Tractate Peah, Chapter 2, Tosefta 21
|Tractate Peah, Chapter 2
[A farmer] who sprinkles2 his field [with water for the purpose of irrigation], to the point that the poor people will not enter it, [because it is too wet], is permitted [to do so], if the damage that is caused to him [by not sprinkling that much water] is greater than [the damage] caused to the poor people [by them not being able to collect the gifts to the poor from his field that day].3 But if the damage caused to the poor people [by them not being able to collect the gifts to the poor from his field that day] is greater than [the damage] caused to him, [then] it is forbidden4 [for the farmer to water his field to that extent.] Rebbi Yehuda says, either this way or that (i.e. does not matter whose damage is greater) [since the poor people cannot enter the field, the farmer] has to collect [the gifts to the poor from his field himself] and put them on top of the fence5 [around the field], and the poor person will come and will take what is [rightfully] his.6
מסכת פאה פרק ב
הַמְּרַבֵּץ אֶת שָׂדֵהוּ עד שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּנְסוּ עֲנִיִּים לְתוֹכוֹ, אִם הָיָה הֶזֵּיקוֹ מְרוּבֶּה עַל שֶׁל עֲנִיִּים מוּתָּר, וְאִם הֶיזֵּק הַעֲנִיִּים מְרוּבֶּה עַל שֶׁלּוֹ אָסוּר. רבי יְהוּדָה אוֹמר בֵּין כָּךְ וּבֵין כָּךְ מְלַקֵּט וּמֵנִיח עַל גַּבֵּי גָדֵר וְהֶעָנִי בָּא וְנוֹטֵל אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ.
1. Since the previous Tosefta mentioned irrigated fields, this Tosefta states a new law regarding irrigated fields and gifts to the poor. It seems to me that this Tosefta is not commenting directly on any particular Mishna. In Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 5:3, Daf 26b) this Tosefta is quoted on a Mishna (Peah 5:3) that discusses the argument between Rebbi Meir and the Chachamim (Sages) regarding the permissibility of the watering the field with an irrigation device called in Hebrew, טופיח (Tofeach), which is known in English as a Persian water-wheel. The name Tofeach is referring a clay pitcher, or a set of pitchers, which is attached to the rope pulled by the wheel, which is automatically refilled with water from a water source over which the wheel spins.
Persian water-wheel, used for irrigation in Nubia. Lithograph by Louis Haghe from a painting by David Roberts from 1838 in Egypt. Notice that the wheel itself is spun by oxen.
The Yerushalmi connects this Tosefta with that Mishna, because the reasoning behind the Mishna’s argument seems to be that the water wheel puts so much water on the field that it prevents the poor people from entering to collect the gifts to the poor. The comparison between the rulings of the Mishna and the Tosefta is logical, however it does not seem to that this Tosefta was written as a direct comment on that Mishna, but rather as a separated, unrelated statement, which is why they look completely dissimilar in the way that they are phrased.
2. In the Erfurt manuscript the word הַמְּרַבֵּץ (Hamerabetz) is spelled הַמַרְבִּיץ (Hamarbitz). According to Marcus Jastrow both spellings are correct and may reflect different pronunciations due to variations in the spoken Hebrew dialect at the time of the Tosefta, which is what implied from different sources throughout the Talmudic literature where this word appears. Regardless of the spelling and pronunciation the meaning of this word remains the same, which is “irrigation by sprinkling” or just “sprinkling”, as opposed to the word השקה (Hashaka), which literally means “contact”, but more specifically “making water in one vessel connect with the water in another vessel by direct contact of the water contained in both vessels”. The key subtlety being that during sprinkling a droplet of water flies through the air before it lands and therefore there is no direct contact between water in the vessel from which it is sprinkled and the water in the vessel into which the droplet lands. See Marcus Jastrow, “Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature”, 2nd Edition, 1926, p. 1445, entry רבץ.
3. The Tosefta does not explain how such damage can be assessed, which would seem to be an almost impossible job.
4. The Tosefta states that the farmer is forbidden from watering his field that much, but it implies that if he violated the law and did it anyway, he would not need to compensate the poor for the produce which they could not collect, as implied from the following statement of Rebbi Yehuda.
5. It does not literally mean that the farmer has to put the produce on top of the fence. But rather he has to put it in a way that it is accessible without entering inside the field.