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Laws of shevi'it during the eighth year

Laws of shevi'it during the eighth year

Shemitah laws relevant to the eighth year: shemitah sanctity, hefker, bi'ur terumot and ma'aserot. If I pick fruits or vegetables at the beginning of the eighth year, can I eat them? Chapter 27 of the Consumer's Guide to Shemitah

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

A. Fruit during the eighth year

  1. Fruits that their chanatah (see above, Chapter 5 §B) was during the seventh (=shemitah) year have shemitah sanctity even during the year following the shemitah, also known as the eighth year. This is especially common with citruses, which are generally harvested during the winter.
  2. Private gardens and orchards should be open during shemitah for the public, and during the eighth year until the average time of the second rainfall (reviyah sheniyah), between 23 Cheshvan and Rosh Chodesh Kislev.
    From Rosh Chodesh Kislev, it is permissible to lock orchards and gardens and to perform the mitzvah of hefker by bringing the fruit outside.[1]
  1. The bi'ur time for most fruits takes place during the eighth year. The times appear on the bi'ur schedule in Appendix A.
  2. See Appendix A for the times when fruit no longer has shemitah sanctity.

B. Vegetables during the eighth year

  1. Vegetables harvested during the shemitah year have shemitah sanctity mide'oraita, even if eaten during the eighth year.[2] Vegetables harvested during the eighth year that grew mostly during the shemitah year have shemitah sanctity miderabanan.[3]
  2. When it is certain that specific vegetables were harvested during the shemitah year in places where the sefichin prohibition applies, they are forbidden to eat at any time.[4]
  3. The sefichin prohibition applies also to the beginning of the eighth year. In some cases, it is forbidden to eat vegetables harvested at the beginning of the eight year.[5]
  4. Vegetables (here: peirot adamah, to exclude leafy vegetables) that are known to have been harvested during the eighth year, or when their harvest year is unknown, are forbidden to eat until the first of the following dates arrives:[6]
    1. When new vegetables of the same type grow first in the place with earliest harvest time.[7] For vegetables that grow quickly and have a short shelf life, this time is three days.[8]
    2. When the majority of the growth of the same type of vegetable occurs during the eighth year. This majority of growth needs to be of the vegetable itself; it is not necessary that the majority of the plant it grows on reaches the majority of its growth.[9]
    3. Chanukah of the eighth year.[10]
  5. For vegetables with a long shelf life (such as carrots, onions, and potatoes), one should be stringent and find out when crops appearing on the market are from vegetables that are grown mostly and harvested during the eighth year. In practice, one should consult a halachic authority to ascertain when such vegetables are available in the marketplace.[11]
  6. The determining stage of growth for grains and lentils, relevant to both the sefichin prohibition and shemitah sanctity, is one-third of their growth (onat hama'aserot).[12] In situations of doubt, their status follows that of vegetables (see §4 above).[13]
  7. Vegetables that were sown during the shemitah year in a forbidden fashion and harvested during the eighth year may be eaten according to the time when sefichin are permitted.[14]
  8. The schedule for when various types of sefichin are permitted can be found in Appendix C.
  9. If vegetables were grown on land sold to a non-Jew through heter mechirah, it is possible to rely on the opinions that permit all of the vegetables immediately—even for those who do not rely during the shemitah year on heter mechirah. [15] This is true for all types of vegetables, with the exception of onions and garlic.[16]

C. Terumot and ma'aserot during the eighth year

  1. Fruit that grew on land not sold to a non-Jew through heter mechirah—which reached its onat ma'aserot (lit. "ma'aser season") after the beginning of the eighth year, but before 15 Shevat—are subject to terumot and ma'aserot. These should be separated without a blessing.[17] This time is identical to the stage when the fruit assumes shemitah sanctity during the shemitah [18] Ma'aser sheni should be separated from this fruit.[19]
  2. Vegetables that grew on land not sold to a non-Jew are obligated in terumot and ma'aserot, even if they have shemitah sanctity, in the following situation: when the sefichin prohibition does not apply to them (such as vegetables planted in a clod of soil, or in hothouses, or by a non-Jew, or in the olei Mitzrayim territory) and they are harvested on the eighth year but before it is clear whether the majority of their growth took place during the eighth year.[20]
  3. Land is sold through heter mechirah for a two-year period. The Chief Rabbinate buys back all of the plots of land from the non-Jew during the month of Tishrei following the shemitah year. That is, there are several days during the eighth year when land is still owned by non-Jews. For this reason, agricultural produce that reaches its onat ma'aserot before this time[21] should have terumot and ma'aserot separated without a blessing.[22] Ma'aser rishon should be given to a levi according to the relative amount of the produce that grew when in Jewish ownership.[23] In areas where terumot and ma'aserot are separated throughout the non-shemitah years with a blessing (most of Israel), one should find out the exact date the land was sold back to know from what date a blessing should be said on the separation of terumot and ma'aserot.[24]


