Shiur #14: Simultaneous Benefit and Consumption

  • Rav Moshe Taragin

The last shiur discussed the basic uses for kedushat shvi'it produce.  In particular, it discussed whether eating is established as the basic template and is extended to related uses or whether all uses are equally allowed.  The shiur also introduced the debate between Rebbi Yossi and the Chakhamim regarding the scope of permissible uses.  According to the Chakhamim, only uses of "hana'atan ubiuran shaveh" (benefits which are simultaneous to consumption) are permitted, whereas Rebbi Yossi adopts a more lenient position, allowing any use which is "shaveh le'chol nefesh" (of universal benefit), to the exclusion of medical uses.  According to most positions the hana'tan ubiuran shaveh condition does not just define permissible uses.  It also determines which items possess kedushat shvi'it to begin with.  Any produce used primarily for a hana'atan ubiuran shaveh benefit is endowed with kedusha.  Those which generally are used for other types of benefits do not possess kedusha.


            From the gemara's discussion (Sukka 40 and Bava Kama 101b-102a) and the ensuing comments of the Rishonim, several intriguing issues emerge which could potentially illuminate our understanding of this halakha. 


The gemara isolates several items which are primarily geared to hana'atan ubiuran shaveh.  These include fruits, a lulav (primarily used in those days to sweep a floor, in which case the deterioration of the lulav occurs immediately as the floor is swept), and plant-based dyes.  By contrast, firewood and cleansing agents are considered non-hana'atan ubiuran shaveh, as their benefit occurs well after the physical decomposition begins.  Rashi explains the simultaneity of dyeing as follows: When the clothing is placed in the dye, the plant decomposes and immediately is absorbed by the garment - the benefit and dissolution are simultaneous.  Tosafot and the Ritva in Sukka argue, claiming that the simultaneity is realized differently.  The benefit only begins when a person wears the clothing, and at that very point the deterioration of the dye (now absorbed by the clothing) begins through daily wear and tear. 


Tosafot and Rashi differ as to how to define the benefit and consumption in determining hana'atan ubiuran shaveh. 


According to Rashi, we gauge the point at which the clothing is objectively improved by absorbing the dye from the plant derivative.  Even though no individual person has derived benefit, since objective benefit has occurred, we inspect this point for consumption.  Likewise, even though the dye has not disappeared (but merely been transferred from the plant to a garment), we consider this moment the point of decomposition.  Benefit and consumption are gauged in the following terms: At which point did the shemitta produce confer benefit?  If the shemitta item was consumed at that point (and from the perspective of the produce which discharged its dye, consumption did indeed occur) then the benefit is allowed. 


Tosafot and the Ritva adopt a more "anthrocentric" conception of this principle.  Until a person wears the garment, no tangible benefit has occurred.  Likewise, until the dye begins disappearing no consumption has occurred.  Instead of adopting purely objective gauges, Tosafot examines the effect of this process upon the human consumer.  His benefit is delayed until he wears the garment and from his perspective the consumption doesn't occur until the dye begins dissipating. 


These differences could reflect a basic difference between Rashi and Tosafot's definitions of the nature of kedushat shvi'it.  Rashi's position reflects an inherent view of kedushat shvi'it.  Specific items are endowed with this status, and consequently, that status dictates certain halakhot (see the beginning of the previous shiur for a list of these halakhot).  According to the Chakhamim, the condition necessary for the imposition of this kedusha is simultaneous benefit and consumption.  We gauge each form of shemitta produce for this condition.  Where it is present, kedusha follows and where it is absent, no kedusha exists.  To monitor this trait, we gauge the produce itself.  From this objective standpoint, the consumption and benefit occur at the point of dyeing, well before a human being actually dons the clothing. 


