Food Consumption during the Shemita Year in Israel and the Diaspora

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by R. Eli Ozarowski

Rabbi Eli Ozarowski serves as editor of the English Tzurba M’Rabanan halacha series as well as editor of numerous other Torah projects and sefarim. He is also a former editor of the Steinsaltz English Gemara series. Rabbi Ozarowski received semicha from RIETS and currently lives in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel, where he also delivers frequent shiurim.

Introduction[1]I would like to thank Rav Meir Orlian for reviewing this essay and offering his helpful comments and suggestions., [2]There has been a tremendous proliferation of recent written works systematically summarizing the laws of Shemita on a practical level, and some of those that are considered more widely accepted are … Continue reading

During this Shemita year, it behooves us to study some of the relevant halakhic material in the same manner that Moshe instituted the practice of studying the laws of each festival before and during the festival.[3]See the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) that discusses studying the laws before the festival, and the Gemara (Megilla 32a) that mentions studying the laws on the festival itself. Although the issues of Shemita are more relevant for Jews living in Eretz Yisrael than for Diaspora Jews, it is important for Diaspora Jews as well to learn about Shemita for a number of reasons. First, it is a good method by which to feel connected to Eretz Yisrael even if one does not actually live there. Second, some aspects of the laws of Shemita are also relevant in the Diaspora, as we will see. Third, many Jews will (hopefully, COVID-19 regulations permitting) have the privilege to visit Israel during and after the Shemita year. Consequently, they need to be familiar with the various issues in order to navigate them appropriately during their visit.

The laws of Shemita can be divided into two essential components:

A) Agricultural and farming laws that pertain mainly to farmers and those with gardens.
B) Rules related to the purchase and consumption of food, which are relevant to the consumer.

In this article, we will focus mainly on the latter issue, which is far more relevant to a larger segment of the population,[4]Some of the works mentioned above do indeed focus more on practical guidelines for farmers, such as Katif Sheviit. This work is designed to give professional advice to farmers, both those who are … Continue reading and suffice with an extremely brief overview of some of the prohibitions of working the land during the seventh year.

 

The Agricultural Laws

The Torah introduces the laws of Shemita in the following manner:

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a Sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce from it. But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath for the Lord; you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard. That which grows by itself of your harvest you shall not reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you shall not gather; it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. And the Sabbath-produce of the land shall be for food for you: for you, and for your servant and for your maid, and for your hired servant and for the settler by your side that live with you; and for your cattle, and for the beasts that are in your land, shall all the increase thereof be for food. (Vayikra 25:1-7)

As evident from the verses above, the biblical prohibitions for the year of Shemita include Zeria, planting seeds; Ketzira, harvesting in the normal manner produce grown in the Shemita year; Zemira, pruning of grapes; and Betzirah, harvesting of olives. According to some opinions, Charisha, plowing, and Netia, planting of trees, are also forbidden biblically.[5]The Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 1:4) indicates that planting trees is forbidden only Rabbinically (though the Chazon Ish understands the Rambam differently), but other authorities such as the Rash … Continue reading All other labors involving working the ground are forbidden only rabbinically. Although the list of rabbinic forbidden labors is numerous, some of the more prominent ones include Hashkayah, watering; Gizum, removing branches; Kisuach, cutting; and Zibul, fertilizing.[6]The list of rabbinic labors is found in the Gemara (Moed Kattan 3a) as well as in the Rambam (chapter 1).

 

Shemita: What was the Torah’s conception?

How did the Torah expect us to eat during the Shemita year if we are forbidden to plant during that time? The Torah itself (Vayikra 25:20-22) does present a certain vision as to how the Shemita year is supposed to be kept with regard to food consumption: “And if you will ask: What will we eat during the seventh year? We have not planted or gathered our produce. And I will command my blessing to be upon you and the grain will be sufficient to last for three years…”

The main staple of the food diet was, and still is to a large extent, grain products that are used to make bread. Thus, the Torah here is promising that there will be sufficient grain during the Shemita year, despite the lack of a crop planted, due to the tremendous blessing of the sixth year crop.

In terms of fruit, the Torah presumably assumed that sufficient fruit would grow during the Shemita year, since the trees already exist and will produce a certain amount of fruit regardless of how much they are tended to during the year. Although the quality may not be as high as usual, there should be sufficient quantity. However, the Torah’s revolutionary idea when it comes to fruit is that even if it grows, the owner may not harvest the crop for himself, as seen from the verses cited above. Consequently, all of the fruit during this year becomes ownerless, or hefker, and may not be gathered by the owner for his own personal benefit. Rather, anyone who desires may enter another’s field and pick whatever fruits they want that they can eat over a short amount of time, and they may then return additional times to take more. This rule demonstrates a certain value of social equality during the Shemita year[7]According to the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:39), this is actually one of the primary goals of the rules of Shemita, namely, to establish a social equality in which the poor have sufficient food to eat … Continue reading and also ensures that there is fruit available for anyone who wants.[8]For details as to how this applies practically today in a field or in a private garden, see Katif Sheviit (chapter 21), Rav Rimon (pp.144-153), and Mishpetei Eretz (chapter 10).

Vegetables were probably more difficult to find, since the seeds must be planted each time in order to harvest a crop. Therefore, given that planting is forbidden beginning from Rosh Hashana of the Shemita year, a large supply of vegetables probably did not exist. Nevertheless, there were certainly some that sprouted occasionally due to seeds that were accidentally left behind during the harvest of the sixth year crops and subsequently grew from the ground. These crops are termed Sefichin, which means shoots that grow by themselves, and according to the Torah’s rules cited above, are permitted for consumption, as long as they are not harvested in the normal manner. In addition, people in earlier times probably did not eat as wide a variety of vegetables as many do in today’s society.

 

What are the challenges today?

There are a number of reasons why the Torah’s vision as outlined above is extremely difficult to implement on a practical level in contemporary times:

  1. Lack of Divine promise – As we all know, Hashem’s promised miraculous blessing may have been relevant and in fact fulfilled during the period of the Temple, when Hashem’s presence in the world and in Eretz Yisrael in particular was felt by all and miraculous events occurred more commonly. However, the Sma (Choshen Mishpat 67) explains that during the current period of galut, or exile, we experience a situation known as hester panim, concealment of the Divine presence, and miraculous promises such as this cannot be relied upon to come true on a regular basis, even if they are written in the Torah. True, there are many miraculous stories of Shemita observant farms that endured extreme difficulties to observe Shemita and were indeed rewarded with successful crops,[9]See, for example, a famous story that occurred in Moshav Komemiyut at: http://ascentofsafed.com/cgi-bin/ascent.cgi?Name=546-36 and other stories recounted at: … Continue reading but it is difficult to build an entire national economic system on this, a fact that was recognized by leading rabbis from the time that Jews began to return to Eretz Yisrael in the 1800s. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that there will be sufficient grain from the sixth year to last through Shemita and beyond.[10]Although the Chazon Ish and others appear to disagree with this analysis and feel that Hashem’s blessing applies today as well to anyone who properly observes Shemita, it would seem that any of the … Continue reading 
  2. Difficulties in applying the concept of hefker practically today – The seventh year produce is imbued with Shemita sanctity, or kedushat sheviit, and as mentioned above, is therefore forbidden to harvest normally in large quantities. Although it may technically be possible to pick fruit from other people’s fields, this is difficult in our modern society for two reasons. First, not everyone is religious and will in fact allow others to simply enter their fields and pick their fruit. Second, and more fundamentally, not everyone has fields or trees in their backyard from which they can simply eat whenever they want. Even if one individual has grown a lemon or orange tree in their yard, today we eat a wide variety of fruits, so if one wants to eat some apples, pears, figs, grapes, or other fruit, he or she may not be able to obtain them so easily. They could travel a half an hour down the road to an orchard where they grow these items and pick them there, but the amount of money spent on gas would far outweigh the benefit gained by picking a few grapes! 
  3. Trading in Shemita produce – Chazal imposed numerous restrictions on how produce with Shemita sanctity may be obtained and treated. One of the main rules is that such produce may not be purchased with money in the normal manner, as it is supposed to be ownerless.[11]See Rambam (6:1) and Avoda Zara 62a. Moreover, money that is obtained in exchange for selling Shemita produce is itself imbued with Shemita sanctity, or kedushat sheviit, and any produce purchased it with it is also subject to the restrictions of kedushat sheviit. Therefore, Chazal forbade engaging in Shemita commerce with those ignorant of the rules to prevent widespread violation of these halakhot.[12]See the Mishna and Gemara (Sukkah 39a-b) as well as the Rambam (chapter 6) for more details on the complex rules of what is permitted to be done with Shemita produce in the context of transactions … Continue reading Today, the majority of the Israeli population is not yet religious, and were everyone simply to deal in Shemita produce in the stores, there would be gross violation of these rules. 
  4. The rabbinic prohibition of sefichim – With regard to vegetables, in addition to the fact that there will not be many vegetables due to the prohibition of planting, there is an additional rabbinic prohibition of sefichim, whereby even produce that grows by itself is forbidden to be eaten. Although as mentioned above, on a Biblical level these foods may be permissible to eat, they were Rabbinically forbidden. The reason for this is explained by the Rambam that the Rabbis were worried that individuals who may wish to evade the prohibition of planting will secretly plant certain crops, and then claim that they grew by themselves and may be eaten. Therefore, the Rabbis forbade any crops, including those that grew by themselves during the Shemita year, due to this concern.[13]The concept of sefichim is referred to in a number of different Talmudic sources, including the Gemara (Menachot 5a, Pesachim 52b) and the Torat Kohanim (Behar, 4). It is also evident from the … Continue reading According to the Rambam (4:3), this prohibition is limited to vegetables and grains, but fruits are not subject to the prohibition. Therefore, if one wanted to eat an apple grown in the seventh year, it would be permissible to do so (though see next section). The reason for this is that fruits grow on their own on an annual basis, so the concern of planting secretly is not really relevant. This is widely accepted as halakha today. Therefore, the issue of sefichim mainly affects grains and vegetables. In earlier times, people may not have consumed as many vegetables, but today, when many consume a wide variety of vegetables, with some being more particular about a standard daily diet, this is a serious issue. How can anyone eat vegetables during this year when they should all be rabbinically forbidden due to sefichim? 
  5. Shamur V’Neevad – Another challenge of dealing with modern Shemita is dealing with the fact that the majority of Israelis are not religious, and many of those who grow crops may simply work the land in the normal manner without regard for the restrictions of planting and harvesting during Shemita. What is the status of crops that were grown during Shemita in this manner? Are the crops forbidden to be eaten? The commentaries discuss two relevant categories of produce: Shamur, guarded produce, and neevad, produce in which the ground was worked during the seventh year. Shamur refers to Shemita produce that was guarded and harvested by the owner, who did not allow access to the public to take from it as ownerless produce in accordance with the rules of Shemita. Neevad refers to produce that was actually planted during the Shemita year in violation of the planting prohibitions. The status of both of these categories is subject to major debate among the early commentaries, or rishonim.[14]In terms of Shamur: Rabbeinu Tam (cited in Tosafot, Yevamot 122a s.v. shel azeka, and in Tosafot, Sukkah 39b, s.v. bameh devarim amurim) believes that guarded produce is forbidden. His basis is the … Continue reading 

    In terms of the practical halacha on produce that was Shamur V’neevad, authorities also disagree. Many modern poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein[15]Igrot Moshe (O.C. 1:186). and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach,[16]Maadanei Eretz (Sheviit) note #7. permit it. Rav Shlomo Zalman writes that “the common practice is in accordance with the ruling of the acharonim to be lenient today.” In addition, the Chazon Ish may also have been lenient.[17]See Chazon Ish (3:25, 10:5-6, 9:17, Seder HaSheviit in Siman 26, and other sources), whose position on these issues is not entirely clear. It is accepted though today that the Chazon Ish was probably … Continue reading This is the approach of many contemporary poskim as well, as noted by Rav Rimon (p.156), who himself also rules leniently here. Nevertheless, the custom of many in Jerusalem is still to be stringent about it.[18]This is the way that the halacha is cited in the pamphlet “A Clear Guide to Sh’mitta,” published by the Beit Medrash for Agriculture in Eretz Yisrael under the auspices of Rav Yosef Efrati, as … Continue reading 

    Even according to the lenient position, it is forbidden to purchase such produce so as not to support sinners. This is based on the Gemara (Sukkah 39b) and the Chazon Ish (10:5). Therefore, the only method of permitting this is to receive it as a gift or to pay for it indirectly or in a large sum together with other things (havla’a). However, once one has obtained it, it is permissible to eat it.

Given all of these issues, the poskim and farmers must figure out how to supply consumers with halakhically permissible food while maintaining standards of production that do not violate the laws of Shemita. How exactly do they do that?