[1] Rambam 7:18 and Shabbat Ha'aretz 7:18. The owner needs to take out the fruit because they still have sanctity and are halachically considered hefker.

[2] See Chapters 3 §B.1d and 5 §C.1,6.

[3] Mede'oraita, harvest time for vegetables determines sacred status (so they wouldn't be sacred if harvested in the eighth year). Chazal, however, instituted that vegetables have shemitah sanctity if the majority of their growth occurred during the shemitah year: Rash (6:4); Tosafot Anshei Shem 6:4, s.v. misheya'aseh on Pe'at Hashulchan §22:6; Chazon Ish §9:13. This is also implied by Rabbi Kook, Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:6 §1 n. 7; 13 §§2–3; 7 §§1,3; 8 §7.

[4] Chazon Ish §9:13, s.v. veha; Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:6 §2, n. 13. After Chanukah of the eighth year, some permit even vegetables harvested during shemitah; see Shabbat Ha'aretz, ibid., n. 11 and 4:7, n.20.  

[5] Rambam 4:5. Pe'at Hashulchan §22:9 argues that the sefichin prohibition applying to crops harvested in the eighth year is a special stringency of Chazal, since in principle, the status of vegetables should follow harvest time. There is a dispute whether sefichin applies only to vegetables that finished growing during shemitah, to vegetables for which a majority of their growth occurred during shemitah, or even to those that only grew a little bit during shemitah; see Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:6 §1.1, 12 §3, 13 §3. See also article of Rabbi Azriel Ariel, Emunat Itecha 1, 5755.

[6] The distinction between yerakot, generally rendered as vegetables (but here meaning leafy vegetables), and peirot adamah, lit. "produce of the ground," comes from the Rambam 4:7, who distinguishes between "she'ar peirot" and "yerakot" (other produce and lit. "'greens," respectively). The following discuss this distinction made by the Rambam: Tzitz Eliezer XII §61:2; Kerem Tziyon 11:9. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz, ibid., 4:7 n. 25. The linguistic source of this distinction is the Mishnah, Berachot 6:1 (there a distinction is made between "peirot ha'aretz" "produce from the ground," and "yerakot," "greens").

[7] That is, the day the first vegetables that were sown after Rosh Hashanah (in Israel) grow. Based on Mishnah 6:4. For vegetables with a questionable status (when we don't know if harvested in the seventh or eighth year), the rationale for the heter is that at this stage there are permitted vegetables available in the market, so we assume that all vegetables are permitted. For vegetables that we know where harvested during the eighth year, we say that the "forbidden" part of the vegetable (that grew during shemitah) is nullified within the majority part of the vegetable (that grew during the eighth year); see Rash (6:4, s.v. mishe-ya'aseh) and Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 §2. 

[8] The source of the heter for the vegetables is an opinion that allows harvesting vegetables immediately following the shemitah year: Mishnah 6:4; Rambam 4:7. Some maintain that this heter was given since there are vegetables that grow quickly in the Land of Israel; others suppose that it stems from the possibility to import vegetables from abroad; see Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 n. 4 and §5.

[9] The support for this heter is that the prohibition can be nullified by the majority, not because most of its growth occurred during the eighth year. See Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 §2.2, 21 §2. For most vegetables, one does not need the proof that the majority of a specific vegetable grew during the eighth year. It is sufficient that vegetables of the same species grow during the eighth year more than they grew during the shemitah year. If this is the case, we can assume that this is true everywhere for this species—even in other regions.

