Tractate Peah, Chapter 3
Rebbi Yehuda says, “A person who made his whole field into sheaves [in order to later] stook2 them [into stooks, which in turn will be taken to the final stack]3 is [considered to be] like someone who bundles [sheaves] in [order to put them in a] stack [of sheaves, which makes the sheaves inside the stooks eligible to become Shikcha (forgotten sheaves),] and [then] rounded it (i.e. the stack) out4 [as if he has completed the stack] and [then brought more sheaves and] pressed [them] into the stack [after the stack seemed to be already finished, which is still considered to be the final act of bundling, which makes these sheaves eligible to become Shikcha].”5, 6
Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel agree that if [a person] proclaimed [his produce to be] ownerless [only] to people, but not to animals, [or only] to Jews, but not to Non-Jews, [it is still considered to be] ownerless [and anyone can come and take it].
מסכת פאה פרק ג
רבי יְהוּדָה אוֹמר הָעוֹשֶׂה כָּל שָׂדֵהוּ עוֹמָרִים ומְעַמֵּר לָהֵן, כִּמְעַמֵּר לַגָּדִישׁ וְהַדְרַה וזוֹרֵר לגדיש.
מוֹדִים בֵּית שַׁמַּאי וּבֵית הִלֵּל שֶׁאִם הִפְקִיר לָאָדָם וְלֹא לַבְּהֵמָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא לַגּוֹיִם הֶפְקֵר.
Before explaining the Tosefta and the Mishna upon which it comments it is necessary to understand the terminology which the Tosefta and the Mishna use. Part of the problem that plagues all of the commentators, both on the Mishna and the Tosefta, is that they do not know the proper farming terminology or the process of bundling sheaves, stooking and stacking grain, which is being referred to here. I have translated all of the technical terms used in the Tosefta based on their definitions in the book by Sereno Edwards Todd, “The American wheat culturist: a practical treatise on the culture of wheat, embracing a brief history and botanical description of wheat, with full practical details for selecting seed, producing new varieties, and cultivating on different kinds of soil,” Taintor Brothers & Co., 1868. Before I go on explaining the text I would like to simply list the terms and their translations used in both the Tosefta and the Mishna to which it refers.
- עומר (Omer) – sheaf (plural: sheaves).
- מעמר (Meamer) – binding sheaves or heaping. This is a general term that means bundling and refers to binding a single sheaf, stooking, or stacking, depending on the context. Generally, it is referring to whatever the subject is that comes after the word Meamer. For example, if we say Meamer Letevuah, then Tevuah (grain) is the subject to which Meamer refers to and therefore the phrase means binding individual stocks of grain into sheaves. If the subject is sheaves, then it is referring to the next step in the process, namely bundling sheaves into stooks. If the subject is the final stack then we are talking about bundling sheaves from the stooks into the stack.
- מעמר לעומרים (Meamer Leomarim) – stooking individual sheaves into a stook or a small heap.
- מעמר לגדיש (Meamer Lagadish) – stacking sheaves from stooks into a stack.
- גדיש (Gadish) – stack.
The first half of the Tosefta is related to Mishna Peah 5:8, which states that if a farmer makes sheaves of grain in order to pile them into various types of stooks that later on will have to be piled again into a large stack from where the grain will be taken to the threshing floor then if a sheaf is forgotten by the farmer while it is being piled into these stooks it is not considered to be Shikcha. However, if he piles the sheaves directly into a stack from where they will be taken to the threshing floor then it is considered to be Shikcha. The Mishna concludes with a general rule that regardless of what type of heap these sheaves are being piled into, either a stook or a stack, as long as this heap is the culmination of the act of heaping sheaves, עימור (Imur), meaning that it is the final heap prior to the grain being brought to the threshing floor, then all sheaves that are forgotten in the field while they are being carried to that final heap are considered to be Shikcha. However, if the sheaves are being carried from that final heap to the threshing floor or being carried to an intermediate heap then if they are forgotten at that time they are not considered to be Shikcha. Only if the sheaves or intermediate heaps are being transported to the final heap before the grain will be taken to the threshing floor, only then it is the last “trip” of the grain during the process of heaping, or bundling sheaves, which makes the sheaves qualify for Shikcha in case they are forgotten. But during any other step in the process, either before or after the final heaping in the field, the sheaves, if forgotten, do not qualify for Shikcha and can be picked up by the owner.
