Produce the Benefit of Which Comes at the Same Time as Its Consumption (Sukka 40a)

  • Rav Baruch Weintraub

 

 

I.          THE TALMUDIC PASSAGE

 

The law regarding "produce the benefit of which comes at the same time as its consumption" is the subject of direct discussion in two talmudic passages – the first in our chapter, on p. 40a, and the second in Bava Kama, p. 101b.

 

Both passages open with an objection and a resolution presented by Rava. Rava argues that shemita sanctity does not attach to wood, as is proven by the Baraita regarding one who gathers the branches of a grapevine for firewood, and then raises an objection against a previously cited law that implies that shemita sanctity does attach to wood. In our passage the objection is directed against the law that a lulav has shemita sanctity. In Bava Kama it is directed against the law that plants used as dyes have shemita sanctity.

 

From that point on, the two passages are identical. Rava answers that that in the cases of the lulav and the dyes, a benefit is derived at the time of their consumption, whereas in the case of firewood, the benefit is derived only after its consumption; hence the different laws in the different cases. The Gemara then says that the wood of the pine tree which is used for torches does not have shemita sanctity even though benefit is derived from it at the time of its consumption, because "Rava said: Wood as a rule is used for heating." At the end of the passage Rav Kahana brings a tannaitic dispute between the Sages and Rabbi Yose connected to the law of "produce the benefit of which comes at the time of its consumption." The Gemara does not explain how Rava's statement answers the question from the pine tree, or what is the relationship between it and the disagreement between the Sages and Rabbi Yose brought by Rav Kahana. The dispute itself is unclear, and the Rishonim suggest various ways to understand it.

 

In this shiur, we shall discuss the law of "produce the benefit of which comes at the time of its consumption," and through this discussion, we shall also try to explain the talmudic passage.

 

II.        THE APPLICATION OF SHEMITA SANCTITY AND THE ALLOWANCE TO USE SHEMITA PRODUCE

 

Rashi, s.v. shani hatam she-hana'ato u-bi'uro shave," explains that the verse, "the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you" (Vayikra 25:6), teaches two laws. First, that shemita sanctity attaches only to produce the benefit of which is such that it comes at the same time as its consumption. The benefit must be similar to eating, where the consumption of the produce and the benefit derived from it coincide in time. The second law that is derived from this verse is that produce to which shemita sanctity attaches may only be used in such a way that the benefit derived from it comes at the same time as its consumption. Rashi implies that we are dealing with two different laws, which, though they are derived from the same verse, are in fact unconnected.

 

An alternative explanation may be suggested, namely, that the two laws are indeed connected one to the other.

 

The Ramban, in his critique of the Rambam's Sefer ha-Mitzvot, positive mitzva 3, writes:

 

Regarding shemita produce, the Torah said: "The sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you" (Vayikra 25:6), and the Sages interpreted: "For food and not for trade… And this mitzva is repeated in the verse: "That the poor of your people may eat…" (Shemot 23:11). One who trades in shemita produce transgresses a positive commandment.

 

            The Acharonim disagree as to what the Ramban means to say here. The Megilat Esther (ad loc.) understands that according to the Ramban there is an obligatory mitzva to eat shemita produce. This is a very novel position. More likely is the understanding of the author of Torat ha-Aretz (Rav Moshe Kliers, chap. 8, letter 26), that we are dealing with a fulfillable, rather than an obligatory mitzva. That is to say, there is no obligation to eat shemita produce, but someone who eats it fulfills a mitzva. The Chazon Ish (Shevi'it 14, 10) disagrees with both of these explanations, and proposes a third possibility: the Ramban, as is implied by a careful reading of his remark, does not mean to say that eating shemita produce constitutes a mitzva, but only that trading in or destroying shemita produce constitutes an issur asei – a prohibition derived from a positive commandment. That is to say, there is no way to fulfill the mitzva; but prohibitions are violated when the mitzva is transgressed.

 

            These words of the Ramban, however we understand them, allow us to understand the connection between the two laws derived from the verse "for food for you." To understand this explanation, let us examine another place where a question arises regarding the relationship between an allowance and a prohibition.

