1) AGADAH: INEXACT PRAYER
The Gemara says that when a sharecropper ("Chocher") does not plant the type of crop that he told the owner he would plant, and then the crop that he planted is smitten by blight, even if all the surrounding fields are also smitten he may not pay a reduced fee for the land. The Gemara explains that the owner can claim, "I prayed that Hash-m would protect the type of crop that I wanted you to plant there. Had you planted the type of crop for which I prayed, then Hash-m would have listened to my prayers. Now that you planted a different crop, my prayers were meaningless" (RASHI DH v'Sigzar Omer).
The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Parshas Chukas) finds a source for this concept in the Torah. The Torah says that when Amalek came to attack Yisrael in the year before they entered Eretz Yisrael, the Amalekim spoke the language of the Kena'anim in order to thwart the prayers of the Jewish people. The Amalekim hoped that the Jewish people would think that the approaching enemies were Kena'anim and would pray to Hash-m to vanquish the Kena'anim. They would not be saved because their enemies were really Amalekim and not Kena'anim. The Jewish people, however, saw that something was amiss when they saw the Amalekite clothing and heard the language of Kena'an. They decided to pray to Hash-m without specifying a name, and they prayed that Hash-m should defeat "that nation." This implies that prayers are not answered if a person inadvertently prays for the wrong thing.
According to this explanation, however, the sharecropper should be able to reply to the fieldowner that he should not have prayed for a specific crop, but rather he should have prayed for whatever crop was planted in the field. Why does the Gemara rule that the sharecropper may not pay a reduced rate? The answer is that TOSFOS (DH l'Nisa) writes that a much greater miracle is required for a person's prayers to be answered if he does not articulate the specific item for which he is praying. Tosfos might have come to this conclusion based on this very question. The fieldowner can justify the fact that he prayed for a specific type of crop because he did not feel that he was worthy of being answered if he would not specify the crop, because that would have required a much greater miracle.
2) THE FIELDOWNER'S PRAYER
QUESTION: The Gemara says that when a sharecropper ("Chocher") does not plant the type of crop that he told the owner he would plant, and then the crop that he planted is smitten by blight, even if all the surrounding fields are also smitten he may not pay a reduced fee for the land. The Gemara explains that the owner can claim, "I prayed that Hash-m would protect the type of crop that I wanted you to plant there. Had you planted the type of crop for which I prayed, then Hash-m would have listened to my prayers. Now that you planted a different crop, my prayers were meaningless" (RASHI DH v'Sigzar Omer; see previous Insight).
Why does this claim obligate the sharecropper to pay the full amount of the "Chakirus"? The sharecropper should have a counter-claim: that there is no certainty that Hash-m would have answered the fieldowner's prayers even if the proper crop had been planted. Since it is a doubt, the sharecropper should not be forced to pay (since, in any monetary case involving a doubt, the Halachah is "ha'Motzi me'Chaveiro Alav ha'Re'ayah"). (DEVAR YAKOV)
ANSWER: The DEVAR YAKOV quotes the RAMACH (as cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes) who says that the sharecropper is considered to have been "Poshe'a" (negligent) because he deviated from the agreement and planted a different crop. Therefore, he has the "lower hand" and the burden of proof is shifted to him. Instead of the owner being obligated to prove that his prayers would have been answered, the sharecropper must prove that the prayer of the fieldowner would not have been answered. Since it is obviously impossible for him to prove this, he must pay the full rate.
3) A SMALL MIRACLE
QUESTION: Rav Sheshes cites a Beraisa which states that if a shepherd leaves his herd and enters the city, and a wolf or lion attacks the herd, Beis Din evaluates whether he would have been able to protect the herd had he been there. If Beis Din assesses that he would have been able to protect the herd, then he is liable (see Insights to Bava Metzia 93:3). If Beis Din assesses that he would not have been able to defeat the lion, he is exempt. Rav Sheshes asks that in either case the shepherd should be liable because the owner can claim, "Had you been there, a miracle would have happened for me and the verse 'Gam Es ha'Ari, Gam ha'Dov, Hikah Avdecha' would have applied to me!" The Gemara answers that the shepherd can counter-claim that had the owner truly been worthy of a miracle, his herd would have been saved even without the shepherd being there. The Gemara asks that the owner should be able to retort, "Had you been there, it would have required only a small miracle to save them, of which I am worthy; but I am not worthy of a big miracle (that they should be saved with no one there)!" The Gemara leaves this question unanswered.
