1) OBTAINING MORE THAN IS NECESSARY FROM PERFORMING A PERMITTED "MELACHAH" ON SHABBOS
QUESTION: In the Mishnah (63b), Rebbi Yishmael says that when the sixteenth of Nisan falls on Shabbos, the Isaron-measure of the barley flour of the Omer offering is sifted from three Se'ah of barley. When the sixteenth of Nisan falls on a weekday, the Isaron is sifted from five Se'ah. According to the Chachamim, it is always sifted from three Se'ah.
In the Gemara (63b), Rava explains that Rebbi Yishmael maintains that a choice Isaron is easily sifted from five Se'ah, but to get a choice Isaron from three Se'ah one must sift many times. On a weekday, it is better to sift it from five Se'ah (so that the entire Isaron will be comprised of very fine flour (RASHI; see RASHASH for another reason)). On Shabbos it is sifted from three Se'ah, because it is preferable to do more of one Melachah (sifting) than to do more of many Melachos (to reap, winnow, select, grind, and sift an extra two Se'ah). Although the preparation of the Omer offering overrides Shabbos, Rebbi Yishmael maintains that one still must limit the amount of Melachah he does for the Omer.
Later in the Gemara (end of 64a), Rava asks a related question. A person was dangerously ill on Shabbos, and the doctors assessed that he needed to eat two figs to save his life. There were two options for obtaining the figs on Shabbos. The first option was to cut two branches, each with one fig, from the tree. The second option was to cut one branch, with three figs, from the tree. Is it preferable to cut the two branches with two figs, since in this way one does not desecrate Shabbos to bring more fruit than is necessary, or is it preferable to perform only one act of Melachah (Ketzirah) and cut the single branch with three figs, even though one will obtain more fruit than is necessary?
The Gemara answers that it is obvious that cutting the single branch is preferable. This is apparent from Rebbi Yishmael's opinion in the Mishnah. Since Rebbi Yishmael says that one should use only three Se'ah of barley on Shabbos, it is clear that he maintains that one should do as few acts of Melachah as possible.
The Gemara here seems to contradict the opinion of the CHIDUSHEI HA'RASHBA (Chulin 15b) and many other authorities (cited by the MISHNAH BERURAH OC 318:13) who maintain that if one must cook food on Shabbos for a dangerously ill person, and one puts more food in the pot (before placing the pot on the fire) than is necessary (and therefore performs superfluous cooking on Shabbos), he transgresses only an Isur d'Rabanan. According to this opinion, Rava should have no question. If one cuts a single branch he transgresses only an Isur d'Rabanan (of "Ribuy b'Shi'urin," obtaining more than is necessary from a permitted act of Melachah on Shabbos), so certainly that is more preferable than cutting two branches, which constitutes two acts of Melachah d'Oraisa, to obtain the two fruits.
ANSWER: The KOVETZ SHI'URIM in Beitzah (#48) answers by explaining the reasoning behind the Rashba's opinion. When one puts an extra amount of food in the pot before he places it on the fire, his act cannot be considered a transgression of a Torah prohibition because it is not possible to forbid any particular piece of food from being cooked. Every individual piece is fit for the sick person to eat, even though the total amount includes a superfluous quantity. Accordingly, it is possible that if one would cook two pieces, one fit for consumption by the patient and one that is not, he would transgress a Torah prohibition by cooking the second piece. In contrast, when there are two separate branches which each contain one fig, and each fig is fit for the patient, one who cuts the two branches simultaneously does not transgress a Torah prohibition. Neither act of cutting can be forbidden by the Torah, since both are capable of saving the sick person's life.
Since the prohibition of "Ribuy b'Shi'urin" is only mid'Rabanan, cutting the two branches together simultaneously is also only mid'Rabanan. Therefore, Rava's question was valid. The Gemara answered that even though the prohibition that would be transgressed by cutting two branches is only mid'Rabanan, it is worse to perform two Melachos than to perform one Melachah with an extra amount (three figs).
(The Mishnah Berurah (OC 318:13) rules that the Halachah does not follow the view of the Rashba. It is forbidden mid'Oraisa to do a superfluous amount of Melachah for a patient, even if only one act is involved. See also SEFAS EMES, end 64a.) (D. BLOOM)
2) THE REQUIREMENT TO USE FULLY-RIPE PRODUCE FOR THE "OMER"
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that the Mitzvah is to bring the Korban ha'Omer from barley that grew near Yerushalayim. If the produce near Yerushalayim has not become fully ripe by the time that the Omer needs to be offered, then the barley may be brought from other places.
