Kil'ayim (prohibition)
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Kil'ayim Prohibition

Kil'ayim (or Klayim) (Hebrew‎, lit. "mixture," or "diverse kinds") are the prohibitions in Jewish law which proscribe the planting of certain mixtures of seeds, grafting, the mixing of plants in vineyards, the crossbreeding of animals, the formation of a team in which different kinds of animals work together, and the mixing of wool with linen in garments.

The prohibitions are derived from the Torah in Leviticus 19:9 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11, and the Mishnah in tractate Kilayim, which has a Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud, further elaborates on the applicable circumstances.


The Torah (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9-11) lists several different examples of mixtures that are prohibited as mixed species. The halakha classifies the prohibitions under the following categories:[1]

  • interbreeding of animals of different species
  • planting mixed seeds
  • grafting of different species of trees
  • shatnez - mixing wool and linen in garments
  • planting grain or seed-crop in a vineyard
  • ploughing or doing other work with two different species of animal.

Permitted and forbidden instances

In fabrics

Torah law forbids the wearing of Kil'ayim (shatnez) – sheep wool and linen fabrics that have been hackled together, or spun and woven together. Likewise, "intertying" sheep wool and linen together is forbidden, the two exceptions being garments of kohanim worn in the Temple and tzitzit. Concerning tzitzit, the Sages of Israel permit using wool and linen strings in tandem only when genuine blue dye tchelet is available, whereas kabbalist sources go a step further by encouraging this practice.[2] The Torah forbids only wool and linen to be worn together.[3]Camel's wool, Cashmere wool, Yak fiber, and the like of such fibres, are not prohibited to be worn with linen.[4]

According to Maimonides, if a Jew had purchased an all-woolen product from a gentile and wanted to ascertain whether or not it was, indeed, pure wool - without the admixture of flax-linen, its fabric could be tested by dyeing. A dye-solution applied to the fabric would reveal whether or not it was of pure wool, as wool and linen products do not retain the same shades in a dye solution.[5]

In plantings

The prohibition of sowing together diverse seedlings is derived from the biblical verse, "You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed" (Leviticus 19:19), and which prohibition has been explained to mean planting or sowing two or more diverse vegetable crops within a radius of three-handbreadths, ca. 27 centimetres (11 in), from one another, where they draw nutrients from each other.[6] As a first resort, however, one is to distance two or more diverse vegetable crops from each other at a remove of six-handbreadths, ca. 54 centimetres (21 in), even if their foliage were to grow and intermix.[7][8] Two or more diverse seed-crops must be distanced enough so as to be distinguished from each other as two separate plantings.[9] The laws governing diverse seed-plantings or vegetables apply only to crops grown in the Land of Israel, but do not apply to seed-crops or vegetables planted outside the Land of Israel.[6][10]

According to biblical exegete Nachmanides, the reason for its prohibition being that when seedlings draw nutrients from other seedlings, their properties and natural forms are changed thereby and the sower cancels thereby the fixed design and purpose of the universe.[11]

Diverse seed-plantings or vegetables that grew together in violation of the biblical command are permitted to be eaten,[12] although the crop itself must be uprooted.[13][6][14] If two diverse grain seeds (e.g. wheat and barley) were inadvertently mixed together, they must be separated before they can be sown. If, however, there were 24 parts more of one grain than the other (ratio of 24 to 1), the lesser grain is considered cancelled by the other, and may still be sown together.[6] If there were not 24 parts more than the mixed grain, the whole must be sorted.[15]

Specific permitted and forbidden species

The Mishnah in tractate Kil'ayim (1:1) explicitly permits faba beans (Vicia faba) (Hebrew‎) and mung beans (Vigna radiata; Vigna mungo) (Hebrew?‎) to be planted together, as they are considered homogeneous.[16] It also permits the planting of White mustard (Sinapis alba) (Hebrew?‎) and of Egyptian mustard (Brassica nigra) (Hebrew? ?‎) together (Kil'ayim 1:2), as they, too, are considered to be homogeneous, despite being two different genera.[17][18] However, White mustard (Sinapis alba) (Hebrew?‎) and Charlock mustard (Sinapis arvensis) (Hebrew?‎), though also similar in appearance, may not be planted together (ibid. 1:5), as they are considered heterogeneous.[19]

Field showing distinct plots for different species

Cucumbers (Hebrew?‎) and muskmelons (Hebrew‎),[20] although two different species, are not considered "diverse kinds" with respect to each other and may be planted together.[21] Rabbi Yehudah, disputing, says that they are considered "diverse kinds" with respect to each other and cannot be planted together.