Possibly, Tosafot had a different perspective.  Kedushat shvi'it is not an abstract status conferred to fruits which consequently obligates certain uses and halakhot.  Rather, in a scenario in which a person can directly benefit from produce, the Torah imposes kedusha to assure that benefit.  According to Rashi, the kedusha exists and hence a person is obligated to derive benefit.  According to Tosafot, if the potential for benefit exists, kedusha ensues.  Hence according to Tosafot, we gauge the benefit/consumption factor based on a human being's capacity to exploit the benefit through his consumption. 


It must be reiterated that there is no practical difference between Rashi's definition and that of Tosafot.  They each concur (as the gemara clearly states) that dyeing from plants is considered hana'atan ubiuran shaveh and is a permitted use for Shvi'it produce.  They differ, however, as to the basis for this definition.  Their disagreement might reflect fundamentally different views of the source of kedushat shvi'it. 


            Is there a linkage between fruits which are endowed with kedushat shvi'it and permissible uses for those fruit?  As stated earlier most Rishonim believe there is; shemitta fruit may be used for hana'atan ubiuran shaveh and fruits used in this manner possess kedushat shvi'it.  If we accept the Chakhamim's condition of hana'atan ubiuran shaveh, would this dictate both which fruits possess kedushat shvi'it as well as how we may use those types of fruit? Does Rebbi Yossi – who allows fruits to be used as cleansing agents - also maintain that produce which can only be used as cleansing agents possess such kedusha? Or does he agree that only hana'atan ubiuran shaveh materials possess kedusha but that kedushat shvi'it fruits may be used for any benefit?  Tosafot in Bava Kama attempt to build this latter position within Rebbi Yossi but acknowledge that the gemara seems to align the two questions (see, for example, Rashi in Sukka 40a s.v. shehana'ato, who emphasizes this linkage). 


This issue might be inspected in light of the previous question.  Assuming that kedushat shvi'it is an independent halakha or status, it might condition which fruits possess kedusha without mandating those specific uses.  In theory, only hana'atan ubiuran shaveh fruits possess shvi'it, but those fruits may be used for any shaveh le'chol nefesh purpose.  If, however, the kedusha is itself a product of the potential hana'atan ubiuran shaveh benefit, we cannot adopt this standard for determining which produce possesses shvi'it and then allow all uses.  To begin with the kedusha only materialized because of the potential use. 


            An even more intriguing position emerges from the Rambam, who in Hilkhot shemitta ve-yovel 5:10 claims that produce which is normally used as cleansing agents is also endowed with kedushat shvi'it (these substances should be used for cleaning and not wasted).  Yet, fruits which can be eaten must not be used as cleansing agents.  According to the Rambam, there are different standards for determining which items are endowed with kedushat shvi'it and what types of benefits may be derived.  Evidently, cleaning clothes, though it is not a form of "hana'atan ubiuran shaveh," is still a significant enough type of use to justify the presence of kedushat shvi'it.  The Yerushalmi prioritizes cleaning clothing as something which is vital to human hygiene and hence superior to other types of benefits (such as heating from wood).  Yet the benefit of cleaning, as important as it may be, cannot be derived from fruits which are edible.  The determination of kedusha is centered around one factor (vital benefits, including cleansing), yet permissible uses are based on a completely different hierarchy: If hana'atan ubiuran shaveh benefit is possible (as in the case of fruits), it must be pursued; otherwise, any vital benefit may be derived. 


How would halakha view produce which can be used for both hana'atan ubiuran shaveh purposes as well as for benefit which is not simultaneous to consumption; how ironclad are these definitions?  At a basic level, the gemara recognizes this scenario when it discusses tender leaves of certain trees or vines which can be used as fuel or as animal feed.  According to the gemara, if the leaves were picked for feed, they possess kedushat shvi'it, whereas if they were picked for fuel, they lack this kedusha.  What about items which are used primarily for one use but are harvested for the alternate use?  What role does the individual farmer/harvester play in defining produce?  The gemara seems to rule on this issue as well when it asks about wood which can be used for hana'atan ubiuran shaveh - for example, soft olive wood, which can be used for torches, in which case the hana'ah (light) and biur (decomposition) are simultaneous.  The gemara declares "stam eitzim le-hasakah hein omdin" (most wood is collected for heat, a situation in which the decomposition into coal precedes the benefit of the heat).  As such, even if an individual were to select this soft wood for torches, we would still follow the standard use, and thus exclude this wood from kedushat shvi'it.