 

III.       BETROTHAL

 

We wish to analyze the foundation of the prohibition of a married woman to a man other than her husband. Does the prohibition stem from the fact that the woman has been set aside for a particular man, and thus she is forbidden to everyone else in the world? Or perhaps the status of married woman forbids her to everybody, but a special allowance exists with respect to her husband.

 

At first glance, it would appear that the first possibility is the correct one. In other words, the prohibition does not stand on its own, but rather it follows from the woman's relationship with her husband. But two proofs may be adduced that the matter is not so simple:

 

1)         The prohibition of a betrothed woman. It would appear that a betrothed woman is forbidden to her husband only by rabbinic law, as Rashi explains in Ketubot (7b, s.v. she-mityached ima). The Shita Mekubetzet (ad loc.) brings other opinions, e.g., that of the Shita Yeshana, who writes as follows:

 

Since she still must be handed over to the bridal chamber, this implies that she has not been entirely acquired by him. Therefore she is to him like one who is betrothed to another person, and forbidden to him as a married woman. Thus explain the Re'a and the Rashba.[1]

 

The Shita Yeshana clearly implies that the prohibition of a married woman does not stem from the fact that she had been designated for her husband, and that it applies even to him. Entry into the bridal chamber permits the woman to her husband, but her having being designated for him does not cause the prohibition.

 

2)         Residual connection in a get. The Mishna at the beginning of the ninth chapter of Gittin records a dispute between the Sages and Rabbi Eliezer whether or not a man can give his wife a get with the stipulation that she remain forbidden to a particular person. The Gemara brings a disagreement whether this is considered a condition or a residual connection of marriage. In other words, is the get a full-fledged get, which permits the woman absolutely, only that if she has relations with a particular person she will nullify the get? Or perhaps the husband can give his wife a partial get, in such a manner that the woman will remain forbidden as a married woman to a particular person. If we accept the possibility that Rabbi Eliezer permits even the residual connection of marriage, it would mean that even after the marital relationship between a man and a woman is severed, the prohibition of married woman can still remain in place. Here too the implication is that there exists a prohibition that does not stem from the allowance to the husband.

 

In essence, the question that rises before us relates to the meaning of the concept of sanctity. Does sanctity denote separation, as the Ramban writes in his famous comment to the verse in Vayikra 19:1, or perhaps it denotes designation for a particular purpose, just as a person consecrates an object to the Temple treasury.

 

According to the first understanding that sanctity denotes separation, the prohibition itself is the sanctity. According to the second understanding that sanctity denotes designation, the prohibition stems from diverting the article from its intended purpose.

 

IV.       SHEMITA SANCTITY

 

Let us now return to the issue under discussion. A parallel question may be raised with respect to shemita sanctity. Is the sanctity essentially a prohibition to use it, only that particular types of benefit were permitted? Or perhaps, the sanctity stems from the produce's designation for eating or benefits similar to eating, and thus there is a prohibition to divert the produce from its designated purpose.

 

According to the first understanding, that sanctity denotes separation, the two laws, the application of shemita sanctity and the allowance to use the produce, are indeed unconnected, as is implied by Rashi. One law defines the produce to which shemita sanctity attaches, i.e., a prohibition to use the produce, and a second law relates to the uses that are nevertheless permitted.

 

According to the second understanding, however, the two laws are in fact one law – produce whose designated purpose is use of a particular kind is that very produce which has sanctity that forbids it to be used for other purposes.

 

The idea that shemita produce has a designation can be more readily accepted if we accept the Torat ha-Aretz's understanding of the Ramban, that there is a positive commandment to eat shemita produce. But even if we do not say that such a mitzva exists, it can still be argued that the prohibitions stem from the fact that the Torah designated this produce for eating, even though it did not actually command that the produce must be eaten, as is implied by the Chazon Ish's understanding of the Ramban.

 

We shall now examine various aspects of the law of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time," and see whether the two understandings that we suggested find expression.

