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The mishna, M'nachos 71 amud 1, says:

קוצר לשחת ומאכיל לבהמה

That is, under the circumstances described there (not important for this question), one is allowed to cut his grain לשחת and feed the produce to his animal. What does "קוצר לשחת" mean exactly?

Pin'chas K'hasi translates "שחת" IIRC as מספוא, which modern-Hebrew dictionaries say means animal feed. That'd mean "קוצר לשחת" means "he may cut [grain] for animal feed" — but that's clearly incorrect in light of the g'mara (amud 2) that discusses קוצר לשחת and feeding humans ("לאדם מי שמעת ליה").

Nor can it be referring to cutting the grain at an early stage of development, as the mishna itself discusses קוצר לשחת when the grain is developed ("משהביא שליש").

So I suppose it must be referring to a certain method of cutting the grain. What method? Or, if not that, then what does it refer to?

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Artscroll is your friend :) –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 8 '13 at 22:52
    
Kehati does not actually translate שחת as מספוא (animal feed), but notes that the purpose of this uprooting is so that it can be used for animal feed - an interpretation that he gets from the Bartenura (Peah 2:1) and from Prof. Hanoch Albeck. –  Shimon bM Aug 9 '13 at 2:22
    
@ShimonbM, why do you say "uprooting"? In any event, the mishna itself says the purpose is for animal feed. –  msh210 Aug 9 '13 at 4:33
    
The mishna in Peah doesn't mention animals at all, and the one in Menachot doesn't say קוצר למאכיל לבהמה but that a person reaps to destroy and feeds it to animals. The part about being קוצר לשחת need not (necessarily) be interpreted as referring to the fact that livestock will subsequently consume it. In any case, my point was that Kehati translates לשחת the same way that everybody else does: to lay waste, or destroy. –  Shimon bM Aug 9 '13 at 4:51
    
@ShimonbM, that doesn't mean uproot necessarily. (And I have no idea whether it means "to destroy" or "for destruction".) –  msh210 Aug 9 '13 at 5:18
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2 Answers

The word שחת means produce of wheat or barley cut from stalks of grain which have not yet grown fully - see Rashi in Avodah Zora 20b. However, at the top of Daf 71a it says that there are several stages of growth of the grain:

1) חשרשה (when the planted grain takes root).

2) אגם (when the grain has grown enough so that the top of the stalk can be bent down to touch its base).

3) שחת (when the grain is suitable for cutting for שחת).

4) הבאת שליש (when it has reached a third of its growth).

5) אביב (when the grain is fully grown).

Thus grain which is cut from the stage of שחת (which is before a third of its growth) until it is fully grown is called שחת. This can be used either as animal fodder or for human consumption (by roasting the grains as Rashi says on 71b). (But since the most common usage of שחת was apparently for animal fodder, it is commonly translated this way, albeit imprecisely).

Hence the Mishnah on 71a says that before the Omer one is allowed to cut the grain for שחת if the purpose is for animal fodder (because it is not considered harvesting), but not if the purpose is for human consumption (because then it is considered harvesting). There then follows a dispute whether this is permitted only if one started cutting before the grain had reached a third of its growth - from the time when the grain was first suitable for this, or even when one began cutting later.

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See also bava batra 29-33 with tosafos –  Yitzchak Feb 14 at 1:42
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The Bartenura on Peiah 2:1 says it means it was cut before a third of its growth. In Menachos the Bartenura says it means before the LAST third of its growth R. Yehudah explains that even if he started cutting before the last third it is still okay; whereas R. Shimon holds that even if he began cutting after the begining of the last third its okay.

But after the last third (=100% ripe) everyone agrees we must wait for the Omer.

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Reread the mishna in M'nachos. Rabi Shim'on (I think it is: I don't have it before me) says it's even if he started after hevi sh'lish; and Rabi Y'huda says it's even if he continued after hevi sh'lish. And that's all called "קוצר לשחת". –  msh210 Aug 11 '13 at 5:23
    
I changed the answer to reflect your concern. –  Meir Zirkind Aug 11 '13 at 5:37
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