Shmita Terms An explanation of basic concepts in anticipation of the upcoming shmita year. Otzar Beit-Din The farmer is required to relinquish ownership of his land and is prohibited from selling his produce during the sabbatical year. This evokes two concerns: that the farmer will lose motivation to maintain his fields and that an uncontrolled rush on his crops will ensue. Therefore the ‘beit-din’ assumes responsibility for maintaining and marketing the crops; the farmer and the marketer act as agents of the ‘beit-din’ while the ‘beit-din’ compensates the various workers for their services and expenses. Do not confuse this term with ‘Otzar Ha-aretz’ that is a marketing body that markets Jewish agricultural produce without relying on the ‘heter mechira’. (See below). Bi’ur The Torah states (Lev. 25,7) “Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.” Chazal learned from this verse that it is permitted to store produce in one’s home as long as “the animals can eat it in the field”- meaning that the species is available in the land. When the appropriate time for bi’ur arrives the crops should be removed, declared ownerless, and made available to anyone who claims them. Following bi’ur they may be reclaimed by the owner. Hydroponics This is a long-standing farming method (employed mainly at Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim), based on the halachic premise that it is permissible to sow in unperforated containers that are situated under a roof. One method involves the cultivation of vegetables on a bed of gravel and water under a temporary roof. A similar principle was implemented in the Gush Katif hothouses that used detached growing beds. Poskim are divided as to the blessing – ‘shehakol’ or ‘borei pri ha’adama’ - that should be recited over hydroponically grown vegetables. Grass Seeding a lawn (or laying sod) is prohibited during shmita though watering and mowing are permitted. See the appended halachot regarding quantities and measurements for mowing and watering. Heter Mechira In order to enable certain types of agricultural work to continue during shmita it was proposed that the land be sold provisionally to a non-Jew (as in ‘mechirat chametz’). This ‘heter’ is based on the opinion that views shmita nowadays as rabbinically binding and thus gentile ownership annuls the sanctity of the land. The ‘heter’ was instituted in 1889 and has been applied since then despite opposition from the onset stemming from a variety of halachic considerations. The Chief Rabbinate has once again authorized the ‘heter mechira’ for the forthcoming shmita year of 5775, after ensuring that biblically prohibited labor will be performed by non-Jews. Viduy Ma’asrot Twice during the shmita cycle- on Passover (on the eve of the first or seventh day, depending on the posek) of the fourth and seventh year, there is an obligation to remove the tithes and remaining priestly gifts from the home and to declare that one has fulfilled one’s tithe obligations. Therefore ‘viduy ma’asrot’ will be performed during the 5775 shmita year at Mincha of the seventh day of Passover (according to most opinions). Zmira (pruning) Pruning is one of the four primary labors (sowing, pruning, reaping and harvesting grapes) that are prohibited during the sabbatical year by the Torah. Refer to the appended halachot of household gardens for an explanation of what is permissible and prohibited in terms of pruning. Calculation of the Shmita Cycle The calculation of the shmita cycle is a contested issue that is tenanted on several disputes in the Gemara regarding when exactly the Second Temple was destroyed, whether the Yovel cycle was observed during the Second Temple period etc. The Rambam (Hilchot Shmita and Yovel ch. 10, Halacha 8) ruled according to the prevailing custom: “ And the year of Shmitah is well known by the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael…. And this is what we rely on, and according to this calculation we teach for the matter of Maaser, and Shmitah, and Shmitat Kesafim, for the tradition and the deed are great pillars for instruction, and upon them it is proper to depend.” Grinding Fruits of the Sabbatical Year One of the aspects that reflect the sanctity of the sabbatical year inherent in its fruit is the prohibition against changing the form of such fruit out of concern for wastage. Therefore it is forbidden to grind or pulverize fruits of the sabbatical year since this is not the manner in which they are normally consumed. It is permitted to crush or puree fruit in a manner that allows their original form to be discerned. Yovel Upon the completion of seven shmita cycles the Torah ordains that we observe the Yovel (during which all the agricultural laws of shmita obtain and which additionally entails the emancipation of slaves and the reversion of all land that had been sold to its owners) during the fiftieth year. Chazal taught us that Yovel is observed only when “All its inhabitants are present” – in other words, when all of Israel is in its land. Therefore, once