1) A BLESSING FOR A MITZVAH "OVER LA'ASIYASAH"
QUESTION: The Gemara says that one recites a blessing for a Mitzvah "Over la'Asiyasah" -- before he performs the Mitzvah. Why does the Gemara use this unusual phrase and not say simply "Lifnei Asiyasah"? (See also Insights to Pesachim 7:2.)
(a) The NIMUKEI YOSEF (Hilchos Tefilin, DH Over) explains that "Over la'Asiyasah" means "ahead of" the Mitzvah that will be performed, and not "before" the Mitzvah will be performed. This means that one must first begin to become involved in the performance of the Mitzvah (such as by lifting the Shofar or Lulav, or by beginning to wrap the Tefilin around one's arm), and then one "runs ahead" of the Mitzvah and recites the blessing immediately before the actual fulfillment of the Mitzvah.
This definition of "Over" is evident from the verse that the Gemara cites as proof for the meaning of "Over": "And Achima'atz ran... and overtook (va'Ya'avor) the Kushi." The verse says that the Kushi was ahead of Achima'atz, but Achima'atz overtook him and went before him. The second and third verses cited by the Gemara use the word "Over" in a similar manner. Yakov first lined up his family before him, and then he passed before them. Similarly, after the nation lines up, the king passes before them to lead them (and he does not wait in front for the formation to form behind him). (See also Insights to Nidah 63:2.)
(b) The SHA'AGAS ARYEH (#26) explains that the word "Over" can mean either before or after (in the past tense, "Avar"). The Gemara uses the unusual phraseology of "Over la'Asiyasah" in order to teach that, b'Di'eved, one may recite the blessing on a Mitzvah even after the Mitzvah has been performed, as the HAGAHOS ASHIRI (Berachos 1:13) rules (in contrast to the ruling of the RAMBAM in Hilchos Berachos 11:5).
(c) One of the Gemara's sources that the word "Over" means "before" is the verse, "Their king passed (Over) before them, and Hash-m was at their head." Perhaps the Gemara's use of the word "Over" to describe the way a blessing must be recited alludes to another principle in the laws of blessings: every blessing must begin with a mention of the name of Hash-m and His kingship, as the Gemara teaches in Berachos (49a). This is expressed by the word "Over," which is used together with a mention of the name of Hash-m in the verse, "and Hash-m was at their head." (M. KORNFELD)
2) BUYING AND SELLING PRODUCE OF SHEVI'IS
QUESTION: The Mishnah says that one may not buy an Esrog from an Am ha'Aretz during the Shemitah year. The Gemara explains that this is because one may not give money that is sanctified with Kedushas Shevi'is to an Am ha'Aretz. One is permitted, however, to pay up to three meals' worth of money to the Am ha'Aretz for the Esrog.
The Torah teaches that one may not conduct business with produce of Shevi'is, as it says, "l'Ochlah" (Vayikra 25:6), from which the Gemara derives, "l'Ochlah v'Lo l'Sechorah" (Avodah Zarah 62a) -- the produce of Shevi'is must be eaten and may not be traded. Why, then, is one permitted to give to an Am ha'Aretz the value of up to three meals for an Esrog of Shevi'is? For that matter, why is one permitted to purchase from a Chaver (scholar) any amount of fruit? The Torah forbids one from conducting business with produce of Shevi'is.
(a) RASHI addresses this question when he explains that the Torah does not actually forbid "Sechorah" (commerce) with produce of Shevi'is. Rather, there is a Mitzvah to eat or consume the produce of Shevi'is, and to use up any money exchanged for such produce, before the time of Bi'ur arrives for each item. The way to use up money that has Kedushas Shevi'is is by exchanging it for edible fruit and treating that fruit with Kedushas Shevi'is. As long as the money with Kedushas Shevi'is is properly dealt with before the time of Bi'ur, there is no problem of Sechorah; that is, one may buy produce of Shevi'is as long as the money will be properly dealt with before the time of Bi'ur arrives.