[10] Rambam 4:6. According to Ra'avad (gloss, ibid.), sefichin are not permitted from Chanukah on, but only when most of the growth occurs during the eighth year, as we wrote in letter b. See Shabbat Ha'aretz, 4:6 §2; Chazon Ish §4:4 s.v. vele'inyan. Pe'at Hashulchan (§22:9) maintains that Chanukah only permits questionable vegetables.

[11] Rashas (9:1, s.v. od ra'iti) writes that vegetables that grow slowly and with a long shelf life, such as garlic,are not permitted immediately only after most of the  vegetable was grown on the eighth year. Rabbi Kook (Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 §5) implies that the other commentaries disagree with this opinion, and even these vegetables are permitted immediately.  See Mishnah 5:5 about luf (luf is identified by most scholars as Colocasia esculenta, a root vegetable, while by the Rambam in later writings as a type of onion: Zohar Amar (2015). Flora and Fauna in Maimonides' Teachings [Heb.], Kfar Darom.) On the halachic distinction between luf and other vegetables, see Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 §5.3, 8 §§1,3.

[12] Rambam 4:13; Rash 9:1, s.v. kol hasefichin; Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:9 §2.

[13] Yeshu'at Moshe, §12:5; Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7, n. 36.

[14] Rambam 4:15. According to Ra'avad (gloss, ibid.), these vegetables will never be permitted. See Shabbat Ha'aretz, 4:15 §2. On the prohibition of ne'evad, see Chapter 8 above. 

[15] Heter mechirah is similar to the heter of bringing vegetables from chutz la'aretz. See Rabbi Kook (Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:13 §3 and n. 11).

[16] Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:7 §5.2.

[17] See Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:13 §1 and n. 3. There is a dispute whether this produce has the same status of shemitah produce (with shemitah sanctity and exempt from terumot and ma'aserot), or eighth-year produce (no sanctity and obligated in terumot and ma'aserot). In practice, due to doubt, we separate terumot and ma'aserot without a blessing.

Rash (Torat Kohanim, Behar 1:4) maintains that fruits for which chanatah was between Rosh Hashanah and 15 Shevat during the eighth year—has shemitah sanctity (and doesn't need terumot and ma'aserot). Rabbi Chaim Berliner (qtd. in Sefer Hashemitah, p. 10, n. 3) maintains that we should be stringent due to doubt. See also Rabbi Kook (Mishpat Kohen §66, s.v. et), who rules that land should be sold to a non-Jew for the entire duration of the shemitah year through 15 Shevat of the eighth year; Rabbi Auerbach (Ma'adanei Eretz §1:11, s.v. ulam, gam) and Rabbi Yisraeli (Chavot Binyamin I §9:7); however, hold that it is sufficient to sell the land back to its Jewish owners by Rosh Hashanah of the eighth year. In light of the latter opinions, one should separate terumot and ma'aserot from such produce without a blessing.  

[18] The determining stage of growth for terumot and ma'aserot is the identical to the stage of growth that determines the presence of shemitah sanctity.

[19] The first year of the shemitah cycle is a ma'aser sheni year. Chazon Ish (§9:18, s.v. יו"ד) rules that ma'aser sheni should be separated. Others maintain that one should separate both ma'aser sheni and ma'aser ani due to doubt; see Chapter 15, n. 11.

[20] Rabbi Kook, Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:8 §7, based on Tosefta 4:8. Rabbi Eliahu holds that one should not say a blessing on this separation. On shemitah sanctity with these crops, see Chapter 4.

[21] The determining stage of growth that obligates crops in terumot and ma'aserot is called onat hama'aserot, ma'aser season. Vegetables – harvest, fruit – chanatah, legumes and grain – a third of their growth; see Chapter 5.

[22] For the status of produce that reaches onat hama'aserot when belonging to a non-Jew, see Rambam, Terumot 1:12–13; Minchat Shlomo §51:21; see Chapter 10 §C.2b.

[23] Rambam, Terumot 1:12; Shulchan Aruch, YD §331:5.

[24] A yisrael who buys land from a non-Jew with produce that has not yet reached onat hama'aserot, should separate terumot and ma'aserot from the produce. In this case, he is obligated to give a levi all of the ma'aser rishon: Rambam, ibid., Shulchan Aruch, ibid.
Rambam (Terumot 1:14) and Shulchan Aruch (ibid., §331:7) add that if the gemar melachah is performed by a non-Jewish worker the produce is completely exempt from terumot and ma'aserot.