Rebbi Yehuda in our Tosefta comes to argue on some details outlined in the Mishna regarding specific types of heaps.
The second half of the Tosefta is related to Mishna Peah 6:1 in which Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel argue regarding the law of Hefker (ownerless items). Bet Shammai say that if the owner of the produce proclaims it to be ownerless only to poor people, thus preventing the rich from taking it, then it is still considered to be Hefker and is therefore exempt from Maaserot (tithes). See Mishna Chala 1:3. However, Bet Hillel say that if the owner puts such a limitation on its ownerless status then it is not considered to be ownerless, and therefore it is still obligated in tithes, unless the owner proclaims it to be ownerless to all people, even the rich. It seems from the Mishna that regardless of the limitation set in the proclamation of the owner anyone, rich or poor, would still be allowed to take that produce, even though it is not officially Hefker for them, since the owner gave up on it (Yiyush) and does not intend to keep it, as I already explained above in Tosefta 3:4, note 8. Our Tosefta comes to add an important clarification to this argument, that not all types of limitations set in the proclamation of the owner are the same, and that there are limitations that the owner can set to the produce’s Hefker status which will still qualify it as Hefker and therefore exempt the poor from tithing it.
I would like to point out that the only reason I have bundled these two unrelated parts of the Tosefta into a single Tosefta is because that is the way it is recorded in the Talmud Bavli printed edition, whose numbering order I preserve in this edition of the Tosefta for ease of use. It would make more sense to separate these two parts into two separate Toseftot. There is no indication in any Tosefta manuscript how these Toseftot were meant to be numbered, because they do not have numbers and in this particular case these two statements are written together without any extra space between them.
Another important point is that there is a discrepancy in the statement of Rebbi Yehuda between the Vienna and the Erfurt manuscripts, as well as between various commentators interpreting what is written in the manuscripts. I have chosen a reading in the main text which makes most sense based on context. I have quoted other reading possibilities in the commentary below as well as shown the pictures of how the text looks in both manuscripts so that the reader can understand the difficulty in its interpretation.
Stooking, also known as shocking, is an act of stacking grain sheaves in the field before threshing so that they can dry. Normally the sheaves are stooked into stooks, also known as shocks, and left in the field to dry for a few weeks after which it is either taken to the threshing floor or if there is not enough room for all the grain at the threshing floor, it is stacked into a stack in the field where the grain remains until it is moved to the threshing floor once the rest of the grain has been threshed. The reason that farmers stored grain in stacks and not in barns or at the threshing floor itself, is because the threshing floor was not big enough to store all of the harvested grain and most poor farmers did not have closed silos. They simply stored the grain in stacks in the field until it could be threshed on the threshing floor. The details of stacking, as opposed to stooking, will be explained below in note 4.
There is a whole methodology to stooking sheaves properly, because if it is not done right then the grain will not dry well. For more details on proper methods of stooking see Sereno Edwards Todd, “The American wheat culturist: a practical treatise on the culture of wheat, embracing a brief history and botanical description of wheat, with full practical details for selecting seed, producing new varieties, and cultivating on different kinds of soil,” Taintor Brothers & Co., 1868, pp. 366-381.
Mishna Peah 5:8 lists a few different types of stooks, all of which are not considered to be the final step in the heaping process. Although it is impossible to identify exactly how each of these stooks looked at the time of the Mishna I have put together a list with pictures based on their descriptions which I believe is very close to the reality that the Mishna is referring to.
כובע (Kova) – a stook that looks like a hat (hence it is called Kova – hat). This is most probably the most common type of a stook where the sheaves are leaning against each other. It has a somewhat triangular shape.
Hat shaped stooks. It is not the best way to stook sheaves, because they are not very stable and sometimes they fall down, as can be seen on this picture. Photo: hughlook.
כומסה (Kumsa) – a round stook. Most commentators identify the source of the word Kumsa with the Hebrew root כמס (Kamas), which means “hidden”, implying that this is some kind of a heap beneath something else. Aruch Hashalem, Vol 4, entry כבע, p. 187, suggests that this may not be a native Hebrew word and may come from Arabic, specifically meaning “a round heap”. Both of these interpretations make sense for the standard round stook. The way a round stook is made is by placing a single sheaf in the center and then surrounding it by eight sheaves in a circle. The eight sheaves lean against the center sheaf thus giving the stook its stability. The name, Kumsa, refers to the “hidden” sheaf in the center of the stook, since it cannot be seen from the outside.