A Chaver may be entrusted with such money because it is assumed that he will deal with it appropriately. An Am ha'Aretz is trusted only with up to three meals' worth of money of Kedushas Shevi'is, but not with more. When the amount of money is so small, it is assumed that he will certainly consume it before the time of Bi'ur arrives. (See end of Insights to Sukah 40:1 for a discussion of why the Am ha'Aretz is not suspected of misusing money with Kedushas Shevi'is.)
(b) The RITVA, in his comments on Rashi's words, explains the prohibition of Sechorah in a slightly different way. The Torah prohibits one from buying anything which is not consumed while it is used ("Hana'aso u'Vi'uro Shaveh"; for example, any food item is "Hana'aso u'Vi'uro Shaveh" because it is destroyed as it is eaten). For this reason, one may not use the proceeds of Shevi'is fruits to purchase a garment or a non-Kosher animal. (Although Rashi here appears to take a different approach as noted above (a), Rashi in Bechoros (12b, DH Vadai) explains the prohibition of Sechorah like the Ritva.)
The Ritva explains that since the Torah does not forbid all buying and selling of Shevi'is produce, but only the purchase of the wrong types of items, a Chaver is entrusted with the money of Shevi'is because he will not invest in the wrong types of items, while an Am ha'Aretz is not trusted. Why, then, is one permitted to give three meals' worth of money of Shevi'is to an Am ha'Aretz, if there is a fear that he will use the money to buy a garment or a non-Kosher animal? The answer is that since he receives only three meals' worth of money, he probably needs the money for food, and we may assume that he will use the money only for that purpose.
This approach differs from the first approach cited above in a number of ways. According to the first approach, the three-meal-limit is easily understood: the smaller the amount of money, the faster it will be spent. Also, according to the first approach the prohibition of Sechorah does not apply to the type of produce which has Kedushas Shevi'is but has no set time of Bi'ur (as described in Shevi'is 7:2). According to the Ritva's approach, the prohibition of Sechorah applies even to such items.
(c) TOSFOS (DH she'Ein, and cited by the RASH in Shevi'is 7:3) argues and says that there is an independent prohibition of Sechorah that forbids buying and selling produce of Shevi'is. The Torah expressly forbids trading with fruits of Shevi'is. It is an independent prohibition that is not due to the concern that one might not use up the money in time, or that one might purchase the wrong type of item with the money. For this reason, the prohibition applies even to buying and selling items of Shevi'is which have no set time of Bi'ur.
Why, then, is one permitted to pay three meals' worth of money to an Am ha'Aretz when he buys fruits of Shevi'is? Tosfos explains that the prohibition of Sechorah forbids picking the fruit for the purpose of selling it for profit. If one picks it for his own use, or if someone else sells what he picked, he does not transgress the prohibition against trading with fruits of Shevi'is.
Accordingly, the Gemara here discusses fruit that was not picked in order to be sold for profit. Therefore, the prohibition of Sechorah does not apply. The only prohibition that applies is that of giving money that is sanctified with Kedushas Shevi'is to an Am ha'Aretz, which is prohibited out of concern that the Am ha'Aretz he will not observe the laws of Shemitah (which prohibit wasting the fruit, feeding it to his animal, paying back his debts with it, etc.). One may give, however, up to three meals' worth of money to the Am ha'Aretz, because it is assumed that he will buy only food with it, as the Ritva explains.
(d) TOSFOS here and in Avodah Zarah (62a, DH Nimtza) adds that perhaps there is a second prohibition of Sechorah with produce of Shevi'is. Perhaps the Torah also prohibits one from buying produce of Shevi'is with intent to sell it in a distant market for a profit, like a trader who buys at a low price and sells at a higher one. Since the case of the Gemara here does not involve professional trading, the prohibition of Sechorah does not apply. The only concern is that the Am ha'Aretz will misuse the Shevi'is money, as mentioned above.