|Tractate Peah, Chapter 2
The owner [of the field]2 who gave Peah (corners of the field) to the poor is not allowed to say to them, “Take the seeds and give [me back] the flax.3 Take [the] dates and give [me back] the broom-shaped palm branches.”4 [If the seeds or fruit] fell off [the branches by themselves]5 and after that he (i.e. the owner of the field) separated them [for the poor to be given as Peah] he is only obligated to give the seeds as Peah, [but not the branches].6
מסכת פאה פרק ב
בַּעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁנָּתַן פֵּאָה לַעֲנִיִּים אֵין רַשַּׁיי שֶׁיֹּאמַר לָהֶן טְלוּ זֶרַע וּתְנוּ פִשְׁתָּן טְלוּ תְמָרִים וּתְנוּ מִכְבָּדוֹת. נָשְׁרוּ וְאַחַר כָּך הִפְרִישָׁן אֵין חַיָּיב משּׁוּם פֵּאָה אֶלָּא זֶרַע בִּלְבָד.
- The Tosefta states a new law regarding Peah. It is not related to any Mishna.
- Literally: the owner of the house.
- The Tosefta teaches that the obligation of leaving Peah includes in itself not only the edible part of the plant, but the whole stalk or branch. So in the example of the Tosefta, if the crop that is being given as Peah is flax, the owner cannot say to the poor people that they should just take the kernels of the flaxseed, because that is the only edible part of the plant and they should give him back the flax stalks themselves, so he can extract fibers from it and make linen, but rather everything belongs to the poor, both the seed kernels and the stalks. In the case of fruit growing on a tree, not only the fruit belongs to the poor, but also the branches of the tree on which the fruit grows. This law is learned out in the Sifra (Kedoshim, Parshitta 1, Perek 3) from the verse in the Torah (Vayikra 19:9-10 and 23:22) that says תַּעֲזֹב (Taazov), “leave” it to the poor people, implying that it should be left in the exact way that it grows, attached to the stalk or to the branch, with the branches included in the gift.
- The Hebrew word מכבדת(Mechabedet) (plural: מכבדות, Mechabdot) literally means a “broom”. A palm branch that is fully open was called a Mechabedet, because it was commonly used as a broom to sweep the house.
- It does not matter why the fruit fell off the branch. It could be due to wind blowing it off or the fruit got simply too ripe and fell off by itself.
- The Tosefta teaches that the branches only belong to the poor as a part of the gift Peah if the fruit was separated while it was still attached to the branch. However, if it was separated after it was already detached from the branch, then the branches do not need to be separated for Peah and still belong to the owner. The Sifra learns this law from the same verses in the Torah (Vayikra 19:9-10 and 23:22) as the previous law, from the word אֹתָם (Otam), “them”, meaning that the farmer only needs to leave “them” (i.e. the seeds or the fruit), but not the branches, in the case where they already got separated. The Sifra clarifies, as our Tosefta implies, that if the owner cut off the branches with the fruit on it from the tree for Peah, and then before the poor people took them, the fruit got detached from these branches, the branches still belong to the poor people and not to the owner. This is because since they were already separated from the tree with the intent to be given as Peah, they belong to the poor from that moment on, regardless of the fruit that is attached to them.
Flax growing in a field. Photo: Henfaes Research Centre, University of Wales, Bangor, Flax and Hemp Project. www.flaxandhemp.bangor.ac.uk
Common Flax (Linum usitatissimum). Notice the box with seeds that forms underneath the flowers. The fibers that are used to make linen are extracted from the long stem of the plant.
A man sweeping the street with a date palm branch in Oman. Photo: rmtw’s photostream.