|Tractate Peah, Chapter 1Tosefta 121 [If there is produce planted on top of ground in the shape of] steps2 that are ten Tefachim (handbreadths) high,3 [then the farmer must] give Peah (corners of the field) from each [step separately].4 But if the tops of rows [of produce] are mixed up [and are not evenly leveled one above the other5 then the farmer must] give Peah from one [row] for everything.6||
מסכת פאה פרק א
המדרגות שהן גבוהות עשרה טפחים נותן פאה מכל אחת ואחת ואם היו ראשי שורות מעורבין נותן פאה מאחת על הכל.
- Mishna Peah 3:1 mentions an argument between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel about separate rows of produce that are planted in between trees, whether Peah is given from one such row for everything or separately in each row. However both of them agree that if the tops of rows are mixed up and are not evenly separated by trees then Peah is given from one row for everything. The Tosefta cites a similar case regarding separate rows of produce.
- The Tosefta is talking about the same type of produce that is planted in a garden that is on a slope, so that each row of plants is growing one above the other, as shown on the picture below.
- A Tefach (plural: Tefachim), known in English as a handbreadth, is a unit of measure used in Talmudic times, which is roughly the size of an adult fist. There are 6 Tefachim in one Amah. Since an Amah approximately equals to 1.5 – 2 feet (55 – 70 cm), one Tefach approximately equals to ¼ – ⅓ feet (9.1 – 11.6 cm). There is a principal that an area that is elevated by at least 10 Tefachim above ground level is considered to be a separate domain from the area on the ground level and can have different rules apply to it. We find this principal used in a variety of applications throughout the Jewish law. For examples see Tosefta Shabbat 1:1 and Tosefta Eruvin 2:3.
- Since each step is considered to be a separate domain it is like its own separate field and Peah must be left from each and every step. Obviously the minimum amount of Peah that needs to be left is 1/60th of the produce located on each step. From this Tosefta and from another Beraita quoted in Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 2:2, Daf 12a) it is clear that if each step is lower than 10 Tefachim then the farmer should leave Peah on one of the steps for the whole field. The reason is obvious that since each step is not considered to be a separate domain, all of the steps together are like a single field from which Peah needs to be left only in one place. However the conclusion of the Sugya (discussion) in Talmud Yerushalmi (ibid.) is that it is not dependent on the height of the steps, but rather on whether the farmer needs to lift up his plough as he moves from one step to the next. So even if the steps are lower than 10 Tefachim if the farmer needs to pick up the plough in order to move it to the next step then Peah needs to be left separately on each step. It seems to me that the conclusion of the Yerushalmi was not the original intent of this Tosefta, but rather is a new conclusion based on the contradiction in various sources that the Yerushalmi quotes.
- It is not clear what the Tosefta means by having the tops of each step mixed up. Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kepshuta proposes that it is referring to a garden in a shape of a spiral around a mountain where each step is not flat, but rather slanted, so the top of each step is roughly at the same level as the bottom of the next step. I would like to suggest that the Tosefta is probably referring to a farmer who planted produce on the slopes of rocky Judean Hills, such as shown on the picture below. Due to many rocks in the ground natural uneven steps are formed on the hill.
- Since there is no clear separation of domains between the different levels all of them together are considered to be a single field and therefore Peah needs to be left only on one of these steps that would cover the whole field. The amount of Peah left on that one step would be 1/60th of the whole field.
Stepped garden with rows of grass growing one above the other.
A hill in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel. Notice the natural uneven steps that are formed on the side of the hill.