 

The Different Options

A number of options exist today for negotiating the various challenges of food purchase during and after the Shemita year in Israel. Each one has its halakhic and practical advantages and disadvantages, and not all options will be available for each type of food. In addition, different communities in Israel will not always follow the same approaches. In one area, one may find one of the categories below, while in another that category may not be available and the local stores may only carry a different category of food. We will outline each option together with some background sources, as well as an explanation of how the issue of kedushat sheviit and the prohibitions of sefichim and shamur v’neevad are dealt with for each. We will also explain how each option is relevant in Israel as well as the occasional issues that arise in the Diaspora.

 

1. Stored Sixth year produce

One option that is halakhically completely permissible is to use produce grown in the sixth year. This produce is clearly not considered Shemita produce at all since it grew in the sixth year. Therefore, none of the issues of sefichim, shamur v’neevad, or kedushat sheviit apply to it. However, there are different rules for different types of produce as to what is considered sixth year produce and what is considered Shemita produce.

  1. Fruit– The Gemara (Rosh HaShana 14a) says that the determining factor for fruit is chanata, which although subject to debate, is sometime shortly after the fruit begins to bloom.[19]Rishonim debate what the precise time for this is: Some say it refers to the stage of blooming, when the fruit begins to emerge and the blossom falls away (Tosafot Rosh HaShana 12b), while others … Continue reading Therefore, any fruit that is already on the tree when Shemita begins is considered sixth year produce. Indeed, fruit generally does not begin to become problematic until mid-way into the Shemita year, usually around the time of Nissan, when the fruit grown during the Shemita year itself begins to become ripe and is harvested. Thus, for the first half of the Shemita year the fruit is perfectly permissible. However, fruit sold from approximately the month of Nissan through a large portion of the eighth year will be subject to the various questions of Shemita produce.[20]There are charts put out by many organizations in Israel detailing exactly when each fruit begins to be sold on the market. See, for example, … Continue reading 
  2. Grain– According to the Gemara (13a), the status of grain is determined based on when it has attained 1/3 of its full growth. Thus, if it reaches 1/3 of its full growth during the Shemita year, then it is treated as Shemita produce. This also generally occurs mid-way through the Shemita year. Therefore, grain and grain products will not be a question until the middle of the year, and may continue to be on the market for most of the eighth year as well. Nevertheless, since grain is easy to store for long periods of time, sixth year grain can often be used as an option during the Shemita year. Indeed, Hashgachot that do not rely on the Heter mechira can often use sixth year grain without resorting to buying from non-Jews or other solutions. 
  3. Vegetables– According to the Gemara (Rosh HaShana 14a), the status of vegetables is different than that of fruits or grains in that it is determined by the lekita, the time of picking from the ground. Thus, while fruits or grains will not be subject to kedushat sheviit until well into the Shemita year, vegetables will be subject to the rules of Shemita if they are picked anytime after Rosh HaShana, even if most of their growth took place during the sixth year. This means that just a few days into the Shemita year, all of the issues concerning Shemita produce will already be relevant, and many vegetables found in stores will already be those of heter mechira, kedushat sheviit, etc. However, there are some vegetables that can be stored in cold storage for extended periods of time.[21]See, for example: https://www.crscoldstorage.co.uk/news/cold-storage-fruit-and-veg.html. These types of vegetables can be picked towards the end of the sixth year and stored for a few months before selling them.

 

2. Heter Mechira

The heter mechira is probably both the most widely accepted and most controversial approach to dealing with produce during Shemita, and much has already been written analyzing the halakhic literature on this topic. We will limit this section to a brief summary of the basic principles and recent practical applications.[22]For a more in depth analysis and additional sources in English, see Rabbi Yitzchok Gottlieb, “Understanding the Heter Mechira,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Fall 1993; Rav Rimon … Continue reading

 

Basis for the Heter Mechira

The heter mechira is essentially a sale performed whereby large agricultural portions of Eretz Yisrael are sold to a non-Jew. This way, Jewish farmers may continue to grow their crops on their own soil, since the prohibitions of Shemita as well as the special rules of Shemita produce do not apply if the land is owned by a non-Jew.

The heter mechira is based on a number of halakhic assumptions:

  1. The first assumption is that Shemita today is only rabbinic, or Derabanan, in force. The Gemara (Gittin 36a, Moed Kattan 2b) indicates that there is a Tannaitic dispute whether the applicability of Shemita today is still Biblical in nature or only rabbinic: According to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, Shemita today is only rabbinic in origin, while the Sages apparently hold that it still has Biblical force even today.[23]His specific statement is that shemitat kesafim, the cancellation of financial debts at the conclusion of the Shemita year (see Devarim 15:2), only applies when Shemitat Karka, the obligation for the … Continue reading Rishonim debate whether the halakha follows the Sages or Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.[24]See Ramban (Sefer HaZechut, Gittin 36a) and the Rosh (Yoma 8:14), who rule, among others, like the Sages, while the Rambam (10:9) according to the simple interpretation, Rashi (Gittin 36b), Rashba … Continue reading Today, most opinions accept that the halakha follows Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, and therefore Shemita is Derabanan.[25]Rambam (10:9), Rav Kook (Introduction to Shabbat Haaretz 1-8), Chazon Ish (3:8), Pe’at HaShulchan (23:23), and many others hold this way. However, there is a minority opinion in the acharonim, or … Continue reading This assumption is the starting point for the heter mechira, as we shall see. If Shemita is Deoraita, or biblical in force, then the rest of the arguments will not apply. 
  2. The second assumption upon which the heter mechira must necessarily rely is that non-Jewish ownership of land in Eretz Yisrael removes the sanctity of the land with regard to Shemita. Otherwise, selling the land would not remove all of the prohibitions that exist with regard to Shemita and would not solve anything. The Gemara (Gittin 47a) records a debate among amoraim concerning this issue: Rabba holds that property owned by gentiles in Eretz Yisrael is not exempt from the obligations of separating the teruma and maaser, the tithes for the priests and Levites (ein koach b’yad akum lhafkia midei maaser), while Rav Elazar holds that land owned by a gentile will remove the obligation of teruma and maaser. Although the Gemara specifically makes reference to teruma & maaser, it is logical that the same rule will hold true with regard to Shemita as well. Therefore, according to Rav Elazar, if the land was sold to a gentile, the prohibitions of Shemita should not apply. 

    The problem is that the Rambam (Terumot 1:10) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 331:3) rule that the holiness of the land remains even when owned by a non-Jew. If so, then the heter mechira should not be effective at all in removing the prohibitions of Shemita. However, the proponents argue as follows: In locations such as Suria, which is roughly parallel to certain sections of today’s Syria, the Sages instituted a rabbinic obligation to separate teruma & maaser. In addition, the Rambam above rules (based on a passage in the same Gemara in Gittin) that if a non-Jew owned land in these parts, his ownership abrogates the sanctity of the land. Therefore, by analogy, nowadays that Shemita is also only in force by rabbinical law even in Eretz Yisrael, the more lenient view may be followed.[26]This appears to be the opinion of the Sefer HaTeruma, which is cited by the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra, Y.D. 331: 6), who rules that it is permitted to plow and plant a field that is owned by a gentile, … Continue reading 

  3. The third assumption is that if the land is owned by a gentile, the produce that grows there will not have Shemita sanctity, i.e., it will not be subject to the special rules and limitations that apply to produce grown during the Shemita year. If this were not the case, then selling the land to a gentile would not remove the Shemita sanctity of the produce. See below in the section on non-Jewish produce for a more intricate discussion of the matter. 

    Historically, the heter mechira was initially used on a wide scale beginning in the late 1800s after it received the support of great rabbis in Europe, including Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor. Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook also supported the notion after he moved to Israel, and since then it has been supported by many leading rabbis as a temporary solution to the problem. Each time, it is stipulated that the heter mechira is not a permanent solution and must be reviewed again before being implemented the next time to see whether it is warranted.

 

Objections to the Heter Mechira

Since its inception, many rabbis have challenged the authenticity of this invention from numerous halakhic angles. Below is a brief summary of some of the problems raised by some of the detractors, most notably the Chazon Ish (10:6, 24:4, and elsewhere).

 

1. All of the Principles above are not clear-cut

As noted briefly above, each one of the principle assumptions upon which the heter mechira is predicated is not absolute. First, not all authorities agree that Shemita today is Derabanan, as discussed above.[27]This is not really such a serious issue, as most authorities today, including the Chazon Ish, rule that Shemita is indeed applicable on a rabbinic level only today. Second, not all agree that non-Jewish ownership of land can remove the prohibitions of Shemita even if it is only Derabanan. Although it was mentioned above (footnote 27) that the Sefer HaTeruma and others maintained this position, the Beit HaLevi (3:1:6) argues that this is true only in Suria, where the land has no intrinsic sanctity. However, in Eretz Yisrael, gentile ownership does not remove the prohibitions of Shemita, despite the fact that its observance today is only Derabanan. In addition, the Chazon Ish (20:7) argues that the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam do not suggest this notion that transferring land in Eretz Yisrael to non-Jewish ownership removes the prohibitions of working the land during Shemita. Therefore, they must not agree with it, which means that the halacha should not follow the position of the Sefer HaTeruma, as it would be a minority approach. Third, not all agree that produce grown on a gentile’s land does not have Shemita sanctity, or kedushat sheviit. The Mabit,[28]Teshuvot Ha-Mabit (1:11), cited also in the Teshuvot Avkat Rokhel (Siman 23). followed by the Chazon Ish (20:7), holds that such produce does have kedushat sheviit, in which case the heter mechira has only minimal effect.

2. No intent to sell

It is unclear whether the sale is valid if the farmers who own the land do not take the sale seriously or consider the sale valid. As some poskim[29]The Chazon Ish and Ohr L’tzion both made this point; see Yalkut Yosef (chapter 25). argue, if the seller did not have total intent, or kavana, to sell the land, this may impact on the validity of the sale.

3. Must be a legal sale

Some authorities, such as the Chazon Ish, argue that in order for the sale to be valid, it must be a legal sale as well. The sale in the case of the heter mechira was performed by the Chief Rabbinate and not directly authorized by the Israel Lands Administration, rendering it a non-legal sale.

4. Lo Tachanem

Even if the sale is valid, it is halachically problematic to sell parts of Israel to non-Jews. According to the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 20a), the prohibition of lo techonem (Devarim 7:2) includes chaniyah b’karka, giving non-Jews land in Eretz Yisrael.

5. Agency is not valid here

The Chazon Ish (Sheviit 27, Bava Kamma 10) notes that if it is forbidden to sell the land due to the prohibition of lo techonem and the land is sold through an agent, the sale is not valid, due to the rule of ein shaliach l’dvar aveirah, there is no agency for transgression. Therefore, since the agent’s actions are not valid, then the entire sale is invalidated, and the land still belongs to the Jew.

6. Non-Jewish laborers

Even if the sale is valid, many poskim, including Rav Kook, require non-Jews to perform the labors that are Biblically prohibited.[30]See Mishpat Kohen (71:2-3), Shabbat Haaretz (8:8), Chazon Ish (20:7), Rav Yechiel Tucaczinsky, Sefer HaShemita (p.94), Teshuvot Yeshuot Malko (Y.D. 53:55), and Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (cited in … Continue reading

 

Brief Responses to the Objections

Many of the questions above are discussed at length in the various responsa, articles, and books that deal with the heter mechira, and each question above has been answered to some degree by its supporters.[31]For a more elaborate discussion of the responses to these points, see the sources cited in footnote #22 as well as the many discussions in the Hebrew literature on the topic. In brief, here are some … Continue reading We will not deal with all of these points here, but will briefly address a number of practical developments that have occurred recently that successfully enable us to overcome some of the objections above, even should one accept them as halakhically correct.

1. Sale must be legal– As of 1979, the law was changed and currently allows for a transaction of this nature to be valid even when not registered in the Israel Land Registry, if it is performed by the Chief Rabbinate for the purpose of the heter mechira.[32]This is based on the Land Transactions Law (Observance of Shemita, 5739-1979, 6), whose formulation is cited by Rav Rimon in this context (p.405). See also Katif Sheviit, p.138, footnote #9.

2. Ein Shaliach L’dvar Aveirah– In the Shemita of 5768, the Shemita Commission at the time, headed by Rav Zev Whitman, the Rav of Tenuva Food Corporations, arranged that the sale would be executed directly by the Israel Lands Administration, rather than by the Chief Rabbinate. Since this authority is the only one that has the right to sell Israeli land, there is no longer any problem of Ein Shaliach L’dvar Aveirah, as there is no more agent involved.

3. No intent to sell– Prior to the Shemita of 5768, the Shemita Commission also organized representatives that went to individual farmers to present them with the text of the document and required them to analyze it and agree to it. Farmers then consulted with their lawyers, so those that signed it, which was the vast majority of the farmers, did so with complete gemirat daat, or mental intent, to go ahead with it. This was in contrast to past years, where the entire land of Israel was simply sold without consulting with individual farmers as to whether they agree or not. All of points #1-3 here have continued in the same form for subsequent Shemita years as well. There may be some differences, though, in that in 5768 the heter was not authorized for every farmer, but only for cases where it was necessary. The rabbinic authority in each locale had the right to decide what to do. Since then, it seems that anyone who wants may avail themselves of the heter.