 

V.        THE DEFINITIONS OF CONSUMPTION AND BENEFIT

 

Let us first define consumption and benefit. If we continue in the direction outlined above, according to the understanding that sanctity denotes separation, the law of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time" wears two hats – as a definition of the produce and as a factor that permits benefit. According to the second understanding, this idea denotes a designated purpose.

 

It might be argued that there is no practical difference between these two understandings, for ultimately they both refer to the same thing – the definition of eating. Produce is defined as something that is eaten, the Torah permitted the prohibition for the sake of eating, and the designated purpose of shemita produce is eating. If so, then there should be no distinction between them regarding the definitions of consumption and benefit. Since, however, the Rishonim did in fact disagree about these definitions, we should further examine whether in fact there is a practical difference between the different understandings.

 

First of all, let us discuss the definition of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time" as a factor that permits the deriving of benefit. If we do not understand that that it was the Torah's intention to permit the eating, we must seek out another definition. For this purpose, let us see Rashi in Bava Kama, s.v. letokh ha-mishra:

 

One must not steep flax in shemita wine, and so too one must not launder clothing because it is regarded as trade.

 

            That is to say, when Rashi comes to explain the position of the Sages who require that benefit be derived at the time of consumption, he defines the prohibition as trade. The Acharonim ask what does trade have to do with anything; surely the prohibition applies even if a person launders for himself (see, for example, Kapot Temarim, Sukka 40a, s.v. ein moserin).

 

            It seems that, according to Rashi, the Torah only permitted benefit from shemita produce when the benefit is immediate, but not when the produce is first destroyed and only afterwards the benefit arrives. We learn this principle from the prohibition of trade. When a person engages in trade, he gives some article to another person, and in exchange the buyer obligates himself to pay. That is to say, it is only the completion of the transaction and the article's total removal from the seller's possession that brings him benefit. According to this explanation, any benefit from the produce will permit its consumption, provided that it comes at the time of the consumption.

 

            If, on the other hand, we understand the idea of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time" as the destined purpose of shemita produce, it stands to reason that the Torah's intention was that the benefit derived from the produce should be direct. That is to say, the destined purpose of the produce is the benefit and not the causing of benefit. When the consumption and the benefit do not coincide in time, the benefit is not derived directly from the produce. According to this explanation, the benefit's directness relates not only to the time between the consumption and the benefit, but also to the nature of the benefit – it must come directly to the person's body, in the manner of eating or the like, and not indirectly, as in monetary gain.

 

            We find a dispute between the Rishonim as to what is the benefit and the consumption in the various cases brought in the Gemara. We shall focus on a disagreement between Rashi in Bava Kama and Rashi in Sukka regarding laundry. Regarding laundry, the Gemara explicitly states that it is regarded as benefit that does not come at the same time as the consumption. Rashi in Sukka (s.v. ve-lo likhevisa) writes that the benefit from the laundry comes only three days after the soaking, when the garments become clean, whereas the consumption of the shemita produce takes place at the time of the soaking, because it gets ruined as a result. The Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. hakhi garsinan be-kuntrus) note that Rashi's position in Bava Kama (s.v. yatz'u) is different. There Rashi explains that the benefit arrives when the person dons the clean clothing.

 

            Rashi appears to have understood the two passages differently. The passage in Bava Kama he explains in accordance with the understanding that the rule of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time" permits benefit wherever the consumption involves benefit, however small, and therefore he also counts the monetary gain of laundered clothing. On the other hand, the passage in Sukka he understands according to the understanding that the rule of "consumption and benefit coming at the same time" refers to the destined purpose of the produce. Thus, the benefit that we require is direct benefit to man, which only comes when the clothing is actually worn.[2]

 

VI.       THE POSITION OF RABBI YOSE

 

We explained earlier that if we relate to the idea of "benefit and consumption at the same time" as a factor that permits the benefit, we can expand the category of benefits. This argument follows more strongly from the position of Rabbi Yose. The Rishonim disagree about how to understand the dispute between the Sages and Rabbi Yose; here we will follow Rashi in Sukka. Rashi (s.v. eitzim dehasaka) explains that Rabbi Yose disagrees with the restriction of "benefit and consumption coming at the same time." According to him, any human requirement that is shared by all people permits benefit, and therefore laundry and dying are permitted, but medicine, which is necessary only for the sick and is not shared by all people is forbidden.

