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Monday, March 12, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 2: Svara)

In order approach this sugya, we should consider in which ways it is sensible to define wheat as a tree and in which ways it is not.

There are two different frameworks to define a tree:
(a) based upon its technical, botanical identity.  Modern plant taxonomy is one example of this framework of biological classification, whose first schema was proposed by Aristotle.  Different systems give different classifications, but the underlying unity of all the systems is that they try to define the object based on its intrinsic properties.
(b) in terms of its identity relative to man, its agricultural definition.  (It grows fruit each year without any new replanting).

Wheat can qualify for definition (a), but not for (b). In describing the story of Adam Ha'rishon, the Torah defines wheat as a tree (according to Rabbi Yehuda).  Apparently, according to the Torah's technical definition, wheat is a tree (as unintuitive as that may sound, biological classification often times does that too.  For example, a strawberry is not technically a berry).  Regarding Tumaah, kli etz is a wooden utensil made from an entity defined as etz - again definition (a).

The hava amina of our gemara is that bracha of ha'etz also goes by definition (a) and therefore wheat should have the bracha of pri ha'etz. (Perhaps, the idea being that we are praising Hashem for the amazing variety of types of foods in nature that provide for our needs).

The mishna therefore teaches (maskana) that regarding brachos, an institution of shevach, the relevant definition is (b). The reason fruits get their own bracha is based on the wonderful phenomenon of a tree in so far as it allows man to annually collect produce without any new planting. Without this special function, a wheat tree, despite technically being a tree according to definition (a), does not get the bracha of pri ha'etz.

Given this framework, how can we define the machlokes rishonim regarding strawberries?

9 comments:

  1. The reason fruits get their own bracha is based on the wonderful phenomenon of a tree in so far as it allows man to annually collect produce without any new planting.

    How do we know this?

    To clarify what i said in the earlier post:

    HA- we make a birchas haaetz on an entity which has a shem etz, such as wheat, as it is called that from the torah.

    Maskana-we make a haaetz on an entity which has a shem etz(all tree fruits) that emerge from a cheftza shel etz ie; the actual tree.

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    1. we are saying this based on RY's position here, where he defines wheat as a tree yet doesnt make a pri haetz...what distinguishes wheat from all other trees?

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    2. I just don't understand the idea that we classify something as a tree which has entities that get a haaetz based on whether it regrows it's fruits or not. There are plants, if we consider them plants halachiklly(a tomato bush?), which stick around the whole year and produce at one point of the year and not the other, and we make a haadma on them.

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    3. I think the aforemetione is a klutz kasha. I think I understand now. Your saying it is halachklly a tree and it produces without any planting, therefore it gets a haaetz. A plant, even though it doesn't need further plannting, is not an etz.

      Am I understanding you correctly?

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    4. right...but you are thinking along good lines visa vi the strawberry issue

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  2. Regarding RAE:

    The inyanim are different. In both brachos and tuma wheat has a shem etz, but by brachos we need something which has a shem etz that emerges from a cheftza shel etz, while in tuma all we need is something that has a shem etz.

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    1. could you explain clearly what you mean by "a shem etz that emerges from a cheftza shel etz?"

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    2. The wheat is called etz(and all the fruits in the machlokes) even though it is not a tree. And it this entity which has a shem etz emerges from from an actual cheftza shel etz ie the tree itself.

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    3. As evidenced from the bracha that the fruit merely has the shem etz and is not an actual etz-"boreh pri haaetz", it is a fruit of the tree(which has a shem etz) but not the actual tree

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