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The Gemara in Bava Kama 28a says:

ת"ש בעל הבית שהניח פאה מצד אחד ובאו עניים ונטלו מצד אחר זה וזה פאה וא"א עביד איניש דינא לנפשיה אמאי זה וזה פאה לנקוט פזר וליתיב אמר רבא מאי זה וזה פאה לפוטרן מן המעשר כדתניא המפקיר את כרמו והשכים בבקר ובצרו חייב בפרט ובעוללות ובשכחה ובפאה ופטור מן המעשר

(Translation of the relevant part): What is meant by the ruling of: This produce and that produce are both considered pe’a? It means that they are considered pe’a with regard to exempting both portions of produce from tithes. Just as the portion that the poor people took is exempt from tithes, so is the portion that he allocated initially. This is as it is taught in a baraita: In the case of one who renounces ownership of his vineyard and arose early in the morning before anyone else took possession of it and harvested it, the one who renounces ownership is obligated in the mitzva of individual fallen grapes left for the poor [peret], and in the mitzva of incompletely formed clusters of grapes left for the poor [olelot], and in the mitzva of forgotten clusters of grapes left for the poor, and in the mitzva of pe’a, the four gifts to the poor that the Torah requires one to give from a vineyard (see Leviticus 19:9–10). But he is exempt from the mitzva to tithe his produce, because this requirement does not apply to an ownerless field. Likewise, in the above case the portion of the field that was allocated for pe’a is exempt from tithes even after the owner reclaims it, as pe’a is considered ownerless property in this regard.

Rashi explains here that even though the owner reclaimed the part of the field he designated as pe'ah, it is exempt from ma'aserot (דאף פאה הנשארת הפקר חשיבא ואע"ג דנקט לה איהו פטורה ממעשר).

So couldn't a person theoretically designate 99% of his field as pe'ah (since one can't designate all of it, as per Tosefta Peah 1:1) and then reclaim all of it (excluding the part that actually needs to be given as pe'ah, i.e., 1/60th of his field) and thereby be exempt from giving ma'aser except on that 1%?

  • Why go through so much trouble? Just harvest normally and bring it through any entrance but the main one when you bring it into the granary. Without Meiruach, you don’t need to give ma’aser. If you’re asking whether this particular ploy would work, technically, yes (I think), though anybody could take from that 99% before you’re done with it. For that reason, it’s not the most effective cop-out. You forget that one is guaranteed wealth from at least two Biblical sources off the top of my head for giving ma’aser - cop-outs are to your detriment. As a Levi, I’m sort of biased, though. :) – DonielF Aug 13 '17 at 4:34
  • @DonielF How does bringing it through a side entrance exempt one from ma'aser? Also, I suspect it doesn't take much time to declare something pe'ah, and then to reclaim it by a similar declaration... – Gabriel Aug 13 '17 at 5:28
  • Once it’s peah, it’s ownerless. You can’t just say it’s yours - you have to do an actual acquisition on it. As for the side door, I don’t have time to get the sources at the moment, but there’s a concept called meiruach, that the produce must be “complete” to be subject to the laws of Terumah and Ma’aser. One requirement to being complete is that it’s brought through the main entrance. – DonielF Aug 13 '17 at 5:48
  • By the way, this Halacha, that Peah is exempt from Terumah and Ma’aser, is an explicit Mishnah (Peah 1:6, Terumos 1:5, the former of Which makes reference to the Meiruach concept I mentioned above). – DonielF Aug 13 '17 at 5:52
  • @DonielF How would you go about re-acquiring the field? And also where can I read more about this side door business? – Gabriel Aug 13 '17 at 5:56
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That is indeed a correct deduction: one who designates part of his field as Pe’ah and then retracts that declaration does not need to give Ma’aser on that which was formerly Pe’ah. Sort of.

The Mishnah in Pe’ah 1:6 says:

לְעוֹלָם הוּא נוֹתֵן מִשּׁוּם פֵּאָה וּפָטוּר מִן הַמַּעַשְׂרוֹת, עַד שֶׁיְּמָרֵחַ.

Always he can give because of Pe’ah and it is exempt from Ma’aser, until he smooths it.

Says the Meleches Shlomo ad. loc.:

לעולם הוא נותן משום פאה כו'. בירושל' מתני' דקתני לעולם הוא נותן משום פאה לעולם משמע אפי' לאחר שהפריש חובת הפאה דהיינו א' מס' חוזר ומוסיף ואותו תוס' פטור מן המעשרות. אתיא כב"ש דאמר לק' רפ"ו הפקר לעניים הפקר ופטור וכן פאה זו שהוסיף והפקירה לעניים פטורה אבל לבעה"ב חייבת אא"כ הפקירה אף לעשירים כן פי' ר"ש ז"ל:

From the Yerushalmi: Our Mishnah which teaches “‘Always’ he can give because of Pe’ah” - “Always” implies that even after he separates Pe’ah, i.e. 1/60, and then adds it back to his field, that addition is still exempt from Ma’aser. This accords with the opinion of Beis Shammai, who says later in the beginning of the sixth Perek that one may designate something as Hefker only for the poor and thereby exempt it from Ma’aser. Likewise this Pe’ah which he previously designated as Hefker for the poor is exempt from Ma’aser. The owner, however, must still take off Ma’aser until he designates it as Hefker even for the rich.

Hence, the Mishnah’s statement that it’s exempt “until he smooths it,” i.e. Meiruach, the classical threshold (pardon the pun) for when it’s obligated in Ma’aser.

  • "The owner, however, must still take off Ma’aser until he designates it as Hefker even for the rich." So does this mean that additional pe'ah (i.e., hefker for the poor) is exempt from ma'aserot as long as it remains that way but if he reclaims it then the only way it can be exempt from ma'aserot is if it was also hefker for the rich before he reclaimed it? – Gabriel Aug 17 '17 at 19:13
  • @Gabriel Correct – DonielF Aug 17 '17 at 20:15
  • Where does he get that from? – Gabriel Aug 18 '17 at 20:57
  • @Gabriel See my final paragraph - from the fact that he’s only bought himself time before he has to take off Ma’aser. – DonielF Aug 18 '17 at 20:58
  • So how come when he's mafkir it and then he reclaims it it is still pattur from ma'aser but when he sets it aside as pe'ah and then reclaims it it is subject to ma'aser once the time of meiruach passes? Shouldn't the idea of "once exempt always exempt" apply in the case of pe'ah too? – Gabriel Aug 20 '17 at 1:35

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