the tribes of Gad, Reuven and half of the tribe of Menashe were exiled, Yovel was discontinued until the present day (Rishonim are divided as to whether Yovel was observed during the Second Temple period). The opinion that views shmita nowadays as not ordained by the Torah derives from the premise that when Yovel is not observed then the observance of shmita is not biblically ordained. Conquest of Olei Mitzrayim According to the Rambam (Hilchot Terumot ch.1 inter alia) the sanctity of the Land (regarding ‘mitzvot ha-tluyot ba’aretz’) commenced with the first conquest by the Israelites who came out of Egypt but was obviated by the destruction of the First Temple. Regions of the country outside of the boundaries of ‘Olei MItzrayim’ (such as the Southern Arava) are not subject to any shmita restrictions. There are also leniencies regarding those regions that were included within the boundaries of ‘Olei MIitzayim’ but not within the borders of ‘Olei Bavel’ (see below). L’Okmei Ilana – L’Avruyai Ilana Within the category of labors defined as secondary (toladot) rather than primary labors (see zmira below), activities designed to prevent the plant from dying (okmei liana=to sustain the tree) are permitted while activates intended to improve its quality or promote its growth (avruyai liana) are not. Matza Menutak (detached growing beds) See “hydroponics”. The mitigating criteria that permit the labors are the plants’ location under a roof and the fact that they are not sustained from the earth due to a plastic divider separating the crops from the soil. Nochrim (non-Jews) There is a dispute among poskim regarding the sanctity of fruit grown in Israel during the sabbatical year (‘kedushat shvi’it’) in fields owned by non –Jews. The Shulchan Aruch holds that they do not possess ‘kedushat shvi’it’ and therefore they may be purchased and consumed without restrictions. This is the prevalent custom in Jerusalem and throughout most of Israel. According to the Radbaz, however, fruits grown by non-Jews also retain ‘kedushat shevi’it. This is also the halachic opinion of the Chazon Ish that is followed in Bnei Brak. Regarding the sale of land to a non-Jew see ’heter mechira’. Sifichin “All produce that grows from the earth in the Sabbatical year: whether it grew from seeds that fell into the earth before the Sabbatical year... or grasses and vegetables that grew on their own accord [in the Sabbatical year], is permitted to be eaten according to Scriptural Law…According to Rabbinic decree, all the ‘sifichin’ are forbidden to be eaten. Why was a decree established concerning them? Because of the transgressors”. (Rambam, Hilchot Shmita ve-Yovel, ch. 4 halacha 1-2). The prohibition of ‘sifichin’ applies to vegetables, legumes and grains whose main period of germination occurred during the shmita year. However, produce that grew - even partially - during the sixth year does not fall under the prohibited of ‘sifichin’. Olei Bavel When the exiled Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael from Babylon after 70 years, the areas of the land occupied by the returnees regained its sanctity. The Yerushalmi Talmud delineates the boundaries of ‘olei Bavel’ (Shvi’it 86) and in the Baraita in Techumin (in the Sifri). The Gaza region, the Arava, the Beth She’an Valley (according to most opinions), the Jordan Valley (the area of Tzemach –Ein-Gev), the Hermon and the northern Golan Heights do not fall within these boundaries. Prozbul Another facet of the shmita year is the ‘shmitat ksafim’ – the cancellation of debts resulting from private loans. When Hillel the Elder saw that people refused to loan money during the latter years of the shmita cycle, from fear that the debt would be unremitted, he instituted the ‘Prozbul’ - authorization granted by the lender that transferred the loan to the ‘beit-din’. The ‘Prozbul’ is also based on the premise of the sabbatical year being rabbinically ordained. Since most poskim hold that debts are forgiven at the end of the sabbatical year, the writ of ‘Prozbul’ will be signed during the month of Elul 5775. Wild Plants (see sifichin) Kedushat Shvi’it (produce invested with the sanctity of the shmita year) The fruits that are lawfully grown during the shmita year are invested with sanctity that entails: the obligation to renounce ownership of them; prohibition of their sale, of their wastage, of their exportation outside of Israel; the commandment of ‘bi’ur’ (see above). According to the Rambam it is a positive, biblically ordained mitzvah to consume fruits that retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’. According to Tosfot (Tractate Gitin) however, it is preferable to refrain from consuming fruit that retains this sanctity since it is difficult to observe the exhaustive details of the relevant halachot. See under “Nochrim” regarding the ‘kedushat shvi’it’ of fruits grown by non-Jews. The Golan Heights Rishonim were divided as to whether ‘olei Bavel’ occupied the Transjordan (including the Golan Heights).Most poskim concluded that the