4. Work done by Jews– Today much of the agricultural labor is performed anyway by non-Jews. Although normally this is a practice that in the eyes of some may be detrimental to the Israeli work force, with regard to Shemita, this actually solves the objection to a Jew performing Biblical labor during Shemita even if it is owned by gentiles.[33]As mentioned earlier, there are some opinions, such as the Sefer HaTeruma, who allow Jews to work the land even for Biblical labors.

Does the prohibition of sefichim apply to foods sold under the heter mechira? This is an important question for the consumer, since if it does, then the foods would be prohibited despite the sale. According to Rav Kook,[34]See Shabbat Haaretz (Introduction, section 11 and 8:8). the heter mechira (if valid) does indeed remove the prohibition of sefichim. This is because the Rambam rules (4:29) that produce grown on non-Jewish land is not subject to sefichim. The whole concern that one may plant vegetables seeds secretly during Shemita is only relevant to Jewish farmers, who are subject to the rules of Shemita in the first place. However, those who completely invalidate the heter mechira will claim that vegetables or grains grown and marketed with the heter mechira still belong to a Jew (since the sale is invalid), and are therefore indeed forbidden due to sefichim, and possibly also due to the concepts of shamur v’neevad.[35]See above that some rule these categories of produce are forbidden.

As for kedushat sheviit, if the sale is valid then the produce technically does not have kedushat sheviit. However, Rav Kook recommends (as a stringency) treating the produce with kedushat sheviit anyway, since we should only rely on the sale for aspects of the halacha where it is too difficult to observe otherwise, but if one can treat the produce with kedushat sheviit (which would be the status of the produce if the sale did not occur), then one should do so.[36]See Mishpat Kohen (65, 75-76, and elsewhere in the sefer). Nevertheless, this is not the practice of the vast majority of individuals. If the sale is treated as invalid, then the produce would still have kedushat sheviit, but as we mentioned, the produce may still be prohibited in any case.[37]Produce that is subject to sefichim, such as vegetables and grains, would be prohibited for that reason. With regard to fruits, which are not subject to sefichim, those that are stringent about … Continue reading

 

3. Otzar Beit Din

Otzar Beit Din is another method of marketing and supplying fruits and vegetables during the Shemita year. Essentially, it refers to produce which grows during the Shemita year and is subject to the rules of Shemita sanctity, but due to a unique sanction, is permissible to harvest normally. It is then distributed to consumers without “officially” paying for it. The source for this concept is found in the Tosefta (Shevi’it 8:1-2), which states:

Originally, agents of the Beit Din would sit at the city gates, and anyone with Shemita produce in his hand, they would take it from him and provide him with enough food for three meals, and they would put the rest into a storehouse in the city. When the time for harvesting figs arrived, the court’s agents would hire workers to pick them, and make them into cakes of pressed figs, put them in barrels, and put them in the city storehouse. When the time for harvesting grapes arrived, the court’s agents would hire workers… And on Fridays, they would distribute the food from the storehouses to each and every person according to the needs of his family.

The simplest understanding of the Tosefta is that it describes a method of dealing with large amount of fruits that grew in the Shemita year and therefore possess kedushat sheviit. As mentioned above, such fruits are not allowed to be harvested or sold normally and must be available for anyone to take from the fields, as they are treated as hefker, ownerless. Consequently, the method developed to give all of one’s produce to the beit din, or court, so that they can store it and then distribute it to those in need. This is the way in which the Ramban (Vayikra 25:7) and other commentaries interpret the Tosefta. What is interesting about this interpretation is that it implies that regular labors that are not permitted during Shemita, such as harvesting, are permitted in this manner.

Why should Biblically prohibited acts of labor be permissible simply because the beit din administers the field? The Chazon Ish (Sheviit 12:6) explains that one may not harvest Shemita produce in the ordinary manner only when the crops belong to him. However, if agents of the beit din supervise the harvest and subsequent processes, then one is not harvesting his own produce anymore and it would be permissible. Rav Rimon suggests (p.349) that the logic behind the distinction has to do with the nature of the prohibition of harvesting. The reason why the Torah forbids harvesting and gathering Shemita fruit in the normal manner is to demonstrate to us that we do not own the land and we therefore cannot pick the fruit in whatever manner we wish. However, when the agents of the court are in charge, then it is clear that the owner is not in control and does not effectively express ownership over the land in any way.

Some other commentaries, including R.Shlomo (Rash) Sirlio (Sheviit 8:6), interpret the Tosefta otherwise. They argue that it is discussing what must be disposed of before the time of the biur, which is the time that according to the halacha we must remove all of the special seventh year produce from the house and declare it ownerless.[38]See Torat Kohanim (Behar 1:1:8), Yerushalmi (Sheviit 9:3), and Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 7:3). The proper time depends on when this particular type of food is not available anymore in the field. See … Continue reading According to this opinion, appointing agents of the beit din to be in charge of harvesting and gathering the produce is not effective in permitting these activities, and therefore the institution of Otzar Beit Din would most likely be forbidden.

In addition, the Radbaz (Shemita V’yovel 7:3) notes that the Rambam did not cite this Tosefta as halakha in the Mishneh Torah. One of his explanations is that the Rambam did not accept this Tosefta as practical halacha. However, the Radbaz offers another explanation that those who accept Otzar Beit Din could argue is the Rambam’s opinion, and that is that the Tosefta began by saying that this was done “originally,” which implies that the practice was discontinued. Now if the reason for this was mainly a practical one that it was not realistic anymore for whatever reason, then the halakhic principle underlying the original practice is still valid, and there is room to argue that today one may rely on the practice again that the Tosefta describes to harvest crops normally.[39]See Rav Rimon (p.358) who offers other suggestions as to what the word “originally” could mean.

Today, some contemporary poskim do not recommend using Otzar Beit Din as an option for produce during Shemita, either because they rule in accordance with the interpretation of the Rambam that this was never accepted as practical halacha or because of a variety of technical problems with its implementation on a practical level.[40]See, e.g., Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, Maamar Mordechai, Sheviit ch.19; Rav Eliezer Melamed, Peninei Halacha, Shemita V’yovel, ch.8 (available online at https://ph.yhb.org.il/16-08-08/); and Rav Moshe … Continue reading Nevertheless, both Rav Kook[41]Rav Kook’s opinion is not mentioned in his classic work, Shabbat Haaretz. See Rav Rimon, pp.351-353 for a more thorough discussion of the documentation of his opinion and the sources behind it. and the Chazon Ish (11:7) rule like the initial description of the Tosefta and many contemporary poskim favor this options as one of the most preferred sources of Shemita produce.[42]See, e.g., Rav Rimon, p.269; Rav Moshe Harari, Kedushat HaSheviit 17:4. Based on this, today there are many Otzar Batei Din that are formed during Shemita that market produce with Shemita sanctity.[43]The biggest one is probably Otzar Haaretz, which is sponsored by Machon HaTorah V’haaretz, an organization in Israel that specializes in agricultural mitzvot. Otzar Haaretz was originally formed in … Continue reading According to some authorities, one who purchases these items may actually fulfill a mitzva by eating them, as well as avoid some of the halakhic challenges presented by other food options, such as heter mechira.[44]The Ramban (Additions to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh #3) appears to count eating Shemita produce as a mitzva. This is the way in which the commentary known as the Megillat Esther … Continue reading

How do the issues of sefichim and shamur v’neevad interact with Otzar Beit Din produce? The issues of shamur v’neevad will not be relevant, since the ground is not worked in a prohibited manner during Shemita, and it is not guarded by the owner either (it is owned by the beit din). However, the issue of sefichim is still relevant, as Chazal instituted their decree against consuming vegetables, grains, and legumes grown during Shemita in any form. Therefore, Otzar Beit Din produce may not be consumed in cases subject to sefichim. However, the point in the year that these crops are forbidden due to sefichim varies depending on the specific crop. There are special tables published each Shemita year that explain exactly when each one is forbidden.

As a general rule, according to most opinions vegetables begin to be subject to sefichim when they sprout during the Shemita year. However, vegetables that sprouted during the sixth year and were picked during the seventh year are not subject to sefichim.[45]This is the approach of most commentaries, including the Rash (Sheviit 9:1), Ramban (Vayikra 25:5), Tosafot (Pesachim 51b s.v. kol), and others. However, the Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 4:12) rules … Continue reading These vegetables are therefore permissible to be eaten, but will be subject to kedushat sheviit. This is because we follow the lekita, or picking, when it comes to determining the status of Shemita produce (in contrast to sefichim in which the sprouting is the key to determining its status). Therefore, vegetables picked during the beginning of the Shemita year are still subject to kedushat sheviit but are not yet forbidden due to sefichim. This is the situation for the first 2-3 months of the year, since during that time vegetables sold have usually been picked during the Shemita year itself. However, during that time the decree of Sefichim does not apply, since most of the produce on the market sprouted before the Shemita year.[46]When it comes to grain, the prohibition of sefichim only begins to take effect on produce that has grown at least 1/3, which will usually include the grain crop that begins to be marketed in the … Continue reading,[47]See Katif Sheviit (pp.125-129) for a summary of some of the practical instructions given to the farmer as to what he may and may not do with his crops if he chooses to place his field under the … Continue reading

Produce that is grown with kedushat sheviit is subject to numerous rules limiting its use due to its sanctity. One who may come in contact with such produce during or after the Shemita year should familiarize themselves with these rules prior to making use of the produce. Although the myriad of details involved in these rules are beyond the scope of this article, here is a simple list of some of the basic rules to be aware of:

  1. They are ownerless in the fields.
  2. It is forbidden to do business with them (Sechorah).
  3. It is forbidden to destroy them or directly cause them to get ruined.
  4. It is forbidden to eat/prepare them in a manner unusual for that food.
  5. It is forbidden to take them out of Eretz Yisrael.
  6. They are exempt from separating terumot & maasrot.
  7. One must perform the mitzva of biur at the time when they are not found in the field anymore.

The main rule that is relevant in the kitchen is that the leftovers must be treated with sanctity (based on #3). Therefore, they may not be simply thrown out in the garbage, which will cause them to spoil more quickly. Rather, they should be placed in a plastic bag in a special Shemita bin where they can rot naturally.[48]Many of the numerous sefarim on the topic of Shemita have good summaries and explanations of this material. See for example Rav Rimon (p.264-297), Katif Sheviit (chapters 58-64), Mishpetei Eretz … Continue reading Due to the fact that there are special rules pertaining to foods that are kedushat sheviit, these items will usually be marked in the stores so as to inform individuals to treat them appropriately.

The restriction that is most relevant to the Diaspora is the prohibition to export it to locations outside of Israel (#5).[49]Mishna (Sheviit 6:5); Rambam (5:13). One reason given is that since this produce has extra sanctity, it is required to remain in the land of Israel, because concern exists that it will not be handled properly in the Diaspora where people are not as familiar with the halakhic issues.[50]Rash (to Torat Kohanim, Behar, 1:9) and Raavad (ibid). Another reason is to ensure that the bi’ur takes place properly in Eretz Yisrael.[51]Rash (Sheviit 6:5); Bartenura (ibid.). Therefore, any fruits that are subject to kedushat sheviit should not be exported or brought back home by a visitor as a “souvenir,” though some allow bringing a small amount of produce back to eat on the way if necessary.[52]See Beit Ridbaz (footnote to 5:18), Shemen Raanan (2: Kuntres Shabbat Haaretz), and Mishpetei Eretz (20:3, footnote #6), citing Rav Shmuel Wosner and Rav Eliashiv who are lenient about this when … Continue reading There may also be some cases of Otzar Beit Din produce that are relevant in the Diaspora, which will be discussed later in the article.

In sum, although there are some halachic issues that arise with Otzar Beit Din, it is a solution accepted by many poskim and avoids some of the objections to the heter mechira and of buying from non-Jews discussed below.

 

4. Non-Jewish Produce [Yibul Nochri]

Another option for purchasing produce in Israel during Shemita is food grown by non-Jews. The proponents of this option would argue that instead of buying Israeli fruits and vegetables subject to the halakhic problems of the heter mechira or potential pitfalls of Otzar Beit Din produce that is not treated properly, it is preferable to purchase produce that is grown by non-Jews. There are two types of non-Jewish produce: A) Produce that is imported from other countries, such as the U.S., Italy, or Turkey (yibul chutz laaretz) B) Produce that is grown in areas of Israel by Arabs (yibul nochri).

 1. Imports

Produce that is imported from other countries does not pose any significant halakhic problems. Since other countries are not bound by Shemita restrictions, there are certainly no problems relating to that issue with this produce. The only possible issue might be that Israeli agriculture suffers when produce is imported extensively from the Diaspora, and it is generally recommended to support the Israeli economy whenever possible. In addition, many authorities maintain that there is a halakhic imperative to buy from a Jew over a non-Jew, even if it involves a somewhat higher cost.[53]See Teshuvot HaRema (10), Tashbetz (3:151), Igrot Moshe (Y.D. 3:93), and Minchat Yitzchak (3:129), who all deal with the parameters of this issue. Rav Rimon (p.499-516) discusses at length how this … Continue reading This consideration, of course, is not as relevant to those living in the Diaspora who buy most of their fruits and vegetables from local sources anyway. Nevertheless, some may consider it a relevant consideration for those who live in Israel and those who visit frequently.

