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Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim 5784

Parashat Hashavua: Reasons behind the Prohibition of Sowing Mixed Seeds

Harav Shaul Yisraeli from Siach Shaul 337-339

According to Rashi (Vayikra 19:19), the prohibition of sowing mixed seeds is included in the divine decrees without a known reason. According to the Ramban (ad loc.), the prohibitions of mixing seeds and of crossbreeding animals are not listed among prohibitions without a known source and which the nations scoff at. The Ramban explains: “When one combines two different species and weakens the Creation, it is as if he thinks that Hashem did not fully complete the world but that we need to help with Creation. Although the logic is more compelling regarding crossbreeding animals, sowing seeds one next to the other also causes “a change in their taste and their form, as they are nourished one from the other.” The Sefer Hachinuch (#244) says similarly – Hashem made the world perfectly so that each species should produce its own fruit and one should not mix species and take away from Hashem’s will and His blessing to each species.

If the logic is in the mixing of nutrition one from the other, how could the Rabbis permit it when it does not appear that they are planted together? Why should they treat it like something that is only forbidden due to marit ayin (appearance of sin)?

Apparently, that which is forbidden is the human involvement in having the different species interact and not what happens on its own as the plants grow. (This is similar to crossbreeding animals, which is forbidden only when man is involved in the act of mating, but when the animals join together on their own, there is no need to separate them.)

This fits well with what the Ramban says that a person should not think that Hashem did not complete His creation. Therefore, when a person does it in a way that it does not look like he is trying to combine the species, it is as if man is not doing the action of combining but it happens on its own.

The Rambam says that these prohibitions are to distance us from idolatry, as mixing species was connected to acts of promiscuity done as part of idolatrous service. This most directly relates to crossbreeding animals, although similar phenomena with mixing of species were also included. This explains why the full prohibitions anywhere in the world are only regarding animals. The Rambam also saw the mixing of seeds including grapes as related to the customs of the gentiles (Moreh Nevuchim 3:37).

Even according to the Rambam, even if the reason of idolatry is no longer connected to these actions, once the mitzva was given, it remains in full force forever. As Chazal said, the reasons behind mitzvot were not stated explicitly because the reasoning given for two mitzvot caused two great people to stumble as a result (Sanhedrin 21b).

All the reasons that different great rabbis suggested are just that, suggestions, and while we may conjecture, one must not say that he has reached THE truth on the matter. Even according to the opinion that “we may derive the reason of the mitzvot,” this is only when Chazal stipulate what the reason is (see Kesef Mishneh, Issurei Bi’ah 12:1; Lechem Mishneh, Milveh 3:1).


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