Kelim, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Five
More discussion of pomegranateswhich by the way are delicious and very healthy.
This mishnah begins a series of mishnayot which refer to various items that were used for the purposes of measuring. This will lead us to some side discussions about issues that don’t relate directly to Tractate Kelim.
1) The pomegranate of which they spoke refers to one that is neither small nor big but of moderate size.
2) And why did they mention the pomegranates of Baddan?
a) That whatever their quantity they cause [other pomegranates] to be forbidden, the words of Rabbi Meir.
b) Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri said: to use them as a measure for holes in vessels.
c) Rabbi Akiva said: they were mentioned for both reasons: that they are to be used as a measure for holes in vessels and that whatever their quantity they cause [other pomegranates] to be forbidden.
3) Rabbi Yose said: the pomegranates of Baddan and the leeks of Geba were mentioned only to indicate that they must be tithed everywhere with certain tithe.
Section one: The pomegranates referred to in previous mishnayot are of middle size.
Section two: This section refers to an old halakhah concerning the pomegranates of Badan, a region in the north of Israel (Samaria). Our mishnah knows that something was said about these pomegranates by previous generations of sages, but the current sages debate why these pomegranates were mentioned.
According to Rabbi Meir if orlah (produce during its first three years, which is prohibited) pomegranates are mixed up with non-orlah pomegranates, the whole lot is prohibited, no matter how few forbidden pomegranates there are. This deviates from the normal rule according to which as long as there are 200 permitted fruits for every orlah fruit, the whole mixture is permitted (see Orlah 3:7).
Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri says that the pomegranates of Baddan were mentioned because they were the middle-sized pomegranates used to measure how large the holes must be for the vessel to be clean. Our chapter was written according to this perspective.
Rabbi Akiva, the peacemaker, agrees with both opinions and says that the pomegranates were mentioned with regard to both halakhot.
Section three: Rabbi Yose has a different opinion. The pomegranates of Baddan and the leeks of Geba both come from Samaria, which was at the time dominated by the Samaritans. According to the rabbis the Samaritans did not tithe their produce, or at least did not do so in a proper fashion. Therefore, if a person bought pomegranates or leeks that grew in this region he can be sure that they were not tithed. And although usually when one buys produce from an am haaretz (a non-educated person) he only needs to separate tithes out of doubt (called demai, and there was a whole tractate about this) when it comes to this produce, he can be sure that the am haaretz didn’t separate tithes, because the am haaretz will think that the Samaritan did. Note that Rabbi Yose is the only sage who connects this produce with the region from which it comes.