As part of the Gemara’s discussion about rabbinic ordinances established in order to encourage the settlement of the land of Israel, our Gemara quotes a baraita that enumerates a number of conditions that Joshua established upon entering the land. Among them were the following:
- permission to graze cattle in wooded areas;
- permission to gather wood from private fields;
- permission to gather grass for feed in most fields;
- permission to trim most trees and use the shoots for planting;
- a newly dug well can be used by everyone in the community;
- permission for all to fish in the Kinneret Sea with rods (but not nets).
In discussing the details of these enactments, we find limitations on certain aspects of them. For example, Rav Pappa teaches that grazing cattle in wooded areas was limited only to smaller animals in a thicker forest, where they would do little damage. It would be forbidden, however, to take small animals to graze in a sparsely wooded area, or larger ones even in a thickly wooded area.
Regarding the collection of wood, the Gemara limits it to very specific kinds of wood, arguing that Joshua only permitted the collection of Hizmei and Higi – thorn-bushes that no one really cares about. Even the collection of Hizmei and Higi was limited to taking those thorns that are still connected to the ground, so that by doing so a service is provided to the owner of the field, and previously cut thorn-bushes may have been prepared for use by the field’s owner.
Hizmei can be identified with Ononis antiquorum L. of the Papolinaceae family. It is a thorny plant that grows to about 75 centimeters (2.5 feet), which is found growing wild in fields and valleys. Higi is the more common variant shrub in the Papilionaceae family, Alhagi maurorum Medik, which is a thorny bush with smooth non-serrated leaves. It usually grows to a height of approximately 30cm and can grow to a height of 1m. It is commonly found in fields and salt marshes.
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