Appointment as an agent of beit din – a solution for heavily fruit-laden trees
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How can I pick a lot of fruit and give to the public?
Question: Baruch Hashem, I have lots of fruits on my tree in my yard but people are not coming to pick them. Furthermore, I don't really feel comfortable with strangers coming into my yard. I know that I'm not allowed to harvest large quantities of fruit and distribute them since this demonstrates ownership of the fruit. Can you suggest a solution to ensure that the fruits are eaten?
Answer: Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has a solution (ma'adanei eretz 7,2). He permitted, when necessary, harvesting large quantities of fruit and putting them in a public area for public benefit.
However, Rabbi Moshe Kleirs (torat ha'aretz 1,8,8 s.v. veraiti, 1874–1934, Ashkenazi rabbi of Tiberius and author of Torat Ha'aretz on land-dependent mitzvot), and later, the Chazon Ish (15,11), wrote that this is forbidden. They maintain that the very act of harvest by the tree owner nullifies the fruits' status as hefker, ownerless. This status applies when the fruits are attached to the tree; people acquire the fruit immediately when picking them. For this reason, they hold that the tree owner cannot harvest large amounts, put them in a public area and declare them hefker. This is because the owner nullified their hefker status at the time of harvest, even though declaring them hefker a second time.
While some except the opinion of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as is, there is a more mehadrin solution that is acceptable, lechatchilah, to Rabbi Kleirs and the Chazon Ish. This solution is becoming authorized as an agent of a beit din.
The tree owner signs a document that he will serve as an agent of a beit din, stating that he has rendered the fruit hefker and is no longer their owner. He turns over the care of the fruit to the beit din. The beit din, in turn, requests that this person harvest the fruit as their agent and put the fruit in a public place (it is best if it is an area where mostly religious people will take the fruit), note that they are hefker and have kedushat shevi'it. Then the public will come and take them.
Attached here (PDF) and here (WORD) is the form of authorization as an agent of beit din formulated by Torah VeHa'aretz Institute for the benefit of English speakers in Israel. Fill out the form and e-mail or WhatsApp it to Rabbi Moshe Bloom, director of the English Department at Torah VeHa'aretz Institute: email@example.com, 052-8903729.