 

Rabbi Yose's allowance is of course reminiscent of the allowance to perform forbidden labors on Yom Tov for a human requirement shared by all people. The Gemara in Ketubot (7a) states that there are certain labors on Yom Tov, which because they were permitted for the sake of eating, were permitted also for other needs, provided that we are talking about a requirement shared by all people. For example, the Gemara there states that one is permitted to catch a deer and slaughter it, because food is a requirement shared by all people, but one is forbidden to light a fire in order to burn incense at the end of a meal, because that is not a requirement shared by all people, but only by the pampered.

 

The Ramban in his commentary to the verse, "You shall do no servile work" (Vayikra 25:7), explains the basis of this allowance. He writes that as opposed to Shabbat, when labor is forbidden because of its creative nature, on Yom Tov labor is forbidden because of the exertion that it involves – melekhet machshevet versus melekhet avoda. The Ramban explains that labor for the sake of eating is not servile work, but rather work for benefit. This seems to be the foundation of the allowance of work for other human requirements shared by all people, for a person who performs a labor defined as a requirement does not exert himself, but rather he benefits himself.

 

It stands to reason that this is also the foundation of Rabbi Yose's allowance to do laundry with shemita produce. The sanctity of shemita produce means that such produce should not be used for work of exertion, but the Torah permitted one to derive benefit from it. The definition of benefit is a human requirement shared by all people.

 

If we go in this direction, it is possible that Rabbi Yose totally separates between the two laws under discussion – the application of shemita sanctity and the allowance to derive benefit from shemita produce. That is to say, it is possible that for shemita sanctity to attach to produce, Rabbi Yose indeed requires that the produce be intended for food or some other benefit that is similar to eating, where the consumption and the benefit come at the same time, for fundamentally it is only produce that stands to be eaten that is sanctified. The allowance, on the other hand, is for use of this produce even when the benefit and the consumption do not come at the same time, as in the case of laundry, provided that it is a human requirement shared by all people. The Tosafot in Bava Kama (s.v. hakhi garsinan, end) raise such a possibility, but reject it arguing that this is not reasonable. According to what we have said, the reasoning is clear.

 

VII.     WOOD AS A RULE IS USED FOR HEATING

 

As it may be recalled, the talmudic passage opens with an objection – how does shemita sanctity attach to a lulav – surely the wood has no shemita sanctity. The Gemara answers that in the case of a lulav, the benefit and consumption come at the same time, whereas in wood used for heating, they do not. The Gemara then asks what is the law in the case of a pine tree, the benefit and the consumption of which come at the same time, for it is used for lighting, and the benefit comes together with the consumption. The Gemara answers that wood as a rule is used for heating.

 

The Rishonim disagree about the meaning of these words. The Ritva understands that since most types of wood are used for heating, where the benefit and the consumption do not come at the same time, therefore even pine trees, the benefit and consumption of which do coincide, are nullified among all the other trees, and so shemita sanctity does not attach to them. Rashi, in contrast, understands that since pine trees are also designated for heating, only that sometimes people use them for lighting, this change does not suffice so that shemita sanctity should apply to them.

 

There is a practical ramification between these two explanations with respect to wood that is used only for lighting. According to the Ritva, it too would be nullified among trees in general, whereas according to Rashi, since it stands to be used for illumination, shemita sanctity should apply to it.

 

We wish to suggest that they disagree about what causes shemita sanctity to attach to produce. One possibility is that whatever man intends to derive benefit from in a manner similar to eating (benefit and consumption coming at the same time) is governed by shemita sanctity. A second possibility is that the produce by itself is sanctified with shemita sanctity, only that man is capable of defining what is regarded as produce and what is not, and that which is defined by him as produce is governed by shemita sanctity.

