Jewish farmer tends his vineyard
Jewish farmer tends his vineyardFlash 90

In our parsha, Ki Teitzei, the Torah prohibits “sowing your vineyard with another crop (Kilei hakerem), lest the fullness of the seed that you have planted become sanctified” (Devarim 22:9). Chazal (Kiddushin 56b) explain pen tikdash as pen tukad eish; when interplanting in the vineyard, the grapes are not only forbidden to eat but must be burned!

In contrast to other prohibited mixtures that may be eaten “after the fact”, we may neither eat nor derive any benefit from Kilay hakerem. Moreover, this mitzva applies on a Biblical level even today (unlike other mitzvot, such as Shemita and Terumot and Ma’asrot, which apply only on a Rabbinic level nowadays).

Grain planted along young vine shoots
Grain planted along young vine shootsTorahMizion

Why is the prohibition of Kilei hakerem so severe?

Wine is derived from grapes, and wine is a special beverage, which “gladdens both God and man” (Judges 9:13).

It could be due to the fact that many mitzvot require the use of wine (Kiddush, Havdala, weddings, a brit, etc.) to achieve the greatest of spiritual heights, but wine can also lead man to the lowest of the depths through drunkenness. Or perhaps the severity derives from the fact that wine is a non-essential luxury, in contrast to grains, legumes and vegetables which are staple foods, and the Torah wants to educate us to preserve the boundaries between those items that are essential and existential and those that are luxury items? (See Pninei Halacha, in the name of Shemen Ra’anan).

What precisely is prohibited?

It is forbidden to sow vegetables, legumes or grains alongside grapes, and even if these sprouted by themselves they must be uprooted.

What is the necessary distance between vegetables/legumes/grains and a grapevine? The necessary distance from a single grape cluster is 1 ama (48 cm). However (and this a common mistake), it is important to ensure that the grapevine does not spread out or overhang the vegetable, and that the vegetable does not spread out in the direction of the vineyard.

If the vine does overhang the vegetable, it is forbidden to plant beneath it, even with the distance of an ama from the stem. One should therefore make sure to tilt the grape leaves in a different direction, where there are no annual plants. It is likewise recommended not to plant nana (mint) close to a vine, because it is known to spread quickly and is difficult to control.

Another law concerns a trellis apparatus (Rambam, Kilayim 6:12). If the grapevine is trained onto a trellis apparatus, it is forbidden to plant vegetables underneath the entire apparatus, even under areas the grapevine has not yet reached (and even though these may be far away from the tree).

The distances are greater in the case of a vineyard. The definition of a vineyard is 2 rows of grapes, in one of which there are at least 2 grape clusters, while in the other there are at least 3 clusters. One row of grapes, even a long one, is not halakhically regarded as a vineyard. There must be a distance of at least 4 amot (192 cm) from a grapevine (5 grape clusters).

If the vegetables sprouted on their own, and the vinegrower did not notice them there, the vegetable and grapevine are not prohibited, but either the grapevine or vegetable need to be uprooted immediately to avoid cultivating kila'im. However, if after the vinegrower becomes aware of these vegetables he does not uproot them, this is called kiyum, that is, it is that he is actively cultivating kila'im and this can prohibit both the grapevine and vegetable.

In the case that vegetable growth comes to the vinegrower's attention but he does not realize that it is forbidden, a competent rabbi should be consulted (there is a dispute whether the vegetables are forbidden for benefit when a person is “pleased” with the situation that has been created (“Nichuta”), even though he was not aware of the prohibition; or whether the vegetables are only forbidden if he knew of the prohibition of Kilayim and was pleased with the situation).

Kilei hakerem is a biblical prohibition in Israel and a rabbinic prohibition abroad.

The prohibition of Kilei hakerem applies also to plants that are grown for the purpose of animal fodder; however, there is no prohibition on ornamental plants. In practice, we are lenient about growing a grapevine next to grass or flowers (Rav Eliyahu is stringent in the case of grass).

Buying grapes in the market:

Even today, it is customary to plant vegetables , such as cabbage, between the vines in the vineyards near Hevron. Although Arabs sometimes grow vegetables (tomatoes, cabbage, etc.) under their grapevines, since most table grapes are not grown as kila'im (relying on the halakhic principle "kol deparish meruba parish"), it is permissible to buy grapes (and vegetables) from vendors standing on the roadside. In general, it is always preferable to buy fruits and vegetables from a place with kashrut certification.

There is no problem to plant a tree (whether or not fruit bearing) next to a vineyard.

If a person planted vegetables next to a vineyard, the vegetables are only prohibited after they have take root. Grapes, by contrast, are forbidden only when they are somewhat larger (smadar) in size.

Sometimes, the vine itself needs to be uprooted and it is recommended to consult with a Rav in such cases before uprooting.

May we merit to plant a garden based on Halakha and continue to perform all of the mitzvot relating to the land of Israel in the best possible manner!
Rabbi Moshe Bloom is former Rosh Kollel (Warsaw, 2013-17), currently Head of the English department at Machon HaTorah Ve'Haaretz, the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel.For comments: [email protected]