 

 2. Produce grown in Israel by non-Jews

This category of produce is somewhat more questionable than the first for two different reasons. First, as mentioned earlier in this essay, there is significant halakhic discussion as to whether produce grown by non-Jews on non-Jewish owned land is subject to the sanctity of Shemita or not. This debate was first recorded about 500 years ago between Rav Yosef Karo, the Beit Yosef,[54]Teshuvat Avkat Rochel, 23-26 and Rav Moshe of Trani, the Mabit.[55]Teshuvot Ha-Mabit (1:11) In a lengthy discussion, the Beit Yosef expresses his opinion that non-Jewish produce grown on non-Jewish land is not considered subject to the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, he claimed that such produce is not subject to the sanctity of Shemita, though it would be obligated in terumot and maasrot if the concluding stages of preparation, known as miruach, were done by a Jew. The Mabit, on the other hand, believed that the produce was still considered holy and therefore subject to the restrictions of Shemita, meaning that it had kedushat sheviit (& no terumot and maasrot would be taken, which is the rule for other Shemita produce).

Based on this, produce that is grown in Israel proper by Arabs on Arab land will halakhically be perfectly permissible according to the Beit Yosef, but according to the Mabit will still possess kedushat sheviit and therefore must be treated in the same manner as the Otzar beit din produce discussed above. In most places in Israel today, the opinion of the Beit Yosef is accepted. However, the Chazon Ish[56]Sheviit (9:18, 20:7). ruled in accordance with the Mabit, and therefore in Bnei Brak, where the Chazon Ish lived, many are stringent in deference to his opinion.

The second issue may be more of a political or philosophical one rather than halakhic. It is questionable whether it is appropriate to financially support those who may consider themselves to be our enemies. This issue may be more subject to one’s political perspective than one’s halakhic stance; nevertheless, it is still an important point to consider. Although this issue is irrelevant for purchasing produce in the Diaspora, since this type of Arab produce is not generally sold in the United States, it is certainly relevant for those who visit or live in Israel. In addition, many religious-Zionist poskim contend that purchasing yibul nochri in significantly larger quantities than in other years may violate lo techonem even more than employing the heter mechira discussed earlier. The reason is that these Arab farmers (at least some of whom may be hostile to the State of Israel) are economically and agriculturally strengthened by the large profits received during this year, which de facto strengthens their hold on certain parts of Eretz Yisrael.[57]See Rav Rimon, p.287; Rav Moshe Harari, Kedushat HaSheviit 15:3; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, Maamar Mordechai, ch.11, n.17.

It should be noted that already in the previous Shemita years, the amount of Arab produce sold was significantly less than the years before, since the security situation had begun to deteriorate significantly and access for the mashgichim was quite dangerous if permitted at all. Given that reality, most yibul nochri currently comes from Israeli-Arabs rather than from Palestinian Authority Arabs, and produce from other countries has become much more common than in previous shemita years.

In addition, it is also possible that the issues discussed above are less problematic for a visitor than for a resident of Israel. One who only visits for a short amount of time will not be purchasing a significant amount of produce from non-Jews in any case, whereas a resident who buys fruits and vegetables every week will be helping their economy much more significantly.

In terms of sefichim, everyone agrees that this is not a factor when dealing with non-Jewish produce. This is because, as mentioned above, the Rambam rules that non-Jewish produce is not subject to the prohibition, since the reason for the decree is not relevant to non-Jews who are not bound by the restrictions of Shemita. The same is true for shamur v’neevad, which only apply to Jewish fields worked and harvested by Jews.

 
5. Produce from Southern Israel

Another one of the potential options involves using crops grown in the Southern Negev, also known as Southern Arava produce. The reason for this is that this section of Eretz Yisrael may not be included in the official halakhic borders of the Land with regard to Shemita, as will be explained.[58]For more sources that summarize the various issues and opinions, see Rav Akiva Schlesinger, Mishnat Yosef (1:44-45), Rav Yaakov Ariel, B’oholah shel Torah (3:1-2) and Techumin 29, and Rav Rimon … Continue reading

The Rambam (4:26) writes that the restrictions of working the ground during Shemita apply to all parts of Israel that were conquered by the Jews upon entering Israel with Yehoshua, known as the olei mitzrayim, those that went up from Egypt.[59]This was presumably derived from the Mishna (Sheviit 6:1) that states that the area conquered by the olei mitzrayim but not resettled by those that returned from Babylonia before the second Temple, … Continue reading Therefore, we need to determine exactly where the borders of Israel were during the time period beginning from Yehoshua and lasting through the First Temple. Does it include the entire Negev, and were there Jews living there? The answer is that it is not entirely clear whether it is included or not. Although the Torah details the southern border as reaching as far south as Maaleh Akrabim, it is unclear precisely where this is located. Some maintain that this was not that far south, and therefore the Southern Negev was not included in the Land’s borders and is not subject to Shemita restrictions. These opinions allow growing and using Southern Arava produce during Shemita in a regular manner.[60]There are two major variations concerning the precise location of the border within this group of authorities. The Tevuat Haaretz (cited by the Mishnat Yosef (1:44), followed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky … Continue reading

However, others argue that it is possible that the location of the southern border is much farther south. These authorities hold that one must be stringent and treat nearly all areas of the Negev as being subject to Shemita restrictions.[61]This approach also involves two variations. One position places the border at 30 degrees latitude, which is located close to a town called Neveh Charif, approximately 60 kilometers north of Eilat. … Continue reading In addition, some authorities suggest that the fact that the State of Israel has conquered these areas halakhically renders them part of the halakhic definition of Eretz Yisrael as well.[62]See Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 10:1), Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Sefer Eretz Chemda), and Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin (Techumin Vol. 10 p.17) who all entertain this possibility in different forms. See … Continue reading The authorities who follow this more expansive approach generally would not support using produce grown in these areas.

Since this issue is subject to debate, in practice some refrain from using produce grown in these areas.[63]See Rav Whitman, ibid, p.150. Others, however, rely on the more lenient position in combination with selling the land as part of the heter mechira. This is the position of Rav Yechiel Tucaczinsky[64]Sefer Eretz Yisrael (pp.82-84). and Rav Shmuel Wosner,[65]Teshuvot Shevet HaLevi (5:173). as well as that of the Otzar Haaretz organization, which generally includes Southern Arava produce among their options and prominently displays Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on their packaged produce as supporting this option.[66]See their website (referenced above) for a list of major poskim who support their positions, such as Rav Yaakov Ariel, Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, and others. See also Rav Shlomo Zalman … Continue reading Rav Rimon (p.315) also supports this position.

Does the prohibition of sefichim apply to this region of Israel? The Rambam (4:26) rules that the rabbinic prohibition of sefichim does not apply to areas that were conquered by the Olei Mitzrayim but were not resettled again by the Jews during the Second Temple period, known as the Olei Bavel, the Jews who ascended from Babylonia.[67]This time period is also sometimes known as kedusha sheniya, the second period of holiness in Eretz Yisrael, while the period of the First Temple, where the Land was conquered by the Olei mitzrayim, … Continue reading The Mishna (Gittin 2a) states that the Southern border of Israel (with regard to divorce issues) spans the distance between Ashkelon & Rekem, which is recorded by the Rambam as halakha.[68]Rambam, Hilchot Terumot (1:7). Although Ashkelon is on the southwestern side of the country, it is assumed that the border goes across to Rekem in the east in a somewhat straight line. Therefore, assuming that the location of Ashkelon in the Mishna is somewhat similar to that of the current city of Ashkelon, and that Rekem is no farther south than the current city of Petra in Jordan,[69]The original source for identifying Rekem as Petra is found in Josephus and cited in a number of the halakhic works. This location is farther south than the border of olei mitzrayim as suggested by … Continue reading then the border would cut across the northern section of the Negev.

Based on this, it would seem that most of the areas in the Southern Negev today that grow produce would not be subject to the prohibition of sefichim, and this is indeed the position of most poskim today.[70]See Katif Sheviit (pp.52-53). However, some claim that the southern border was actually almost equivalent for the olei mitzrayim and olei bavel (See Yerushalmi 6:1 and the Gra’s interpretation … Continue reading Therefore, the only potential halakhic problem for the consumer in purchasing these products would be the issue of shamur v’neevad, which would be relevant if the area is subject to the rules of Shemita and is not sold under the heter mechira, or even if it is sold but one rejects the heter mechira entirely. However, even in that case, it was pointed out above that the status of shamur v’neevad is a dispute among Rishonim and modern day poskim, but about which many are lenient.

 
6. Produce grown in greenhouses/ Matza Menutak

Yet another option used by some farmers and sold on the market in many places in Israel is produce grown in hothouses or greenhouses with some form of separation, such as a plastic sheet, between the ground and the dirt in which the crops grow. This method of farming (in an earlier form) was practiced many years ago in a few places, including Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, and was widely used in the area known as Gush Katif. After Gush Katif was destroyed, this method was renewed in a number of other locations as well. This method, in a somewhat different form, is actually used during others years as well in Israel, mainly to prevent infestation of bugs, a critically important issue for religious Jews who are careful not to consume any insects. However, it may also be a halakhically viable option for avoiding Shemita issues.[71]See Rabbi Dovid Cohen, “Shemitta,” Fall 2008, pp.16-23, for a more thorough discussion of the various opinions on this issue, as well as Katif Sheviit, ch.18, who also details many of the … Continue reading

The halakhic discussion with regard to this issue primarily revolves around two points:

  1. Plants grown inside a house – The Talmud Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:2) questions whether a plant grown inside a house is subject to the restrictions of orlah, the rule that the fruits may not be eaten for the first three years of a tree’s existence.[72]See Vayikra 19:23. The Gemara leaves the question unanswered. The Pe’at HaShulchan (20:52) rules that since the observance of Shemita is entirely Rabbinic today, one may be lenient and plant inside a house. The Chazon Ish (22:1), though, is stringent since in principle the mitzva of Shemita is Biblical, so we cannot necessarily apply the standard rules of being lenient about an uncertainty regarding a rabbinic law (safek Derabanan l’kula). In practice, we are often stringent on this point except for in certain cases, including possibly the case of greenhouses. This is because, as we shall see, there is another relevant lenient factor as well. 
  2. Atzitz She’eino Nakuv –The Mishna and Gemara in a number of places discuss similar cases of growing seeds or plants in flowerpots, known as atzitz nakuv, perforated flowerpots that have a hole to the ground, & atzitz eino nakuv, flowerpots that are not perforated.[73]See, for example, the Gemara (Gittin 7a-b), Mishna (Demai 5:10), Mishna (Uktzin 2:10), and the rulings of the Rambam (Terumot 5:16, Kilayim 1:1). The halakha, based on the Gemara (Shabbat 95a-b), is that a perforated pot has the status of being planted in the ground on a Biblical level if the perforation is at least 2 to 2.5 cm wide.[74]This is based on the measurement known as a shoresh katan, the space needed for a small root to fit inside. According to the Mishna (Uktzin 2:10), which is cited as well in the Rambam (Terumot 5:15) … Continue reading Therefore, such a pot is subject to the usual rules of mitzvot hateluyot baaretz, the agricultural mitzvot that apply in Eretz Yisrael. 

    If the pot has no hole or a smaller hole than the measurements detailed above, then the Gemara says it is treated as connected to the ground on a rabbinic level. Therefore, concerning the laws of Shabbat, one would violate a rabbinic prohibition of uprooting such a plant from its soil. Concerning other mitzvot hateluyot baaretz, an atzitz eino nakuv is also treated as attached to the ground on a rabbinic level.[75]See Rambam (Terumot 5:16). However, when it comes to Shemita, neither the Gemara nor the Rambam mention any such rule. Therefore, argues Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 41:4), perhaps there is no rabbinic prohibition whatsoever of planting in such a pot. Other poskim, such as the Chazon Ish (20:5, 22:1), maintain that the same general rule of treating an unperforated pot as if it is rabbinically attached to the ground applies here as well. Indeed, even Rav Shlomo Zalman did not rely on his suggested leniency as a bottom line practical ruling. 

    Despite the stringent rulings in both cases above, in the case of greenhouses, a combination of lenient factors exist:
    1. Shemita today is only rabbinic in force according to most opinions.
    2. It is questionable whether plants inside a house are considered subject to the rules of orlah or shemita.
    3. It is unclear whether planting in an unperforated pot is forbidden rabbinically during Shemita or not.

