|Tractate Peah, Chapter 2
Tosefta 191[If] poor people were going around [and collecting charity] among the silos,2 [then first] they (i.e. owners of the silos) should take off Maaserot (tithes)3 [from the food that is piled in the silos]4 and [then] they should give them (i.e. poor people) [some of that food as charity].5 However, tartuffes6 would put in their (i.e. poor people’s) hands money [instead of food], and eatable things, but they would [only] give him (i.e. poor person) a small amount [of food from the food that was not yet piled in silos] in order that he would finish eating it before he reaches the city [thus making it exempt from Maaserot].7 And all other gifts to the poor that [remain lying] in the field [after the poor people have finished collecting them] that the poor person does not care about belong to the owner [and other people are not allowed to take them].8
מסכת פאה פרק ב
עֲנִיִּים הַמְחַזְּרִין בֵּין הַגְּרָנוֹת מְעַשְּׂרִין ונותנין לָהֶם. והַצְּנוּעִין מוֹצִיאִין בְּיָדָן מָעוֹת ודְבָרִים הַנֶּאֱכָלִין וְנוֹתְנִין לוֹ דָּבָר מוּעָט כְּדֵי שֶׁיֹּאכְלֶנּוּ עַד שֶׁלֹּא יַגִּיע לָעִיר. וּשְׁאָר כָּל מַתְּנוֹת עֲנִיִּים שֶׁבַּשָּׂדוֹת שֶׁאֵין הֶעָנִי מַקְפִּיד עֲלֵיהֶן הֲרֵי אֵילּוּ שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת
1. The Tosefta states a new law about food given as charity from which the owner is required to separate Maaserot before giving it to the poor. It is not related to any Mishna.
2. The Tosefta discusses a case where the poor people have gone to collect food directly from the private storage silos and not from the gifts to the poor that were left in the field. Obviously, this was a more lucrative opportunity to get charity, because each donation was much easier to obtain since it did not require collecting one stalk at a time as in the case of Leket (fallen stalks) and it was probably less involved since the poor person did not have to fight with other poor people over the remaining crops, but rather he could ask the owner to just give him some crops in a civilized manner.
3. For a detailed description of what tithes are see above Tosefta Peah 1:6, note 7.
4. Once the produce has been brought into silos it was obligated in all tithes and could not be eaten by anyone until all of the tithes were removed. See Mishna Maaserot 1:5.
5. The reason that the owner could not simply give the food to the poor without taking off the tithes first is because most of the poor did not understand the difference between the official gifts to the poor, such as Leket, Shikcha (forgotten sheaves) and Peah (corners of the field), and all other charity. The official gifts to the poor are exempt from Maaserot. See Mishna Chala 1:3. However any other food given to the poor is obligated in Maaserot. The poor thought that this food given to them as regular charity is also exempt from tithes, and therefore the owner was not allowed to give them untithed produce, because that would cause them to violate the Torah prohibition of eating Tevel (untithed produce). Therefore the owner had to first separate all of the tithes and only then give from this food to the poor.
6. It is generally assumed that the word צְּנוּעִין (Tznuin, singular: Tzanua) means “pious people”, who are scrupulous in performing commandments. However, I would like to demonstrate that this is not the meaning of this term, at least not in this case. The term used in Talmudic literature to refer to truly pious people is חסידים (Chasidim). See Mishna Berachot 5:1, Sukkah 5:2, Chagigah 2:7, Sotah 9:16, Keritut 6:3, and Tosefta Bava Kama 2:6, Sukkah 4:2, Keritut 4:2. Tznuin, on the other hand, is a term used for people who believe that they are pious, but in reality their actions only cause problems in society. They are religious hypocrites. I have chosen to translate the word Tznuin as “tartuffes”. Tartuffe is a person who is a hypocritical pretender to piety, appearing truly pious on the outside, but in reality being sanctimonious and self-righteous. This translation especially fits well in this case, because it comes from the exact same root as the original Hebrew word. The word צנוע (Tzanua) comes from the verb להצניע (Lehatznia), which means “to hide” or “to conceal”. The English word “tartuffe” comes from the name of the main character in Tartuffe, a 17th century play by Molière, where the protagonist is a religious hypocrite. This name comes from an Old French word “tartuffe”, meaning “truffle,” chosen for suggestion of concealment.