entire northern Transjordan was occupied by the returnees from Babylon; therefore all the laws of shmita and the other ‘mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz” are binding in these areas. The Sabbatical of the Land Another term for shmita that entails not only that the farmer desists from agricultural labor but also that the earth itself lies fallow. According to the Abarbanel in his commentary on Pirkei Avot, this attests to the spiritual loftiness of the Land. Shabbat Ha-aretz is also the name of the monumental work by Rav Kook z”l on the topic of the laws of shmita and Yovel. Tosefet Shvi’it The same principle that mandates that we “add from chol (the profane) to kodesh (the holy)” in respect to Shabbat and holidays, also obtains in regard to shmita. This addition manifests in a graduated manner: thirty days preceding shmita it is prohibited – by halacha as conveyed to Moshe at Sinai - to work the land. The rabbinic prohibitions obtain even earlier: orchards (Sde Ilan) may not be cultivated from Shavuot, and grains (Sde Halavan) from Passover. These additions were binding in the period during which the Temple was standing; nowadays none of these additions are binding. Laws of Shmita Foreword 1. The upcoming year, 5775, is a shmita year according to the prevailing tradition in Eretz Yisrael. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Though according to the Rambam’s enumeration this is not the case, he asserts “The reckoning of the Sabbatical year is well-known and renowned among the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael...We rely on this tradition and we rule according to it with regard to the tithes, the Sabbatical year, and the nullification of debts, for the received tradition and deed are great pillars in establishing Halachic rulings and it is appropriate to rely on them” (Hilchot Shmita ve’Yovel ch. 10 halacha 6).” The shmita year begins on the first day of Tishrei (5775) and ends on the 29th of Elul yet as will be explained herein, certain aspects of the shmita year obtain already in 5774 while others persist into 5776. ‘Tosefet Shvi’It’: In principle, the law requires us to “add from the profane to the holy”. According to the Rambam (Hilchot Shmita ve-Yovel, ch. 3, halacha 1) “It is a halacha conveyed to Moshe at Sinai that it is forbidden to work the land in the last 30 days of the sixth year, just before the Sabbatical year…Our Sages extended that prohibition, decreeing that one should not plow an orchard in the year preceding the Sabbatical year in the era of the Temple after Shavuot, nor a field of grain after Pesach” However, he adds “In the era where the Temple does not stand, we are permitted to perform agricultural work until Rosh Hashanah, as permitted by Scriptural Law”. Nowadays, therefore, the laws of ‘tosefet shvi’it’ are unfortunately fundamentally obsolete. Exceptions to this rule are elaborated below. Poskim are divided regarding the validity of shmita nowadays: most poskim hold that shmita nowadays is a rabbinic obligation while others view it as biblically ordained. Still others reject its rabbinic validity and contend that shmita nowadays is a mere ‘degree of of piety’. The interpretation of the Rambam’s view is hotly disputed. Rav Kook asserts that the obligation of shmita is rabbinic (his ‘heter mechira’ is based on this premise). The Chazon Ish concurs with this approach (Shvi’it siman 3 para. 8) “it seems to me that regarding shmita nowadays, we must assume that it is a rabbinic obligation since that is the Rambam’s opinion” (he rejects ‘heter mechira’ on other grounds). In contradistinction, there are achronim who hold that shmita nowadays is a biblical obligation. Even when shmita is biblically ordained, the biblical injunction prohibits only the following labors: sowing, pruning (for the purpose of enhancing growth. According to the Chazon Ish the biblical prohibition applies only to grapevines), reaping (only for the land owner, it is forbidden to reap “in the manner of the reapers”) and grape harvesting (as above). Poskim are divided regarding plowing and planting. The prohibition against other types of agricultural labors is rabbinic. Practical conclusions: Labors prohibited by the Torah are prohibited in any situation while rabbinically prohibited labors may be performed in order to conserve the plant (‘okmai ilana’) but not to improve its quality (‘avruyai ilana’). Those who hold by the ‘heter mechira’ do not perform biblically prohibited labors themselves but rather depend on non-Jews to perform them if warranted, in accordance with Rav Kook’s ruling that the Chief Rabbinate has continually upheld. Chazal appended the prohibition against “sifichin” to the biblically prohibited prohibitions, meaning that it is forbidden to consume grains, vegetables and legumes that grew during the sabbatical year, regardless of whether they grew on their own accord or whether they were sowed by a Jew in violation of the commandment. The prohibition excludes fruit since they are not habitually sown