Shabbat Parashat Matot-Masei| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Kilayim - Part I - The Reason Behind the Prohibition of Kilayim - (Mixing of Vegetation - From Eretz Hemdah, vol. II, 1:3
[Upon beginning the fourth year of Hemdat Yamim, we decided to take on a topic, which we had thought might be somewhat technical for our reading public. We hope to prove ourselves wrong. In any case, as a pioneering rabbi of an agricultural moshav, Rav Yisraeli spent much time researching and teaching the laws of kilayim. Volume II of his classic work, Eretz Hemdah, is dedicated entirely to the topic. We start this week with the reasoning of the Torah related to these laws. We will continue with other elements of the topic, which even those of us who are not farmers can relate to.]
According to Rashi (Vayikra 19:19), all elements of mixing of species are a “decree of the King, without a [known?] reason.” The Ramban (ad loc.) argues, pointing out that this is not one of the areas of halacha that Chazal identified as being questioned by the nations of the world. Rather, the Ramban posits that the logic is that “he who combines two species, changes and weakens the creation, as he thinks that Hashem did not complete His world fully and wants that we should help in creating the world.” According to this logic, the Torah objects primarily to creating hybrids, such as by grafting. Regarding planting different species side-by- side, the issue is “because they are changed in their taste and also their form by being nourished one from the other.” The Sefer Hachinuch (244) explains quite similarly to the Ramban.
If the Torah is concerned with the crossed nourishment, then how did the Rabbis permit the sowing of different species in proximity to each other when they do not appear to be intermingled? The standard explanation that the Torah forbade the appearance of mix does not seem to make a difference if the actuality of contact exists. We must conclude that the Torah was not concerned with the interaction of two species as long as it is a natural development. It is the active involvement of man in the process with the intention of creating the interaction so that one could influence the other that is root of the problem. The intention is particularly important according to the formulation of the Ramban, who says that we don’t want a man thinking that Hashem needs his help in creating the world. When there is no appearance of mixing, it is as if there is no human action in that direction.
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (3:37) claims that the prohibition on mixing species is related to the attempt to distance us from idol worship. There was a time that grafting was connected to a promiscuous activity that was part of idolatrous worship. The main prohibition is, thus, on grafting, with other forms of kilayim being an extension. According to this approach, it is easier to understand the ruling that grafting is forbidden throughout the world, whereas intermingled sowing is forbidden only in Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, the stress on not planting wheat and barley in a vineyard is to be understood based on the fact that this was a classic practice of the idol worshippers.
Of course, whether the reason is this or that, and whether one reason or the other seems to be more or less pertinent in our times and places, the Torah’s prohibitions are eternal and immutable.
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