property.

22.

This indicates that he was not using the Sabbatical year to perform whatever work that was possible in his field.

23.

I.e., even small stones and even when he tears down a wall that is less than ten handbreadths high.

24.

I.e., a person who hires out the field for his own purposes. See Halachah 12 and the Rambam's commentary to its source (Sh'vi'it 3:9).

25.

Because he would not take the stones unless they would benefit him. Needless to say, one may not destroy a wall in a colleague's field at whim. Thus even when the owner knows that the wall is being torn down, as long as it is being torn down to be used for building, it is permitted to do so.

26.

For, as above, the size of these stones indicates that they will be used for building. The implication is that not only is the person allowed to remove these two large stones, he is allowed to remove all the stones in the field (Radbaz). Needless to say, this leniency is granted only when he genuinely intends to use the stones for construction, not when he desires to clear his field.

One might ask: Why are only two stones required to be of this size in this instance, while in Halachah 8, ten large stones are required?

Among the answers given is that in this instance, since the stones are scattered over a larger area, their removal is less likely to be noticed by an observer. In Halachah 8, by contrast, since the stones are all located in one place, an observer will see that they have been removed (Pe'at HaShulchan).

27.

Lest an observer think that he is intending to clear his field.

28.

For if he desired to clear his field, he would take the large stone or straw that is beneath them as well.

29.

And such work is forbidden in the Sabbatical year.

30.

Our translation and the bracketed addition are based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 3:8).

31.

If, however, he must descend into the groove to pick up a stone, it is forbidden to remove it, lest an impression be created that the person is seeking to improve his field and make the groove fit for sowing (ibid.).

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's ruling, offering a different interpretation of his source (Sh'vi'it, loc. cit.). [The Ra'avad's interpretation is paralleled by Rabbenu Shimshon's understanding of that mishnah.] The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh offer different explanations that reinforce the Rambam's understanding.

32.

A person who had hired the field. See Halachah 8.

33.

Even though he hired the field, it is not his own and we do not suspect that he will transgress to improve it. The Ra'avad understands Sh'vi'it 3:9, the Rambam's source differently, seeing it as interrelated to the concepts mentioned in the previous halachah.

34.

I.e., rather than being rebuilt with stone.

35.

For an onlooker will think that the person is rebuilding it for the purpose of improving his field and enabling him to sow it the following year. See the explanations in the notes to the following halachah.

36.

For an observer will understand that he is rebuilding it to remove an obstacle for people at large. (Alternatively, when there are obstacles for people at large, we do not enforce restrictions instituted only because of the possibility that an observer will derive a mistaken impression.)

37.

In this situation, by closing it, he is creating a divider between his field and the public domain.

38.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam's ruling, maintain that since there is a gap in the fence separating his field from the public domain, he is allowed to rebuild it in all instances. The Ra'avad and the Kessef Mishneh note that the Jerusalem Talmud (the conclusion of ch. 3 of Sh'vi'it ) supports the Rambam's position.

39.

Building a wall between one's own field and a colleague's is prohibited lest an onlooker think that one is preparing the land in order to sow one's field. Alternatively, we fear that the person may change his mind and sow the land (Radbaz). A person is, however, permitted to build a wall between his own field and the public domain to set off his property from the public domain. Alternatively, it is not common to sow the land next to the public domain, so there is no need for the above suspicions.

In the previous halachah, repairing a wall between one's field and the public domain is prohibited when the open space is filled with earth. Here, since it is entirely open, a wall may be built, as in the latter clause of that halachah.

40.

Since he digs until a stone, but does not remove the stone, it is clear that his intent is not to improve his field, for one cannot sow on a stone.

41.

But not in the public domain. See Sh'vi'it 3:10.

42.

See Halachot 1-3.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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