on an annual basis (they are perennials).Poskim disagree on the definition of the term “grown during the sabbatical year”. The various calendars that are circulated (regarding ‘sifichin’ and ‘kdushat shvi’it’) are based on the following ruling: Vegetables- if the vegetable was sown during the sabbatical year or during the sixth year but germinated during the sabbatical year, the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ is binding. However, if the sowing and the germination both took place before Rosh Hashanah, the vegetable is attributed to the sixth year, even if its main growth occurred during shmita. Similarly, a vegetable initially grown in a hothouse and later transplanted to the field during the sabbatical year (with a block of earth) is not subject to the prohibition of ‘sifichin’. Grains and Legumes - the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ is not binding on the condition that a third of the growth cycle, at minimum, occurred during the sixth year. 8. Fruits and vegetables of the sabbatical year that are exempt from the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ are nonetheless invested with ‘kedushat shvi’it’. Attribution of a fruit or vegetable to the sabbatical year (in terms of ‘kedusha’) is determined according to the following criteria: vegetablesaccording to the time of picking (harvest), fruit - according to the time of the initial setting of the fruit buds (‘hanata’), grains and legumes - according to when a third of their growth took place. (For example: tomatoes that will be marketed during Cheshvan 5775 will be exempt from the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ (since they germinated before Rosh Hashanah) yet they will retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ (since they were picked after Rosh Hashanah). Winter fruit are not subject to the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ nor do they retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ (since their buds initially set before Rosh Hashanah). Summer fruit are also exempt from ‘sifichin’ (as fruit) and retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’. Similar calculations must be conducted during 5776 regarding vegetables that germinated or were harvested and regarding fruit whose buds initially set (‘hanata’) during the shmita year. The practical halachot of ‘kedushat shvi’it’ will be elaborated below. Shmita in the Home and the Household Garden Preparations for the Shmita Year 1. The Chief Rabbinate has ordained that ‘heter mechira’ should not be utilized for private household gardens since no real economic exigency is at stake. Therefore, all biblically prohibited labors are forbidden in the household garden during shmita. Other activities designed to expedite the growth of plants are also prohibited though they may be permitted when they are deemed vital for conservation of existing vegetation and as a preventive measure against future damage. 2. Non-agricultural improvements- such as paving roads and sidewalks, excavating for construction etc. are permissible during shmita though putting down soil for a garden, even if no planting or sowing is planned, is prohibited. 3. As aforesaid, some poskim maintain that planting is a biblically prohibited labor that is unconditionally prohibited during shmita. Therefore, fruit tree saplings with emerged roots should be planted by the 15th of Av. Potted fruit trees planted within a clod of earth in a perforated pot (or perforated plastic container) may be planted until the eve of Rosh Hashanah on condition that the clod of earth will not disintegrate during planting. (This halacha is salient to the calculation of the years of ‘orlah’: if the tree is planted after the 15th of Av, the first year for calculating ‘orlah’ is the shmita year and there is concern for ‘marit ayin’. 4. This concern does not apply to non-fruit bearing and ornamental trees and therefore they may be planted until the eve of Rosh Hashanah (according the Chazon Ish). A stringency that some follow is to plant non-fruit bearing trees only until the 15th of Elul and flowers and annual plants until the 26 of Elul and to water them immediately. 5. Seeding a lawn is similar in principle to planting ornamental plants. However it is preferable to seed a lawn earlier, during the spring of the year preceding shmita so that the grass has a chance to proliferate and cover the entire area before Rosh Hashanah. This is vital so as to prevent the mowing of the lawn (that boosts the lateral growth of the grass) from causing it to spread and cover the bald areas. Sod may be laid until the 15th of Elul so that the initial mowing can be performed before the start of the shmita year. 6. As a rule, it is preferable to make the necessary preparations in advance, before the onset of shmita, in terms of pruning, fertilization and weeding, so as to avoid unessential maintenance during shmita. Maintenance of the Garden during Shmita 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Irrigation is permitted to