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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Shemita - Chapter 3

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Shemita - Chapter 3


It is a halachah conveyed to Moses at Sinai1 that it is forbidden to work the land2 in the last 30 days of the sixth year, just before the Sabbatical year, because one is preparing for the Sabbatical year. This concept - i.e., the prohibition [to work the land] established by tradition - applies in the era of the Temple [alone]. Our Sages [extended that prohibition], decreeing that one should not plow an orchard in the year preceding the Sabbatical year in the era of the Temple after Shavuot, nor a field of grain after Pesach. In the era where the Temple does not stand, we are permitted to perform agricultural work until Rosh HaShanah, as [permitted by] Scriptural Law.3


עֲבוֹדַת הָאָרֶץ בְּשָׁנָה שִׁשִּׁית שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם סָמוּךְ לַשְּׁבִיעִית אֲסוּרָה הֲלָכָה לְמשֶׁה מִסִּינַי. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מְתַקְּנָהּ לַשְּׁבִיעִית. וְדָבָר זֶה בִּזְמַן שֶׁבֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ קַיָּם הוּא שֶׁנֶּאֱסַר מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה. וְגָזְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ חוֹרְשִׁים שְׂדֵה הָאִילָן עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית בִּזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ אֶלָּא עַד הָעֲצֶרֶת. וּשְׂדֵה הַלָּבָן עַד הַפָּסַח. וּבַזְּמַן שֶׁאֵין מִקְדָּשׁ מֻתָּרִין בַּעֲבוֹדַת הָאָרֶץ עַד רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה כְּדִין תּוֹרָה:


What is meant by an orchard?4 Any place where there are three trees in an area large enough to sow a se'ah of grain.5 Whether these are fruit-bearing trees or not and even when they belong to three different people, we consider them as if they were fig trees.6 If they were fit to produce a mass of dried figs of a weight of 60 maneh,7 we may plow the entire field because of them. [This applies] provided there is sufficient distance between them that cattle can pass through together with their implements.8


אֵי זוֹ הִיא שְׂדֵה הָאִילָן. כָּל שְׁלֹשָׁה אִילָנוֹת לְבֵית סְאָה. אֶחָד אִילַן סְרָק וְאַחַד אִילַן מַאֲכָל וַאֲפִלּוּ הֵן שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים רוֹאִין אוֹתָן כְּאִלּוּ הֵם תְּאֵנִים. אִם רְאוּיִין לַעֲשׂוֹת כִּכַּר דְּבֵלָה שֶׁל שִׁשִּׁים מָנֶה חוֹרְשִׁין כָּל בֵּית סְאָה בִּשְׁבִילָם. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה רָחוֹק בֵּין כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַבָּקָר יָכוֹל לַעֲבֹר בְּכֵלָיו:


[Different laws apply] if there were less than three trees in an area fit to sow a se'ah or there were three, but [only] one was fit to produce 60 maneh or more and the other two were not fit to produce [a significant amount]9 or there were two fit to produce even 100 maneh and one is not fit to produce [a significant amount]. We may plow only the portion of the field necessary for [these trees], i.e., [an area whose radius is the space in which could stand] a person picking figs together with his basket.


הָיוּ פָּחוֹת מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה לְבֵית סְאָה. אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה וְאֶחָד רָאוּי לַעֲשׂוֹת שִׁשִּׁים מָנֶה אוֹ יֶתֶר וְהַשְּׁנַיִם אֵינָן רְאוּיִין לַעֲשׂוֹת. אוֹ שְׁנַיִם רְאוּיִין לַעֲשׂוֹת אֲפִלּוּ מֵאָה מָנֶה וְאֶחָד אֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה. אֵין חוֹרְשִׁין לָהֶן אֶלָּא לְצָרְכָּם וְהוּא מְלֹא הָאוֹרֶה וְסַלּוֹ חוּצָה לוֹ:


If there were between three and nine trees and they were fit to produce 60 maneh, we may plow the entire field for their sake, even though there are some trees that are not fit to produce [a significant quantity of] fruit.10


הָיוּ מִשְׁלֹשָׁה וְעַד תִּשְׁעָה וּרְאוּיִין לַעֲשׂוֹת שִׁשִּׁים מָנֶה חוֹרְשִׁין כָּל בֵּית סְאָה בִּשְׁבִילָן וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶם מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ רָאוּי לַעֲשׂוֹת:


When there are ten or more trees in an area fit to sow a se'ah, whether they are fit to produce [the above quantity of fruit] or not, we may plow the entire area for their sake [until Shavuot].11 If there were ten plantings12spread out13 in an area fit to sow a se'ah, we may plow the entire area for their sake until Rosh HaShanah.14 This is a halachah conveyed to Moses at Sinai.


