God vs The Multiverse

Click here for God vs The Multiverse: a rational argument for the Existence of One God who intelligently designed one universe.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Forbidden Fruit (Part 1: Facts)

The Rambam in the Laws of Forbidden Foods (10:9-11) says:
הערלה כיצד כל הנוטע אילן מאכל כל פירות שעושה אותו אילן שלש שנים משנטע הרי הן אסורין באכילה ובהנאה...במה דברים אמורים בנוטע בארץ ישראל שנאמר כי תבאו אל הארץ וגו'. אבל איסור ערלה בחוצה לארץ הלכה למשה מסיני שודאי הערלה בחוצה לארץ אסורה וספיקה מותר
Fruits that grow from a tree in its first three years after being planted (ערלה) are forbidden to be eaten or enjoyed.  This is only prohibited by the written Torah in the land of Israel.

The prohibition of ערלה outside Israel is based on a הלכה למשה מסיני, a specific law that was axiomatically given to Moshe at Sinai.  This law posits that only fruit which is definitely ערלה is prohibited, while if you are in doubt over whether the fruit is ערלה or not, it is permissible.

In general, we treat a doubt in a הלכה למשה מסיני like any other uncertain Biblical prohibition, and have ruled stringently that it is prohibited.  Here however, the הלכה למשה מסיני itself tells us to be lenient in a case of doubt, and to permit the fruit.

The Rambam continues to explain the situation of uncertain ערלה:
ספק ערלה בארץ ישראל אסור. בסוריא והיא ארצות שכבש דוד מותר. כיצד היה כרם ערלה וענבים נמכרות חוצה לו. שמא ממנו הוא זה שמא מאחר. בסוריא מותר ובחוצה לארץ אפילו ראה הענבים יוצאות מכרם ערלה לוקח מהן. והוא שלא יראה אותו בוצר מן הערלה בידו
If you see them selling grapes outside a vineyard that you know is definitely ערלה, and you are unsure as to whether the grapes are from that vineyard or from somewhere else:

1) In Israel the fruits are prohibited; 
2) In Suria (lands very close to Israel) they are permissible; 
3) In all other lands they are permissible to the extent that even if you see them carrying out a basket of grapes from the vineyard itself, as long as you don't see them actually cutting the grapes off the vine!  This last case is prohibited even in Suria, and is only permissible in all other lands.

How can we define and understand the difference between Suria and all other lands?

The gemara in Kiddushin 39a goes further in explaining just how lenient uncertain ערלה is:
אמר ליה לוי לשמואל אריוך ספק לי ואנא איכול רב אויא ורבה בר רב חנן מספקו ספוקי להדדי
In Bavel, Levi would ask Shmuel to make him some uncertain ערלה, and they would do this for each other.  This would entail each one cutting the fruit (which they knew to be definitely ערלה) without the other one seeing, and then giving it to them!  This is a very unusual leniency.  How is this permissible?

How can we define the הלכה למשה מסיני in a way that makes clear sense of these extreme cases?


  1. If safek is permitted than it would seem that the issur is not achila per se rather an achila where u relate to the object in its proper identity which doesn't happen when it's safek

  2. If that is the case then one has to know that he is eating a fruit of orla. There are two ways to determine the identity of the fruit a)actual irrefutable evidence b)circumstantial evidence. In chutza laaretz you need the first category of evidence for one to be able to properly identify the object as orla. That's' why you can eat the fruit that is inside the kerem and that which is being sold-it's merely circumstantial evidence, which is not enough in chutza laaretz. That's why the amoriim exchanged, because each one did not know for sure that they were in fact getting orla, it was only circumstantial in the sense that he CAN believe that he is getting orla because he asked him to get it for him, however he does not know for sure that it is in fact orla.

    As for suria it is a middle ground: So it partakes of the fact that you merely need circumstantial evidence for there to be an issur orla, but a certain type of circumstantial evidence. For example if someone is found dead with a knife and blood on it with finger marks that is essential circumstantial evidence that the person who is identified through the finger marks killed the person. In a scenario of murder, bloody knifes are essential c. evidence to that case. However if we see the same guy through a video camera walking into the room of the body, that is accidental c. evidence to the murder case. Meaning a video camera does not partake in an essential way to a murder scene.

    Here too: when they are being sold outside the kerem they are mutar because that scenario is not essential to the orla. It is not necessarily the nature of orla to be sold outside of it's vineyard, therefore that is mutar. However when the orla is found in the vineyard detached that is essental circumstantial evidence to the fact that it is part of the orla vineyard as all orla at one point is detached and standing in its vineyard.

    1. We hear the distinction you are trying to make between accidental and essential circumstantial evidence. But what is the underlying conceptual difference between Suria and all other lands, such that that distinction should make a difference?

  3. Before I think about the conceptual difference, am I on the right track regarding the first step-the idea of safek orla mutar is that it's an achila in which you properly relate to the identity of the cheftza?

    1. It has to be developed further, but it's a good approach...

    2. To further develop the idea, I thought the following. In achila there are two aspects a)the mechanical eating of the food b)the yedia of the gavra in regards to what he is doing, namely eating this and this type of food.

      In eretx yisroel the issur orla is merely an idea of mechanically eating food. Therefore ANY situation of where you find the orla it is assur. The person might not know for sure what he is doing ie; eating a fruit of orla, but he is doing a mechanical maaseh of achila. The torah will use circumstantial evidence to make it that he is doing a mechanical action of achilas orla.(Without his for sure knowledge of it due to the circumstantial evidence cases)

      In shaar artzos(not suria) the issur is caused by achila with knowledge of the nature of the action ie; you are eating a fruit of orla. Therefore you are only doing an issur when you know for sure the fruit came from orla ie; attached to the vineyard.

