Tevet Shemitah Update
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Work in the garden
The shemitah year is in full swing, and the prohibitions of working the soil apply.
Trees are starting to shed their leaves. It is permissible to clean up that garden when the only purpose is to maintain your garden's aesthetics, not to benefit the plants or the soil. Removing leaves for the plant's benefit is permitted only if many dead leaves have piled up on them and could suffocate them.
The activity of snails and slugs increases during this season. When this can cause irreversible damage (for instance, to young plants), it is permitted to treat them. It is halachically preferable to use bait (approved for garden use, in keeping with instructions on the package).
This coming month, towards the end, several fruits will begin to develop (chanatah): especially loquat and certain strains of peach. From the moment fruits begin to develop, it is forbidden to prune branches laden with fruit before they ripen.
Only fruits that began to grow during the shemitah year will have kedushat shevi'it. Most fruits in supermarkets began growing before shemitah, so they do not have kedushah. Exceptions include: dragon fruit, Peruvian pear, starfruit, and passionfruit. Make sure you buy these fruits in stores with shemitah certification.
Any vegetable harvested during the shemitah year has kedushat shevi'it. This is true for any vegetable or herb that we pick in our gardens and for the many vegetables in supermarkets. Now it is extremely important to buy vegetables with kashrut certification, and it is preferable to consume produce with kedushat shevi'it.
We are now in the middle of the winter. At this time, there is a concern that all vegetables were planted after the beginning of shemitah and may be forbidden under the sefichin prohibition. Exceptions are: sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, horseradish, and arum. (There are also produce not generally grown commercially in Israel: rice, dry beans, soy, lentils).
Note: Potatoes were from the sixth year up until now. Their harvest season is beginning this month and shemitah potatoes will appear in supermarkets gradually.
A significant portion of the flowers sold in the marketplace at this point were planted during shemitah. For this reason, be sure to buy only from vendors with kashrut certification or with a certificate of heter mechirah.
There are types of flowers where this is less of a concern, and there is room to be lenient and buy them even from places without certification. For the various categories of flowers, see here.
To the best of our knowledge, the following vendors have certification:
💐 Otzar Ha'aretz - flowers are sold Thursday/Friday at Otzar Ha'aretz stores
💐 Zer4U - under the supervision of Lev HaSharon Rabbinate, heter mechirah
💐 Teva Vaferach flower store - under the supervision of Rabbi Efrati
Note that there are flower vendors who do not have kashrut certification who present heter mechirah certificates that they received from flower growers. This does not guarantee that the flowers at the booth were actually purchased from these growers.
Shemitah calendars for fruit, vegetables, grains, and herbs
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The Consumer's Guide to Shemitah online, shemitah-related articles, lectures, and charts