הָיוּ עֲשָׂרָה אִילָנוֹת לְתוֹךְ בֵּית סְאָה אוֹ יֶתֶר בֵּין עוֹשִׂין בֵּין אֵינָם עוֹשִׂין חוֹרְשִׁין כָּל בֵּית סְאָה בִּשְׁבִילָן. עֶשֶׂר נְטִיעוֹת מְפֻזָּרוֹת לְתוֹךְ בֵּית סְאָה חוֹרְשִׁין כָּל בֵּית סְאָה בִּשְׁבִילָן עַד רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה וְדָבָר זֶה הֲלָכָה לְמשֶׁה מִסִּינַי:


If [the plantings] were planted in a row or in a semi-circle,15 we may only plow what is necessary for each of their needs.16 If there are squash plants together with the plantings, they can be counted in the sum of ten [plantings].17


הָיוּ עֲשׂוּיוֹת שׁוּרָה אַחַת (אוֹ) מֻקָּפוֹת עֲטָרָה אֵין חוֹרְשִׁין לָהֶן אֶלָּא צָרְכָּן לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְהַדִּלּוּעִין עִם הַנְּטִיעוֹת מִצְטָרְפוֹת לַעֲשָׂרָה:


What is meant by a planting? A sapling for as long as it is called a planting.18


אֵי זוֹ הִיא נְטִיעָה זֶה הָאִילָן הַקָּטָן כָּל זְמַן שֶׁקּוֹרְאִין לוֹ נְטִיעָה:


[The following rules apply when] a tree was cut off and a new tree grew from its stump. If it was cut off a handbreadth or more above the ground, it is considered as a tree. If it was cut off lower than a handbreadth, it is considered as a planting.19


אִילָן שֶׁנִּקְצַץ וְהוֹצִיא חֲלִיפִין אִם נִקְצַץ מִטֶּפַח וּלְמַעְלָה הֲרֵי הוּא כְּאִילָן. מִטֶּפַח וּלְמַטָּה הֲרֵי הוּא כִּנְטִיעָה:


All of the above applies in the era of the Temple, as we stated.20 In the present era, by contrast, we are permitted to work the land until Rosh HaShanah. [Moreover,] even in the era of the Temple, it is permitted to remove stones from fields and fertilize them21 and to hoe22 in zucchini and squash gardens23and in parched land until Rosh HaShanah. Similarly, one may fertilize saplings,24 remove dried leaves and branches from them, apply dust to them, smoke under them, rip off stalks, trim their far-spreading branches, and apply foul-smelling matter to them. We may wrap their branches, trim them, make shelters around them,25 place water upon them, apply oil to the unripened fruit and perforate them. All of these tasks are permitted in the year preceding the Sabbatical year until Rosh HaShanah of the Sabbatical year even in the era of the Temple.


וְכָל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ בִּזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ. אֲבָל בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה מֻתָּרִין בַּעֲבוֹדַת הָאָרֶץ עַד רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה. אַף בִּזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ מֻתָּר לְסַקֵּל וּלְזַבֵּל הַשָּׂדוֹת וְלַעֲדֹר הַמִּקְשָׁאוֹת וְהַמִּדְלָעוֹת וּבֵית הַשְּׁלָחִין עַד רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה. וּמְזַבְּלִין וּמְפָרְקִין וּמְאַבְּקִין וּמְעַשְּׁנִין וּמְקַרְסְמִין וּמְזָרְדִין וּמְפַסְּלִין וּמְזַהֲמִין אֶת הַנְּטִיעוֹת וְכוֹרְכִין וְקוֹטְמִין אוֹתָן. וְעוֹשִׂין לָהֶם בָּתִּים וּמַשְׁקִין אוֹתָם. וְסָכִין אֶת הַפַּגִּין. וּמְנַקְּבִין אוֹתָן. כָּל עֲבוֹדוֹת אֵלּוּ מֻתָּרוֹת בְּעֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית עַד רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה שֶׁל שְׁבִיעִית וַאֲפִלּוּ בִּזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ:


