A Consumer’s Guide to Shevi’is Produce

Kashrus Kurrents, Summer 2022

The Torah commands us to refrain from working the land of Eretz Yisroel during Shemita. The possuk states that a person may work the land of Eretz Yisroel for six consecutive years but must allow it to lie fallow during the Shevi’is (seventh) year.[1] This seventh year is known as Shemita.[2] The mitzvah applies to both men and women.[3] Even though time-bound positive commandments generally do not apply to women, this mitzvah is an exception and is equally incumbent upon them.[4] 

The Torah also commands us to sanctify every fiftieth year as Yovel.[5] However, the Yovel year does not occur nowadays. This is due to the fact that Yovel is sanctified only when the majority of Jews live in Eretz Yisroel.[6] By the time of the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, the majority of Jews had been exiled from Eretz Yisroel and Yovel no longer occurred. Although Jews returned to Eretz Yisroel at the time of Ezra, some shevatim chose to remain in exile and did not return, which precluded Yovel from restarting.[7]   

Although sanctification of the Yovel year no longer takes place, the Shemita cycle continues to occur, and every seventh year is Shemita. According to the majority of poskim, the Torah obligation of Shemita applies only when Yovel applies. As Yovel no longer occurs, the obligation to keep Shemita nowadays is Rabbinic (mi’drabanan).[8] There is discussion in the poskim as to the count of the Shemita cycle, but the widely accepted view is that this year, 5782, is Shemita.[9]  Shemita began last Rosh Hashana and will continue until next Rosh Hashana.[10]

Fruit That Has Kedushas Shevi’is: What to Do If You Purchased an Orange?

Produce which grows during Shemita has kedushas shevi’is.  This means that (a) the produce does not belong to the owner of the field and is available for others to take; (b) the produce cannot be sold for money;[11] (c) the produce cannot be discarded;[12] and (d) the produce cannot be removed from Eretz Yisroel.[13]  If it was wrongfully exported from Eretz Yisroel, it continues to retain kedushas shevi’is.[14]  

A person may eat a fruit that has kedushas shevi’is, but any edible remainder such as the pith, seeds, or peel cannot be thrown away. Rather, these should be set aside until they start to rot, after which they may be discarded.[15]

A fruit or vegetable may start growing in the sixth year and continue to grow in the seventh year, or start growing in the seventh year and continue to grow in the eighth year. In such cases, it needs to be determined whether or not the item has kedushas shevi’is.  In general, fruit has kedushas shevi’is if the budding occurred during Shemita,[16] whereas vegetables have kedushas shevi’is if they were harvested during Shemita.[17]

Fruit and the Requirement for Biur: What to Do If You Purchased Wine?

A person may own fruit that has kedushas shevi’is and store such fruit for future consumption, provided there is similar fruit still growing in fields in Eretz Yisroel that are available for other people to take.[18] However, when similar produce ceases to be freely available in the fields, the fruit may no longer be stored. At that time, a person who owns and stores fruit with kedushas shevi’is should perform biur by declaring the fruit hefker in front of three men. He may then reacquire and continue to store the fruit.[19] . The consumer should consult a chart (available online) to ascertain the relevant date for any particular fruit.[20]

If a person intentionally neglects to perform biur, the fruit may not be eaten and should be discarded after it has started to rot.[21] The Chazon Ish holds that the fruit is forbidden even if biur was not performed because the person forgot or did not know to do so.[22]

Produce grown during Shemita may be distributed through an Otzar Beis Din.[23] For example, wine produced from grapes grown during Shemita may be sold commercially through an Otzar Bais Din.  The kashrus agency certifying the wine will note on the wine label if this is the case, and will also note if biur has been performed. Some are of the opinion that this wine no longer retains kedushas shevi’is after biur is performed, and may be exported from Eretz Yisroel.[24] However, the prevalent view is that the wine retains kedushas shevi’is, and the consumer should treat it accordingly.[25]

Vegetables and the Prohibition of Sefichin: What to Do If You Purchased Carrots?

During the time of Chazal, there were people who wrongfully planted vegetables during Shemita and deceitfully claimed that the vegetables grew by themselves. In order to discourage this, Chazal enacted the prohibition of sefichin, which forbids the consumption of vegetables that grew during Shemita.[26] There are Rishonim who opine that vegetables grown in the sixth year are not included in the issur of sefichin even if they were harvested during Shemita, and the Chazon Ish accepts this view. These vegetables may be eaten, and would have kedushas shevi’is.[27]

The prohibition against the consumption of sefichin applies only to vegetables and grains but not to fruit, and applies only to produce grown in areas of Eretz Yisrael that were inhabited by Jews at the time of the Second Beis Hamikdash.[28] In theory, vegetables grown in other parts of Eretz Yisroel may be eaten with kedushas shevi’is. However, due to uncertainty regarding these boundaries, the prohibition of sefichin applies in all areas of Eretz Yisroel.[29] 

The prohibition of sefichin does not apply to vegetables grown during Shemita in the field of a non-Jew.[30] These vegetables may be consumed, and the poskim debate whether they have kedushas shevi’is.[31] Some rabbonim accept the view that this produce does not have kedushas shevi’is, and advocate that farmers should sell their fields to a non-Jew for the duration of Shemita. This suggestion is known as the heter mechira.[32] However, the Chazon Ish rejects this position, and paskens that such produce would still have kedushas shevi’is.[33] Others pasken that this produce may not be eaten at all, as the laws of shevi’is were not followed in these fields.[34]