Rashi in Bava Kama, however, interprets the ensuing gemara in a manner which suggests that this issue itself is part of the machloket between Rebbi Yossi and the Chakhamim. The latter do indeed impose a standard and do not allow individuals to define shemitta produce based on their own intended use.  Rebbi Yossi, however, allows a person to define produce in a personal manner.  Thus if a person actually harvested edible fruits for use as cleansing agents, no kedushat shvi'it occurs.  According to Rashi in Bava Kama (as opposed to Rashi in Sukka, who interprets differently,) Rebbi Yossi never expanded the scope of permissible uses of shemitta produce.  Instead, he allowed for personal definitions, and hence by harvesting fruit for non-simultaneous benefit and consumption, he inhibits the creation of kedushat shvi'it.


Ironically, it is within Rashi's explanation of Rebbi Yossi that we witness an extreme example of subjective definitions of hana'atan ubiuran shaveh.  The status of the produce is determined not according to standard use but according to the particular intentions of the harvester.  Kedushat shvi'it is not an objective status that applies to certain crops, but instead stems from the planned/potential hana'ah which must be realized. 


It must be emphasized that this position is merely Rebbi Yossi's opinion according to Rashi.  Most Rishonim disagree with this reading, disallowing any personal definition of produce and instead assuming that Rebbi Yossi, by disqualifying the hana'atan ubiuran shaveh clause, allows broader use.  Even Rashi only makes this suggestion within Rebbi Yossi; he insists that according to Chakhamim the standard is adhered to.  It is still surprising to find such an extreme expression of the subjective endowment of kedushat shvi'it - even within a minority dissenting opinion.


An interesting picture of the nature of kedushat shvi'it emerges from a Yerushalmi in Shvi'it (7:2).  The gemara questions a situation in which shemitta wine was exchanged for shemitta oil.  Can this wine be used as ointment?  Rubbing wine is considered wasteful (and hence prohibited on shemitta) yet smearing oil is considered a conventional and permissible use.  Though we might have expected the smearing of shemitta oil to be permitted the Yerushalmi rules that it is forbidden.  Subsequently the Yerushalmi poses a similar situation regarding human food which was exchanged for animal food.  Can the animal food be used for medical purposes – as is generally the case with shemitta animal food.  Or since this food was acquired by exchanging human food – which cannot be used for these purposes – the animal food cannot be used that way either.  The Yerushalmi prohibits this use – in line with the earlier case regarding wine and oil.


            The picture which emerges from this Yerushalmi is that the original guidelines which govern shemitta items apply to the materials which were acquired with those items even though some of those guidelines may no longer be relevant.  Since the original shemitta wine could not be smeared as ointment, the exchanged oil cannot be either.  This picture suggests a kedushat shvi'it which is 'benefit-centric' rather than an objective and absolute one which happens to dictate certain uses.  Had the kedusha been objective we might decide the permissible uses based upon the specific material we are using.  If however the entire kedusha was geared toward encouraging use, the kedusha would be defined in terms of a specific use (in the case of wine – DRINKING NOT SMEARING) and this kedusha status (with the affiliated guidelines for use) would be passed along to the item acquired with shemitta wine.





            The question addressed in this shiur possibly is impacted by an issue discussed in a previous shiur.  The Ramban claimed that there is actually a mitzva to benefit from shemitta fruit.  This invites the concept that the kedusha is a consequence of the potential for this mitzva rather than an objective status which obligates eating.