Maasrot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four



Most of this mishnah deals with fruit that one finds—can one eat it without tithing?


Mishnah Four

1)      If one found cut figs on the road, or even beside a field [where cut figs] have been spread [to dry], and similarly, if a fig tree overhangs the road, and he found figs beneath it, they are allowed [with regard to the laws] of robbery, and they are exempt from tithe.  

2)      But if they were olives and carobs, they are liable.  

3)      If one found dried figs, then if the majority of people had already trodden [their figs], he must tithe [them], but if not he is exempt.

4)      If one found slices of fig-cake he is liable [to tithe] since it is obvious they come from something whose processing had been fully completed.

5)      With carobs, if they had not yet been on the top of the roof, he may take some down for his animals and be exempt [from tithe] since he returns that which is left over.



Section one:  The person who finds these cut figs may keep them, even if it is quite clear from which field they came. Taking them is not considered stealing because it is common for the field owner to make them ownerless, probably because he doesn’t consider it worth his while to pick up the figs that fell by the side of the road. The figs are also exempt from tithes because ownerless produce is always exempt from tithes (see chapter one, mishnah one).

Section two: Olives and carobs are assumed to be of greater value than figs. The owner does not make them ownerless, and therefore, the rules are opposite of those in section one which discussed figs. One who finds olives and carobs near their likely sources may not take them and if he does, he cannot eat them before they are tithed because they are not ownerless.

Section three: Figs are liable for tithes once they have been pressed into a jar (see 1:8). The figs that he finds have been dried, but he doesn’t know if they have already been pressed into a jar. In this case the status of the figs is determined by what the majority of people in that area have done. If most people have already pressed their figs, then he must assume that these figs were already pressed and he cannot eat them without first tithing. If most people have not pressed their figs, then he may eat them without tithing.

Section four: If he finds pieces of fig cakes, then he can be certain that they were already pressed into a jar and he cannot eat them without tithing.

Section five: The final step in the processing of carobs, the step that makes them fit for human consumption, is to bring them up to one’s roof to dry them out. Before he has brought them to the roof he can feed them to his cattle without tithing. We don’t say that by feeding them to his cattle he has shown that their processing is complete and therefore he must tithe them. The reason we don’t make such an assumption is that sometimes a person may begin feeding them to his cattle and then bring them back up to his roof to dry them out, so that people could eat them.