1) A DONKEY'S RIGHT TO EAT
QUESTION: The Mishnah (91b) teaches that a donkey may eat from the food it is carrying while the food is being unloaded. The Gemara asks, "While the food is being unloaded from its back, from where is it supposed to eat?" The Gemara explains that the donkey may eat from the food as long as it is carrying it.
What exactly does the Gemara mean by its question, "While the food is being unloaded from its back, from where is it supposed to eat?" Why does the Gemara not interpret the Mishnah in the simplest way -- that the animal may eat the produce while it is being removed from its back?
(a) RASHI explains that the load on a donkey is removed all at once and then taken away, and thus there is nothing from which the donkey can eat at the moment that it is unloaded.
(b) The RA'AVAD (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) and the RITVA explain that the Gemara is asking why the donkey is permitted to eat the produce while the produce is being unloaded from its back. At that moment, the donkey has finished transporting it and is no longer doing any work with the produce.
The Ra'avad and Ritva question this explanation based on the Halachah that a hired laborer may eat from the fruit of the field even when he is returning from the press and when he is walking from one job to another (91b). It should be permitted for a donkey to eat the produce that it has finished carrying before another batch is loaded on its back.
1. The Ra'avad answers that the Gemara is asking that the donkey should not be permitted to eat after it has finished working with (i.e. transporting) the produce, because the reason one must let the donkey eat is to prevent the owner of the donkey from incurring a loss. Here, allowing the donkey to eat will cause Bitul Melachah, which will also cause the owner a loss. The Gemara therefore concludes that the donkey may not eat after it has finished working, but while it is still carrying the load it may eat, since there will be no Bitul Melachah.
2. The Ra'avad offers another answer as well. He explains that when the Mishnah permits a hired laborer to eat from the fruit of the field on his way back from the press (even though he has finished working), it does not mean that he may take grapes from the press. He has finished working with those grapes and he may no longer eat them. (For those grapes, it is no longer "b'Disho," "during the threshing" (Devarim 25:4), but rather it is "after the threshing.") Rather, the Mishnah means that the laborer may eat grapes, which have not been harvested yet, which he passes on his way out of the field. Although he has not worked with these grapes yet, since he is going to be working with them and harvesting them he is permitted to eat them. The produce that the donkey has finished transporting, however, is similar to the grapes from the press, since its work with that produce is finished. Therefore, the donkey may not eat the produce that it has finished transporting.
3. The Ran answers that the difference between a hired laborer who has finished working and a donkey that has finished working is that if a hired laborer eats fruit while walking from one job to the next, he will be embarrassed to eat more from the second field and will not eat more while he is working. An animal, though, has no sense of shame, and thus even if it eats from the produce that it has finished transporting, it will eat more from the next batch of produce that it transports.
4. The Ritva answers that a laborer is given a special right to eat while he is returning from the press and while he is walking from one job to the next, whereas an animal is not given this right. If a laborer would be allowed to eat only during the time that he works, he would have to take off time from his work to eat, which would cause Bitul Melachah. Therefore, it is preferable to allow him to eat while he is walking from one job to the next, before he begins his next task. An animal, however, does not take off time to eat while it is working or carrying a load, and there would be no Bitul Melachah. Therefore, an animal is permitted to eat only while it is working and not after it has finished working. (I. Alsheich)
2) WITHHOLDING GOOD ADVICE
QUESTION: The Tana Kama in the Mishnah states that a hired laborer may eat fruit with which he is working even if it is worth a Dinar. Rebbi Elazar Chasma says that a laborer may not eat more than the value of his wages. The Chachamim permit him to eat more than the value of his wages. The Gemara asks that the Chachamim seem to say the same thing as the Tana Kama. The Gemara answers that they differ with regard to whether the laborer should be instructed not to eat more than the value of his wages. The Chachamim maintain that he should be given such advice, while the Tana Kama disagrees.
Why, according to the Tana Kama, should the laborer not be advised against gluttony? After all, it is for his own benefit to give him such advice.
(a) RABEINU YEHONASAN (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) writes that one may not advise the laborer to limit the quantity that he eats because the Torah itself does not limit the quantity that he may eat. The Tana Kama maintains that there are no grounds to take away from him that which the Torah gives to him.
