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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Wheat Tree? (Part 3: Svara and Facts)

The machlokes rishonim is based upon two ways to interpret the maskana of our gemara:

Ri/Rabbeinu YonahThe definition of a tree in hilchos brachos is that which regrows each year - definition (b). Thus, the term pri ha'etz is applicable to strawberries, despite there being no technical tree.

GeonimA tree always demands definition (a) to apply the term pri ha'etz to it.  However, regarding brachos, the mere botanical definiton as a tree does not suffice. To receive the special shevach of a tree it must also have the unique qualities of a tree relative to man - definition (b).  Thus, even though strawberries do regrow each year, since there is no technical tree you cannot say borei pri ha'etz on them.

The machlokes rishonim revolves around whether the language employed in a bracha must make use of the universal definitions of terms (Geonim), or whether brachos have their own lexicon as is suitable for a language of praise (Ri/Rabbeinu Yonah).

In passing, this sugya referenced a philosophical issue.  The gemara cited a 3-way machlokes as to the tree that Adam Ha'rishon ate from.

Rabbi Meir: a grape vine, for nothing brings curse to man as much as wine, as we find that Noach got drunk upon exiting the ark...
Rabbi Nechemia: a fig tree, for that which he stumbled upon was that which helped him afterwards (he covered himself with leaves of the fig tree).
Rabbi Yehuda: wheat, for the Torah calls it the "tree of knowledge..." and a child eats wheat before he even knows how to say "Daddy" and "Mommy".

This seems to be an interesting machlokes. We only have an idea for the position of  Rabbi Nechemia, but we wanted to see if anyone else had any ideas for the various positions.


  1. We recently took this up and had the following approach:

    All agree that in actuality, this tree was an ordinary tree that existed in the world- there was nothing "magical" about it (as evidenced by the many interpretations as to which fruit it was).

    What the gemara is addressing, then, is what was the idea associated with this tree that was so attractive to Adam and caused him to rebel?

    Here we broke down this 3 way machlokes into 2 main positions:

    1. The actual fruit/type of tree had an appeal


    2. It was simply the fact that it was forbidden that engendered a fantasy about the fruit to ADAM

    Acc to RM and RY, the very fruit itself was associated with an idea of rebellion against G-d

    RM: an instinctually/physically driven appeal (wine)

    RY: an ego driven rebellion to be independent from G-d (just like a when a baby can eat wheat it is no longer "dependent" on its mother for sustenance)

    RN maintains that there was nothing about the fruit itself which carried an appeal of rebellion- it was simply the fact that it was forbidden which engendered the fantasy. (The fact that he used it to help himslef afterwards illustrates that the fruit was simply how he viewed it, it was neither bad not good)

    I am sure this is not crystal clear in writing but Im curious what you think about this approach


  2. we think its excellent...its an interesting question whether it was the allure of forbidden fruit or a more intrinsic desire for the fruit itself

  3. (b) in terms of its identity relative to man, its agricultural definition.

    Are these two separate ideas, or is "the identity relative to man" the "agricultural definition"

    If no, rather they are two separate aspects to (b) then I understand what your saying...meaning the first shita held you only need the agricultural definition ie; regrowing every year, while the second shita held that you need both parts of (b) namely that it regrows every year and that it has a tree trunk which is a property of a tree relative to man.

    Is this the correct understanding?

  4. "the identity relative to man" and the "agricultural definition" are the same thing...see wiki agriculture


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