 

These two understandings might depend on the analysis that we presented at the beginning of the shiur, though this is not necessary. That is to say, if we understand that the essence of the sanctity lies in the destined purpose of the produce, it stands to reason that the purpose itself is what confers sanctity. If we say that the sanctity attaches to the produce as a prohibition, whatever is defined as produce should be sanctified.

 

Now, if we say that sanctity attaches because of the destined purpose, Rashi is right, that wherever the purpose is clear, shemita sanctity attaches. And if we say that the sanctity attaches to produce, the discussion will not be about man's thoughts but about defining the species, and if the species as a whole is defined as not being produce, the sanctity will not attach, as argued by Ritva.

 

VIII.    THE POSITION OF THE RAMBAM

 

The Acharonim worked very hard to reconcile a difficult law in the Rambam:

 

Laundering substances, such as soap and aloe, are subject to the sanctity of the Sabbatical year, and one may launder with them, as it is said: "And the Sabbath produce of the land shall be … for you" (Vayikra 25:6), implying any of your needs. One may not, however, launder with edible Sabbatical year's produce, nor may one make a plaster out of it, as it is said, "And the Sabbath produce of the land shall be for food for you," implying not for a plaster, a spray, or an emetic, nor for soaking or laundering. (Hilkhot Shemita ve-Yovel 5:10)

 

The difficulty is self-evident. If soap and aloe are designated for laundering, regarding which the benefit and the consumption do not come at the same time, why does shemita sanctity attach to them? The Kesef Mishne (ad loc.) relates to this question, and answers that a distinction must be made between produce intended for actual eating, regarding which there is a prohibition of laundering, and laundry products which are learned from the word "lakhem," "for you," even though the benefit and consumption do not come at the same time.

 

In other words, the Kesef Mishne suggests that the Rambam codifies both understandings suggested above as two types of sanctity. Regarding produce that stands to be used for one of the five main benefits listed by the Rambam at the beginning of the chapter – eating, drinking, anointing, lighting a lamp, and dyeing – shemita sanctity attaches in the sense of a destined purpose. Regarding such produce any diversion from the original purpose is forbidden. On the other hand, produce that fills a human need, but not one of the five benefits mentioned above, has shemita sanctity in the sense of separation. This produce may be used for all human needs which were permitted, even when their benefit and consumption do not come at the same time, and shemita sanctity attaches them so that they may not be wasted and that they are subject to the obligation of bi'ur.

 

Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik proposes a similar idea in his shiurim to Sukka (ad loc.).

 

IX.       SUMMARY

 

At the beginning of the shiur we raised a question regarding shemita sanctity in particular and the concept of sanctity in general – does sanctity denote a destined purpose, and the prohibitions stemming from the sanctity result from diversion from that purpose, or does sanctity denote separation, and the prohibitions themselves express that separation.

 

We hung two issues on this question:

 

1)         Does sanctity attach to produce destined for particular uses, and the destined purpose is what brings about the sanctity, or does the sanctity attach to produce, and the destined purpose, if necessary, is just to establish that we are dealing with produce, but it is not the cause of the sanctity itself?

2)         Is the allowance to derive benefit from produce, where the consumption and benefit come at the same time, only an allowance, or is it itself a fulfillment of the destined purpose of the produce?

 

We suggested that it is reasonable to say that the Sages and Rabbi Yose disagree about this very issue. At the end we saw that the Rambam may distinguish between produce of one kind, to which the first kind of sanctity attaches, and produce of another kind, to which the second kind of sanctity attaches.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 



[1] The Rashba as cited by the Shitat Mekubetzet does not say this.

[2] The difficulty still remains why Rashi in Sukka (s.v. yatz'u) writes that the benefit of firewood is from when the wood becomes coals which can be used for baking. According to what we have said, he should have said from the time that one can eat of the bread, when the benefit is direct, as suggested by the Ritva. There is another difficulty, why do we regard sweeping the house with the lulav as direct benefit from the lulav, when surely the benefit is that his house is now clean.