Question #1: Spelt
I understand that spelt is a type of wheat. May I plant a small patch of it next to my wheat field?
Question #2: Trees and Ornamentals
I purchased a property in Israel that has grapes and other trees and ornamentals growing on it. What do I do to avoid violating the prohibition of kil’ayim?
Question #3: Tomatoes
May I plant various types of tomatoes next to one another?
In parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah teaches the mitzvah not to plant your vineyard with kil’ayim (Devarim 22:9), after which the Torah mentions two other kil’ayim prohibitions: doing work with different animal species together and wearing shatnez. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah introduces several mitzvos called kil’ayim when it says, “You shall keep my laws. You shall not breed your animals as kil’ayim, you shall not plant your field as kil’ayim and you shall not wear kil’ayim shatnez garments” (Vayikra 19:19).
I have written many times about the prohibitions of wearing shatnez, grafting one tree min (species) onto another and crossbreeding animals, but I have never written an article devoted to this week’s topic — the kil’ayim prohibitions in a vineyard and in a field. Please note that this article is only a general introduction to these mitzvos and not halacha le’maaseh — the topics are far more complex than can be covered in one article. For this reason, the opening questions in this article are going to be left unanswered.
Kil’ei hakerem is the prohibition of planting an herbaceous (meaning non-woody, i.e. – a plant other than a trees or a shrub), cultivated plant in a vineyard or adjacent to a grapevine. This mitzvah applies min haTorah in Eretz Yisrael and as a rabbinic prohibition in chutz la’aretz (Orlah 3:9; Kiddushin 39a). It also includes planting above or below grapes, such as, if the vine is trained onto a trellis or other framework.
Kil’ei hakerem is the only instance in which the Torah prohibits using what grows in violation of the kil’ayim prohibition. Other kil’ayim mitzvos prohibit only the act, but what grows or develops as a result may be used. (The Yerushalmi, Kil’ayim 1:4, permits using even the cutting developed from a forbidden graft.)
There is a major dispute among tana’im and rishonim whether kil’ei hakerem applies even when planting one species other than grapes in a vineyard, or only when two species other than the grapes are planted in a vineyard. Rav Yoshiyah rules that the lo sa’aseh of kil’ei hakerem applies only when planting both wheat and barley (or any two other species that are kil’ayim with one another) in a vineyard. Since the Torah says, “You shall not plant kil’ayim in your vineyard,” Rav Yoshiyah understands this to mean that someone is planting two varieties that are kil’ayim with each other, in a vineyard, which compounds the prohibition.
Vineyard vs. vines
There are major halachic differences between a few grapevines and what is halachically called a vineyard. The most prominent difference is that it is prohibited to plant any type of grain or most vegetables within four amos (about seven feet) of a vineyard, whereas it is forbidden to plant only within six tefachim, which is less than two feet, of a grapevine that is not part of a vineyard.
What is a vineyard?
So, what is a vineyard?
The halacha is that a vineyard must have at least five grapevines growing, four of which are positioned in a rectangle or square. Exactly how the fifth vine is planted is unclear from the Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:6), and is disputed by the halachic authorities. The Chazon Ish rules that a vineyard requires that the fifth vine continues in a straight line from two of the other vines. In other words, the minimum definition of a vineyard is two parallel grape plantings, one of at least three plantings and the other of at least two.
Others contend that the fifth vine can also be similar to the way one would envision, from a bird’s eye view, the location of the tail relative to the four legs of an animal standing in rapt attention. The four legs form a rectangle, and the tail is alongside the rectangle, but opposite the middle of a side rather than the continuation of one of its sides (Rambam, Peirush Mishnayos, Kil’ayim 4:6; Tosafos Yom Tov; cf., however, Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 7:7).
If five vines have been planted this way, and alongside them many more vines were planted haphazardly, the disorganized vines might not be considered a vineyard, but individual vines. The practical difference is whether vegetables and grains may be planted nearby, as long as they are more than six tefachim from the vines, or whether the laws of a vineyard apply, which requires a much more substantive distance of four amos. In both instances, construction of a tzuras hapesach or other mechitzah will allow planting the vegetables or grains alongside the vines, as long as the mechitzah separates between the vines and the vegetables or grains.
One row of grapevines is not considered a vineyard, even if it contains hundreds of plantings (Kil’ayim 4:5). This means that one may plant vegetables or grains alongside the grapes, as long as there is a six tefachim distance between them.
Kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz
The rules of kil-ei hakerem in Eretz Yisrael are stricter than they are in chutz la’aretz. In chutz la’aretz, there is a rule, kol hameikil ba’aretz, halacha kemoso bechutz la’aretz. For our purposes, this rule means that since the law of kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz is only miderabbanan, Chazal ruled that whenever a recognized scholar ruled that a particular situation is not considered kil’ayim in Eretz Yisrael, even when the halachic conclusion rules against him, one may follow this minority position in chutz la’aretz. For example, since Rav Yoshiyah rules that kil’ei hakerem is prohibited only when planting two species (that are already prohibited together) in a vineyard, this is the only act of kil’ei hakerem prohibited in chutz la’aretz. However, in Eretz Yisrael, there is concern over planting even a single type of vegetable in a vineyard.
Kil’ei hasadeh or kil’ei zera’im (two ways of referring to the same prohibition) is planting two non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) commonly cultivated plants or seeds near one another, planting one species very close to another, already-planted species, or planting the seeds of one species on top or inside a specimen of another species. This mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisrael. In chutz la’aretz, it is permitted to plant two herbaceous plants next to one another, although some authorities prohibit planting the seed of one species on top of or inside another in chutz la’aretz (Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 1:5; Tosafos Chullin 60a s.v. Hirkiv). Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate.
Both prohibitions, kil’ei hakerem and kil’ei zera’im exist, even if the species are not intentionally planted together, but grew on their own (Kil’ayim 2:5). In this instance, if the two species are too close together, one either must pull out one, or, as we will see shortly, build a mechitzah between them.
Several important introductions will facilitate understanding the laws of these mitzvos.
A. Firstly, many assume that kil’ayim prohibits hybridization or crossbreeding (two ways of saying the same thing) of unlike species, or, in simpler terms, attempting to mix genetic material and create new species. However, this approach is inaccurate, since only one of the many kil’ayim prohibitions, crossbreeding animals, attempts to create something that does not occur in nature. All the other mitzvos ban the appearance of mixing two species. This distinction is very important in understanding many of the laws of kil’ayim.
B. Secondly, for clarity’s sake, I will use the word “species” in this article to mean items that halacha prohibits “mixing.” The dictionary definition of the word “species” is “a pool of individuals that breed together and will not breed with other individuals.” However, neither halacha nor science uses this definition. Since this article is a halachic talk about kil’ayim, I will discuss only aspects of the halachic definition germane to these mitzvos.
What defines a halachic species? Although there is a great degree of uncertainty about this, certain principles can be derived from the various passages, particularly of the Talmud Yerushalmi Kil’ayim.
(1) Two varieties that naturally cross-pollinate are halachically considered one species (see Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:2).
(2) At times, similarity of leaves or appearance or taste of the fruit are sufficient evidence to consider two varieties as members of the same species (Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:5). Small differences are never considered significant (Bava Kama 55a). Thus, different varieties, one of which grows wild and the other of which is cultivated, are usually one species (Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:2). Frequently, the rules are difficult to define and, therefore, most authorities recommend not growing two similar varieties of squash or beans together.
C. It is also important to note that the definition of “species” for the laws of kil’ayim is not the same as it is for the laws of challah. Spelt and wheat are considered different minim for the laws of kil’ayim, notwithstanding that they are the same min for the laws of challah. (This means that dough made of spelt and wheat flour can combine to create enough dough to be obligated to separate challah, notwithstanding that wheat and spelt cannot be planted next to each other.)
D. As I mentioned above, kil’ei zera’im and kil’ei hakerem apply only to species that are cultivated or maintained in your location for food, forage, clothing, dye or other similar purposes. The Mishnah states that the laws of kil’ayim apply to a species called zunin,usually understood to be darnel, a ryegrass that, in earlier generations, was used as bird seed. Planting zunin in a field of barley, rye, oats or spelt violates the prohibition of kil’ei zera’im. (Why it is permitted to plant zunin in a wheat field [Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:1] is a topic that we will leave for a different time.)
Planting two crop species together or near one another is prohibited as kil’ayim. How far apart the two species must be depends on several factors, including the layout of the planting and what and how much was planted. In some situations, when growing small amounts of certain vegetables, planting the two species in alternate patterns is sufficient to permit the planting, notwithstanding that the different species grow alongside one another (Kil’ayim 3:1; Shabbos 84b ff.).
