כ״ו בכסלו ה׳תשע״ו (December 8, 2015)

Sota 43a-b: One Who Plants

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, people who were involved in various activities were not obligated to serve as soldiers in a milhemet reshut – a war of choice. One example was the individual who had planted a vineyard. Our Gemara quotes a baraita that broadens the category to include not only a vineyard, but also other fruit-bearing trees, and not only someone who planted it, but also someone who purchased it, someone who received it as a present or someone who inherited it. Furthermore, someone who was mavrikh or markiv a vine would also be exempt.

To make a vine mavrikh (layer) is to take a branch of the tree – particularly a vine – and place it in the ground so that it takes root there. Once it successfully takes root, it is cut off of the mother tree and develops on its own. This method is similar to planting saplings, but it has the distinct advantage that the developing branch receives sustenance from the mother tree – in addition to what it gets from the ground – until it is ready to grow on its own.

To be markiv means to be grafted. Grafting plants is one of the most ancient methods of treating and improving trees. The idea was that a tree that produced excellent fruits, but whose roots were not strong could have a branch placed onto a tree whose roots are better. There are different methods of grafting that have developed over time, but the basic approach has remained the same throughout. The branch of a given tree is removed and is inserted in an opening that is made in another tree. The exact method of connecting the new branch into the established tree differs depending on the type of tree that is involved, but from the Talmud it appears that grafting grape vines was very common at that time.

During the times of the Talmud it was not unusual for a branch to be grafted onto a new tree, even while it was partially attached to its original tree. This ensured that the branch would not dry up, even if the grafting was unsuccessful.

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