Although two different species, the Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:3) permits planting together turnips (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa) (Hebrew‎) with rape (Brassica napus) (Hebrew?‎).[22] Likewise, cauliflower (Brassica oleracea botrytis) (Hebrew?‎) and kohlrabi (Brassica var. caulorapa) (Hebrew?‎), although different species, are permitted to be planted together.[23]Maimonides, in his commentary on the same Mishnah, explained the word kar?b as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of ?, meaning either cabbage (Brassica oleracea) or kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala).[24]

Grafting of trees

Grafting of two varieties of citrus trees

The prohibition of grafting of trees is treated on in the Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4).[25] Among trees, while it is permissible to grow two different kinds of trees in close proximity to each other, it is forbidden for an Israelite (or a gentile working on behalf of an Israelite) to graft the branch (scion) of one tree onto the stump of another tree to produce thereby a hybrid fruit if the trees are not one and the same kind. Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) (Hebrew‎) are named as an exception, for if a branch taken from it were grafted onto a stump belonging to hawthorns (Crataegus azarolus) (Hebrew?‎), although they are two different species, it is permitted unto Israel to benefit therefrom, since they are considered related.[26][27] Likewise, to graft the branch of Krustemelin (said to be the "Calaprice pears")[28] onto the rootstock of an ordinary pear (Pyrus communis) is permitted. However, apple trees (Malus domestica) (Hebrew?‎) grafted onto medlars (Mespilus germanica) (Hebrew‎),[29] or peach trees (Prunus persica) (Hebrew‎) grafted onto almond trees (Prunus dulcis) (Hebrew‎), or jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) (Hebrew‎) grafted onto Christ's thorn jujubes (Ziziphus spina-christi) (Hebrew‎), although similar in appearance, are "diverse kinds."[30][31] The fruit produced by grafting the bud of one dissimilar tree onto the rootstock of the other are permitted to be consumed by Israel,[32][33][34][6] although the trees themselves, according to some authorities, are not permitted to be maintained.[35][36]

The Chazon-Ish, who was uncertain about the identity of the trees mentioned in the Mishnah owing to conflicting opinions, made it a rule to be stringent in all of them, prohibiting their grafting in all cases. A Jew who transgressed by grafting two dissimilar trees was, formerly, liable to flogging.[37] The prohibition of grafting two dissimilar trees applies to trees in the Land of Israel, as well as to trees outside the land of Israel; whether trees belonging to a Jew or to a gentile.[38]


The Sages of Israel have described the prohibition of growing diverse kinds in a vineyard, strictly from a biblical perspective, as referring only to two grain varieties (such as wheat and barley), or either to hemp and arum, or similar plants which reach maturity with the grain.[39][40][41] By a rabbinic prohibition, however, it is not permitted to plant or maintain a vineyard while the vineyard shares the same immediate ground with any vegetable or seed-crop grown for food (e.g. mustard seeds, chickpeas, etc.).[39] The result of doing so would be to cause its owner to forfeit the seed-crop together with the increase of the vineyard thereof.[42] Therefore, the rabbis made it incumbent upon husbandmen and vine-dressers to distance their seed-crop from a vineyard. According to Maimonides, if a trellised vine of at least five plantings was made alongside a fence or a wall, even if the stumps of the grape-vines were distant from the wall one cubit, the planter of seed is only permitted to sow seed 4 cubits beyond the wall or fence, since the grape-vine is prone to spread itself as far as the wall, and there must always be at least 4 cubits from a vineyard and the seed-crop.[43] Certain plants that grow of themselves in a vineyard, such as lianas (Cissus spp.),[44] bindweed (Convolvulus spp.),[45] Sweet clover (Melilotus), and the anemone (Anemone coronaria), do not account as "diverse kinds" to cause its owner to forfeit the crop of the vineyard altogether.[46] Had a person transgressed and grew a seed-crop within his vineyard, not only is the produce forbidden to be eaten, but also had he sold the produce, the proceeds accruing from the sale of such produce are also forbidden.[47][3]

Vineyard growing in Israel

If thorn bushes, such as camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum) (Hebrew: ), and box-thorn (Lycium shawii) (Hebrew: ), grew within a vineyard, they are not accounted as a seed-crop and may be sustained in a vineyard, the rabbis giving to them the classification of trees amongst trees.[48] However, in places where thorn bushes are used as fodder for camels and the owner of the vineyard is content to have the thorn bushes grow in his vineyard to that end, the thorns bushes, if maintained, would render the entire vineyard forbidden.[49]

By a rabbinic injunction, the prohibition of growing diverse seed-crops in a vineyard extends to vineyards vintaged by Jews outside the Land of Israel.[50] The planter transgresses the biblical command from the moment grain begins to take root within a vineyard, and the grapes have reached the size of white peas (Vigna unguiculata).[51][52][53]

In animals

In modern classification of animals, the genus Canis is used to include dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals. Even so, the mating of dogs and wolves is forbidden. Similarly, the mating of a horse and mule (even though they cannot reproduce) is forbidden.[54]

Though a Jew is forbidden to crossbreed a horse and a donkey (producing a hinny or mule), had a gentile bred them, it is permitted for a Jew to make use of them.


