Halachic solutions for hefker to avoid damage to trees and vines
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A few days ago I unlocked the gate, left a pair of cutters on the table, and announced to all the neighbors that the grapes are hefker and ready for picking. Now I see that someone accidentally cut a main branch. In light of this:
1) Can I try to repair the cut branch by rejoining both halves and wrapping tape around them?
2) Can I change the way I'm making the grapes hefker? For example, by locking my porch gate and harvesting all the grapes myself (carefully) and then putting them in a basket outside with a sign that says "Hefker! Help yourself."
Irreversible damage to the cane. Photo: Dr. Yonah Alexandre Bronstein
1) After consulting with our agronomist, it will not help to tie together the branches (called canes). It is possible, however, to spread antifungal cream to prevent the penetration of fungi. In any case, try to salvage as many grapes as you can from the surrounding area.
Yishar koach that you observe the mitzvah of shemitah in the most mehudar way possible, and allow people to enter your yard and harvest on their own.
I want to call on anyone going into the yards of others to be exceedingly careful when harvesting to avoid harming their neighbors trees and vines. Only the fruits are ownerless, not the trees, and no one has permission—and it is certainly not a mitzvah—to damage the trees or vines during harvest.
Such instances cause people to be concerned about keeping the mitzvot of shemitah in their purest fashion.
2) There is a dispute whether it is permissible for owners to pick the fruit and take them outside for the public. While Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is lenient, Rabbi Kleirs (Tiberius) and the Chazon Ish are stringent. To account for the various opinions, we recommend signing on a document of authorization to become an agent of an otzar beit din. This will make it possible for you to harvest large quantities and put them outside of your yard (or in another public place). In this way, you will make available the holy fruit to the public while protecting your trees and vines from damage.
To sign up as an otzar beit din agent, fill out the form on our website; or send a message to: 052-8903729 or H.firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the form.