Rosh Hashanah, Daf 15,
More on the Etrog – fruit or vegetable
by Susan Suna
On Daf 39 in Masechet Sukkah, I wrote about the enigmatic Etrog. The stature of the Etrog was discussed along with its Halachic status. We encountered the question – is an Etrog a fruit or a vegetable? Today we hear from more Taanaim and Amoraim regarding the dispute between Rabban Gamliel and Rebbi Eliezer. Rabban Gamliel says that an Etrog is like a fruit in three aspects, Orla, fourth year fruit and Shmita. Therefore those Halachic times are set when the fruit blossoms. While the Etrog is like a vegetable for Maaser. Therefore whether it is Maaser Ani or Sheni is determined by when it is picked. Rebbi Eliezer claims that an Etrog is a fruit for all Halachic matters which are determined by when the fruit blossoms.
Today’s daf introduces the opinions of three Tannaim who weigh in on the dispute. Avtolemos testified in the name of five Elders to the position held by Rabban Gamliel. Unlike the previous opinions, the Rabbis in Usha voted that the Etrog, like a vegetable, is obligated for both Shmita and Maaser based on the time when it was picked. Rabbi Shimon ben Yehuda said in the name of Rabbi Shimon that the Etrog would only be obligated for Maaser or Shmitta if it both grew and was picked in the same year. But if it grew for example in year seven and was picked in year eight, it would not be obligated for neither Maaser nor for Shmita.
The Gemara now brings in a case of an Etrog that blossomed in the sixth year but was picked in the seventh year. The Rabbis of Usha would obligate the fruit in the rules of Shmita. According to Rabban Gamliel, Rebbi Eliezer and Avtolemos the fruit would not be obligated in the laws of Shmita. But would it be obligated in Maaser? Here we now enter an Amoraic dispute between Rav Hamnuna and Rava. Rav Hamnuna says the Etrog would be obligated in Maaser, yet Rava says it would not be obligated.
According to Rebbi Eliezer, the Etrog is completely a sixth year fruit with all Halachic requirements. According to Rabban Gamliel and Avtolemos, the Etrog is not obligated in Shmita as it blossomed in the sixth year. It would seem that it is not obligated in Maaser as it was picked in the seventh year. But Rav Hamnuna says that as it is not considered Shmita produce, it is obligated in Maaser. Having been picked in the seventh year, the Etrog is not obligated in sixth year Maaser Ani, however it is obligated in what would be seventh year Maaser and Maaser Sheni.
Rava disagrees and says that the Etrog is not obligated in Maaser since it is in the field with other fruit that is seventh year produce. People are touching it and taking from it therefore it is in essence Hefker. Rav Hamnuna thinks that this is a case of stealing and not Hefker.
The Gemara now brings a case of an Etrog that grew in the seventh year and was picked in the eighth year. According to Rabban Gamliel, Rebbi Eliezer and Avtolemos, the Etrog is Shmita produce and exempt from Maaser. According to the Rabbis of Usha, the critical Halachic moment is when the Etrog is picked so it would be obligated in Maaser and exempt from Shmita laws. Rebbi Shimon Ben Yehudah in the name of Rebbi Shimon states that as the blossoming and picking didn’t happen in the same year, the Etrog is exempt from both Maaser and Shmita obligations.
Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish ruled like Avtolemos in accordance with Rav Hamnuna’s position. While most Rishonim follow this opinion, the Rambam states that the Etrog is like a vegetable as it requires a lot of watering as vegetables do and he ruled according to the Rabbis of Usha. I focused on the detailed discussion of the Etrog in today’s daf in order to view the different opinions regarding this complex creation.
Teachers: Yehudit Epstein & Dena Rock