  1. ^ Wald, Stephen (2007)
  2. ^ "Tzitzit made of klayim?". Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b Kiara, S. (1987), Hil. Kil'ayim, p. 390
  4. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Tractate Kil'ayim, chapter 8
  5. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, s.v. Hil. Kil'ayim 10:27-28
  6. ^ a b c d e Aharon HaLevi (1958), mitzvah # 245
  7. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, Hil. Kil'ayim 3:10
  8. ^ Cf. Mishnah (Kil'ayim 2:10); Hiyya the Great (1970). M.S. Zuckermandel (ed.). Tosephta - Based on the Erfut and Vienna Codices (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Wahrmann Books. p. 76 (Kil'ayim 2:10). ISBN 9004112650. OCLC 13717538. ...Man is permitted to make a furrow in his field for planting cucumbers, gourds, watermelons, muskmelons, cowpeas, turning one plant so that it faces the other, and another so that is faces the other, on the condition that there is not six-handbreadths between one [plant] and the other.
  9. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, Hil. Kil'ayim 3:7
  10. ^ Meiri (2006), p. 94, Kiddushin 39a, s.v. ?
  11. ^ Rabbi Moses ben Nahman on the Torah, s.v. Leviticus 19:19
  12. ^ Kiara, S. (1987). Ezriel Hildesheimer (ed.). Sefer Halachot Gedolot (in Hebrew). 3. Jerusalem. ISBN 9004112650. OCLC 977392294., Hil. Kil'ayim (p. 390)
  13. ^ Sifra on Leviticus 19:19
  14. ^ Cf. Hiyya the Great (1970). M.S. Zuckermandel (ed.). Tosephta - Based on the Erfut and Vienna Codices (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Wahrmann Books. p. 76 (Kil'ayim 2:16). ISBN 9004112650. OCLC 13717538. Israel who maintained diverse kinds in his field, priests [of Aaron's lineage] do not enter into his field, but rather look upon it as a gravestone of a cemetery...
  15. ^ Cf. Hiyya the Great (1970). M.S. Zuckermandel (ed.). Tosephta - Based on the Erfut and Vienna Codices (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Wahrmann Books. p. 74 (Kil'ayim 1:15). ISBN 9004112650. OCLC 13717538. ...Every seah-bulk [of grain] (i.e. equivalent to 144 eggs in volume) wherein [is mixed] a quarter-kab (i.e. equivalent to 6 eggs in volume) of a different kind must be reduced.
  16. ^ Based on the identification of this legume in R. Nathan ben Abraham's Mishnah commentary, as well as that of Maimonides (s.v. Kil'ayim 1:1)
  17. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 86-87, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 109, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:5.
  20. ^ On the definition of this last word, melephephon, see Mishnah Commentary by Pinchas Kehati (1977), ninth edition, vol. 1 (Zera'im), s.v. Kil'ayim 1:2, who explains this fruit as "melon." The 11th-century Mishnah exegete, Nathan ben Abraham I, also explained melephephon as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of ' (muskmelon), saying that it was "one of the kinds of watermelon whose smell is sweet." The Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:2) relates an ancient belief that if one were to take a seed from a watermelon and a seed from an apple, and then place them together in an impression made in the earth, the two seeds would fuse together and become diverse kinds. "It is for this reason," says the narrator of the Talmud, "that they call it (i.e. the fruit) by its Greek name, melephephon. The old Greek word for "melon" was actually ? = mêlo(n) apple + = pép?n an edible (lit. ripened) [gourd], meaning literally "apple-shaped melon" (see: Random House Webster's College Dictionary, s.v. melon). This fruit, muskmelon (Cucumis melo), was thought to be a cross-breed between a watermelon and an apple. Maimonides, however, calls "melephephon" in Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2 and Terumah 8:6 by the Arabic name, al-khiyy?r, meaning "cucumbers" (Cucumis sativus) - which although far from an apple is in the same genus and watermelons. Talmudic exegete, Rabbi Solomon Sirilio (1485-1554), disputed Maimonides' view in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:2, s.v. ), saying that Maimonides explained "melephephon" to mean in Spanish "pepinos" = cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), which, in the opinion of an early Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Isaac of Siponto (c. 1090-1160), was really to be identified as "small, round melons" (Cucumis melo), since Rabbi Yehudah in our Mishnah holds that it is a diverse kind in relation to kish?t (snakemelon [1], H. Paris 2012 p. 2, phenotypically similar to cucumber). Nevertheless, today, in Modern Hebrew, the word melephephon is now used to denote "cucumbers," based on Maimonides' identification.
  21. ^ Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2