The word Tznuin, referring to a group of particular individuals, appears in Talmudic literature in a few cases, all of which share the same theme in common. The cases discuss a group of people who go out of their way to perform what seems on the surface to be a Mitzvah (good deed), but in reality causes some kind of harm to society. For example, in Tosefta Yoma 2:7 there is a story where Rebbi Yochanan Ben Nuri tells over how he once met an old person who was a member of the Bet Avtinas, a family of Kohanim (priests) who were looked down upon by the Rabbis for refusing to share with the public their secret formula for preparing the Ketoret (incense) in the Bet Hamikdash (Temple). See Mishna Yoma 3:11. The old person told him that in his father’s house there used to gather Tznuin and share with each other scrolls with the secret recipes of the Ketoret, implying that they would only pass it on between themselves, but would not share the information with anyone else. Ashamed of their behavior and full of remorse, the old man gave Rebbi Yochanan Ben Nuri his scroll with the recipe of the spices for the Ketoret and asked him to carefully keep it, implying that it is the only copy left. It is obvious that the Tosefta uses the title Tznuin in a pejorative fashion, since the members of Bet Avtinas were not held in high esteem by the Rabbis due to their behavior. Obviously the Tosefta uses this term to describe these people is because they were trying to hide something from everyone else, thinking that they are performing a great deed by carefully preserving an ancient tradition of how to prepare the Ketoret.
Another example of such usage of the word Tznuin is Mishna Kilayim 9:5 and Kilayim 9:6. Both Mishnayot discuss cases which involve clothing that are made out of Shatnez, a mixture of wool and linen, which is forbidden to be worn by the Torah. See Vayikra 19:19 and Devarim 22:11. It is clear from the verses in the Torah that Shatnez is only forbidden to be worn as a garment, but it is permitted to make and sell such garment to a Non-Jew or even a Jew who has some kind of use for it besides wearing it himself. Mishna Kilayim 9:5 states that sellers of clothing made out of Shatnez are allowed to wear the clothing that they are selling in order to properly display them to customers. Such usage of the clothes is not considered to be an act of wearing a garment, as long as the seller does not intend to actually protect himself from heat or cold while he is displaying it on his body. However the Tznuin would not display the clothes that they were selling by putting them on, but would rather hang them up on a stick. The Mishna says that the normal way of selling clothes in its day would be for the seller to wear the clothes and the way the Tznuin were selling it on a stick or on a rack was unusual. The second case, in Mishna Kilayim 9:6 is where tailors who are making Shatnez clothing keep holding it in their lap while they are sewing it. The Mishna says that that is permitted as long as the tailor does not intend to protect himself from cold or heat by holding the garment in his lap. However, the Tznuin would instead keep the garment on the ground while they sewed it and would not hold it in their lap. It seems to me that in both of these cases the Tznuin by their behavior were doing a disfavor to their customers. In the case of the sellers they were misadvertising their merchandise because they were not selling it in the normal way to which the people were used to and therefore either causing themselves a financial loss due to less buyers or causing the customer to buy something that they were not sure would fit them properly or if they truly like it or not. In the case of tailors the Tznuin would dirty up the clothes that they were sewing by putting it on the ground thus eventually degrading its quality. So in both of these cases acts of superficial piety were causing damage to society. I have to admit that my explanation of these two Mishnayot is novel and may even be somewhat forced. It is not used by the Rishonim (medieval authorities) all of whom explain the Tznuin to be more pious, more stringent people than the rest of the masses.
There is one other occurrence of the word Tznuin referring to a particular group of people in which it really seems that the word is meant to mean truly pious people. See Mishna Maaser Sheni 5:1. However I do not think that it is really in contradiction to this Tosefta. It is possible that the word was used both in a straight and in a sarcastic manner depending on the context.
It should be noted that Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kifshuta explains that the whole issue with the Tznuin had nothing to do with the tithes, but had rather to do with their preferences regarding Tumah and Tahara (ritual purity). I do not see how his explanation fits in the context of the subject being discussed.
7. As long as the owner of the produce intends to sell the produce and not eat it himself, the produce that is piled in silos becomes obligated in all tithes once piled and nothing after that would be able to exempt it from the tithes. Therefore it does not make any sense that the Tznuin who presumably were farmers who intended to sell their produce would give the poor food that was already piled in the silos since they would be required to separate the tithes from it. Therefore it seems to me that the Tznuin would give them food that was still not piled in silos, but perhaps was still sitting outside next to the silos in baskets or some other vessels in which it was transported from the field. Since they would give the poor only a small amount which was only enough to eat on the way back to the city the poor were exempt from taking off the tithes from it, because produce that is given as a gift to someone else and is being transported from somewhere to the person’s who received it house is exempt from Maaserot and the person transporting it is allowed to eat it untithed. See Mishna Maaserot 1:5 and 2:2. He only has to take off Maaserot once he enters his house with the produce. Since the amount of food given was going to be eaten before the poor returned home back in the city they could eat it without taking off the tithes.