      For suria the yedia does something else. The knowledge of the action allows the person to view himself as an eater of orla(though of course the person does not know this for sure). In other words, the gorem of orla is not an achila where the person knows what he is doing, rather knowledge of the mechanical eating of fruit which is either orla because of hard evidence(in the vineyard) and/or essential circumstantial evidence(that which is standing in the vineyard) allows the person to percieve himself as an eater of orla(as both those cases there is ample room to allow a person to believe in the reality due to the evidence involved) In suria the we need a certain type of gavra that comes about through the action of eating to cause the issur orla.

    3. any feedback regarding my comment? thanks.

    4. Why is accidental circumstantial evidence enough to assur in eretz yisrael, but not in suria?

    5. Just to clarify your question: are you asking either a)Why the structure of the issur of orla in suria is such ie; as I was saying that the person has to view himself as a certain type of gavra(which will realistically only come about through ess. circ. evidence, or actual hard evidence) or b)my formulation for suria doesn't make sense?

      I'm saying the reason why acc. circ. evidence won't apply for suria is because the issur comes about through the person viewing himself as a eater of orla ie; only through essential circumstantial evidence or hard evidence. If your asking (a) then yea, there has to be an explanation for why that is the formulation for suria, as it is definitely an odd one.

      does my formulation of what achila(2 parts action and yedia)make sense?

    6. We are not asking (a)- it's a why question and we think it's important to clearly define the what before attempting to approach the why.

      Our question is why the person will only view himself as an eater of orlah through ess. circ. evidence or hard evidence? Why wont acc. circ. evidence do the same thing? It is circumstantial evidence, as is evidenced by it causing the issur in eretz yisrael.

      On a similar line of questioning, why isnt circumstantial evidence enough in shar aratzos for it to be "achila with knowledge of the nature of the action " ? Doesnt circ. evidence give knowledge?

    7. On a similar line of questioning, why isn't circumstantial evidence enough in shar aratzos for it to be "achila with knowledge of the nature of the action " ? Doesn't circ. evidence give knowledge?

      I haven't thought about the first question yet, but in regard to this one I would say that circumstantial evidence isn't 100% proof that it is orla, thus there is no knowledge of the reality of the achila, it is mere speculation. As opposed to hard evidence ie; actually seeing it as orla, where you do know of the reality of the matter.

      Am in line with your approach at all?

    8. If so, why is circ. evidence enough to assur in suria? Why does it define the gavra as an eater of orlah if "there is no knowledge of the reality of the achila, it is mere speculation"? Similarly, why is it even enough for eretz yisrael?

      You are similar to our approach in your initial chiluk, but not really in defining the distinctions between eretz yisrael, suria and shar aratzos. Stay tuned...

    9. You-If so, why is circ. evidence enough to assur in suria?

      Its essential circumstantial evidence. Meaning the person knows 99%, but not 100. Thus he can view himself as a gavra doing a particular action. I can do math equations, and be almost 100 percent that I am doing them correctly, and view myself as a gavra doing math equations correctly, BUT I don't know for sure if I am actually doing a math equation correctly.

      you-Why does it define the gavra as an eater of orlah if "there is no knowledge of the reality of the achila, it is mere speculation"?

      This issue is how much evidence do you need to view yourself as a gavra doing a particular action. I think, and I think its reasonable, that when you have a shadow of a doubt and hard evidence a person views himself as a gavra doing a particular action. If it's not beyond a shadow, but so so, then a person would not view himself as doing that action.

      you-Similarly, why is it even enough for eretz yisrael?

      The kedushas haaretz is koveh the shem orla, therefore mechanical achila is enough, without any form of yedia, and thus all halachiklly reasonable situations of orla will be assur. Attached-hard evidence, detached but standing-essential circumstantial sold outside-accidental circumstantial evidence.

    10. We hear what you're saying to a certain extent. However, it's not very clear and it seems a bit forced to us. We went a different way that we thought was a simpler approach.

  4. The rambam in trumos 1:3 discusses why suria went down from status of eretz yiroel מפני מה ירדו ממעלת ארץ ישראל--מפני שכבש אותם קודם שיכבוש כל ארץ ישראל, אלא נשאר בה משבעה עממים; ואילו תפס כל ארץ כנען לגבולותיה תחילה, ואחר כך כבש ארצות אחרות--היה כיבושו כולו כארץ ישראל לכל דבר. והארצות שכבש דויד, הן הנקראין סוריה

    In a certain sense suria is basically eretz yisoel, except that the kibush was done incorrectly. It will therefore partake of the natural mechayev of orla in eretz yisroel ie essential circumstantial evidence (case of it being found in the vineyard) as opposed to what would be almost like an artificial mechayev of orla ie; accidental circumstantial evidence (as acc. c. evidence is not very telling of the scenario at hand).

    1. It seems like you're maintaining that Suria and Eretz Yisroel have the identical halacha in terms of orlah which is not the case.

    2. I'm saying that they are almost alike, only they're not exactly because of the technical kibush issue. Thus suria partakes of the halachos of eretz yisroel only partially-the natural mechayev of orla(in the vineyard) and not the 'artificial' mechayev(being sold outside the vineyard)


In the words of Agur bin-Yakeh: "We welcome all comments, questions, contributions, and critiques - but if you insist on posting anonymously, PLEASE use a pseudonym rather than posting as "Anonymous," since this makes it much easier to carry on a normal discussion. Thank you!"