Round stook. An instructional illustration from the 19th century. Note that the sheaves were put vertically in a circle and then another sheaf, called the capping sheaf, was put on top of them, so that in case it rains water would run down the stook and not collect inside. From The American Wheat Culturist, p. 370.
חררה (Charara) – a stook with a hole in the middle. It comes from the word חריר (Charir) which means “a hole of a needle”, as used in Mishna Keilim 13:5, which in turn comes from the word חור (Chor), “hole”. See Aruch Hashalem, Vol 3, entry חרר, pp. 504 – 505. The way this stook would be made is the same as the Kumsa stook, except that instead of the hidden sheaf in its center there would be empty space. Also, the capping sheaf would not be placed on top of it since there was nothing in the center to support it. It is not clear what would be the advantage of making a round stook with a hole in the middle, except perhaps for the simplicity of making it. There probably was no real concern for rain water collecting inside the stook, since it almost never rains in the Land of Israel in the spring, during the harvest season. It is also possible that Charara is actually a rectangular stook and the hole is referring to the lack of the support sheaf in the stook’s center. In a rectangular stook the sheaves are placed in two rows and are leaning on each other, thus creating a hollow space in the center of the stook, which can actually be seen from the outside.
Wheat Sheaves in a field, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2004. Notice the small sheaves in the background all over the field and then the larger rectangular stooks in the foreground and the background. Notice that the sheaves in this rectangular stook are leaning on each other and do not have a central supporting sheaf. Photo: Curt Weinhold.
Sheaves of Wheat in a Field. Painting by Vincent Van Gogh, 1885. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands. Notice that this particular stook does not have a center sheaf and is therefore hollow in the middle. This is a possible depiction of a Charara.
Stooks of wheat in fields near South Molton, England, July 2010. Notice that these stooks are hollow as well and do not have a sheaf in their center placed for support. Photo: Mark Robinson.
Rebbi Yehuda describes the standard process of heaping in which the farmer first creates sheaves, then collects them and puts them into stooks, and then collects all the stooks into a large stack from where he will then take all the sheaves to the threshing floor. According to Mishna Peah 5:8 stooking is considered to be an intermediate step in the process of heaping and therefore if the farmer forgets one of the small sheaves while stooking them into stooks it would not be considered Shikcha, because it is not the final act of heaping. However, Rebbi Yehuda argues on the Mishna and states that in this case the forgotten sheaf would be considered Shikcha, as will be explained in the note 5.
The Hebrew verb הדר (Hadar) means “to enclose” or “to round off”. It is referring to the act of smoothing out the final stack of grain. The stack has to be smooth so that in case that it rains the rain water will run-off the edges of the stack and will not collect inside the stack causing the grain to rot. There is a whole complicated methodology to stacking grain in stacks in order to make sure that the stack does not lean to the side, fall apart or become very wet. For more details on proper methods of stooking see Sereno Edwards Todd, “The American wheat culturist: a practical treatise on the culture of wheat, embracing a brief history and botanical description of wheat, with full practical details for selecting seed, producing new varieties, and cultivating on different kinds of soil,” Taintor Brothers & Co., 1868, pp. 389-399.
Stacking wheat. An instructional illustration from the 19th century. Note that the individual sheaves are stacked in a way that the outside of final stack is smooth. From The American Wheat Culturist, p. 392.
Wheat stacks and wagon load of grain in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, 1887. Photo: William McFarlane Notman. McCord Museum of Canadian History. View-1623. Notice that a whole stack can be placed on a wagon pulled by a horse.
A completed wheat stack. An instructional illustration from the 19th century. Note that the stack has a sharp point on top so that water will easily run-off of it. From The American Wheat Culturist, p. 396.