conserve the health of the vegetation (without enhancing growth) however care must be taken to irrigate only requisitely. Comprehensive weeding of the entire garden is prohibited. It is permissible to remove weeds (in the manner described below) that might harbor harmful insects or weeds growing in proximity to the plants, which might harm or inflict future damage on the plants. Order of priority for weeding: 1. spraying herbicides for weed control 2. Cutting with a scythe, above the ground 3. Uprooting the weeds from the root (manually). The earth should not be tilled or ‘turned over’ to facilitate weeding. Trimming for the purpose of enhancing growth is prohibited. Trimming is permitted under the following circumstances: 1. “sanitary” pruning – to remove diseased branches 2. Trimming trees in order to retain a certain shape (such as an archway or a round shape) as well as clipping an established and full hedgerow to retain its neat shape 3. Trimming trees to obtain schach for the sukkah 4. Pruning branches that constitute an obstacle on the sides of the road etc. Trimming and burning myrtle for the purpose of growing trifoliate leaf groupings is prohibited. Mowing grass for the purpose of maintaining its height and not to encourage further growth is permitted. Young grass whose growth is inevitably stimulated by mowing may be mowed only if not mowing will cause long-term damage. Mowing should be performed in a timely fashion so that it doesn’t cause the grass to turn yellow which will engender new growth. It is permissible to trim the edges of a lawn to preserve its shape but it is preferable to use spray for this purpose. Rose bushes are exceptionally sensitive to lack of water; therefore it is permissible to irrigate them as needed, without waiting for signs of dehydration. Rose bushes should not be fertilized during shmita. The laws of pruning apply to rose bushes in the same manner as other hedges. Flowers may be picked during shmita, for decorative purposes, though picking should be performed with a modification (and not at the usual height). Fragrant roses retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’. Fruit and dried blossoms should not be picked after flowering has taken place. Fruit grown in private gardens retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ and it is permissible, in principle, for anyone to enjoy them. Nevertheless, chazal prohibited eating fruit without the owner’s permission. On the other hand, the owner must allow anyone interested to enter and partake of the fruit in order to uphold the positive commandment “in the seventh year, you shall let it go and abandon it”. 10. Whoever markets his produce through the ‘otzar beit- din’ can prevent any unauthorized person from entering and picking fruit. 11. The owner of the garden may pick fruit as per his requirements. He may not pick a quantity that exceeds his needs and store it in his home. It is preferable to pick the fruit manually and not with the instrument normally used for this purpose. 12. Whoever has fruit in his garden that are in the ‘Orlah’ phase must make this public knowledge to prevent anyone who picks the fruit (with his consent) from transgressing the prohibition of ‘Orlah’. Potted Plants and Planters 1. Three factors govern the maintenance of potted plants during shmita: 1.Whether it receives nourishment from the soil (if it is in a perforated container or not) 2. The size of the container 3. The location of the potted plant. 2. Nearly all containers are considered perforated if they are placed on the ground (or suspended in the air). A potted plant that is placed on sealed flooring such as PVC, marble or other nonporous material is treated as being in a non-perforated container. A surface (such as a sheet of plastic) can be placed underneath the plant to separate it from the ground so that it will be treated as a non-perforated container. 3. If the potted plant is exceptionally large it will not be treated as a potted plant. The maximum volume for a potted plant is 330 litres (thus irrelevant for household plants). 4. Planters that are an integral part of a structure are not treated as potted plants. Suspended planters are treated as potted plants. 5. The potted plant must be situated inside– defined in this case as any structure with a roof (including a greenhouse) and with walls higher than 80 cm. 6. When the potted plant meets all the above conditions, all agricultural labors may be performed on it during shmita (some refrain from sowing and planting). 7. Potted plants should not be brought outside, nor should a potted plant be taken out of the house and placed on the earth outside, even in a semi-covered area (such as a pergola or a succa). 8. A potted plant may be transferred from one house to another but if the transfer takes place above exposed earth it is preferable to wrap the plant in plastic while it is being transported. 