Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rav Kahana and the Poor Man's Dates

The Gemora (Gittin 61) relates an incident: Rav Kahana was going to Hutzal and he saw a certain person who was throwing sticks at a palm tree so that the dates would fall to the ground. Rav Kahana picked up the dates and ate them. The person said to Rav Kahana, “You saw that I had picked some of the dates with my hand (and therefore it is actual theft for you to take them).”

Rav Kahana said to him: You must be from Rabbi Yoshiyah’s city (who often gave public discourses in the city; that is why you know these halachos). Rav Kahana applied the following verse to Rabbi Yoshiyah: And a righteous man is the foundation of the world.

Tosfos asks: Even if Rav Kahana did not know that the person picked the dates with his hand, he still should not have eaten them!? Why was he not concerned with our Mishna’s ruling that we do not take from the poor in the interest of peace?

Tosfos answers that the man was taking the branches off the tree and the dates were falling off themselves. Rav Kahana thought that the man had no interest in the dates.

The Ramban answers that Rav Kahana thought that he was an idolater and the Mishna did not rule that the produce of an idolater is protected because of harmony.

The Rashba answers that Rav Kahana himself was a poor person (or he was regarded as one since he was traveling). [This answers why he would have been permitted to take the dates that was seemingly reserved for the poor.]

The Meiri writes that the decree of promoting harmony was instituted primarily for a poor person who would be taking for himself and eating in his house; however, the enactment for the interest of peace would not affect a passerby, such as Rav Kahana, who would be eating on the road.

The Vilna Gaon says that this decree was instituted only with respect to olives, but not for dates.