Between two grain fields of different species — for example, one growing spelt and the other rye — there needs to be an empty area greater than ten amos squared, approximately twenty feet by twenty feet, between the two fields. On the other hand, between two kinds of vegetables, the requirement is that the separating area be only six tefachim squared, approximately two feet by two feet. And even the size of this requirement is only miderabbanan. Min haTorah there is a dispute among rishonim whether the distance is one tefach squared, or 1.5 tefachim squared (Raavad, Hilchos Kil’ayim). The Chazon Ish (5:1) ruled according to the Rambam, the lenient opinion, that requires only one tefach squared, approximately four inches by four inches.
Although we usually think of mechitzah as a separation necessary in a shul, the word has significance in several other areas of halacha, and particularly in the laws of kil’ayim. For the purposes of kil’ayim, whenever one wants to plant two species and there is not enough space to allow this, a halachically acceptable separation between the plantings permits the planting (Kil’ayim 2:8; 4:6). The rules here are similar to what is called a mechitzah for other halachos, including permitting carrying on Shabbos, although, for the laws of Shabbos, the entire area must be enclosed by mechitzos on all sides. For the laws of kil’ayim, it suffices that there is a halachic divider separating the plantings from one another. Among the many ways that someone can separate the two areas is by building a wall that is ten tefachim tall (approximately 32-40 inches) or piling rocks to a height of ten tefachim. Another option is a furrow or crevice in the ground, either natural or dug, that is ten tefachim deep.
The Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:4) notes that lavud, openings that are smaller than three tefachim (about ten inches), does not invalidate a mechitzah, and therefore a fence that is more open than closed, but is ten tefachim tall, is a valid mechitzah for kil’ayim purposes. Similarly, one may build a “wall” with sticks placed either horizontally or vertically every three tefachim, and it is a satisfactory mechitzah.
This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of a fence, in which the grapes grow alongside the fence, and plant grain or vegetables on the other side of the fence; it is completely permitted, even though the two crops may be growing within inches of one another.
Large gaps in the middle of a mechitzah may not invalidate it. The general halachic principle is that an area that is mostly enclosed is considered “walled,” even in its breached areas (Kil’ayim 4:4; Eruvin 5b). For example, a yard enclosed by hedges tall enough to qualify as halachic walls may be considered enclosed, notwithstanding that there are open areas between the hedges, since each side is predominantly enclosed either by the hedges or by the house. This is true as long as the breach is smaller than ten amos,about 17 feet (Kil’ayim 4:4). This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of the hedges (inedible growths usually do not create prohibited kil’ayim), and grain or vegetables on the other side of the hedges, even though the two crops may be extremely close to one another.
The Gemara (Eruvin 11a) rules that a tzuras hapesach, which we customarily use to make to enclose an area to permit carrying on Shabbos, may be used to separate two species, so that there is no prohibition of kil’ayim. A tzuras hapesach consists of two vertical side posts and a horizontal “lintel” that, together, vaguely resemble a doorway. Thus, it is permitted to grow a vineyard on one side of the tzuras hapesach and grain or vegetables on the other side.
What about weeds? Do weeds present a kil’ayim concern?
As anyone who gardens knows, the definition of a “weed” is whatever the gardener does not want in his garden. Halachically, if the “weed” is from a species that is not maintained in your area, it is not a kil’ayim concern.
Targum Onkelos (Vayikra 19:19 and Devarim 22:9) understands the word kil’ayim to mean “mixture.” However, other commentaries explain the origin of the word from the Hebrew root כלא, the same as the word beis ke’le “prison” (see Bamidbar 11:28). Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) explains that the root כלא means to hold something back, and that the plural form kil’ayim — similar to yadayim, hands, or raglayim, feet — means a pair. Therefore, the word kil’ayim means to pair together two items that should be kept apart.
Concerning this, Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) writes, “The Great Lawgiver of the world separates the countless numbers of His creations in all their manifold diversity, and assigns to each one of them a separate purpose and a separate form for its purpose.”
In addition, observing the laws of kil’ayim helps us remember how various species obeyed Hashem’s instructions to remain separate during their creation. This reminds the contemplative Jew that if the plants heeded Hashem’s word during the Creation, how much more are we obligated to obey His instructions!