1) HARVESTING "CHADASH" TO CLEAR A PATH FOR A MOURNER
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (71a) states that there are three purposes for which one is permitted to harvest grain that is Chadash. One of these three purposes is to clear a path to make room for the "Birkas Avelim." This refers to the Mitzvah for people to provide the mourner with refreshments or a meal outside on their way home from the funeral. During the meal, one of those present recites a blessing, "Baruch... Menachem Avelim." The Gemara derives this from the verse, "Ketzirchem" -- "your harvest" (Vayikra 23:10), which teaches that only a harvest done for "you" is forbidden, but a harvest done for a Mitzvah is permitted.
Does this Mishnah imply that the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim is mid'Oraisa? The fact that the Torah specifically allows the harvesting of Chadash in order to perform the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim implies that the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim is mid'Oraisa. If it is only mid'Rabanan, then it should not override the Torah prohibition against harvesting Chadash.
(a) RABEINU YONAH (quoted by the TOSFOS YOM TOV, Berachos 3:2), the RAMBAN in SEFER HA'MITZVOS (Shoresh Rishon), and others maintain that Nichum Avelim is mid'Oraisa. Rabeinu Yonah explains that when the Gemara in Bava Kama (100a) teaches that the verse, "And you shall inform them of the path in which they shall walk" (Shemos 18:20), refers to the Mitzvah of Gemilus Chasadim, it includes the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim, which is a form of Gemilus Chasadim. The Ramban says that it is mid'Oraisa based on the verse, "v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha" (Vayikra 19:18).
(b) The RAMBAM (SEFER HA'MITZVOS, Shoresh Rishon, and Hilchos Aveilus 14:1) says that Nichum Avelim is mid'Rabanan. According to the Rambam, why does the Mishnah here permit the active transgression of a Torah prohibition in order to fulfill a Mitzvah d'Rabanan?
1. The YAD DAVID answers that the Rambam himself agrees that Nichum Avelim is a Torah commandment. This is apparent from his statement that "even though these Mitzvos are mid'Rabanan, they are included in the verse of 'v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha.'" The Rambam means that one fulfills the Torah commandment of "v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha" when he does Nichum Avelim, and he also fulfills the specific Mitzvah d'Rabanan of Nichum Avelim.
2. The MINCHAS CHINUCH (302:6) says that the verse of "Ketzirchem" might mean that as long as one is involved in a Mitzvah, even a Mitzvah d'Rabanan, he may harvest Chadash. This is apparent from the words of RASHI (71a, DH u'Mipnei Beis ha'Avel), who says that the point of the Mitzvah is to recite the Birkas Avelim (see Kesuvos 8b). This blessing is certainly mid'Rabanan, and nevertheless Rashi says that this is the reason why the Chadash grain may be picked. It seems that Rashi's intention is that one is permitted to harvest Chadash for a Mitzvah d'Rabanan. (It is also apparent that Rashi agrees with the Rambam that Nichum Avelim is d'Rabanan, because otherwise he would have mentioned the Mitzvah of Nichum Avelim itself as the purpose of the harvesting. This is clear from Rashi in Sanhedrin 70b, DH Tanchumei Avelim.) How can the verse of "Ketzirchem" permit the harvesting of Chadash for a Mitzvah that is not mentioned in the Torah? The Minchas Chinuch answers that, indeed, there are many occasions in which the Torah takes into account Mitzvos d'Rabanan.
3. The KOVETZ SHI'URIM (2:32) gives a slightly different explanation for how one may harvest Chadash for Nichum Avelim even if Nichum Avelim is only mid'Rabanan. He explains that the Gemara understands from the word "Ketzirchem" that the only type of harvest prohibited by the Torah is a harvest for an ordinary, mundane purpose. Since a Mitzvah d'Rabanan is not a mundane purpose, it is not the type of harvest the Torah prohibits.
(The explanations of the Minchas Chinuch and the Kovetz Shi'urim imply that they maintain that Nichum Avelim is merely a Mitzvah d'Rabanan. However, although the Mitzvah itself may not be a specific Mitzvah in the Torah, why do they not agree that performing Nichum Avelim is a fulfillment of the Mitzvah d'Oraisa of "v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha"? Rabeinu Yonah, who says that Nichum Avelim is a fulfillment of "v'Hodata Lahem" (Shemos 18:20), also should agree that one fulfills that specific verse along with the general Mitzvah of "v'Ahavta l'Re'acha Kamocha" when he performs Nichum Avelim. It is unclear, therefore, why the answers provided by the Minchas Chinuch and Kovetz Shi'urim are necessary.) (Y. MONTROSE)
2) DOES THE HARVESTING OF THE "OMER" OVERRIDE SHABBOS?