9. Flowers may be placed in water even if their branches have emergent roots. ‘Correct’ Consumerism (purchasing and using shmita produce) 1. As stated, some produce of the shmita year is prohibited for consumption as ‘sifichin’, some is invested with ‘kedushat shvi’it’ and is permitted for consumption under certain conditions, while other produce retains no ‘kedushat shvi’it’ and is exempt from the prohibition of ‘sifichin’. 2. The prohibition of ‘sifichin’ does not include agricultural produce of a non-Jew who is the official owner of the field. Poskim who hold by the ‘heter mechira’ maintain that the ‘heter’ halachically establishes the non-Jew as the effective owner of the field. Opponents of the ‘heter’ contend that from the outset this transaction should not take place; opinions are divided regarding its status after the fact (if the sale is valid or not). 3. There is a halachic dispute regarding whether fruit grown in the field owned by a non-Jew retains ‘kedushat shvi’it’ or not. R’ Yosef Karo rules that they do not retain ‘kedusha’ and this is the prevalent custom throughout most of Israel. The Chazon Ish views these fruits as invested with ‘kedushat shvi’it’ (this ruling informs the operations of several haredi supermarket chains, mainly in Bnei Brak). 4. Some poskim prohibit the consumption of fruits that were cultivated through labors prohibited during shmita (ne’ebad) while others allow their consumption but prohibit their purchase from ‘the transgressor’. A similar dispute obtains regarding fruits of the sabbatical year that were not declared ownerless (nishmeru). 5. “Kedushat shvi’it’ consists of several components: an obligation to declare the fruits ownerless, the prohibition against ‘loss’ - ruining or discarding the fruit, the prohibition against commercial use of the fruit, an obligation to perform ‘bi’ur’, and the prohibition against their export outside of Israel. 6. Consumers’ main concerns in terms of ‘kedushat shvi’it’ are: Prohibition against ‘loss’ (hefsed) fruit may only be used in the customary manner, otherwise there is a concern over ‘loss’. Therefore fruit that is not generally mashed should not be mashed (though it may be peeled and rotten parts sliced away, even if some of the flesh comes off with the peel). Fruits that are generally eaten as is should not be cooked and vice-versa (keep in mind that customs vary in this respect and nowadays fruits are consumed differently than in previous years). The same applies to pickling vegetable. Additionally, peels and other detritus that are still edible should not be discarded (they should be collected in bags, left to deteriorate and only then discarded). Prohibition against commercial use – It is forbidden to buy or sell fruits invested with ‘kedushat shvi’it’. However, it is permissible to buy them “by allusion” (to pay for products free of ‘kedushat shvi’it’ and have them included in the price. One should ensure that the ‘allusion’ be proportionately reasonable – i.e. not buying expensive fruit while paying for the bag….) Alternately, payment can be deferred (payment by credit card is considered deferred payment). Obligation to perform ‘bi’ur’- when the time for ‘bi’ur’ arrives, the remaining produce should be declared ownerless (in front of three witnesses). The owner can reclaim the produce after they have been declared ownerless (this topic will be elaborated below). 7. As stated, according to the prevalent custom fruit grown by non-Jews do not retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ (though there are those who hold according to the Chazon Ish’s stringency). In contradistinction, fruit grown by Jews marketed through ‘otzar beit-din’ retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ though there is no prohibition against paying at the time of purchase since payment is remitted to the ‘beit-din’ for its expenses and not to the farmer for his produce. (Returning to the previous example of the tomatoes: the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ begins only on the first day of Tevet, when the first tomatoes planted during the sabbatical year come on the market. However ‘kedushat shvi’it’ commences immediately after Rosh Hashanah (during the harvest) and therefore though one can consume them with no concerns until Tevet, there are concerns regarding their purchase as aforementioned). 8. ‘Terumot’ and ‘Ma’aserot’ on shmita produce – fruit grown on Jewish owned land (that has not been sold, such as ‘otzar beit-din’ and private gardens), are considered ownerless and are exempt from tithes (‘teruma’ and ‘ma’aser’). Crops of non-Jews (when the final labor was performed by a non-Jew), are exempt from tithes. Crops of land that was sold under the ‘heter mechira’ (when the land belongs to a non-Jew but a Jew performed the final labor) must be tithed (‘ma’aser ani’ and not ‘ma’aser sheni’) without reciting the blessing. Fruit that falls under the catergory of ‘neta revai’ (the fourth year of the fruit’s growth) is redeemed without reciting the blessing. 