Sending shemitah carobs to America for Tu Bishevat
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Tu Bishevat is coming up and I would like to send my family in America some shemitah carobs. I recall that it is problematic to take holy shemitah produce outside of Israel, but if it is a very small amount and it's just for my brother's family, does this make any difference?
Chazal state that it is forbidden to take shemitah produce outside the Land of Israel (Mishnah Shevi'it 6:5). The Rishonim provided various rationales for the prohibition; modern posekim are divided on whether there are ways to permit this in light of these rationales.
Rationales for the prohibition
- Kedushah. Holy produce is meant to be eaten in the Holy Land only. When brought outside the Land of Israel, Chazal were concerned its holiness would be undermined: it might be mixed up with regular produce and then it would not be treated properly and/or non-Jews would eat the produce and fail to treat it with proper care.
- Bi'ur. Bi'ur for shemitah produce must take place in the Land of Israel.
Some Rishonim forbid eating shemitah produce exported outside of the Land of Israel. The vast majority of posekim permit it, however (furthermore, if already exported, it is best for a Jew to eat them since this protects its holiness and uses the holy produce for its intended purpose).
- There are some posekim that permit export in the case of when if one fails to export the produce, it will rot. If the prohibition is based on the fear that the holy produce will be harmed or destroyed, and export will allow the fruit to be used properly, then it would be permitted.
- If the holy produce is exported after bi'ur is performed in the Land of Israel or if a small amount of produce is exported well before bi'ur time when it will certainly be eaten by bi'ur
- For a mitzvah (etrogim).
- Some posekim permit export for commerce when it is sold together with non-holy produce (havla'ah); then this does not constitute the prohibition of commerce with holy produce (isur sechorah).
When needed, Torah VeHa'aretz Institute permits farmers whose livelihood depends on selling the produce to export holy produce after bi'ur time, such as wine (bi'ur time is Pesach of the eighth year). We also permit the export of etrogim for the mitzvah of the arba minim.
For private individuals, and when there is not a great need, we are not lenient. This is the case even if it is a very small amount and long before bi'ur time, or even after bi'ur is performed, specifically when this is not for a commercial need. The Netziv, Chazon Ish, Rabbi Kook, and many others are also stringent in this regard.
I understand how you feel. It would be wonderful to share the mitzvah of shemitah with your friends and family living abroad and afford them with the special merit of eating holy produce. However, the holiness of eating the produce is supposed to come with the holiness of being in the Land of Israel. So you can invite them to dine on holy carobs with you this Tu Bishevat in Israel, hold a shared Tu Bishevat seder on Zoom, or even send them a short clip from yours.
Despite the above, those who want to be lenient and send holy produce abroad have who to rely on as long as they ascertain that only Jews will eat it and observe the shemitah laws of hefsed and that it will be eaten well before bi'ur, or only after performing bi'ur in Israel. For the case at hand, note that bi'ur time for carobs is Rosh Chodesh Shevat this year (eighth year). That is, if you want to rely on the lenient opinions, you would have to first perform bi'ur on the carobs on Rosh Chodesh Shevat, reclaim them, and only then could you send them abroad.
After writing this article, I brought the carob question to the table for a group discussion by the Torah VeHa'aretz Institute rabbis. While some felt that we should be stringent (as I wrote till now), the head of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute, Rabbi Yehudah Amichay ruled as follows:
Since we are talking about a small amount, AND The produce is for Jewish family members and friends who will know how to properly handle the holy carobs, Therefore, it is perfectly fine to send a small amount of holy carobs (or oranges, or other shemitah fruits) to family and friends for Tu Bishevat (and in general).
For a more in-depth review of the topic (in Hebrew), see the article by Rabbi Netanel Oyerbach who surveys the various opinions and brings all of the sources.
See here, permitting taking a few shemitah snack on the plane.
To perform bi'ur, take the produce outside of your house and declare before three people that your produce is ownerless by saying the following:
אַחֵינוּ בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל: כָּל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטֹּל יָבוֹא וְיִטֹּל
"Brothers of the House of Israel: Anyone who needs to take should come and take"
Leave it outside of your house for a half-an-hour and mark it hefker.
After this time, you claim the carobs
For more on the laws of bi'ur see: https://en.toraland.org.il/beit-midrash/articles/shemitah/debt-remission-hakhel-and-biur/practical-laws-of-biur/
And check out this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O8XbFqgw0s&t=7s