Rebbi Yehuda views the case of bundling sheaves into stooks not as a separate act of bundling, but rather as a preparatory step for the final bundling into a large stack. There are a few possible reason that the farmer would create stooks, before making a stack, or not making a stack at all. The stooks are made in order to dry the grain, before it is stacked, since inside a big stack the grain will not dry well, since it is not very much exposed to air. If the farmer’s field is small and he can fit all of his produce on the threshing floor, then it is probably easier for him to just carry the sheaves straight from the stooks to the threshing floor than stacking them first in the field into large stacks. If the farmer decided to bundle his sheaves not in a stack, but rather into large sheaves or so-called small heaps then he probably did so to minimize his transportation efforts from the field to the threshing floor. The small heaps are sized in a way that either the farmer himself or with the help of an animal, such as a donkey or a camel, can carry away one small heap at a time, which is much bigger than an individual sheaf, but not as big as a whole stack, thus reducing the amount of trips he would have to make if he was to pick up each individual sheaf and carry it to the threshing floor. Since it was a lot more common in the Land of Israel for farmers to use donkeys or camels, and not horses that pulled wagons, it made a lot of sense for farmers to transport small heaps as opposed to large stacks. Therefore Rebbi Yehuda compares this intermediate step of creating small heaps to a case where the farmer carried sheaves directly to the large stack, and seemingly completed the large stack, but then decided to bring more sheaves and push them into the completed stack. In such a case, everyone agrees that it is not considered to be a separate act of bundling, but rather it is a continuation of the act of creating the large stack. And therefore if the farmer forgot one of these last sheaves in the field they would still be considered Shikcha since they were being carried directly to the large heap. Similar to this more obvious case, Rebbi Yehuda claims that making small heaps first is all a part the greater act of heaping and therefore sheaves that are forgotten in the field while making these small heaps are considered to be Shikcha as well.
I would like to suggest that when Mishna Peah 5:8 states המעמר לעמרים (Hameamer Leomarim), “a person who bundles into sheaves” it is specifically referring to making these small heaps from regular sized sheaves for the purpose of transportation on an animal. This also clearly distinguishes these heaps from the three types of stooks that the Mishna mentions, Kova, Kumsa and Charara, and from the stack, Gadish, and therefore each example of the Mishna is talking about an agriculturally distinct act.
Arab farmers in Palestine transporting grain sometime between 1900 and 1920. Library of Congress, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, LC-DIG-matpc-01229. Notice that although the farmer is carrying only one large sheaf, the camel behind him is carrying a few such sheaves. A camel cannot transport a whole stack, which would require a wagon and probably a horse or a mule to pull it.
There is a great deal of dispute regarding the last three words of Rebbi Yehuda’s statement due to various readings in the manuscripts and obscure handwriting in which it is written. Before jumping to any conclusions I would like to present to you the actual pictures of both Vienna and Erfurt manuscripts so that you can judge the difficulty for yourself.
Rebbi Yehuda’s statement as it appears in the Vienna manuscript. Note that the last two words are either חררה כגדיש or חררה בגדיש and not as I have quoted them וְהַדְרַה וזוֹרֵר לגדיש.
Rebbi Yehuda’s statement as it appears in the Erfurt manuscript. The word that appears to be as והדרה or וחררה has Vowelization underneath it, but it is too difficult to make out what it is.
The first printed edition has the text similar to the Vienna manuscript, but they have interpreted it to read לחררה בגדיש (Lecharara Begadish), meaning “to the stook with a hole in the center inside the stack”. That reading does not make any sense what so ever. Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kifshuta suggests that the correct reading in the Vienna manuscript is חררה כגדיש (Charara Kegadish), “the stook with a hole in the center is like a stack”, meaning that both of them qualify a forgotten sheaf as Shikcha. This reading makes more sense, but is still problematic since it has to be read as a completely separate sentence from the rest of Rebbi Yehuda’s statement.
There are two different interpretations of the Erfurt manuscript reading. Zuckermandel in his edition of the Tosefta interpreted it to read וְהַהִרַה וזוֹרֵר לגדיש (Vehahira Vezorer Legadish), “and [then] made it (i.e. the stack) into a mound out and [then brought more sheaves and] pressed [them] into the stack”. This reading does not make much sense since it does not flow with the rest of Rebbi Yehuda’s statement. Also saying that “he made the stack into a mound” is superfluous since making the stack itself implies that it is made into a mound of sheaves. Therefore I have chosen the Erfurt manuscript reading as interpreted by the Bar Ilan Tosefta Project, וְהַדְרַה וזוֹרֵר לגדיש (Vehadra Vezorer Legadish), “and rounded it (i.e. the stack) out and [then brought more sheaves and] pressed [them] into the stack,” since it makes most sense in the text and makes Rebbi Yehuda’s statement flow as a single sentence.