  22. ^ Although the vegetable known as nefos was called by Maimonides by its idiom, "Syrian radish," it was actually not a radish at all, since it is listed in Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:5 as being a diverse-kind (kil'ayim) in relation to the true radish (Heb. ?). Zohar Amar suggests that it may have actually been Brassica napus; see Amar, Z. (2015), p. 113. One is to bear in mind that Brassica napus has roots resembling those of parsnips and carrots, for which reason medieval Hebraists and philologists would have classified the vegetable as a parsnip / carrot (Judeo-Arabic: '), as did Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham in his commentary of the Mishnah. It is to be noted, furthermore, that in foliage, Brassica napus and turnip (Brassica rapa) have similar leaves, for which reason they are not considered diverse-kinds with respect to each other.
  23. ^ The Hebrew word kar?b being explained by Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham, as having the connotation of the Judeo-Arabic word , meaning, "kohlrabi." By this definition, the word kar?b is not to be confused with the Modern Hebrew word by the same name, now used for "cabbage" (cultivars of Brassica oleracea). See: Amar, Z.; Kapah, E. (2011), vol. 2, p. 19.
  24. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 100, 172, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:3.
  25. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, Hil. Kil'ayim 1:6, who wrote: "Among trees, there is no such thing as kil'ayim except with respect to grafting." Cf. Kessar, ?ayim (1988), vol. 2, p. 344, s.v. on Mishneh Torah, Hil. Kil'ayim 3:4. Rabbi ?ayim Kessar writes there: "Such is the case with trees, where there are two trees similar in appearance to each other, etc. Mishnah ibid., and it is plain that it refers to a tree with respect to grafting, as I shall explain in what follows" (END QUOTE). The matter of tree grafting is evinced also by the Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:4), in a discussion on the same Mishnah, where after citing cases of grafting of two different kinds of trees named in the Mishnah, the trees were then cut down. The Talmud also brings down examples of hybrid fruit caused by grafting two dissimilar trees together.
  26. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4).
  27. ^ On the definitions of these words, see: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 132-133, 118
  28. ^ Thus explained by Isaac ben Melchizedek's Mishnah Commentary (1975:79), s.v. Kila'yim 1:4. On this fruit, see Pere calaprice.
  29. ^ Definition here follows that of Maimonides. However, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham explains as being a cultivar of pear.
  30. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4)
  31. ^ On the definitions of these words, see: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 76, 150, 157. In Modern Hebrew, the word shez?f (Heb. ?) now means "plum" (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or simply known by the synonym Prunus insititia), although in today's meaning, it is not to be confused with the Mishnaic meaning.
  32. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Hullin 115a)
  33. ^ Meiri (2006), p. 94, Kiddushin 39a, s.v. ?
  34. ^ Kiara, S. (1987), Hil. Kil'ayim, p. 394
  35. ^ Tosefta (Kil'ayim 1:3); Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:4). Cf. Jacob ben Asher, Arba'ah Turim (Yoreh De'ah 295:7); Halberstam, C. (2002), vol. 1, Yoreh De'ah, responsum # 60 (pp. 239-243)
  36. ^ Cf. Chazon-Ish (1994), p. 46a-b [2:9], who brings down a rabbinic dispute over whether trees grafted by way of transgressing the prohibitive command require uprooting, or whether they can be maintained.
  37. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Kiddushin 39a)
  38. ^ Kanievsky, C. (1984), p. 5a [1:5 (26)]
  39. ^ a b Aharon HaLevi (1958), mitzvah # 548
  40. ^ Meiri (2006), p. 94, Kiddushin 39a, s.v. ?
  41. ^ Ishtori Haparchi (1999), chapter 56, p. 265
  42. ^ As explained by the words of the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:9): "Lest all should be forfeited together with the increase of the vineyard."
  43. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 6:1). Cf. Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, s.v. Hil. Kil'ayim 8:3.
  44. ^ Amar, Z.; Kapah, E. (2011), vol. 2, p. 14 (s.v. )
  45. ^ The Hebrew word described here is ?, and which, according to Zohar Amar, may also refer to the common ivy (Hedera helix) and the lablab bean (Dolichos lablab). See: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 143-144. Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham, explains ? as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of ? (= Bindweed).
  46. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 5:8). Cf. the definition of these words in Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham's commentary of the Mishnah;
  47. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Tractate Kil'ayim
  48. ^ Tosefta (Kil'ayim 3:15)
  49. ^ Ishtori Haparchi (1999), chapter 58, pp. 285-286
  50. ^ Meiri (2006), p. 94, Kiddushin 39a, s.v. ? ?
  51. ^ Sifrei on Deuteronomy 22:9 (P. Ki Tetzei)
  52. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, s.v. Hil. Kil'ayim 5:13-15
  53. ^ Ishtori Haparchi (1999), chapter 58, p. 299
  54. ^ Mishnah, Kil'ayim 1:6


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