Based on this, a number of poskim, such as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach,[76]Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo (3:158:7). are lenient and allow planting and consuming this type of produce grown during the Shemita year. However, other poskim, such as Rav Shmuel Wozner, Rav Eliashiv, and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu are somewhat more stringent about this question. They require: A) It must be sold to a non-Jew first. B) Only rabbinic labors are done by a Jew.[77]See Katif Sheviit (18:footnote #36) where Rav Eliyahu and Rav Wosner are cited. Rav Eliashiv’s opinion is recorded in Halichot Sadeh 78. It should be noted that there are minor differences between … Continue reading

It is also important to note that it is unclear exactly what qualifies as planting in a “house.” Must it be a permanent structure or does a temporary one suffice? Does a greenhouse used just for growing crops count as well? According to most poskim, the main definition of the “house” here is that it must be grown underneath a roof. This “roof” may consist of netting, as most greenhouses do, and some require that the actual netting part cover more than 50% of the airspace. Others require the “house” to have walls as well that are at least 10 tefachim high (approximately 80 cm according to R.Chaim Naeh).[78]See Katif Sheviit (17:3-4) where Rav Mordechai Eliyahu is cited as requiring at least 50% netting, and Rav Wosner and Rav Avraham Shapira are cited as holding that actual walls are required as well. … Continue reading

Although this solution is subject to some debate, it is a viable option for many who prefer not to rely on the heter mechira or purchasing from non-Jews.[79]It should be noted, though, that this method can be very expensive, and financial backing is often needed to guarantee that the farmer will not lose a significant amount of money during the year. In fact, Otzar Haaretz often uses this option extensively for vegetables in which it is available. This produce is also occasionally sold in the U.S., especially before Pesach for romaine lettuce (since it is bug-free). One should make sure that if this type of produce is purchased, it has a proper certification on it for Shemita, since matza menutak from other years may not be acceptable during Shemita (they do not necessarily adhere to all of the above guidelines).

Are greenhouse vegetables subject to the prohibition of sefichim? According to those that permit planting and selling this produce, it is not considered regular produce subject to the rules of Shemita, since it is grown in the house and not attached to the ground. Therefore, the concept of sefichim, as well as shamur v’neevad, would certainly not apply.[80]Although this ruling is quite logical on its own, see Mishpetei Eretz (17:note #36), who cites this explicitly in the name of Rav Eliashiv.

 

Preference of Options: Which one is better?

Now that we have a good understanding of what the various options are, we can discuss which of the options are preferable in practice. When shopping in the Diaspora, the question is not as relevant, since most produce found in a local store is not one of these options anyway. The only potential issue that arises is when one discovers fruits or vegetables that are imported from Israel, such as oranges or tomatoes.[81]There are a number of Israeli companies that export fruits and vegetables to locations around the world, including the United States. Although it is possible that those exporting produce outside of Israel did not utilize the heter mechira at all,[82]This was the case in some earlier Shemita years, where not every farmer necessarily chose one of the Shemita options at all, but instead simply grew crops normally. In that case, vegetables would be … Continue reading it seems that this shemita year, one may presume that all exported produce has been grown using the heter mechira.[83]Personal communication with Rav Moshe Bloom, Head of the English Department of Machon HaTorah V’haaretz ([email protected]). Nevertheless, most North American Kashrut organizations, including the OU, Star-K, Kof-K, and others, are stringent and do not rely on the heter mechira, which was the position of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik as well.[84]See the articles of Rav Jachter cited above in n.1, where Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Menachem Genack are cited as conveying this ruling of Rav Soloveitchik. Their reasoning is that outside of Israel, there are plenty of food options other than Israeli produce sold under the heter mechira. Therefore, there is no reason to rely on the more lenient opinions.

Nevertheless, due to the proliferation of travel in today’s times, Diaspora Jews will indeed (hopefully) be faced with this question when visiting Israel during the course of the Shemita year and for a large part of the following year.

Many rabbis recommend that when faced with a choice between non-Jewish produce and heter mechira produce, one’s first choice should be purchasing non-Jewish produce, regardless of whether it originates from outside Israel or inside Israel. Those communities, which are often of the chareidi world-view, that follow this approach, may not be as concerned with supporting the Jewish economy or other political implications as much as with a strict adherence to what they view as the halakha.[85]However, there were some questionable repercussions in the 5768 Shemita year due to this question: Apparently there was a 30% increase in water allocation last time to the non-Jews and Arabs working … Continue reading In addition, most (though not all) are not stringent like the Mabit and the Chazon Ish, and therefore do not treat non-Jewish produce grown in Israel as possessing kedushat sheviit. This is the clear preference given in a number of the books on the subject, such as Rabbi Dovid Merchant (p.59,242), Rav Yosef Efrati,[86]Mishpetei Eretz (ch.26) and “A Clear Guide to Shemita.” and others. Some of these communities may also have options for buying Otzar Beit Din produce in the local stores, as well as for Southern Arava produce and greenhouse produce, depending on the particular local authority’s opinion on the issue.

On the other hand, rabbis in other communities, frequently religious Zionist in nature, often place the option of buying non-Jewish produce at the bottom of the list for the reasons discussed above, such as politics and philosophical leanings, as opposed to strict halacha. Instead, many will allow heter mechira products to be purchased based on the leniencies discussed above (even if they are not in favor of the heter mechira in principle). However, some may also recommend trying to obtain food from some of the other sources prior to relying on the heter mechira. For example, Rav Rimon (pp.374-375) recommends that Otzar Beit Din produce be the first option, especially since some hold eating such produce constitutes a mitzva. As for the question of greenhouses and the southern Negev produce, many in these communities recommend these options as well when available, but as mentioned, different opinions do exist on these points, and various rabbis may advise different courses of action.

In any case, one should remember that since each approach has legitimate poskim that support it, all the options have a basis on which to rely, and those that follow each approach should not be denigrated. Indeed, a person’s choice, especially that of a Diaspora visitor, will often not be made strictly based on their halakhic or philosophical positions, but rather practically based on what the local supermarket happens to sell (though one should consider what other options exist nearby as well) as well as the time of year and particular type of produce under discussion (some options are more available at certain points of the year and with certain types of produce than others).

 

Eating in other people’s homes

A major practical consequence of much of the discussion above is what to do if one is invited out for a meal or staying with relatives or friends that rely on the heter mechira. May one eat there if he or she does not personally rely on the heter mechira? The same question may be asked about some of the other produce discussed as well, such as non-Jewish produce, Southern Arava produce, etc. This question is relevant both for the visitor, who may need to decide whether he may eat there, as well as for the host, who must determine whether he or she must notify the guest which foods are forbidden according to their custom. The answer to this question largely depends on the precise status given to the heter mechira.

 

Heter Mechira is valid but one chooses to not rely on it

Both Rav Rimon (pp.546-551) as well as Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Sheviit, ch.25, pp. 630-631) write that those who have accepted upon themselves not to eat such produce as a stringency but in principle do accept the validity of the sale may possibly be lenient and eat the food should they wish to do so.[87]Both of these authors do indeed hold this way practically that the sale, while not ideal, is still halakhically valid once performed. This ruling is based on sources that allow one to break a … Continue reading Rav Yosef adds that this is true as long as the individual initially undertook to avoid heter mechira produce “bli neder,without formally accepting it as a binding custom. Rav Rimon adds that the value of Jews interacting with and respecting each other is an important one, and therefore people should be encouraged to eat freely at each other’s houses during the Shemita year, even if they must adopt a different standard than usual.

If the guest chooses not to eat the heter mechira food in the above case, is he allowed to eat other foods in the host’s home? After all, the same dishes that may have been used to cook foods that were subject to the heter mechira are being used to cook foods for the guest. If so, perhaps the “taste” of the heter mechira foods, which may be subject to the prohibition of sefichim or shamur v’neevad (for those who are stringent about it), has been absorbed into the pot, rendering the pot a “heter mechira pot.” Nevertheless, both Rav Yosef and Rav Rimon rule that this is permissible. They base this on the Rema (Yoreh Deah 64:9) who discusses a case of a certain kind of fat that was customary to eat in one location but was not eaten in another. In that case, the Rema rules that the dishes of those who do eat the fat do not become forbidden for those who do not, since the whole issue is based on custom anyway. Therefore, here too even if the guest would refrain from eating actual heter mechira fruits or vegetables as a stringent custom, he may still eat other foods in his house using dishes that had heter mechira foods cooked in them.

However, the Rema (Yoreh Deah 119:7) writes that one who is lenient on a certain issue is still obligated to inform a guest who is stringent that the questionable foods should be avoided according to his standard.[88]This idea is also mentioned in the Meiri (Yevamot 14b) and is even implied by the Gemara itself (Chullin 111b). Therefore, the host must inform the guest which foods are heter mechira and should be avoided should he choose to maintain his custom. The guest for his part may then choose to avoid those particular foods, but would not necessarily be required to completely avoid eating in the house.

 

The heter mechira is not valid

The more difficult question pertains to an individual who follows the opinion of those who truly believe the heter mechira is completely invalid. Since there are indeed many poskim who still maintain this position even today, despite the improvements to the heter implemented in recent Shemita years (as discussed above), one must consider what the halacha is according to this approach. If the heter mechira has no validity whatsoever, then essentially the produce would be considered shamur v’neevad, which as discussed above, some poskim are stringent about and consider forbidden to eat, while others are lenient. In addition, many of the vegetables and grains would be forbidden due to the prohibition of sefichim (in the situations where the prohibition applies), which all authorities accept. Although such a person would certainly not be permitted to eat these foods in someone else’s house, the question is whether those foods cause the utensils to be absorbed with forbidden taste, which in turn causes the utensils themselves to be forbidden to cook with (in his opinion), similar to cases of non-kosher foods being cooked in the kosher pot.

Rav Yitzchak Yosef argues that this is still permitted. Citing his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef, he maintains that there are a number of lenient factors that can be combined here to allow for a lenient ruling. First, there is a general halakhic assumption that most utensils have not been used within 24 hours (stam kelim einam bnei yoman),[89]See Avodah Zarah 75b. in which case no taste is absorbed by the food being cooked in those pots. Second, some opinions hold that Shemita today is not really binding anyway.[90]See footnote #25 above. Third, it is still possible that the sale is valid, even if the more stringent position does not agree with this, and that can be combined with other factors to yield a lenient conclusion. Therefore, he argues that one may eat in someone’s home who relies on the heter mechira.[91]See his discussion inside for a number of other sources and relevant arguments that Rav Yosef considers.

There are a number of other great poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein[92]Teshuvot Igrot Moshe (O.C. 1:186) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Maadanei Eretz (notes, #7) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who rule leniently in certain situations and permit even eating the produce itself, despite the fact that one does not rely on the heter mechira. They certainly would not maintain that all of the person’s dishes are non-kosher.

Others, though, recommend being cautious about eating in the home of those who rely on the heter mechira.[93]See Mishpetei Eretz (ch.27), Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emuna, Shemita V’yovel, 4:Tziun Halacha #23, and Rav Moshe Shternbuch, “Shemita K’hilchata” (2:9, 4:12), who all are stringent about … Continue reading They believe that once utensils are used to cook vegetables in them that may be subject to sefichim (or produce that is shamur v’neevad according to those that are stringent), it renders the utensils non-kosher in the same manner as other prohibited food. They do note, though, that since it is usually assumed that utensils have not been used for the last 24 hours (unless one knows otherwise), there may be room to be lenient and eat food cooked in a pot unless one knows that forbidden food (such as sefichin or heter mechira food) was cooked in that pot within 24 hours.[94]It should be noted that any dish, such as soup, in which sefichim are cooked becomes entirely forbidden, in the same manner as other non-kosher food. Therefore, it would only be permitted if the … Continue reading

Regarding options other than heter mechira, there may be room for leniency. This is certainly true concerning non-Jewish produce, where the main issues do not involve violating prohibitions, but rather positive imperatives to buy from Jews. It also stands to reason that all the leniencies concerning heter mechira produce will certainly apply in the same way to Southern Arava produce and greenhouse produce, where many major poskim are lenient. Therefore, the position of Rav Rimon and many other poskim is that it is generally permissible to eat at others’ homes during Shemita, even if they follow a different set of guidelines than oneself, especially since maintaining relationships with other Jews is also important. However, as mentioned, if the guest wishes to be stringent, the host should certainly inquire as to the guest’s personal standard and point out which foods would be forbidden according to his approach.

We should also note that if one does accept a more stringent approach to any of these issues, it is worthwhile to stipulate initially that one is doing so bli neder, without actually accepting a vow upon oneself. Otherwise, if one is forced to change his approach and be lenient about it, he or she may be required to perform hatarat nedarim, absolving a vow. This is because the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 214:1) rules that any custom or other similar practice that one has accepted upon themselves voluntarily has the status of a vow, which may not be repealed without performing hatarat nedarim. Therefore, it is best to avoid the issue when deciding to be stringent by saying bli neder first.[95]If one did not realize that there were more lenient positions, it is possible that hatarat nedarim is not necessary. This is because it is only performed in cases where the person knew what the … Continue reading

 

Other Shemita Issues in the Diaspora

There are two other issues that may be relevant for Diaspora Jews, both of which relate to Otzar Beit Din. As mentioned earlier, one is forbidden from exporting produce subject to kedushat sheviit outside of Israel. However, there are two items from Israel that often are found in the Diaspora, both during and after the Shemita year.