8. The Tosefta summarizes what happens to all produce originally left in the fields for the poor as a part of Leket, Shikcha, Peah and Olelot (incompletely formed grape clusters), but was not collected by them. It was already mentioned on a few occasions that all gifts to the poor except for Peah automatically belong to the poor regardless if the owner designates them as such or not, and even Peah technically belongs to the poor as soon as it was left in the field, just they cannot take it until the owner explicitly proclaims it to be Peah. See above Tosefta Peah 1:13, note 7, and 2:6, note 4. Therefore we might think that if the poor chose not to take them they would become Hefker (ownerless) and as a result anyone can take them. Therefore the Tosefta teaches us that the gifts not collected by the poor do not become Hefker, but rather revert back to the owner of the field. This seems to me is the true meaning of the Tosefta as I will explain below.
However, this law poses a general difficulty. Mishna Peah 8:1 explicitly states that after the poor people leave the fields all gifts to the poor that they have left behind them become Hefker and can be taken by anyone. The reason for this law is explained in Talmud Bavli (Bava Metzia 21b) that since the poor gave up on collecting whatever they left in the fields it becomes Hefker just like a lost or a stolen object becomes Hefker after the owner gave up on receiving it back. Our Tosefta seems to be in direct contradiction to the law stated in the Mishna. Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 8:1, Daf 35a) resolves this contradiction by explaining that what the Tosefta means is that really whatever the poor people do not collect becomes Hefker and can be taken by anyone, but if it is not taken by anyone the owner is allowed to take it for himself and he does not have to leave it for the animals. The reason that this is not obvious is because since the owner originally had to declare Peah as something that belongs to the poor and not to him we might think that once it becomes the property of the poor the owner can never take it back, and therefore the Tosefta teaches us that indeed he is allowed to take it back.
I would like to suggest that the Yerushalmi’s explanation deviates from the original intent of the author of the Tosefta and is only given in order to resolve the apparent contradiction between the Mishna and the Tosefta as was an accepted way of resolving contradictions in an Oral Tradition. The Yerushalmi’s logic is also problematic, because once an object becomes Hefker anyone can claim it including the original owner. The history of ownership of this object does not make any difference to this, and therefore the fact that the owner of the field once upon a time declared Peah to belong to the poor would in no way impact his ability to claim it for himself now.
It seems to me that the Tosefta clearly argues on the Mishna and holds that all of the gifts not taken by the poor do not become Hefker and instead revert to the owner of the field. I would like to suggest that the reason for the Tosefta’s law is a special Rabbinical decree that was enacted in order to protect the owners of the fields in difficult financial conditions. I already explained earlier, in Tosefta Peah 2:17, note 4, that the financial situation of the farmers during the time of the Tosefta was much more difficult than that of the time of the Mishna. And therefore it would make sense that the Rabbis have enacted this law as a special protection for the owner who himself might be very poor barely making ends meet. So in order to protect him they decreed that whatever produce was left by the poor belongs to the owner and cannot be collected by anyone else. However, the Mishna states the default law that was in effect before this special decree of the Tosefta where by pure logic all produce left by the poor became Hefker. For some reason, the enactment of the Tosefta did not take wide effect and by the time the law was again discussed in Talmud Yerushalmi the Yerushalmi simply assumed the original ruling of the Mishna as the effective law and reinterpreted the Tosefta in a way that would not conflict with the Mishna.
I would like to mention that there is an alternative way of resolving the contradiction between the Mishna and the Tosefta besides what is mentioned in the Yerushalmi and my suggestion. The Rambam in Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 1:11 and 1:13) resolves it by stating that the Tosefta is talking about a case where the poor people still did not leave the fields, as the case of the Mishna, but they simply decided that a particular part of the crops left in the field as the gifts to the poor does not interest them. At that point those crops that the poor do not want to take revert to the owner, since nothing at that point becomes Hefker yet. However, after the poor have finished collecting their gifts whatever is left in the field becomes Hefker and anyone can take it, as the Mishna says. The Radvaz, in his commentary on the Mishneh Torah (ibid.) clarifies how this case would take place in practice. How is the owner supposed to know that the poor are not interested in particular crops? May be the next group of poor people that will show up in his field later will be interested in them? The Radvaz resolves this problem by explaining this law that once the first group of the poor have said to the owner that they are not interested in this particular set of crops that was left for them as a gift the owner may immediately take it for himself and he does not have to wait to see if the next group of poor people who come will be interested in it or not. Although this explanation resolves well the contradiction I do not think that it was the original intent of the author of the Tosefta, because something that is so not obvious should have been stated explicitly.