Does the requirement to use fully-ripe grain apply only to the Omer, or does it apply to all Menachos?
ANSWER: The BRISKER RAV (in CHIDUSHEI HA'GRIZ here) cites the Mishnah in Chalah (1:3) that records a dispute among Tana'im about whether produce that has not grown one-third of its normal size is subject to the obligation of separating Chalah from it. The Tana Kama maintains that one must separate Chalah from it, while Rebbi Eliezer maintains that it is exempt from Chalah.
The BARTENURA explains that Rebbi Eliezer's source for his ruling is Terumah. Just as there is no obligation to separate Terumah before the produce has reached a third of its full growth, there is no obligation to separate Chalah. The Brisker Rav points out that all of the Tana'im there appear to agree that the produce is considered "bread" even before it reaches one-third of its full growth. The dispute involves whether Chalah is compared to Terumah in this aspect of the law.
The Brisker Rav derives from there that since the bread made from such flour is considered bread even before the flour reached one-third of its full growth, the requirement that the grain be fully-ripe must be unique to the Korban ha'Omer.
The Brisker Rav analyzes the opinion of the Rishonim in this matter and shows that there are two different approaches for why the grain used for the Korban ha'Omer must be fully-ripe.
1. RASHI (DH Lo Biker) understands that when the Mishnah says that barley from other places may be used when the barley near Yerushalayim was not "Biker," it means that the barley has not "ripened fully." The source for this definition of "Biker" seems to be the Gemara later (71a). The Gemara there asks what the source is that the Omer offering permits the consumption of grain that took root before the Omer was offered. The Gemara answers that the source is the verse that states that the Korban ha'Omer must be "Aviv" (Vayikra 2:14). The fact that the Korban Omer must be "Aviv" teaches that there is other produce that is not "Aviv," and although it is unfit for use for the Korban ha'Omer, it becomes permitted to be eaten once the Omer is offered.
However, the Gemara asks that this still does not prove that the Omer permits even produce that has only taken root but has not yet grown at all before the Omer is offered. Perhaps the other produce which is not "Aviv" but which still is permitted to eat refers to produce which has started to grow but has only reached one-third of it is full growth. RASHI there (DH v'ka'Parich Dilma) explains that "Aviv" is produce that is fully-ripe. It is clear from there that Rashi not only understands the term "Biker" in the Mishnah here as referring to "fully-ripe," but that he also understands that this is the Gemara's intent with regard to the Omer coming from "Aviv."
The Brisker Rav cites another proof for Rashi from the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (13a). The Gemara there proves that the Chachamim possessed the expertise to ascertain whether produce has reached a third of its growth from the verse in Yehoshua (4:19) which says that the people crossed the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael on the tenth of Nisan. If they needed to bring the Omer offering on the sixteenth of Nisan, how were they able to grow grain for the Korban in such a short amount of time? From the time they entered the land until the time of the Korban ha'Omer was a period of just five days. The Gemara proves from there that barley is able to ripen within a very short amount of time, the amount of time that passed from when the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael until the time they harvested the barley for the Omer five days later. The Brisker Rav points out that if the barley did not need to be fully-ripe for the Korban Omer, perhaps it was less than one-third ripe on the tenth of Nisan, and it became one-third ripe by the sixteenth of Nisan. The fact that the Gemara does not entertain this possibility seems to support Rashi's opinion that barley that is only one-third ripe is unacceptable for the Omer.
2. The Brisker Rav notes that the RAMBAM implies that fully-ripe barley is not necessary for the Korban ha'Omer, since he makes no mention of any requirement of "Aviv." Indeed, in the Rambam's commentary on the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah, he explains the Gemara there (13a) differently. He explains that the Gemara means that in the space of five days it was not possible for produce to become fit for grinding and to fulfill the Torah's criterion that the Korban ha'Omer must come from "Geres Karmel" -- "ground, fresh new grain" (Vayikra 2:14). The Rambam maintains that if the barley is only one-third ripe, it cannot be ground up properly.
Although it is possible to bake "bread" from grain that is one-third ripe, the grinding required to produce the "Geres Karmel" flour cannot be produced when the barley is not fully ripe. Therefore, the Brisker Rav concludes that the Rambam agrees with Rashi that the barley used for the Omer must be fully ripe. The difference between Rashi and the Rambam is that according to Rashi the requirement that the produce be fully ripe is because of "Aviv," while according to the Rambam it is because of "Geres Karmel." This is why the Rambam does not mention the requirement of "Aviv"; once "Geres Karmel" is required, it automatically includes "Aviv." (D. BLOOM)