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Friday, March 9, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 1: Facts)

The mishna and gemara in Brachos 40a-40b discuss various halachos regarding the efficacy of incorrect brachos. The  mishna has three halachos which are all relatively easy to understand. (1) If you say ha'adama on fruits, it is valid because trees also grow from the ground. (2) If you say ha'etz on vegetables, it is invalid because vegetables have nothing to do with trees and therefore the shevach (praise) is inapplicable. (3) If you say shehakol on anything (the gemara discusses the extent of this), it is valid because the shevach of shehakol is generic and applicable to anything.

The gemara asks that halacha (2) is obvious - of course ha'etz cannot work on pri ha'adama (produce of the ground). The answer is that this halacha is needed according to Rabbi Yehuda. There's a three way machlokes as to the tree which Adam Ha'Rishon ate from. RY maintains it was wheat. Yet, the Torah calls it a tree. Thus, you may think that one can say ha'etz on it. Therefore, the mishna teaches that you only say ha'etz on a "tree" which remains after its fruit is removed and which then produces another fruit. This is not the case with wheat and therefore ha'etz is invalid.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (side of the page) cites a tosafos  in Shabbos 66a which has the position that wheat is considered a tree regarding the laws of tumaah and kli etz (utensils made from trees, or wood). Presumably his question is why the laws of brachos are different from those of tumaah regarding wheat's status as a tree.

More directly related to our sugya, how can we define the hava amina (initial position) and maskana (conclusion), according to RY, regarding the efficacy of ha'etz on wheat?

A secondary issue emerges in the Rishonim (see Tur Orach Chayim Siman 203) regarding how this discussion applies to a "fruit" such as a strawberry which regrows each year from its underground roots without leaving any tree above ground.  Some Rishonim (i.e., Ri/Rabbeinu Yonah) maintain that since it regrows each year, it meets the criteria for fruit and therefore requires ha'etz.  Others (i.e., Geonim) argue that since it has no remaining tree over the winter, it fails to meet the gemara's description and therefore requires ha'adama and not ha'etz.  How can we define this machlokes?


  1. possible svara:

    Hava amina- the kobea for a pri haatez is if the entity has a shem etz, or has the form of an etz, such as wheat and fruits that grow on a tree.

    maskana- we make the bracha on entities which have a shem etz that emerge from a cheftza shell etz

    machlokes: a)Holds that the nature of the relationship of the maskana above holds that the cheftza shell etz preserves(through holding onto it) the entity which has the shem, or form, of etz. Therefore it has to be up the whole year round.
    b) Holds that the cheftza shell etz has to produce the entity of etz. Therefore so long as it does that you make a bracha of haaetz and thus the reason why it can be down parts of the year, as it anyway at the end of the day produced the entity which has the shem etz.

    RAE: The inyan by bracha is different. By tuma the krias shem etz is the kovea for what is shayach to tuma/tahara. But for bracha the idea is that we make a bracha on an entity of something which has a shem etz when it is a derivative of the tree(notwithstanding the qualification of the relationship between the 2 from the machlokes)

    1. Let's take one issue at a time.
      Can you please explain how your chakira for the hava amina/maskana applies to wheat?

  2. It sounds like the gemara is saying that RY holds that wheat is a pri ha'adamah although the stalk itself is an etz. Otherwise why would the statement "al pairos ha'aretz borei pri ha'etz lo yatza" teach RY that you cannot make a ha'etz on wheat? Perhaps in getting started we should explain this strange state of affairs in which the stalk itself is an etz but the wheat is a pri ha'adamah.

    1. we didnt read the inference the gemara is making the way you are.

      we understood it to be saying that the tanna of out mishna taught a categorical halacha "al pairos ha'aretz borei pri ha'etz lo yatza", that at first sight is obvious, because of a particular case of wheat according to RY that is contained within it, that is not so obvious.

      it seems that you are understanding the gemara's inference to be saying that the tanna is directly referencing wheat in its statement of "al pairos ha'aretz borei pri ha'etz lo yatza"

    2. I think I see how you're reading the gemara but I'm still a little confused. Apparently the halacha of "al pairos ha'aretz borei pri ha'etz lo yatza" was not that obvious according to RY. Was this not obvious to RY in general? For example, in his hava amina would RY say that you can make a ha'etz on carrots? It seems difficult to say that because RY holds that the wheat stalk is a tree that you can make a ha'etz on carrots. If not this, then this halacha was not obvious to RY by the specific case of wheat. If that's the case then my interpretation still stands. The only way this halacha could be non-obvious to RY by the case of wheat is if he is holding that wheat is a pri ha'adamah

    3. is your question, "if according to RY wheat is a tree, why isn't each individual kernel of wheat considered fruit of a tree?"

    4. That was actually my initial question but then I realized it can be framed more strongly. I think that from the flow of the gemara it's clear that in RY's hava amina he's holding that the wheat kernels are a pri ha'adamah. Why should the wheat kernels be a pri ha'adamah if the stalk is an etz?


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