 

  1. Otzar Beit Din Wine – Since much of the kosher wine industry is based in Israel, a large amount of Israeli wine is exported and sold to Jews in the U.S. and other countries. Despite the ban on exporting Shemita produce, Otzar Beit Din wine is occasionally discovered in stores in the United States in the years following Shemita.[96]See, for example, http://www.dinonline.org/2012/01/06/shmitta-wine-after-time-of-biur/, who discusses a practical case of this, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz at … Continue reading Is it permissible for this wine to be exported? 

    The simple answer is that it is prohibited to do so, based on the rules discussed above. However, there are some opinions that believe it is permissible. They maintain that the reason for not exporting kedushat sheviit produce out of Israel is due to the rules of biur, which must be done in Israel.[97]See the Rash (Sheviit 6:5) as well as the Rosh and Bartenura there who explain the reason for the prohibition of removing the produce from Israel in this manner. However, Otzar Beit Din products that are still under the jurisdiction of the beit din and have not yet been purchased by consumers are not subject to the rules of biur.[98]See sources cited in the Mishnat Yosef (2:26), though others disagree. Others suggest that the reason for the prohibition is to ensure that there is sufficient produce for all the Jews in Israel during the Shemita year. However, it would be permitted to export fruits that were grown initially for the purpose of export.[99]See Beit Ridbaz 72b in the name of Rav Chaim Berlin. In any case, if one does find such wine locally, it is permissible to drink it, as there is no prohibition on consuming exported Shemita produce, but it must be treated with kedushat sheviit

    The remaining issue that must be considered is that if the wine is discovered after the time of the bi’ur, which for wine is Erev Pesach of the eight year. If one suspects that the wine was already out of the authority of the beit din in which it was grown,[100]If the company still owned the wine at the time of biur, it was mentioned above that produce of this sort is not subject to biur. then authorities dispute whether the wine may be consumed at all. Some rule that if the bi’ur has not been performed properly, then it is forbidden, while others argue that perhaps it is still permissible for individuals other than the owner if one performs the bi’ur at that time.[101]Rav Zvi Cohen, Perot Sheviit, p.431 note #181. Although it was mentioned above that bi’ur may not apply to Otzar Beit Din produce, that is only true if it is still owned by the Beit Din at that … Continue reading 

  2. Etrogim from Israel- Another relevant issue for Diaspora consumers is that of etrogim. Shemita etrogim grown in Israel also retain kedushat sheviit. This is because kedushat sheviit applies to all edible foods,[102]Mishna Sheviit (7:1). and an etrog that is not edible may not be used,[103]See Shulchan Aruch (649:5) & Mishna Berura (45). as opposed to the arava, for example, which is not edible and does not have kedushat sheviit.[104]Although the Gemara (Sukkah 39b) states that a lulav does have Shemita sanctity, most of the authorities, including the Rambam, do not cite this as practical halacha. This may be due to the fact that … Continue reading At what point is the etrog considered to be subject to kedushat sheviit? There is a dispute whether the rules for an etrog parallel those of fruits, whose status are determined based on chanata, or vegetables, whose status is determined by the lekita.[105]See Mishna (Bikurim 2:6) which states that an etrog is treated like fruit that grows on trees with regard to Shemita, meaning that its status should be determined by chanata. However, the Gemara … Continue reading Many authorities rule that we are stringent in both directions to accommodate both opinions.[106]See Chazon Ish (7:10) who rules this way, which is the accepted custom. Consequently, any etrog picked during the Shemita year has kedushat sheviit (even if grown entirely in the sixth year), and any etrog grown during the Shemita year also has kedushat sheviit, even if it is only picked in the following year. Because of this, etrogim sold for Sukkot of the Shemita year itself are often picked before Rosh HaShana to avoid this problem.[107]See Chazon Ish (9:17) & Piskei Teshuvot (649:7 and footnote #21). 

    However, the etrogim used at the beginning of the eighth year are generally grown and picked during Shemita. Therefore, they are subject to the rules of kedushat sheviit and consequently usually sold via Otzar Beit Din. Are these etrogim permitted to be sold in the United States? This issue is actually subject to significant debate. Some poskim, such as the Chazon Ish (10:6, 13:4), rule that these etrogim may not be exported commercially to locations outside of Israel. Although this may be a preferable solution from a Shemita perspective, from an etrog perspective this may raise some difficulty, as many of the etrogim used in the United States usually come from Israel. 

    Others are more lenient and do allow exporting etrogim to the Diaspora. However, some, such as the Maharil Diskin, are lenient only when exported by non-Jews, while others are lenient only on condition that the etrogim are returned to Israel so that it may be eaten (if desired) and the biur performed in Israel.[108]See the sources cited in the Piskei Teshuvot (649:7, footnote #25). Those poskim feel the reason it is forbidden to take them out of Israel is due to the fact that the bi’ur must be done there. There are also poskim who allow individuals to bring them back on a private level, but from a commercial perspective would not permit it. Yet others are lenient even on a commercial level in cases where the entire crop was always designated for export from the time of planting, similar to the approach of those that allow exporting wine to the Diaspora.[109]See Rav Chaim Berlin mentioned above and other sources cited in Katif Sheviit chapter 23; see also Piskei Teshuvot 649:note #26, and see also Mishnat Yosef (2:24-29).

 

Conclusion

We have surveyed the various options for food consumption during the Shemita year, as they affect those that live in the Diaspora both at home as well as when visiting Israel. It should be clear that these halakhot are extremely complex, and there are multiple opinions on many of the issues. Thus, even one who wishes to avoid the controversy completely cannot do so when visiting Israel, as it is difficult to refer to being stringent when every stringency on one side involves some sort of leniency on the other side. Therefore, one should consult with his personal rabbi, and, if necessary, also an Israeli rabbi, for guidance about what to do in practice. In addition, one should make sure that whichever approaches are followed, it is ensured that the store contains a reliable certification, and conforms to the standards that are desired. It is hoped that this article will at least give enough of an overview to know what the issues are and competently discuss them with a posek.

(adapted from a Torah Musings essay originally published in Jan ’15)

Endnotes

Endnotes
1I would like to thank Rav Meir Orlian for reviewing this essay and offering his helpful comments and suggestions.
2There has been a tremendous proliferation of recent written works systematically summarizing the laws of Shemita on a practical level, and some of those that are considered more widely accepted are frequently cited in this essay. These include: Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon, “Shemitta,” published by Koren Publishers (both in English and in Hebrew); “Katif Shevi’it, published by Machon HaTorah V’haaretz; Mishpetei Eretz, published by the Beit Medrash of Halacha and Agriculture in Eretz Yisrael, under the auspices of Rav Yosef Efrati; Rav Dovid Merchant, “The Gateway to Shemitah,” published by Feldheim; Rav Yitzchak Yosef, “Yalkut Yosef, Sheviit” which is part of the Yalkut Yosef series; and “The Consumer’s Guide to Shemitah” (English), published by Machon HaTorah Vhaaretz. In addition, see Rabbi Dovid Cohen, “Shemittah,” in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Spring 2008, who also deals in brief with many of the issues raised in this article. It should also be noted that all references to Rambam and Chazon Ish refer to Hilchot Shemita unless specified otherwise.
3See the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) that discusses studying the laws before the festival, and the Gemara (Megilla 32a) that mentions studying the laws on the festival itself.
4Some of the works mentioned above do indeed focus more on practical guidelines for farmers, such as Katif Sheviit. This work is designed to give professional advice to farmers, both those who are fully observing Shemita, as well as those that are using the heter mechira, which will be discussed below.
5The Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 1:4) indicates that planting trees is forbidden only Rabbinically (though the Chazon Ish understands the Rambam differently), but other authorities such as the Rash (Sheviit 1:1) maintain that it is included in the Biblical prohibition. Whether plowing is forbidden Biblically or rabbinically is also a complex issue. See Rav Rimon (pp.122-131) for a summary of the different sources and opinions.
6The list of rabbinic labors is found in the Gemara (Moed Kattan 3a) as well as in the Rambam (chapter 1).
7According to the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:39), this is actually one of the primary goals of the rules of Shemita, namely, to establish a social equality in which the poor have sufficient food to eat as well.
8For details as to how this applies practically today in a field or in a private garden, see Katif Sheviit (chapter 21), Rav Rimon (pp.144-153), and Mishpetei Eretz (chapter 10).
9See, for example, a famous story that occurred in Moshav Komemiyut at: http://ascentofsafed.com/cgi-bin/ascent.cgi?Name=546-36 and other stories recounted at: http://www.shtaygen.co.il/?CategoryID=981&ArticleID=2929 [in Hebrew].
10Although the Chazon Ish and others appear to disagree with this analysis and feel that Hashem’s blessing applies today as well to anyone who properly observes Shemita, it would seem that any of the authorities who sanctioned the heter mechira for economic and financial reasons assumed that the beracha does not necessarily apply when Shemita is only of Rabbinic force. This also appears to be the implication of Tosafot (Gittin 36b s.v. v’takun) who says that the Sages never instituted a Rabbinic obligation to keep Yovel, the Jubilee year, as they did for keeping Shemita, because the people were not capable of withstanding the challenge of refraining from agricultural labor for two consecutive years. However, if there was in reality Divine assistance even today, then the Sages should not have been concerned with this issue. See also Yalkut Yosef (ch.25) who discusses this point in detail. This would also seem to be the simple understanding of the passage in the Torah, especially given that other such promises, such as the berachot in the beginning of Parshat Bechukotai, are also designed for the times in history when all of the Jews live in Israel and experience Divine assistance and revelation.
11See Rambam (6:1) and Avoda Zara 62a.
12See the Mishna and Gemara (Sukkah 39a-b) as well as the Rambam (chapter 6) for more details on the complex rules of what is permitted to be done with Shemita produce in the context of transactions and what restrictions are placed on them. In addition, a nice summary may be found in Rav Zvi Cohen, Perot Sheviit, chapters 5-7.
13The concept of sefichim is referred to in a number of different Talmudic sources, including the Gemara (Menachot 5a, Pesachim 52b) and the Torat Kohanim (Behar, 4). It is also evident from the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah (Sheviit 9:1) who alludes to “ovrei aveirah.” Although as mentioned most commentaries treat this prohibition as rabbinic, there are a few Rishonim who believe that the prohibition is actually Biblical, based on the opinion of Rabbi Akiva in the Torat Kohanim (who disagrees with the Sages there), who appears to hold this way. See Semag (negative mitzva 168) and Sefer Yereim (158).
14In terms of Shamur: Rabbeinu Tam (cited in Tosafot, Yevamot 122a s.v. shel azeka, and in Tosafot, Sukkah 39b, s.v. bameh devarim amurim) believes that guarded produce is forbidden. His basis is the Midrash that states that when the Torah declares that “The grapes of your protected vines [invei nezirecha] you may not gather,” it indicates that “that which is guarded in the land you may not gather, but you may gather that which is ownerless.” Therefore, claims Rabbeinu Tam, the Midrash is telling us that any protected crops may not be gathered and thus may not be eaten. However, Rashi (Yevamot 122a), the Rashba (Yevamot 122a), the Ramban (Vayikra 25:5), and other Rishonim permit guarded produce. In terms of Neevad, the Mishna (Terumot 2:3) states that one who plants vegetation, trees, vines, or grafts during the Shemita year must uproot it, since the Torah prohibition of planting a field was violated. This statement is cited in the Gemara (Gittin 53a) and codified by the Rambam (Hilchot Shemita V’yovel 1:12). Based on this notion that it must be uprooted, the Ramban (Yevamot 122a), among others, claims that they are also forbidden to be eaten. However, the Rambam (Teshuvot Pe’er HaDor 15) rules that this produce is permitted, even if actually planted during Shemita, and he interprets the Mishna above differently.
15Igrot Moshe (O.C. 1:186).
16Maadanei Eretz (Sheviit) note #7.
17See Chazon Ish (3:25, 10:5-6, 9:17, Seder HaSheviit in Siman 26, and other sources), whose position on these issues is not entirely clear. It is accepted though today that the Chazon Ish was probably lenient. Interestingly enough, Rav Chaim Kanievsky reports (Derech Emuna 4: Tziyunei Halacha 317-318) that the Chazon Ish reportedly said that he intentionally contradicted himself to demonstrate that although in principal there is room to be lenient, there is room to be stringent as well.
18This is the way that the halacha is cited in the pamphlet “A Clear Guide to Sh’mitta,” published by the Beit Medrash for Agriculture in Eretz Yisrael under the auspices of Rav Yosef Efrati, as it is in Rav Merchant (Gateway to Shemita pp.70-71 ). Mishpetei Eretz (19:13) cites both approaches.
19Rishonim debate what the precise time for this is: Some say it refers to the stage of blooming, when the fruit begins to emerge and the blossom falls away (Tosafot Rosh HaShana 12b), while others maintain it refers to the stage when the fruit becomes obligated in the mitzva of separating teruma and maaser (Rambam 4:9), which is a bit later in the fruit’s development. See Rav Rimon (pp. 243-244) for a discussion of these sources.
20There are charts put out by many organizations in Israel detailing exactly when each fruit begins to be sold on the market. See, for example, https://en.toraland.org.il/beit-midrash/articles/shemitah/shemitah-calendars for a chart detailing the dates relevant for different fruits and vegetables.
21See, for example: https://www.crscoldstorage.co.uk/news/cold-storage-fruit-and-veg.html.
22For a more in depth analysis and additional sources in English, see Rabbi Yitzchok Gottlieb, Understanding the Heter Mechira,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Fall 1993; Rav Rimon (pp.378-435), R. Chaim Jachter (https://www.koltorah.org/halachah/the-heter-mechira-part-one-by-rabbi-howard-jachter and https://www.koltorah.org/halachah/heter-mechira-part-two-by-rabbi-howard-jachter), and the upcoming Tzurba M’Rabanan English series, volume 11, shiur 9 (to be published in January; see www.tzurbaolami.com for more information).
23His specific statement is that shemitat kesafim, the cancellation of financial debts at the conclusion of the Shemita year (see Devarim 15:2), only applies when Shemitat Karka, the obligation for the land to rest, applies, but when Shemitat Karka does not apply, neither does Shemitat Kesafim. The Gemara infers that the case where Shemitat Karka does not apply is b’zman hazeh, in contemporary times. Rishonim explain that the reason it does not apply today on a Biblical level is that it is linked to Yovel, the Jubilee Year. According to the Gemara (Arachin 32b), the reason that Yovel does not apply is that the Torah states with regard to Yovel: And you shall call freedom to all of the land’s inhabitants (Vayikra 25:10), which indicates that when kol yoshveha aleha, all of the Jews live in Israel, then Yovel applies on a Biblical level. However, when all of the Jews do not live in Israel, then Yovel, and consequently Shemita, remain Derabanan. It should be noted that some opinions hold that it is not necessary for literally 100% of Jews to be living in Israel, but even the presence of a majority of Jews is sufficient to fulfill this condition. This seems to be the implication of the Ramban (Gittin 36a), and perhaps even the Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 10:8), who quotes the idea of kol yoshveha as well. Although today Israel does have the highest Jewish population of any country in the world, nevertheless the majority of Jews do not yet live in Israel. In any case, even a majority of Jews present may not transform Shemita into a Biblical commandment, as the Gemara (Arachin 32b, cited as well by the Rambam (ibid.) and others), implies that the twelve tribes must be living separately in their appropriate locations, which is not the case at all today. See also Tosafot (Gittin 36a s.v. bzman) who indicates that even a minority of Jews in Israel may render Shemita Deoraita, but only on condition that every tribe is represented, which is not the case today.
24See Ramban (Sefer HaZechut, Gittin 36a) and the Rosh (Yoma 8:14), who rule, among others, like the Sages, while the Rambam (10:9) according to the simple interpretation, Rashi (Gittin 36b), Rashba (Gittin 36b), Ritva (Gittin 36b), and many others hold like Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. See the Yalkut Yosef (Sheviit, chapter 25) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 3:Y.D. 19) for a full list of sources on this issue. It should be noted that there are some opinions, such as the Raavad (to the Rif, Gittin 36a) and the Baal HaMaor (cited in the Sefer HaTerumot 45:4), who even believe that Shemita today is not required at all, but is merely classified as midat chasidut, an extra stringency of piety. However, this opinion is not generally accepted.
25Rambam (10:9), Rav Kook (Introduction to Shabbat Haaretz 1-8), Chazon Ish (3:8), Pe’at HaShulchan (23:23), and many others hold this way. However, there is a minority opinion in the acharonim, or later commentaries, that holds that Shemita is still Deoraita today.
26This appears to be the opinion of the Sefer HaTeruma, which is cited by the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra, Y.D. 331: 6), who rules that it is permitted to plow and plant a field that is owned by a gentile, since Shemita today is only Derabanan. In addition, Rashi (Sanhedrin 26a) & other commentaries may have shared this view as well, as they interpret the Gemara in Sanhedrin where someone actually planted a tree during Shemita in a field owned by a gentile to have been permissible because of that.
27This is not really such a serious issue, as most authorities today, including the Chazon Ish, rule that Shemita is indeed applicable on a rabbinic level only today.
28Teshuvot Ha-Mabit (1:11), cited also in the Teshuvot Avkat Rokhel (Siman 23).
29The Chazon Ish and Ohr L’tzion both made this point; see Yalkut Yosef (chapter 25).
30See Mishpat Kohen (71:2-3), Shabbat Haaretz (8:8), Chazon Ish (20:7), Rav Yechiel Tucaczinsky, Sefer HaShemita (p.94), Teshuvot Yeshuot Malko (Y.D. 53:55), and Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (cited in Teshuvot Beit HaLevi 3:1:5), among others.
31For a more elaborate discussion of the responses to these points, see the sources cited in footnote #22 as well as the many discussions in the Hebrew literature on the topic. In brief, here are some of the responses given:

    1. Assumptions not clear-cut: Although there are those that disagree, the supporters maintain that all the assumptions are indeed those that are accepted as practical halacha: We do agree that Shemita is rabbinic, that the halacha follows the Sefer HaTeruma and the Vilna Gaon, and that non-Jewish produce is not subject to kedushat sheviit (except for some in Bnei Brak who follow the Chazon Ish). 
    2. Intent: Any action done for a specific purpose such as avoiding a halakhic prohibition, which demonstrates intent, qualifies as valid halakhic intent, similar to selling one’s chametz before Pesach. See Introduction to Shabbat Haaretz 14 and Maadanei Eretz (end of section 1). 
    3. Legal Sale: Some acharonim maintain that a legal sale is not required for the sale to be halakhically valid, as long as the rules of halacha are followed. See Teshuvot Chatam Sofer (O.C. 1:113) and Teshuvot Divrei Chaim (O.C. 2:37). 
    4. Lo Techonem: This prohibition may not apply to Muslims, who are monotheistic, it may not apply to a temporary sale, and it may not apply to a sale whose long-term goal is to strengthen the Jewish hold on the land. See Yeshuot Malko (Y.D. 55), Sefer HaShemita (p.106), Mishpat Kohen (60) among others. 
    5. Ein Shaliach L’dvar Aveirah: Even if the sale is prohibited, it still may take effect if performed. See Mishpat Kohen (60) and Har Tzvi (Zeraim 2:49).

Work done by Jews: As mentioned, the Sefer HaTeruma (and possibly Rashi) appear to allow Jews to work the land if it belongs to a gentile. This was also the position taken by some of the original rabbinic authorities who supported the heter mechira.

