- Can I buy Israeli oranges and use maasertext as normal?
This year is Shemitta and the halochos of using fruits and vegetables grown in Eretz Yisroel are much more complicated than normal. Fruits grown in the Shemitta year are special and have unique status. They may not be purchased as normal from a shop.
Technically, this prohibition only applies to produce which was grown in the Shemitta year. However, to avoid confusion we recommend that for the entire period, including many months after the Shemitta year, produce of Eretz Yisroel be avoided until one is sure that Shemitta produce is no longer on the market.
If you do accidentally purchase produce from Eretz Yisroel during periods where the Shemitta status of the produce is subject to doubt and may or may not be Shemitta produce, you should ma’aser the produce but the ma’aser separated should be wrapped and left to rot before it is discarded.
For more information on how to use the Federation Maaser Text service click here.
- Tesco delivered a bag of Israeli oranges. Can I eat them? If not, what should I do with them?
Not all Israeli fruit from this year is Shemitta produce. This is because fruit is only subject to the laws of Shemitta if it blossomed after Rosh Hashanah of the Shemitta year. If it blossomed last year, even though it was picked after Rosh Hashanah, the fruit is not subject to the laws of Shemitta.
If your oranges have Shemitta status, then you are permitted to eat them, but they need to be treated with kedusha i.e not wasted – see questions 3-7 for details on how to treat Shemitta produce with kedusha.
- Tesco have delivered Oranges which are from Israel. I have checked the current Shemitta status and at this time of year, oranges have Shemitta status. What should I do?
If the delivery driver is still at your house and it is still possible to return them, you should do so. If you only noticed after the delivery that the oranges were from Israel, you are permitted to eat them.
Note that special rules apply for this Shemitta produce and it should be eaten in its entirety and not wasted. Be careful not to waste or throw out any edible part of the orange.
- I was told that the oranges I bought have Shemitta status and are subject to Kedushas Sheviis. What is the instructions for the peels of the oranges?
Unlike the fruit, orange peels do not have kedushas shevi’is. They can therefore be thrown away. Ensure that the rest of the orange is consumed in its entirety without waste.
Edible peels such as those from apples and pears are subject to the rules of kedushas shevi’is and like fruits themselves, must not be discarded until they have rotted.
- I have some grapes at home; which currently have Shemitta status and are to be treated with Kedushas Sheviis. Is there any reason not to feed them to my three-year-old son?
It is permitted to feed Shemitta fruits to a young child, as if they will indeed eat it, this is considered normal usage. You should however be careful not to cause him to waste the fruits. Avoid giving more than he will likely eat as this will cause them to go to waste.
- How do I deal with excess Shemitta fruits or pieces of fruit which are leftover?
Shemitta fruit which carries Kedushas Sheviis may not be discarded while it remains edible. Edible peels or other leftovers should be wrapped in a plastic bag and left in a location where they will not be discarded. Once they have rotted and are no longer edible, they may be thrown in the bin.
- Can I feed Shemitta produce to my dog?
Shemitta produce which is meant for human consumption may not be fed to animals.
- I bought Israeli cucumbers from Sainsbury’s by mistake and am unable to return them, what should I do?
Cucumbers and vegetables in general, grown in Eretz Yisroel during the Shemitta year fall under the category of Sefichin [see introduction to Shemmitah – Sefichin]. (Bananas are not considered to be sefichin.)
Sefichin are not allowed to be eaten at all. Sefichin are still subject to kedushas shevi’is and therefore must be discarded only once no longer edible (see 6 above).
- I received a bottle of wine as a present which says that it is Otzar Beis Din. Can I drink it?
Otzar Beis Din (see introduction) produce has kedushas shevi’is and therefore, if it has a reliable hechsher, the wine may be drunk but must not be wasted.
It is important to note that the wine must be consumed before the time for Biur (see below 10). After this time, the wine is not allowed to be drunk until Biur is performed.
- What is Biur?
Shemitta produce may be consumed and is permitted only as long as fruits remain widely available in the fields. After this point, they are only permitted after one has fulfilled the mitzva of Biur.
Biur is the process of declaring the produce hefker (ownerless). The food is to be taken out of one’s house and declared hefker in front of three people.
If the time for biur passes and the mitzva has not been performed, then the produce is forbidden and may not be consumed.
Each type of fruit and vegetable has its own growing and harvesting season. In some cases, Chazal assessed when that is, in others it is left to contemporary experts to make the assessment when each particular item is no longer be available in the fields. When a particular fruit reaches time for Biur it will be listed here as Status D and should no longer be eaten.
- What is the time for biur for wine?
The time of biur for grapes is Erev Pesach of the year following Shemitta. A person who has Shemitta wines must take them out of his house and declare them ownerless by that time. After this date — Erev Pesach of the year following Shemitta — a person may not buy or drink Israeli wines made from Shemitta grapes, unless he is certain that biur was done on time.
- Can I use my Otzar Beis Din wine for Havdolo?
If the time for Biur of wine has not yet passed, wine may be used for Kiddush and Havdolo. However, during Havdoloh one should be careful not to spill over the wine or dip your fingers or the candle into it.
- Can I light my Shabbos candles with Shemmitah olive oil?
