Squeezing citrus juice and storing it for the entire shemitah year
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Question (Tevet 5782): I have lemons, grapefruit, and oranges from the sixth year. In previous years, I harvested a large amount at once and juiced them with a juicer. Afterwards I stored the juice in the freezer in bottles to use them on Shabbat and holidays for the entire year. Is this problematic during the shemitah year? Can I only harvest a small amount of fruit on a weekly basis?
As for this year's batch of citruses, they are regular fruit and can be handled and harvested as usual, without any special restrictions.
Your question will be relevant later on/next year, when the fruit has kedushat shevi'it.
If you regularly harvest a large amount and squeeze it for the entire year, you can also do so during the shemitah year. Just remember that you have to perform bi'ur when the bi'ur time arrives for each fruit, and declare it ownerless.
It is permissible to squeeze lemons with kedushat shevi'it for their juice (see The Consumer's Guide to Shemitah, chapter 16 D) and it is permissible to freeze the juice (see ibid., n. 37).
Your question relates to the harvest: Is it permissible to harvest a large amount at once? In principle, it is forbidden to harvest at once an amount exceeding one's needs for three meals (kedei shalosh se'udot); the understanding of the posekim is that this relates to an amount a family consumes on a weekly basis. Furthermore: even if you only harvest a week's worth of citrus each time, you want to know if it is permissible to freeze it for a year.
The end of Katif Shevi'it (5781 ed.), chapter 8 §14, states that it is permissible to harvest a large quantity to prepare a food for the year:
"Vinters interested in preparing wine and owners of olive groves who want to prepare olive oil for household use, it is permissible to harvest an amount that will be sufficient for the members of the household for the duration of the year. And if this is what someone does every year to process their fruit – such as canning goods, preparing jams, and the like – it is permissible to take an amount that his household will need for the year. This is based on the Mishnah (Shevi'it 5:7 and Rambam, Hilchot Shemitah 4:24), that it is permissible to harvest enough to produce 15 jars of wine and 5 jars of oil. However, note bi'ur times and declare all of the produce at home ownerless at the appropriate time.
For olives and grapes, the Sages permit preparing an amount sufficient for a year's consumption (see ibid., chapter 17 A, that today this means approximately 70 bottles of wine or grape juice). This is because the olive and grape harvest times are relatively short and oil and wine/grape juice can be stored for a long time. Every year, olive oil is prepared only once a year for the entire year, also during shemitah. It is also permissible to do the same with other fruits, if this is the conventional processing method.
It is important to remember to perform bi'ur on the juice at bi'ur time: take the juice outside and declare it ownerless in the presence of three people. After a half-an-hour it will be possible to reclaim it and bring it home (to prevent the juice from defrosting, take it outside in a cooler with ice).
Citrus bi'ur times:
- Lemons: Early July 2023 (mid-Tamuz 5783)
- Grapefruit: Mid-December 2023 (Early Tevet 5783)
- Oranges: Mid-June 2023 (Early Tamuz 5783)
Bi'ur calendars for various fruits : https://en.toraland.org.il/beit-midrash/articles/shemitah/shemitah-calendars/shemitah-calendar-for-fruit/
Note that all of this relates only to fruit that began to develop during the shemitah year. Fruit on trees now (Tevet 5782) is halachically considered sixth-year fruit.
Some are stringent and avoid harvesting large quantities of fruit at once for squeezing; rather, every day they harvest a week's worth of fruit so that it will be obvious that harvest is not performed for commercial purposes and that the fruit is indeed ownerless. (See Rabbi Yehuda Zolden, "Harvesting shemitah lemons, squeezing, and freezing," Emunat Itecha 109, Tishrei 5776, (Hebrew)). However, even according to this approach, following the harvest it is still possible to squeeze large quantities of citrus fruit at the same time for the entire year.