When unripened fruit from the sixth year enter the Sabbatical year or such fruit from the Sabbatical year enter the eighth year, we may not26 apply oil to them or perforate them.27 In the era of the Temple, one may not build steps at the entrance to valleys in the sixth year after the rains cease, because he is preparing for the seventh year.28


פַּגֵּי עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ לִשְׁבִיעִית וְשֶׁל שְׁבִיעִית שֶׁיָּצְאוּ לְמוֹצָאֵי שְׁבִיעִית לֹא סָכִין וְלֹא מְנַקְּבִין. וּבִזְמַן הַמִּקְדָּשׁ אֵין בּוֹנִין מַדְרֵגוֹת עַל פִּי הַגֵּאָיוֹת עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית מִשֶּׁיִּפָּסְקוּ הַגְּשָׁמִים. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מְתַקְּנָן לַשְּׁבִיעִית:


Even in the present age, we may not plant trees, graft trees, or extend vines29 in the sixth year unless there is time for the planting to become rooted30 and remain after taking root thirty days before Rosh HaShanah of the Sabbatical year. Usually, it takes two weeks [for a plant] to take root.

This is forbidden at all times, because of the impression that might be created, lest an observer think that they were planted in the Sabbatical year.31 Thus if a person planted, grafted, or extended [a tree of vine] in the sixth year, 44 days before Rosh HaShanah, he is allowed to maintain it. If he did so for a lesser time, he must uproot it. If he did not uproot it, however, the fruit it produces is permitted. If he dies before he uprooted it, we obligate the heir to uproot it.32


אַף בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה אֵין נוֹטְעִין אִילָנוֹת וְאֵין מַרְכִּיבִין וְאֵין מַבְרִיכִין עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית אֶלָּא כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּקְלֹט הַנְּטִיעָה וְתִשְׁהֶה אַחַר הַקְּלִיטָה שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם קֹדֶם רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה שֶׁל שְׁבִיעִית. וּסְתָם קְלִיטָה שְׁתֵּי שַׁבָּתוֹת. וְדָבָר זֶה אָסוּר לְעוֹלָם מִפְּנֵי מַרְאִית הָעַיִן שֶׁמָּא יֹאמַר הָרוֹאֶה בַּשְּׁבִיעִית נִטְּעוּ. נִמְצֵאתָ אוֹמֵר שֶׁהַנּוֹטֵעַ אוֹ הַמַּבְרִיךְ אוֹ הַמַּרְכִּיב עֶרֶב שְׁבִיעִית קֹדֶם רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה בְּמ''ד יוֹם יְקַיֵּם. פָּחוֹת מִכֵּן יַעֲקֹר. וְאִם לֹא עָקַר הַפֵּרוֹת מֻתָּרִין. וְאִם מֵת קֹדֶם שֶׁיַּעֲקֹר מְחַיְּבִין אֶת הַיּוֹרֵשׁ לַעֲקֹר:

Test Yourself on This Chapter


I.e., a tradition conveyed by the Oral Law, for which there is no explicit reference in the Written Law.


The Rabbis debate whether this prohibition applies to work with the land alone or also to work with trees. See Halachah 9 and notes.


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 1:1), the Rambam explains that Rabban Gamliel released this prohibition after the destruction of the Temple, because he maintained that the prohibition applied only when the Temple was standing.


Which is allowed to be plowed until Shavuot.


I.e., 50 cubits by 50 cubits.


I.e., we estimate whether a fig tree with dimensions similar to this tree would produce 60 maneh of figs.


A maneh is one pound in contemporary measure (Shiurei Torah, p. 118). Rav Kehati (Sh'vi'it 1:2) considers it to be 400 grams, a slightly smaller measure.


Our Sages determined this to be four cubits. The rationale is that if they are grouped closer together the cattle will uproot them when trying to pass. See Bava Batra 83a.