9. Bi’ur (removal) - Chazal learned from the verse “Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat” that when the crops desist from the field then they must be removed from the house. Rishonim diverged on two issues relating to this topic: 1. whether ‘bi’ur’ is biblically ordained or a rabbinic prohibition, in which case the verse is merely an allusion. 2. Whether the fruit must be actually removed (as per the Rambam) or, as the Ramban argues, it is sufficient to declare them ownerless. The prevalent practice is to declare the fruits 10. ownerless, after which one may reclaim and consume them. Therefore, when the time for ‘bi’ur’ arrives, one may retain enough for three meals for each member of the family while the remainder is removed from the home and declared ownerless before three witnesses. It is permitted to perform this before three friends despite the owner’s fore-knowledge that they will not claim any of the fruit. ‘Kedushat shvi’it’ of the fruit persists even after ‘bi’ur’ is performed! The obligation to perform ‘bi’ur’ is a component of the laws of ‘kedushat shvi’it’; therefore fruits of non-Jews or those grown on land sold under ‘heter mechira’, that are generally considered to be free of ‘kedushat svhi’it’ , are also exempt from ‘bi’ur’. Each type of fruit is said to have its own appropriate ‘bi’ur’ time. However, chazal established a set schedule for ‘bi’ur’ (during the eighth year): Figs – at Chanukkah; dates – at Purim; grapes (and wine) – at Passover; and olives (and olive oil) at Shavuot. The borders of the Land of Israel with respect to shmita observance: According to the Mishna in Tractate Shvi’it (86:1) the Land is divided into three regions: 1. the area occupied by ‘olei Bavel’ up to Kziv 2. The area occupied by ‘olei Mitzrayim’ from Kziv until the river and until Amana 3. The area north and west of the river and Amana . All laws of shmita apply within the boundaries of ‘olei Bavel’ (area 1) (“ne’echal ve’ne’ebad” according to the Mishna). Within the boundaries of ‘olei Mitzrayim’ (area 2) the laws of shmita are only partially binding (“ne’echal aval lo ne’ebad” according to the Mishna). Poskim are divided regarding what is permitted and what is prohibited. The Gemara inTractate Chulin (7a) states: “Many cities which were conquered by the Israelites who came up from Egypt were not re-conquered by those who came up from Babylon… They therefore did not annex these cities in order that the poor might have sustenance there from in the Seventh Year”. Rashi comments: “many cities were conquered by ‘olei Mitzrayim’ and were sanctified (the first time) but were not conquered by ‘olei Bavel’ and thus not re-sanctified (in the post-exilic period). Since they were not re-sanctified, the original sanctity was nullified… and they did not desire to restore its sanctity so as to permit plowing and sowing during the sabbatical year that is not binding in territories outside of the Land of Israel and the poor would rely on these regions to take advantage of the tithes for the poor”. According to this school of thought, in the regions that were not occupied by ‘olei Bavel’ (in broad strokes - south of Ashkelon and north of Achziv/Acco) agricultural labor is permitted during shmita (the Chazon Ish argues that this applies only to a number of places and not overall). However, most poskim contest this opinion and prohibit agricultural labor though they do permit ‘sifichin’. Within the areas outside the boundaries of ‘olei Mitzrayim’ (area 3 – mainly extensive areas of the Arava and the southern Negev) the laws of shmita are not binding. According to the above, it is permissible to grow and market fruits and vegetables cultivated by Jewish farmers in the Land of Israel (all agree regarding area 3 and some would apply this to area 2 as well) with no fear of violating shmita! 11. Summary: When purchasing vegetables, grains and legumes (many grains and legumes are imported from abroad and therefore are free of restrictions) one should be careful to avoid transgressing the prohibition of ‘sifichin’. One can steer clear of this prohibition by purchasing produce from regions that are restriction-free, produce grown hydroponically in detached growing beds (treated as potted plants), produce from fields sold to non-Jews in accordance with the ‘heter mechira’ or produce cultivated by non-Jews. One should verify the source of the produce before purchasing! (‘Otzar Ha-aretz’ will be marketing vegetables from the sixth year or from detached growing beds or from outside the boundaries of ‘olei Mitzrayim’. In certain cases they will be marketing vegetables from areas whose inclusion within the boundaries of ‘olei Mitzrayim’ is disputed). When purchasing fruit – the situation is less complicated because the prohibition of ‘sifichin’ is not binding and, as aforementioned, there are poskim who permit ‘shamur’ and ‘ne’ebad’. On the other hand, fruit might retain ‘kedushat shvi’it’ (not fruit grown by non-Jews!) and therefore one should also verify the source of the fruit. Similarly, one should ensure that the fruit does not fall under the category of ‘Orlah’. 12. The laws of ‘shmitat ksafim’ will be forthcoming.