During the sabbatical year one is obligated to treat all of his fields as if they were ownerless. In other words, I can sell the produce in my field with certain restrictions. But I can’t lock up and guard my field. One who does so is suspected of being a sabbatical year transgressor. So the person who buys three meals worth of food from the am haaretz can do so only if he sees that the am haaretz is treating his field as if it were ownerless. But if the am haaretz has guarded his field, then we know that he is transgressing the sabbatical year laws. Under such circumstances, one cannot buy any produce from him whatsoever.
In yesterday’s section a baraita ruled that when one buys sabbatical produce from an am haaretz, he may only buy enough for three meals. If he gives him more than that, the am haaretz is not trusted to treat the money with the proper sanctity. And even this is allowed only if we can see that the am haaretz has declared his field ownerless.
In our section, R. Sheshet cites a different baraita that seems to contradict this.
In the baraita that R. Sheshet cites there is a list of types of produce that are not subject to the laws of tithes because people don’t store these types of produce. They are always just left to grow ownerless. Also, a person can buy them from an am haaretz during the Sabbatical year and there is no limit to how much he is allowed to buy. This proves that if something is not guarded, meaning it is left out in the field to grow and anyone can come and pick it, then one is allowed to buy as much of that produce as he wants from anyone. The earlier baraita had limited this to three meals.
R. Sheshet solves the problem by limiting the permission to buy from an am haaretz to an amount sufficient for daily food, which is never more than three meals (three meals on Shabbat, two are sufficient for the week). Thus this baraita is brought into harmony with the earlier baraita that said one can buy only enough for three meals when purchasing sabbatical year produce from an am haaretz.
As it did earlier on this daf, the Talmud again asks how we know that the word “man” from the phrase “mano” means food. The prooftext is a verse from Daniel where the king appoints food and the verb used is “vayaman.”
The original mishnah which started this discussion implied that one can buy a lulav from an am haaretz during the sabbatical year. The lulav wasn’t the problem—the etrog was. But if it’s true that one can’t buy sabbatical year produce from an am haaretz, why is one allowed to buy a lulav? Later on the next page, the Talmud will explain why the lulav is subject to the laws of sabbatical year produce when the lulav is not edible.
The answer is that this lulav grew during the sixth year, so it’s not a sabbatical year lulav. Even though it was picked during the seventh year, the status of most trees vis a vis the sabbatical year is determined by the year that they started to demonstrate real growth.
But this leads to yet another problem—why not say the same thing about the etrog? After all, this etrog that was picked right before Sukkot surely did not just start growing during the sabbatical year?
The answer is that the etrog’s sabbatical status is determined by the day it is picked, not when it begins to demonstrate growth. Thus the lulav is a sixth year lulav, while the etrog picked at the same time, is a seventh year etrog. I know—confusing. Be comforted that the Talmud itself seems to find this a bit difficult!
At the end of yesterday’s section the Talmud determined that the status of an etrog vis a vis the sabbatical year follows the time it is picked. Our Talmud brings some other opinions concerning this question.
The Talmud now cites Mishnah Bikkurim 2:6 to demonstrate that with regard to the sabbatical year status—all sages agree that an etrog is treated like a tree. Just as a tree’s status is determined by when it blossoms, so is the status of an etrog. There is a dispute in this mishnah, but it is about the tithe, and not about determining the etrog’s sabbatical year status. So how can we say, as we did at the end of yesterday’s section, that its status follows the time when it is picked?
I have not explained the details of this mishnah. For more information, you can look on line at my Mishnah Yomit commentary.