Yes, this is allowed as it is regular usage.
- Can I light my Chanukah Menorah using Shemitta olive oil?
No, as Shemitta produce is given to derive benefit from. Chanukah lights, however, can be not used for one’s own benefit.
- Am I allowed to buy flowers which were grown in Eretz Yisroel?
If the flowers have a scent, then don’t buy them as they have kedushas shevi’is. If they have no scent, you may buy them.
- I am currently in a Mehadrin Supermarket in Eretz Yisroel. There are fruits and vegetables which are labelled asYevul Nochri. Can I buy and eat these?
Yevul Nochri is produce which has grown on non-Jewish owned land. There are different opinions as to whether Yevul Nochri has kedushas shevi’is. The Chazon Ish maintains that Yevul Nochri is subject to kedushas shevi’is; this is the prevalent custom in Benei Brak. The custom widely followed in Yerushalayim, however, is that non-Jewish produce is not subject to the laws of Shemmitah.
The Federation Beis Din’s position is in line with Minhag Yerushalayim and therefore any produce which is Yevul Nochri may be eaten without any concern for kedushas shevi’is. Moreover, vegetables and other sefichin may also be eaten, as non-Jewish produce is not subject to kedushas shevi’is. It should be noted that foods purchased in the UK would not be assumed to be yevul nochri and full Shemita status would apply.
- I am planning a trip to the of Eretz Yisroel. Will I be able to buy fruit from a local store which does not have a hechsher?
Due to the prohibition against purchasing Shemitta fruits, during the Shemitta period, one may not purchase fresh produce from a store in Eretz Yisroel which does not a hechsher. In fact, irrespective of Shmitta, there are so many halochos applying to fruit and vegetables in Eretz Yisroel, that in any year one should only buy from a store that has a hechsher.
- Can I continue receiving Tesco deliveries as usual, or do I need to be concerned that there will be Israeli produce?
You may continue to make your Tesco order as usual. It would be helpful to add a packing note for each item of fruit and vegetable to request that the source not be Israel.
- Has the land of Israel not been sold for the Shemitta year? Why does this information on this page not take Hetter Mechira into consideration?
The Federation Beis Din’s position, in line with that of many worldwide halachic authorities, is that fruit and vegetable grown in Eretz Yisroel during the Shemitta year must be treated as Shemitta produce even if it has been included in the general mechira undertaken.
- What is a Pruzbul and do I need one?
A Pruzbul is a document signed in front of a Beis Din which allows the individual to collect debts that are owed to him and overcome the annulment of debts which takes place at the end of the Shemitta year. The minhag is to write a pruzbul even if you are not aware of any outstanding loans.
- When do I need to write a Pruzbul?
The accepted practice is to write a Pruzbul at the very end of the Shemittah year. Any money you lend between the writing of the Pruzbul and Rosh Hashonoh is annulled as a result of shemittas kesofim. Some people have the custom to lend a small amount of money after writing the Pruzbul and then to forgo that loan after Rosh Hashono, in order to fulfil the mitzvah of shemittas kesofim – forgoing one’s debts.
- Does the Pruzbul need to be written by a proper Beis Din, or are 3 laymen sufficient?
Ideally one should go through a formal Beis Din, though if this not possible 3 men are sufficient.
- I own an apartment in Eretz Yisroel and pay monthly va’ad habayit towards the joint upkeep of the block and its garden. As there are many non-religious neighbours in the block of flats, unfortunately gardening will continue in the Shemitta May I continue to pay va’ad habayit, even though this money will contribute towards the upkeep of the garden?
It is widely accepted that that one may continue to make payments.
However, it is best to declare in front of three people that you are making your part of the garden hefker and to tell the va’ad habayit that your money should be channelled towards permitted purposes.
- I am flying back to the U.K tonight from Israel. Am I permitted to take Shemitta fruit with me?
As a general rule, one is forbidden to export produce that has Kedushas shevi’is to Chutz Lo’oretz. You may, however, take with you sufficient for the journey (taking care to treat it with kedushas shevi’is).
- Am I allowed to bring an esrogwhich has kedushas shevi’is back to the U.K for Succos?
For the purpose of a mitzvah, Shemmita produce may be exported.
- Am I allowed to water the grass of my garden in EretzYisroel?
One may only use as much water as necessary to stop the grass from dying.
- May I water my house plants in my apartment in Eretz Yisroel?
One may only water house plants to prevent them from dying. However, it is not really possible to ascertain exactly how much this is. Therefore, if the plant pot is perforated at the bottom, it has the status of being grown directly from the ground and may not be watered. If, however, the plant pot has no holes underneath, then it may be watered normally.
- Most of my plant pots have holes in. Is there anything I can do to stop them dying this year?
Place aluminium foil underneath the pots and then it will not be considered connected to the ground.
- My apartment is not on the ground floor. Are my perforated plant pots still problematic as they are not near the ground?
There is a difference of opinions regarding this matter and is best therefore to place aluminium foil underneath them.
- If I have question, who do I contact?
As always, questions on practical halocho can be sent to our team of Rabbonim through ShailaText – text your shaila to 07403 939 613.
Keep on asking!
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CREDITS & SOURCE:
This document has been prepared by Rabbi Dov Fisher.