Five Species

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FIVE SPECIES , the varieties of seed to which the halakhot concerning the agricultural produce of Ereẓ Israel apply. The Mishnah lists the five species as ḥittim, se'orim, kusmin, shibbolet shu'al, and shippon (Ḥal. 1:1). They are known in literature by the generic names tevu'ah ("produce," "increase"; Ḥal. 1:2) and dagan ("corn," i.e. grain). In the Bible, however, both terms have a wider meaning; tevu'ah denotes the "increase" of the threshing floor and the winepress (Num. 18:30), the vineyard (Deut. 22:9), and the corn (ii Chron. 32:28); and dagan (often juxtaposed to "wine" and "oil") denotes the blessings of the earth. The term bar occurs only in the Bible, and applies to corn from which the chaff has been winnowed (Jer. 23:28; et al.). The exact definition of the five species is problematical. Feliks maintains that three of the five are species of the genus Triticum ("wheat"), and identifies (1) ḥittim as hard and bread wheat (Triticum durum and vulgare); (2) kusmin as rice wheat (Triticum dicoccum); (3) shippon as spelt wheat (Triticum spelta); the last two are species of the genus Horedeum ("barley"); (4) se'orim is six- and four-rowed barley (Hordeumsativum and vulgare); and (5) shibbolet shu'al is two-rowed barley (Hordeum distichum). All five species grew in Ereẓ Israel inancient times, as was not the case with oats (the usual translation of shibbolet shu'al) or rye (that of shippon).

According to the halakhah these five species are subject to the laws relating to the blessings said before and after meals (see *Grace after Meals), to ḥallah (the separation of a portion of dough to the priests; Ḥal, 1:1), to the laws concerning leavened and unleavened bread on Passover (Ḥal. 1:2), and to the prohibition against harvesting or eating produce until the omer has been offered (Ḥal, 1:1). With respect to the law of kilayim (the prohibition on mixing heterogeneous plants in a field), kusmin and shippon are regarded as one species, and se'orim and shibbolet shu'al as another (Kil. 1:1). As regards combining different doughs to form the minimum quantity liable to ḥallah, in which taste is the determining factor, ḥittim and kusmin are reckoned as one species (Pes. 35a).

The Talmud records an important dispute between Johanan b. Nuri and the sages. The former maintained that rice, too, was a species of grain and, like the five species mentioned above, was subject to the laws of Grace after Meals, ḥallah, and unleavened bread. He also included as liable to ḥallah, karmit (Pes, 35a), apparently a plant of the order Gramineae which grows in swamps – the Glyceria fluitans. Although Johanan b. Nuri's view was not accepted as halakhah, there were places in Babylonia where ḥallah was separated from dough made of rice, since it was their staple food (Pes. 50b–51a). However, since rice is usually sown after Passover and does not ripen until the end of summer, Johanan b. Nuri is not reported as claiming that the laws of omer apply to it, since this would mean that it could not be eaten until the following spring.


et, 4 (1956), 226–9; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (1957), 139–53; idem, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1967), 24–32; idem, in: Sefer ha-Shanah … Bar Ilan, 1 (1962/63), 177–89; Loew, Flora, 1 (1924), 707ff.

[Jehuda Feliks]