Although the one tree produced the amount required of the entire orchard, since the other trees are not fit to produce any produce at all, they are not considered significant.


The Rambam interprets this as referring to a situation where all the trees together are fit to produce 60 maneh, although some individual trees are not fit to produce a significant amount. The Ra'avad offers a different interpretation of Sh'vi'it 1:3, the Rambam's source. Rabbenu Shimshon also interprets the mishnah in that manner and the Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh agree that, at first glance, their interpretation fits the wording of the mishnah more easily than the Rambam's.


For even if they are not fit to produce fruit, such a large amount of trees is significant.


Saplings that were recently planted [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 1:6)]. See also Halachah 7.


Since they are saplings, they do not derive nurture from as wide an area as mature trees with longer roots do. Hence unless the saplings are spread out, this leniency is not granted (Radbaz).


More leniency is granted with regard to the saplings, because they need greater care (ibid.).


Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 1:6).


For they will not derive nurture from the entire field and it would appear that one is plowing the field for its own sake (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (ibid.:7), the Rambam quotes the Jerusalem Talmud which states that this applies only to a Greek squash plant which is large like a tree. The Radbaz states that the majority of the ten must be saplings.


This is Rabbi Akiva's opinion in (Sh'vi'it 1:8). Others maintain it is given that status until three years (or seven) years have passed.


In his Commentary to the Mishnah (ibid.), the Rambam states that this view is accepted, because it is supported by a Tosefta. The commentaries have questioned which Tosefta the Rambam is referring to.

The Rambam's ruling has also attracted attention, because it appears to contradict his ruling in Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 10:13 which states: "When a tree was cut down from above the earth and [a new tree grew from its roots], the prohibition of orlah applies." The implication there is that as long as the stump of the tree is above the earth, the laws of orlah do not apply. Only when it is cut down from below the earth is it considered like a new tree. Here, by contrast, even a handbreadth above the ground is considered as an existing tree.

The rationale for the distinction can be explained as follows: In this context, we follow the figures of speech employed by people at large. As long as the stump is within a handbreadth of the ground, people will consider any new growth as a new entity. When, by contrast, the stump is more than a handbreadth, it is significant and any new growth is considered as an extension of the existing plant (Rav Yosef Korcus).


Halachah 1.


These and the following activities are forbidden in the Sabbitical year itself only by virtue of Rabbinic decree. Our Sages were not overly stringent and did not enforce these prohibitions in the months preceding the Sabbatical year.


For hoeing is not plowing.


Our translation for these and the following terms are derived from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:1-5). Many of the activities mentioned were described in Chapter 1, Halachah 5, and notes.

The Tosafot Yom Tov(Sh'vi'it 2:2) explains that this leniency was granted in gardens where these plants grow and not in fields at large, because in the instance of these plants, the hoeing benefits the plants directly and not merely the field.


The first clause dealt with work with the land that is permitted in the latter months of the sixth year. This clause mentions work with trees. From this halachah it appears that the prohibition conveyed as a halachah to Moses at Sinai mentioned in Halachah 1 does not apply to work with trees.


To protect them from rain or sun.


Note Rav Kappach's edition of the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:5) which states that the text of that source also reflects this ruling. (He maintains that there is a printing error in the standard published text of that source. According to his view, the Rambam did not reverse his opinion regarding this law as some maintain.)


Even though the fruit reaches a third of its growth before the Sabbatical year begins or does not reach that point of growth until after the the Sabbatical year ends, this restriction is still applied, because of the impression the performance of these tasks will create.


I.e., it might appear that the steps are being built so that a person will be able to descend and irrigate his fields in the valley in the Sabbatical year.


I.e., replant the head of a vine or the trunk of a tree in the ground so that it will develop new roots and another source of nurture. Thus new growths will emerge from it [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sh'vi'it 2:6)].


Our translation is taken from the above source.


Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains the basis for such a supposition. If the tree is not planted before 44 days preceding the new year, we count the beginning of its orlah years from Rosh HaShanah (Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 9:10). Thus it will be considered halachically as if the tree was planted in the Sabbatical year.


I.e., the heir must also help prevent the misimpression from being created. For this reason, the leniency shown in Chapter 1, Halachah 13, is not shown here.

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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 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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