By Rabbi Moshe Bloom
Torah VeHa’aretz Institute
“You shall not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed, lest the crop from the seed you have sown and the yield of the vineyard become forbidden” (Devarim 22:9).
Observing A Mitzvah Or Avoiding Destruction?
A certain food production factory became wildly successful thanks to the mehadrin kashrut certification on its products. While the owner did not personally care about kashrut supervision, he was willing to pay the Badatz for supervision and to meet their stringent kashrut standards for business purposes.
Once, the factory owner wanted to enhance one of his products by adding a certain food additive, and he ordered large quantities of it. During a routine visit, a mashgiach saw the many sacks with the additive, and upon inspecting their certification he realized that the ingredient would not be certified by the Badatz. He quickly told the factory owner that he did not approve the new additive. The owner tried to argue that the additive was kosher, albeit under the supervision of a less-stringent agency, but the mashgiach stood his ground. The argument ended when the mashgiach reached out to take down the kashrut certification on the wall. The factory owner immediately backed down and instructed his workers to get rid of all of the sacks in the warehouse, despite the considerable loss involved.
No one would be impressed by the exalted spiritual personality of the factory owner and his meticulous mitzvah observance. It’s obvious that he had no intention of being stringent about kashrut — he just wanted to keep his kashrut certificate so his business would not be harmed.
At first glance, the verse above that discusses kil’ei ha’kerem, interplanting in the vineyard — one of the most serious types of forbidden mixtures (since both the grapes and produce growing alongside the vineyard become forbidden) — is using the same threat as the mashgiach. The verse is essentially saying: don’t sow other produce in your vineyard, or you will have to destroy both the vine and the produce. Is this the reason not to interplant in the vineyard: So we won’t suffer financial loss?
Mitzvot and Aveirot Create Reality
It seems that the issue here is not financial loss. This is much deeper: Don’t sow a forbidden mixture; if you do, not only will you not be able to use the produce for the reason it is intended for — feeding people and giving them life — and it will also be rendered unfit for any other use and will be burned.
When a person sins, he creates a reality that did not previously exist. That is, the world becomes more corrupt following the sin. The converse is also true; when a person does a mitzvah, he creates a new reality and a better and brighter world. The Zohar discusses this concept at great lengths — the spiritual “buildings” one erects when doing mitzvot, and the destruction one wreaks when sinning. Keeping this in mind, it makes it much easier to pursue mitzvot and run away from aveirot.
Kedushah: Deviating From The Norm
In this way we can better understand the use of the root “קדש” which we generally associate with something positive and lofty. קדוש means “set off,” deviating from the norm — for better or for worse. A person who works on refining his character becomes kadosh, holy; he deviates from the norms of this world. In stark contrast, those who devote themselves to promiscuity are called a kadesh or kedeishah, as it appears in this week’s parashah (Devarim 23:18). They, too, deviate from social norms, but in a negative way.
Kil’ei ha’kerem are also “kodesh” in the negative sense. When a person plants a vineyard together with vegetables, grains, or legumes, he is undermining G‑d’s natural order. The norm is that a farmer tills the soil to make a living and care for his physical needs. The produce is thus neutral — neither positive nor negative. If sowed in a warped manner (kila’im), the produce becomes kadosh and must be burned. If, in contrast, he consecrated them for minchah offerings or libations for the Temple service, they become kadosh in the positive sense.
Agricultural produce becoming kadosh in the positive sense is possible not only in the context of the Beit HaMikdash. During the Shemittah year (and following it for most fruits), much of the produce growing in Eretz Yisrael is sacred and must be handled accordingly. During the rest of the Shemittah cycle, “If one gives a gift to a Torah scholar, it is as if he offers up the first fruit” (Ketubot 105b), and “In the place of libation, one should fill the throats of Torah scholars with wine” (Yoma 71a).
The meaning here is not that scholars should lust, glutton-like, to fill their throats with food and drink, G‑d forbid. Rather, scholars, who are holy (kedoshim) in all of their deeds, are comparable to the Sanctuary and the Altar, for the Divine Presence dwells with them just as it dwelled in the Sanctuary. Providing food for their consumption is analogous to bringing up an offering, and filling their throats is like filling the basins (Mesillat Yesharim, ch. 26).
The Ramchal describes the kadosh as “clinging always to his G‑d … in love and awe of his Creator” (ibid).
Whoever wants to go beyond nature can turn to good or evil. May it be G‑d’s will that we can acquire the positive type of kedushah, the sanctity of our Creator.
HaRav Moshe Bloom is head of the English department of Torah VeHa’aretz Institute. Torah VeHa’aretz Institute (the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel) engages in research, public education, and the application of contemporary halachic issues that come to the fore in the bond between Torah and the Land of Israel today. Recently, the Institute opened an English department to cater to the English-speaking public living in Israel and abroad. For additional information and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972-8-684-7325.