QUESTION: The Gemara says that when the Mishnah states that the Omer may be harvested the day before the sixteenth of Nisan (as opposed to the night before), it is expressing the view of Rebbi. The Gemara asks that this seems incongruent with the next statement of the Mishnah. The Mishnah states that the bringing of the Omer overrides the prohibition against harvesting on Shabbos. If the Tana of the first statement of the Mishnah maintains that the Omer may be harvested anytime, then there is no reason for it to override Shabbos. If, on the other hand, the Omer must be harvested only at a specific time, then there is reason to say that it overrides Shabbos when that time occurs on Shabbos.
The Gemara answers that the Mishnah does not mean that the harvesting of the Omer overrides the prohibition against harvesting on Shabbos, but rather that the burning of the Omer on the Mizbe'ach overrides the Melachah of Hav'arah (burning) on Shabbos. Apparently, the Gemara finds no way to reconcile the statement that the Omer may be harvested on Shabbos with the statement that it may be harvested during the day.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Temidin u'Musafin 7:6-7), however, rules that the harvest of the Omer overrides the prohibition against harvesting on Shabbos. However, in the very next Halachah, the Rambam rules that if the Omer is harvested during the day, it is valid. How can the Rambam rule both that the harvest of the Omer overrides Shabbos, and that grain of the Omer harvested during the day is valid? (LECHEM MISHNEH and others)
(a) The TZON KODASHIM points out that the Gemara earlier teaches that the Eimurin of Korbanos brought for Shabbos are burned on Shabbos. The Gemara explains that this is due to the great love for a Mitzvah that is done on time. Accordingly, the Omer should always be harvested on time, and its harvesting should override Shabbos.
The Gemara explains that once the laws of Shabbos have already been suspended in order to slaughter the Korbanos of Shabbos, the burning of the Eimurin should also override Shabbos, even though it is only for the sake of doing a Mitzvah in its proper time. However, the harvesting of the Omer is done before the bringing of the Korban ha'Omer. It cannot override Shabbos solely because of the importance of doing a Mitzvah in its proper time.
This difference between the Omer and the Eimurin of the Korbanos of Shabbos is not unanimous. Rebbi Yishmael (63b) says that when the Omer is offered on Shabbos, only three Se'ah should be brought instead of the five Se'ah that are brought on a weekday. If Rebbi Yishmael agrees with the logic that when a Mitzvah is allowed to be done on Shabbos even the extra parts of the Mitzvah may be done on Shabbos, then he should allow all five Se'ah to be brought on Shabbos! Moreover, Rebbi Chanina Segan ha'Kohanim (64a) says that on Shabbos, only one sickle was used for the cutting of the Omer, and only one basket was used. If he maintains that when a Melachah is permitted on Shabbos for the sake of a Mitzvah, all other parts of the Mitzvah are also permitted on Shabbos, then why does he require that only one sickle and one basket be used?
The Rambam understands that these opinions do not agree with the logic presented by the Gemara here, that the burning of the Eimurin override Shabbos only because the slaughtering was done first. How, then, do these opinions explain why the Eimurin may be burned on Shabbos? It must be that they maintain that doing a Mitzvah in its proper time is so important that it indeed overrides Shabbos (but only for the sake of the primary part of the Mitzvah itself). The Rambam rules like these Tana'im in this regard, and he therefore understands that the fact that the Omer can be harvested before Shabbos does not mean that it does not override Shabbos when done on Shabbos, when Shabbos is the specific time at which it is supposed to be done.
(b) The KORBAN HA'EDAH on the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 1:8) and others assert that the Yerushalmi is the source of the Rambam's ruling. The Yerushalmi asks about whether the harvesting of the Omer done early overrides Shabbos, and it answers that it does override Shabbos. This is the ruling of the Rambam.
(c) The MA'ASEH ROKE'ACH answers that the Rambam rules like the simple explanation of the Mishnah -- that the Omer can be harvested during the day and that it overrides Shabbos. Why does he understand the Mishnah like the Gemara explains, that only the burning of the Omer overrides Shabbos? He explains that the Gemara earlier (66a) cites a Beraisa which states that the set time of the harvesting and counting of the Omer is at night, and only the Korban itself is brought during the day. Rava says that this is derived from the verses, and there is no way to refute the logic of the derivation.
The Beraisa seems to maintain that the harvesting of the Omer the night before has the same status as any Korban that has a set time that overrides the Melachos of Shabbos. The Rambam understands that the Mishnah is to be understood based on this Beraisa (which Rava calls irrefutable), and thus the Rambam may learn the Mishnah according to its most straightforward interpretation. (The Ma'aseh Roke'ach also quotes the Yerushalmi in Rosh Hashanah as proof for the Rambam's way of understanding the Mishnah. For additional answers, see LIKUTEI HALACHOS, and MAR'EH HA'PANIM on the Yerushalmi in Rosh Hashanah.) (Y. MONTROSE)