In yesterday’s section R. Elazar b. R. Shimon stated that all mitzvoth that are connected to the land are observed only in the Land with two exceptions. One of those exceptions is the commandment to release debts at the sabbatical year. But this is a personal obligation, not connected to the Land. So why state that it is an exception? It would seem to simply follow the rule.
The reason that the R. Elazar had to state that the release from debt is observed outside of the Land is that there is some connection between this mitzvah and the land, since Rabbi connected it to the release of the land (the prohibition of working the land during the sabbatical year). Rabbi says that as long as the mitzvah of letting the land rest is observed, the mitzvah of release from debt is observed in all places. In other words, release of debt is observed outside the Land even though it is tied to the Land.
The Talmud now asks indeed why we don’t read the verse another way—not with regard to time, but with regard to place. This would mean that the mitzvah to release debt applies only inside the Land.
The Talmud reads the verse as implying that the mitzvah does apply in all places.
Thus in the end, the release of debts is practiced in all places, but only if the mitzvah to release the land (not work the land) is practiced in the land. Today both of these mitzvoth are still observed, but their status is considered derabanan, of rabbinic origin.
R. Elazar b. R. Shimon said that the mitzvah to release slaves at the Jubilee year is observed outside of Israel even though it is connected to the Land. But the release of slaves is a personal obligation, so why list it as an exception.
While freeing of slaves is a personal obligation, it still needs to be listed as an exception to the rule that mitzvoth tied to the Land are practiced only in the Land. First of all, the verse states “throughout the Land,” which might give the impression that it is observed only in the Land. Second, its observance outside the Land is dependent on its observance inside the Land. For both of these reasons, R. Elazar b. R. Shimon listed it as an exception to the general rule.
Today’s section discusses the status of various “soil-based mitzvoth” outside the Land of Israel.
This mishnah (Orlah 3:9) outlines the obligation of three soil-based mitzvoth outside the land of Israel: 1) the prohibition of eating new grain (hadash) before the Omer sacrifice on the sixteenth of Nissan; 2) the prohibition of fruit from a tree during the first three years of its growth (orlah); 3) the prohibition of mixed seeds (kilayim).
Amoraim disagree over the implication of the word “halakhah,” the status of the prohibition of orlah outside of the Land. To Shmuel the prohibition is a law of the country. Rashi explains that this means that the observance of this prohibition was dictated by the sages who lived outside the Land. R. Yohanan gives it a higher status—it is an oral tradition that goes all the way back to Moses at Sinai.
Ulla argued that outside the Land, orlah is a halakhah given to Moses at Sinai, a relatively high status, whereas kilayim is only a simple rabbinic prohibition. This helps us make sense of why the rules governing orlah are stricter than those governing kilayim. Outside of Israel, a Jew may buy orlah and kilayim from a Gentile, but with regard to the former, he cannot see him gather the fruit, whereas with the latter, the only prohibition is for the Jew to gather the kilayim vegetables himself. He can see the Gentile gather them.
But, Ulla continues, according to Shmuel’s view, there should be no difference in the rules governing buying orlah and kilayim from a Gentile outside the Land. Both have the same status—prohibited by the rabbis.