How can the fieldowner suggest that he is worthy of even a small miracle? The fact that wild animals attacked his flock in the first place shows that he is not worthy of even a small miracle! (TORAS CHAIM)
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM answers that the fieldowner still may claim that he indeed is worthy of a small miracle, and the reason his flock was attacked in the first place is that if a small miracle had prevented the attack of the wild animals, no one would have known about the miracle. Hash-m wanted to do a miracle for him that he would recognize so that he would be able to give thanks and praise to Hash-m. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that even if his flock was attacked by wild animals, a small miracle might have occurred to save the flock.
4) PLANTING DIFFERENTLY THAN AGREED
OPINIONS: The Tana Kama of the Mishnah states that if a sharecropper arranges with a fieldowner that he will plant barley in the field, he is not permitted to plant wheat. If they agree that he will plant wheat, he is permitted to plant barley. Wheat weakens a field much more than barley does, and he therefore may not plant wheat if the fieldowner agrees only to barley.
Does the rule of the Mishnah apply to both forms of sharecropping -- "Kablanus" and "Chakirus" -- or only to one of them?
(a) RASHI (DH Lo Yizranah) states that the Mishnah's rule applies only in a case of "Chakirus." Since the fieldowner will receive the same payment regardless of what the field produces, he certainly does not want his field to be weakened by the wheat that is planted there. In contrast, in a case of "Kablanus" the sharecropper may deviate and plant barley instead of wheat. Since the fieldowner receives a percentage of the field's produce, it is assumed that he would prefer to receive a superior crop (wheat) and let his field be weakened rather than receive an inferior crop (barley) and not have proper food to eat.
Rashi proves this from the Gemara earlier (104b) which discusses an incident in which a sharecropper agreed to plant sesame (a superior crop) and then planted wheat instead, which depletes the land less than sesame does. The field produced wheat worth as much as the sesame would have been worth. Rav Kahana thought that the owner's share of the crops should be reduced, since the field was not depleted as much as it would have been and the owner thus benefited. Rav Ashi ruled that the fieldowner did not have to deduct this amount from the crops that he received. The owner would have preferred that the sharecropper plant sesame, even though it would have depleted the land more than the wheat did. Sesame is a superior crop, and it is assumed that an owner would prefer to have his land weakened rather than lose some of his sustenance.
The Acharonim question Rashi's explanation. The case in which Rav Ashi reasoned that a fieldowner would prefer that his land be weakened in order to receive more or better sustenance was a case in which the fieldowner told the sharecropper to plant a superior type of crop (such as sesame) which weakens the land considerably, and the sharecropper planted a crop (wheat) that does not weaken the field as much. The case here, however, is the opposite: the fieldowner told the sharecropper to plant an inferior crop (barley) in order that his field not be weakened. In such a case, the sharecropper certainly should not be permitted to deviate and plant a crop that weakens the field considerably (even if it is a better crop). (TORAS CHAIM, CHOCHMAS SHLOMO in Gilyonos to Shulchan Aruch CM 324, as cited by the DEVAR YAKOV)
(b) The RAMBAN (as cited by the Hagahos ha'Gra) takes the opposite position: the Mishnah refers only to a case of "Kablanus" and not to a case of "Chakirus." In a case of "Kablanus," the fieldowner wants only the crop that he told the sharecropper to plant, since the owner receives a portion of the produce that grows in the field, and he does not want the sharecropper to plant a different type of crop. In a case of "Chakirus," the owner does not care what the sharecropper plants, since he receives the same payment regardless of what crops are grown.
The Acharonim question the Ramban's explanation as well. In a case of "Chakirus," the fieldowner is entitled to insist that he receive his set payment from produce of the field itself, as the Gemara earlier (105a) says. He therefore should be able to prevent the sharecropper from planting a different type of crop, even in a case of "Chakirus." (TOSFOS YOM TOV, TAZ CM 324)
The TAZ answers that according to the Gemara's conclusion there, the owner cannot claim that he wants only produce from his own land (see also Insights to Bava Metzia 105:1).
The DEVAR YAKOV cites the CHOCHMAS SHLOMO and RASHASH, who answer based on the words of the NIMUKEI YOSEF. They explain that the owner's right to insist that he receive his payment from the crops of his field applies only when those crops actually grow in his field. When there is no crop growing in his field, the owner cannot insist that the sharecropper cultivate that crop in his field to give to him; rather, he must accept produce bought in the market. Thus, in a case of "Chakirus," the fieldowner cannot insist that the sharecropper plant barley so that he can be paid with barley from his field, since there presently is no barley growing in his field.