As per these criteria, carrots grown in Eretz Yisroel during the Shemita year may be forbidden for consumption due to the prohibition of sefichin. Unless it can be determined that this is not the case, they should be treated as sefichin and not be eaten. If they were accidentally used as an ingredient in cooking, they should be treated as equivalent to a non-kosher ingredient.[35] If the store from which they were purchased is willing to refund them, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann shlit”a paskens that they may be returned.[36]

Vegetables that grew during Shemita remain forbidden even if they are harvested in the subsequent year. For this reason, the issur of sefichin continues until Chanuka 5783.[37]

1.שמות כג,י-יא, ויקרא כה,ג-ז

2.דברים טו,א

3.ספר החינוך מצוה פד

4.עי’ במנחת חינוך שם הטעם

5.ויקרא כה,י-יב

6.ערכין דף לב ע”ב

7.רש”י גיטין דף לו ע”א, ועי’ בתוס’ שם ד”ה ‘בזמן’ שיטת ר’ תם

8.הבית יוסף יו”ד סי’ של”א כתב שכ”ה דעת הרמב”ם, וכ”כ הב”י בשו”ת אבקת רוכל סי’ כד הובא בכסף משנה פ”ד מהל’ שמיטה ויובל הל’ כט, וחזר ממש”כ בכ”מ שם פ”ט הל’ ב ופ”י הל’ ט שלדעת הרמב”ם שמיטה בזה”ז הוא מן התורה, והחזו”א שביעית סי’ ג ס”ק ח הכריע שיש לסמוך ששמיטה בזה”ז הוא מדרבנן

9.רמב”ם שם פ”י הל’ ז בשם הגאונים, וכן פסקו הבית יוסף חו”מ סי’ סז ורמ”א שם סעי’ א, ועי’ בדרך אמונה שם ס”ק לה שלפי”ז שנת 5754 הוא שנת השמיטה, ואח”כ שנת 5761 ושנת 5768 ושנת 5775 ושנת 5782 כולם שנת השמיטה

10.ראש השנה דף ב ע”א ורמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ ט

11.עבודה זרה דף סב ע”א

12.פסחים דף נב ע”ב

13.שביעית פ”ו משנה ה

14.רמב”ם שם פ”ז הל’ יב, ועי’ בחזו”א שם סי’ י ס”ק ו שאין הפירות נאסרים

15.חזו”א שם סי’ יד ס”ק י

16.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ ט ומהר”י קורקוס שם, ועי’ בחזו”א שם סי’ ט ס”ק יז וסי’ ז ס”ק טז ליתר הפרטים

17.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ יב

18.רמב”ם שם פ”ז הל’ א

19. רמב”ן ויקרא כה,ז, וכן פסק החזו”א שם סי’ כו סדר השביעית ס”ק א, ועי’ דיני ביעור בדרך אמונה שם פ”ז ס”ק יז

20.For Shemita status dates for commonly available produce, refer to Rabbi Tendler’s article “Charting the Course of Shemita,” in the Summer 2022 issue of Kashrus Kurrents.

21.הרמב”ן שם כתב “אם עכבם בביתו אחר הביעור כדי לאכלן אסורין הם באכליה לגמרי”

22.החזו”א שם סי’ יד ס”ק יג כתב שהפרות נאסרים אם לא ביערם אף בשוגג או באונס

23.For details of the Otzar Beis Din system, see Rabbi Kaganoff’s article “The Otzar Beis Din: Shemita’s Treasure Trove,” in the Summer 2022 issue of Kashrus Kurrents.

24.חזו”א שם סי’ יא ס”ק ו

25.חזו”א שם סי’ כו סוף סדר השביעית ודרך אמונה שם פ”ז ס”ק יז, וכתב הדרך אמונה שם בביאור ההלכה סוף פ”ו שהחזו”א חזר בזה ממש”כ בסי’ יא ס”ק ו

26.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ ב

27.כ”ה דעת הרמב”ן ויקרא כה,ה וכן פסק החזו”א שם סי’ ט ס”ק יז

28.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ כו

29.דרך אמונה שם פ”ד ס”ק קצ

30.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ כט

31.לדעת הבית יוסף אין קדושת שביעית ביבול נכרי ולדעת המבי”ט יש לו קדושת שביעית, עי’ בשו”ת אבקת רוכל סי’ כב-כה ושו”ת מבי”ט ח”א סי’ יא וסי’ כא וסי’ ריז  

32.הראי”ה קוק בספר שבת הארץ

33. חזו”א שם סי’ כ ס”ק ז

34.בדרך אמונה שם פ”ד ס”ק קפד כתב בענין שדה משומר באיסור שאפשר לסמוך על המקילין שהפירות מותרים ומי שיכול להחמיר תבא עליו ברכה, ועי’ שם בציון הלכה ס”ק שיז וס”ק שיח מש”כ בזה, ועי’ בציון הלכה ס”ק קפז לגבי שדה שנעבד באיסור, וע”ע בחזו”א שם סי’ י ס”ק ו, ואם לא נמכר השדה באופן המועיל א”כ הירקות אסורים משום ספיחין

35.בדרך אמונה פ”ד ציון הלכה ס”ק כג כתב “הורה מרן [החזו”א] לאחד שהתארח אצל מי שאין נזהר מספיחין ובשילו בקדרה שבישלו בה ספיחין שאם הכלי אחר מעת לעת לא נאסר התבשיל בדיעבד וכ”ז בשעת הדחק אבל לכתחלה צריך הגעלה”

36.שמעתי ממו”ר ר’ היינעמאן שליט”א

37.רמב”ם שם פ”ד הל’ ו