Introduction

This mishnah continues to deal with lending instruments to a person who may commit a transgression with that instrument.

 

Mishnah Nine

1) A woman may lend to her neighbor who is suspect of transgressing the laws of the sabbatical year, a sifter, a sieve, a hand-mill, or an oven.

2) But she may not sift or grind with her.

3) The wife of a haver may lend to the wife of an am haaretz a sifter and a sieve and may even sift, grind, or sift flour with her.

4) But once she poured water [over the flour], she may not touch [it] with her, for one may not aid those who commit a transgression.

5) And all these things were only allowed in the interests of peace.

6) They may offer encouragement to Gentiles during the sabbatical year, but not to Jews.

7) In the interests of peace, one may also offer greetings to Gentiles.

 

Explanation

Section one: The first section continues to deal with lending instruments to a person who may not observe the sabbatical year. Again, since these instruments might be used for a permitted purpose, they may be loaned out, even though they may also be used for a prohibited purpose. The specific suspicion here is that the woman has stored her produce after the time when that produce no longer exists in the field. At this time, one is supposed to clear the produce out of the house—so for instance if dates are still on the palm, one may store them in the house, but once they are no longer found outside, one must clear them out of her home.

The sifter, sieve, hand-mill and oven might all be used to process such produce (especially grain), but they may also be used to process food that one is allowed to keep in the house—either non-sabbatical year produce or produce that still exists in the field. Therefore, she may lend them to her.

Section two: Although she may lend these instruments to her, she may not go so far as to actually grind or sift with her. We learn here an important principle—one may extend the benefit of the doubt to others, but one also should keep some distance if there is concern that such a person is transgressing. This is what will be stated in section four—one may not aid those who commit a transgression.

Section three: The mishnah now moves to a case similar to the previous one. Here we are talking about a woman married to a “haver,” a term we used throughout tractate Demai. A haver is one who scrupulously observes the laws of tithing and purity. The opposite is an am haaretz, a person who is suspected of not observing these laws. However, most amei haaretz do indeed tithe there food. Therefore, the wife of a haver cannot only lend her these instruments, she can use them with her. The fear that she has not tithed her produce does not create a prohibition.

Section four: There is one problem that remains. The am haaretz does not observe purity laws. Produce is susceptible to impurity only once it has become wet. At this point, when the am haaretz’s wife touches the produce, specifically the dough which now has water in it, she will make it impure. The problem with causing the dough to become impure is that it has “hallah” in it—hallah is the portion of the dough that must be removed and given to the priests. If it is impure the priest will not be able to use it and it will have to be burned. The wife of the “haver” cannot aid in destroying this hallah, and therefore, once water has been placed in the dough, she may no longer touch it.

Section five: The leniencies above, the permission to lend various instruments to people who are likely to perform a transgression with them, were intended to preserve the “ways of peace (darkei shalom)” between those who were scrupulous in their observance of these laws (the haver and his wife) and those who were not (the am haaretz and his wife).

It is interesting to note that there is a limit to leniencies given because of “darkei shalom.” One may lend instruments to those who might not use them appropriately, but not if it is certain that they will use them inappropriately. For instance, I could lend my car to someone who might use it during the week and might use it on Shabbat, but it would seem that I could not lend the car to someone who will certainly use it on Shabbat. Darkei Shalom implies that one must give others the benefit of the doubt, but when there is no doubt, then “one may not aid those who commit a transgression.”

Section six: The mishnah concludes with a few more examples of things done because of “darkei shalom.” This section is a repeat of mishnah 4:3 above, and I am merely repeating my commentary here:

One who passes by a Gentile plowing or planting his field (in the land of Israel) on the sabbatical year may wish him luck. Even though the land is supposed to rest, Gentiles are not obligated to observe this law and in order to preserve peace between Jews and non-Jews, one may encourage him in his plowing. However, one may not offer encouragement to a Jew because that would be aiding him in committing a transgression.

Section seven: It is always permitted to formally greet Gentiles in order to preserve the ways of peace between Jews and non-Jews.