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Feverish Agricultural Proclivities

Please forgive me sweetest friends! I have fever. Shmittah fever. And I want to be contagious.

In this weeks parsha we learn about the mitzva of bikkurim - bringing our first fruits to the beis hamikdash. Does this mitzva apply to the fruits of the seventh year? Of course not, you will answer me, the fruits must belong to you when you bring the bikkurim and in the shmitta year the fruits are considered ownerless [hefker]!! So it is clear that there is no mitzva to bring bikkurim in the shmitta year.

Everything is cool except for the fact that Rashi says in Parshas Mishpatim [23,19] that one MUST bring bikkurim even in the shmitta year ["af hashvi'is chayeves Bibikkurim"]. Uh-oh. The Ohr Hachaim however says explicity in this weeks parsha [Ki Savo] that one is exempt from bringing the bikkurim in the shmitta year [as we would have thought].

There is a famous dispute between the Beis Yoseph and the Maharit. The Beis Yoseph holds that one's field does not automatically become ownerless in the seventh year. The landowner must actively proclaim his field ownerless. Until he does so the field remains under his ownership. This is called Afka'asa D'gavra. The Maharit contends that the field is automatically rendered ownerless by Hashem. No human input is necessary. This is called Afka'asa D'malka.

The Acharonim suggest that maybe the opinion that says that we need to declare the land ownerless [the Beis Yoseph] would say that one is obligated to bring bikkurim from such fruits. First he should set aside the bikkurim and only then declare the land ownerless for shmitta. That would seem to be Rashi's view. The opinion that holds that the field is automatically ownerless [Maharit] would say that it is unnecessary to bring bikkurim because the field was never his in the seventh year. He never had the chance to set aside the bikkurim. That would seem to be the view of the Ohr Hachaim. But how is the Ohr Hachaim going to deal with the fact that Rashi explicitly argues with him? [The Ohr Hachaim is a much later authority and may not argue with Rashi. He didn't even mention that Rashi holds differently.]

Many Acharonim assert that there is a typo in Rashi [makes me feel better about the typos in alleyways...]. It should say "AIN hashvi'is chayeves bibikkurim" [not "af hashvi'is"] - The seventh year fruits are NOT obligated in bikkurim.

Problem solved.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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