32This is based on the Land Transactions Law (Observance of Shemita, 5739-1979, 6), whose formulation is cited by Rav Rimon in this context (p.405). See also Katif Sheviit, p.138, footnote #9.
33As mentioned earlier, there are some opinions, such as the Sefer HaTeruma, who allow Jews to work the land even for Biblical labors.
34See Shabbat Haaretz (Introduction, section 11 and 8:8).
35See above that some rule these categories of produce are forbidden.
36See Mishpat Kohen (65, 75-76, and elsewhere in the sefer).
37Produce that is subject to sefichim, such as vegetables and grains, would be prohibited for that reason. With regard to fruits, which are not subject to sefichim, those that are stringent about shamur v’neevad would also forbid it. However, those that are lenient would be permitted to consume it but would treat it with kedushat sheviit.
38See Torat Kohanim (Behar 1:1:8), Yerushalmi (Sheviit 9:3), and Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 7:3). The proper time depends on when this particular type of food is not available anymore in the field. See the Gemara (Pesachim 53a) for the times of biur for certain types of produce. It should also be noted that there is a major debate among the Rishonim how to define biur. See Rambam (ibid.), Tosafot (Pesachim 52b), and Ramban (Vayikra 25:7), among others.
39See Rav Rimon (p.358) who offers other suggestions as to what the word “originally” could mean.
40See, e.g., Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, Maamar Mordechai, Sheviit ch.19; Rav Eliezer Melamed, Peninei Halacha, Shemita V’yovel, ch.8 (available online at https://ph.yhb.org.il/16-08-08/); and Rav Moshe Harari, Kedushat Hasheviit 14:7 (citing some of the stringent opinions). Some of the technical problems include how to pay for the produce properly given that one may not purchase kedushat sheviit produce and the fact that although otzar beit din produce should be cheaper than other produce (since one does not pay for the actual produce itself, but for the labor), in reality it is often more expensive. For a brief review in English of some of the issues (pro and con), see http://kosherpoint.passroads.com/otzar-beit-din-eng.
41Rav Kook’s opinion is not mentioned in his classic work, Shabbat Haaretz. See Rav Rimon, pp.351-353 for a more thorough discussion of the documentation of his opinion and the sources behind it.
42See, e.g., Rav Rimon, p.269; Rav Moshe Harari, Kedushat HaSheviit 17:4.
43The biggest one is probably Otzar Haaretz, which is sponsored by Machon HaTorah V’haaretz, an organization in Israel that specializes in agricultural mitzvot. Otzar Haaretz was originally formed in the Shemita of 5768 and has expanded in this Shemita year to service many locations around Israel, offering both otzar beit din produce as well as sixth year produce and Arava produce while avoiding both heter mechira produce and yibul nochri. It is supported by poskim such as Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron (former Sephardic chief rabbi), Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, and Rav Yaakov Ariel. For more information, see their website (English page) at https://buy.otzar-haretz.co.il/english/ and https://en.toraland.org.il/beit-midrash/halachic-guides/hilchot-haaretz/hilchot-shemitah/shemitah-chapter-14-otzar-haaretz-the-optimal-way-to-observe-the-shemitah-year/.
44The Ramban (Additions to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh #3) appears to count eating Shemita produce as a mitzva. This is the way in which the commentary known as the Megillat Esther understood the Ramban, and many other acharonim also took this view. See, for example, the Minchat Chinuch (329:13) and Har Tzvi (Zeraim 2:54). However, others, such as the Seridei Aish (2:116:1) & the Chazon Ish (14:1), understood the Ramban as referring to the negative aspect of not trading or wasting produce with Shemita sanctity (as described in the Gemara, Pesachim 52b), and his point was that these rules were formulated in the form of a positive mitzva. In addition, it is clear that the Rambam did not believe this was a mitzva, as he did not count it in his Sefer Hamitzvot. Even according to those that do not believe there is a mitzva, the fruit is still imbued with sanctity, and therefore there is still significance to eating it (Rav Rimon, p.238).
45This is the approach of most commentaries, including the Rash (Sheviit 9:1), Ramban (Vayikra 25:5), Tosafot (Pesachim 51b s.v. kol), and others. However, the Rambam (Shemita V’yovel 4:12) rules that any produce that was harvested in the seventh year is subject to sefichim, even if it sprouted and grew mostly in the sixth year. Thus, he would say the time frame for sefichim and kedushat sheviit are identical. Practically, most modern poskim follow the former approach, including the Chazon Ish (9:17 and elsewhere) and Yalkut Yosef (ch.23). This is also the ruling cited in most of the contemporary works on Shemita, such as Rav Rimon (p.307) and Mishpetei Eretz (16:8), among others. However, there are a minority of poskim, including R.Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Ohr L’tzion, Sheviit p.66) who suggest being stringent to accommodate the Rambam’s opinion and treating vegetables picked immediately after Rosh HaShanah as sefichim.
46When it comes to grain, the prohibition of sefichim only begins to take effect on produce that has grown at least 1/3, which will usually include the grain crop that begins to be marketed in the spring. In addition, legumes also are subject to the same rules as grain.
47See Katif Sheviit (pp.125-129) for a summary of some of the practical instructions given to the farmer as to what he may and may not do with his crops if he chooses to place his field under the jurisdiction of an Otzar Beit Din and what he can get paid for and what he cannot.
48Many of the numerous sefarim on the topic of Shemita have good summaries and explanations of this material. See for example Rav Rimon (p.264-297), Katif Sheviit (chapters 58-64), Mishpetei Eretz (chapter 20-23), and Gateway to Shemita (pp.139-158). Rav Zvi Cohen’s seferPerot Sheviit” is actually entirely devoted to the topic of the rules of Shemita produce.
49Mishna (Sheviit 6:5); Rambam (5:13).
50Rash (to Torat Kohanim, Behar, 1:9) and Raavad (ibid).
51Rash (Sheviit 6:5); Bartenura (ibid.).
52See Beit Ridbaz (footnote to 5:18), Shemen Raanan (2: Kuntres Shabbat Haaretz), and Mishpetei Eretz (20:3, footnote #6), citing Rav Shmuel Wosner and Rav Eliashiv who are lenient about this when necessary.
53See Teshuvot HaRema (10), Tashbetz (3:151), Igrot Moshe (Y.D. 3:93), and Minchat Yitzchak (3:129), who all deal with the parameters of this issue. Rav Rimon (p.499-516) discusses at length how this issue applies to Shemita, and concludes that where possible, it is certainly preferable to purchase Jewish produce. Those who hold that the heter mechira is not valid may argue that this imperative does not apply when assisting a Jew in violating a prohibition, but even so, one can attempt to purchase Otzar Beit Din products or greenhouse vegetables instead of non-Jewish produce whenever possible. It should be noted that this issue, although it is important, is not as halakhically problematic as other issues raised in the context of Shemita.
54Teshuvat Avkat Rochel, 23-26
55Teshuvot Ha-Mabit (1:11)
56Sheviit (9:18, 20:7).
57See Rav Rimon, p.287; Rav Moshe Harari, Kedushat HaSheviit 15:3; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, Maamar Mordechai, ch.11, n.17.
58For more sources that summarize the various issues and opinions, see Rav Akiva Schlesinger, Mishnat Yosef (1:44-45), Rav Yaakov Ariel, B’oholah shel Torah (3:1-2) and Techumin 29, and Rav Rimon (pp.307-310).
59This was presumably derived from the Mishna (Sheviit 6:1) that states that the area conquered by the olei mitzrayim but not resettled by those that returned from Babylonia before the second Temple, known as the olei bavel, may not be worked during Shemita. However, it should be noted that although this is the more widely accepted position, some Rishonim, such as Tosafot (Chullin 7a), hold that the borders used for Shemita are those determined by the olei bavel and apparently understood the mishna in Sheviit in a different manner (or as not reflecting the opinion followed for practical halacha). This approach would claim that the size of Eretz Yisrael would be smaller, which would lead to a more lenient ruling in some places that would not then be bound by the rules of Shemita. According to the Gemara (Chullin 7a), the olei bavel settled less land than the Jews did during the First Temple period.
60There are two major variations concerning the precise location of the border within this group of authorities. The Tevuat Haaretz (cited by the Mishnat Yosef (1:44), followed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emuna, Hilchot Terumot 1:7, Beur Halacha s.v. Me’Ashkelon), places it at the location of Ein Tamar on the eastern border and running slightly southwest. This approach places the border north of the current day Mitzpeh Ramon. The Admat Kodesh (also cited in the Mishnat Yosef), on the other hand, followed by Rav Yaakov Ariel and the Eida Charedit of Jerusalem, maintain that the border is located at today’s Ein Yahav and goes across the Negev westward to Har Lutz, which is located on the border with Egypt. This variation would place the border south of Mitzpeh Ramon. For a map depicting the various opinions, see Rav Rimon, p.309.
61This approach also involves two variations. One position places the border at 30 degrees latitude, which is located close to a town called Neveh Charif, approximately 60 kilometers north of Eilat. This approach was adopted by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (as cited by Rav Yaakov Ariel in Shut B’oholah shel Torah 3:1, though others, such as Mishmeret HaSheviit, cite his opinion differently), Rav Eliashiv (cited in Halichot Sadeh 93, p.16), and Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef p.70). This is based on the Rambam (Kiddush HaChodesh 18:16), who states that for the purposes of sanctifying the new moon, Kiddush HaChodesh (which must be performed in Eretz Yisrael), the borders extend south to the 30th degree latitude. The other approach is taken by Rav Yechiel Tucaczinsky (Ir Hakodesh V’haMikdash vol.3 p.264) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (cited in Katif Sheviit 4:note #2) that the border extends the entire way to the Red Sea, including Eilat. Rav Tucaczinsky bases this on Rav Saadia Gaon, who maintains that Maaleh Akrabim is translated as Maaleh Aqaba, which is the name of the Jordanian resort town across from Eilat. Assuming the two locations are identical, then Eilat would also be included in the borders of olei mitzrayim.
62See Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 10:1), Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Sefer Eretz Chemda), and Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin (Techumin Vol. 10 p.17) who all entertain this possibility in different forms. See also Chazon Ish (Sheviit 3:1) as well as Rav Zev Whitman, “Likrat Shemita Mamlachtit B’Medinat Yisrael,”chapter 9, who deal at length with this question.
63See Rav Whitman, ibid, p.150.
64Sefer Eretz Yisrael (pp.82-84).
65Teshuvot Shevet HaLevi (5:173).
66See their website (referenced above) for a list of major poskim who support their positions, such as Rav Yaakov Ariel, Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, and others. See also Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s opinion as presented in Minchat Shlomo 3:158:3-4 and at https://www.kosharot.co.il/index2.php?id=66920&lang=HEB.
67This time period is also sometimes known as kedusha sheniya, the second period of holiness in Eretz Yisrael, while the period of the First Temple, where the Land was conquered by the Olei mitzrayim, is known as the kedusha Rishona, the first period of holiness.
68Rambam, Hilchot Terumot (1:7).
69The original source for identifying Rekem as Petra is found in Josephus and cited in a number of the halakhic works. This location is farther south than the border of olei mitzrayim as suggested by the first group of authorities cited above, so it would support the second approach. In any case, this would be the farthest south that the border might be. However, there may have been multiple locations with the same name (see Tosafot, Gittin 2a), and this is not absolute. Therefore, most discussions about being lenient with produce from the Negev discuss locations that are part of the Southern Arava.
70See Katif Sheviit (pp.52-53). However, some claim that the southern border was actually almost equivalent for the olei mitzrayim and olei bavel (See Yerushalmi 6:1 and the Gra’s interpretation there; Derech Emuna, Sheviit 4:28). According to this, those that hold the border extends almost to Eilat might say that the prohibition of sefichim does apply. Furthermore, the Chazon Ish says that one may not be lenient in any uncertain location even with regard to sefichim.
71See Rabbi Dovid Cohen, “Shemitta,” Fall 2008, pp.16-23, for a more thorough discussion of the various opinions on this issue, as well as Katif Sheviit, ch.18, who also details many of the practical requirements necessary for the greenhouse and produce to be considered matza menutak according to the different approaches.
72See Vayikra 19:23.
73See, for example, the Gemara (Gittin 7a-b), Mishna (Demai 5:10), Mishna (Uktzin 2:10), and the rulings of the Rambam (Terumot 5:16, Kilayim 1:1).
74This is based on the measurement known as a shoresh katan, the space needed for a small root to fit inside. According to the Mishna (Uktzin 2:10), which is cited as well in the Rambam (Terumot 5:15) and the Meiri (Shabbat 95b), this is the measurement that would render it an atzitz nakuv. Rav Rimon indicates (p.161) that a width of 2 cm already qualifies as an atzitz nakuv, while Mishpetei Eretz (1:6, Orla 3:7) rules that it must be 2.5 cm to qualify. For other opinions concerning this question, see Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak (8:92).
75See Rambam (Terumot 5:16).
76Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo (3:158:7).
77See Katif Sheviit (18:footnote #36) where Rav Eliyahu and Rav Wosner are cited. Rav Eliashiv’s opinion is recorded in Halichot Sadeh 78. It should be noted that there are minor differences between the positions of each of these poskim.
78See Katif Sheviit (17:3-4) where Rav Mordechai Eliyahu is cited as requiring at least 50% netting, and Rav Wosner and Rav Avraham Shapira are cited as holding that actual walls are required as well. Others, however, disagree about the necessity of the walls. See Katif Sheviit for other important details concerning building a proper greenhouse and planting in a permissible manner, such as the proper material on which to place the crops.
79It should be noted, though, that this method can be very expensive, and financial backing is often needed to guarantee that the farmer will not lose a significant amount of money during the year.
80Although this ruling is quite logical on its own, see Mishpetei Eretz (17:note #36), who cites this explicitly in the name of Rav Eliashiv.
81There are a number of Israeli companies that export fruits and vegetables to locations around the world, including the United States.
82This was the case in some earlier Shemita years, where not every farmer necessarily chose one of the Shemita options at all, but instead simply grew crops normally. In that case, vegetables would be forbidden according to all due to sefichim, and fruit would retain the status of kedushat sheviit (subject to the time of year and other considerations discussed above). In addition, it may be subject to shamur v’neevad, which as we saw was subject to dispute whether the food was prohibited.
83Personal communication with Rav Moshe Bloom, Head of the English Department of Machon HaTorah V’haaretz ([email protected]).
84See the articles of Rav Jachter cited above in n.1, where Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Menachem Genack are cited as conveying this ruling of Rav Soloveitchik.
85However, there were some questionable repercussions in the 5768 Shemita year due to this question: Apparently there was a 30% increase in water allocation last time to the non-Jews and Arabs working the fields. See Techumin 34, where Rav Yaakov Ariel considers the halakhic implications of such actions.
86Mishpetei Eretz (ch.26) and “A Clear Guide to Shemita.”
87Both of these authors do indeed hold this way practically that the sale, while not ideal, is still halakhically valid once performed. This ruling is based on sources that allow one to break a personal custom on a one-time basis if there is an important reason to do so.
88This idea is also mentioned in the Meiri (Yevamot 14b) and is even implied by the Gemara itself (Chullin 111b).
89See Avodah Zarah 75b.
90See footnote #25 above.
91See his discussion inside for a number of other sources and relevant arguments that Rav Yosef considers.
92Teshuvot Igrot Moshe (O.C. 1:186) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Maadanei Eretz (notes, #7
93See Mishpetei Eretz (ch.27), Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emuna, Shemita V’yovel, 4:Tziun Halacha #23, and Rav Moshe Shternbuch, “Shemita K’hilchata” (2:9, 4:12), who all are stringent about dishes.
94It should be noted that any dish, such as soup, in which sefichim are cooked becomes entirely forbidden, in the same manner as other non-kosher food. Therefore, it would only be permitted if the sefichim were nullified in a 1:60 ratio, or batel b’shishim, which is the standard rule of mixtures in Hilchot Kashrut.
95If one did not realize that there were more lenient positions, it is possible that hatarat nedarim is not necessary. This is because it is only performed in cases where the person knew what the fundamental halakha was and nevertheless chose to be more stringent voluntarily (Shulchan Aruch above). In addition, it was pointed out at the beginning of this section that being lenient on a temporary, one-time basis, does not necessarily require hatarat Nedarim.
96See, for example, http://www.dinonline.org/2012/01/06/shmitta-wine-after-time-of-biur/, who discusses a practical case of this, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz at http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/743089/Lebowitz,_Rabbi_Aryeh, Katif Sheviit (ch.23) and Rav Zev Whitman, Shemita Mamlachtit chapters 14-16.
97See the Rash (Sheviit 6:5) as well as the Rosh and Bartenura there who explain the reason for the prohibition of removing the produce from Israel in this manner.
98See sources cited in the Mishnat Yosef (2:26), though others disagree.
99See Beit Ridbaz 72b in the name of Rav Chaim Berlin.
100If the company still owned the wine at the time of biur, it was mentioned above that produce of this sort is not subject to biur.
101Rav Zvi Cohen, Perot Sheviit, p.431 note #181. Although it was mentioned above that bi’ur may not apply to Otzar Beit Din produce, that is only true if it is still owned by the Beit Din at that time. If the consumer already owns it at the time of the bi’ur, then all agree he is obligated to perform the bi’ur.
102Mishna Sheviit (7:1).
103See Shulchan Aruch (649:5) & Mishna Berura (45).
104Although the Gemara (Sukkah 39b) states that a lulav does have Shemita sanctity, most of the authorities, including the Rambam, do not cite this as practical halacha. This may be due to the fact that whereas in Talmudic times it may have been used to sweep the house (as the Gemara there says), today they are not used for any other function other than the mitzva. Most authorities also rule that a hadas does not have Shemita sanctity, but some disagree. See Rav Rimon (pp.517-519) for a summary of the different opinions on these issues.
105See Mishna (Bikurim 2:6) which states that an etrog is treated like fruit that grows on trees with regard to Shemita, meaning that its status should be determined by chanata. However, the Gemara (Rosh HaShana 14a) cites certain opinions that may disagree, though the sugya is a bit unclear on this point. Rishonim also debated this issue, with the Rambam (Maaser Sheni 1:5) maintaining that an etrog has the status of a vegetable, since both require a lot of water in order to grow, a point noted in the Gemara above, while the Ra’avad holds that an etrog has the status of a fruit.
106See Chazon Ish (7:10) who rules this way, which is the accepted custom.
107See Chazon Ish (9:17) & Piskei Teshuvot (649:7 and footnote #21).
108See the sources cited in the Piskei Teshuvot (649:7, footnote #25). Those poskim feel the reason it is forbidden to take them out of Israel is due to the fact that the bi’ur must be done there.
109See Rav Chaim Berlin mentioned above and other sources cited in Katif Sheviit chapter 23; see also Piskei Teshuvot 649:note #26, and see also Mishnat Yosef (2:24-29).

About Eli Ozarowski

Rabbi Eli Ozarowski serves as editor of the English Tzurba M'Rabanan halacha series as well as editor of numerous other Torah projects and sefarim. He is also a former editor of the Steinsaltz English Gemara series. Rabbi Ozarowski received semicha from RIETS and currently lives in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel, where he also delivers frequent shiurim.

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