The YAD DAVID concurs with the approach of Rabeinu Yehonasan. He adds an explanation as follows. All of the commandments of Hash-m are upright (see Tehilim 19:9). If people would instruct the laborer not to eat so much, their advice would imply that Hash-m's Torah is lacking and that this Mitzvah is not correct, for the Torah gives the laborer permission to eat more than his wages are worth. The Chachamim who disagree with the Tana Kama are not concerned about this, because they understand that when the Torah gives a laborer the right to eat as much as he wants, it is addressing the person's Yetzer ha'Ra, as the Torah indeed does on occasion (see Kidushin 21b). It is the laborer's choice to take advantage of his right to eat as much as he wants or to conquer his Yetzer ha'Ra and to limit what he eats.
(b) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RITVA YESHANOS writes that the Tana Kama and the Chachamim are not arguing. The Tana Kama agrees that one is permitted to instruct the laborer not to eat so much. The difference between the Tana Kama and the Chachamim is not a difference in Halachah; the difference is only that the Tana Kama does not mention that the laborer should be given advice, while the Chachamim specify explicitly that the laborer should be instructed not to eat so much.
(c) Perhaps the Chachamim maintain that there is an obligation to instruct the laborer not to be gluttonous, while the Tana Kama maintains that it is permissible, but not obligated, to instruct him not to be gluttonous. (This is the way the DEVAR YAKOV understands the view of the ROSH.) (I. Alsheich)
3) THE FRUIT EATEN BY THE SON OF THE LABORER
QUESTION: The Torah allows a hired laborer to eat fruit from the field while he works. The Gemara discusses the question of whether the fruit is considered his own property or whether it is the property of the landowner but the Torah gives him permission to eat it. The Gemara explains that there is a practical difference between these two possibilities. If the fruit is considered the property of the worker, then he should be entitled to let his son eat it as well. If the fruit belongs to the employer and the worker merely has permission to eat it, then that permission should not extend to his son.
The Gemara cites the Mishnah in Ma'aseros (2:7) which discusses the case of a laborer who is hired to harvest and dry out figs. The Mishnah rules that if the laborer stipulates that he will work on condition that both he and his son are permitted to eat from the figs, then the laborer himself is not obligated to separate Ma'aser from the figs that he eats (since the figs have not yet been cut open to dry and thus they have not reached their final stage of processing), but his son must separate Ma'aser from the figs that he wants to eat. The Gemara attempts to infer from this Mishnah that the fruit that a laborer eats does not actually belong to him, because if it did then his son would not have to separate Ma'aser (just as the laborer himself does not have to separate Ma'aser). Ravina answers that perhaps the fruit does belong to him and the fruit is not obligated in Ma'aser, but the Chachamim required the son to separate Ma'aser because it looks like a transaction of a "Mekach." RASHI (DH u'Vno Ochel) explains that the son is like a Loke'ach, a buyer, who purchases fruit from the laborer. Just as a Loke'ach is obligated to separate Ma'aser immediately from the fruit that he buys, so, too, the son must separate Ma'aser.
The Rishonim ask that in this case, the Melachah of the figs has not been completed ("Gemar Melachah"), as Rashi writes (DH Harei Zeh Ochel). There is one opinion (Beitzah 35a) which maintains that purchasing fruit does not make it obligated in Ma'aser unless the "Gemar Melachah" of the fruit already took place. According to this opinion, why should the son be obligated to separate Ma'aser, even if he is like a Loke'ach?
(a) The TOSFOS RABEINU PERETZ answers that the Mishnah refers to a case in which the son eats two figs at a time. When one eats in such a manner, the fruit is considered to have had "Gemar Melachah" (since it is considered as though it is used for a proper meal) and thus the "Gemar Melachah" together with the "Mekach" obligate it in Ma'aser.
(b) The TIFERES YISRAEL (Ma'aseros 2:41) answers that the Mishnah refers to a case in which the fruit has already been brought into the Chatzer. This factor, combined with the similarity to a "Mekach," renders the fruit obligated in Ma'aser. (Although normally the act of bringing fruit into a Chatzer alone causes it to be obligated in Ma'aser, this act is not sufficient in this case because his intention is to do further work with the figs -- to dry them out. The Mishnah in Ma'aseros (3:1) teaches that when one brings fruits into a Chatzer with the intention to dry them out, they do not become obligated in Ma'aser. When the fruit is sold to a Loke'ach, however, it is considered to have reached the stage of "Gemar Melachah" because "Loke'ach -- Einav b'Mekcho.") (I. Alsheich)