Charting the Course of Shemita

Summer 2022

Eretz Yisroel is known worldwide for its high-quality produce. During non-Shemita years, a wide selection of  Israeli produce items – among them: carrots, citrus fruits, herbs, peppers, and radishes – are exported to North American markets. The typical concern is to ensure that proper terumos and maasros are taken. During Shemita, terumos and maasros are not typically applicable[1], but there is significant concern that the produce may be from Shemita. If someone purchased Israeli produce from Shemita and paid cash (as opposed to by check or credit card), returning it to the store may also potentially violate the prohibition of doing business with Shemita produce. If this happens by mistake, a rav should be consulted.[2]

While it can be assumed that all vegetables currently on the market are from the Shemita year,not all Israeli fruits yet on the market are from the Shemita year. The Halacha is that the Shemita status of fruits is determined by when they blossomed – not when they are picked. (Vegetables are determined by when they are picked). Therefore, although we are already several months into Shemita,many fruits coming into the market now actually blossomed in the sixth year and do not have kedushas shevi’is.[3]Consequently, next year, when Shemita is over, fruits that blossomed during Shemita and have kedushas shevi’is will remain an issue for some time longer.

Flowers

While the majority of the flowers in North America do not come from Israel, some do. The question of whether flowers have kedushas shevi’is is a complex issue. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l ruled that flowers harvested primarily for display do not have kedushas shevi’is. Since most flowers are used primarily for display purposes, they would not be subject to the laws of Shemita. This seems to be the accepted minhag regarding the status of flower imports from Israel in chutz la’aretz.

Refer to the chart below for Shemita start and end dates of common fruits imported from Eretz Yisroel that are now available in North American markets:

Fruit Beginning End
Citrus* Aug 21, 2022 Aug 21, 2023
Date Sep 9, 2022 Sep 9, 2023
Fig Apr 8, 2022 Apr 8, 2023
Guava Jun 22, 2022 Jun 22, 2023
Lemon May 24, 2022 May 24, 2023
Lime Jun 12, 2022 Jun 12, 2023
Nectarine Feb 1, 2022 Feb 1, 2023
Pomegranate Jul 15, 2022 Jul 15, 2023
Sabra Fruit Nov 30, 2021 Nov 30, 2022

* These include: Grapefruit, Oranges, Tangerines, and Mandarins


[1] Although there are some poskim who maintain that terumos and maasros are applicable to produce that was not made hefker properly.

[2]See also R’ Frankel’s article on this topic in the Summer 2022 issue of Kashrus Kurrents.

[3] There are published charts (available online) that indicate when given items are assumed to be from Shemita.