Shop עברית

Shemitah, Chapter 21: Additional Uses for Shemitah Fruit

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Shemitah, Chapter 21: Additional Uses for Shemitah Fruit

Besides eating, how else may shemitah produce be used: on lighting candles, detergent, medicine, vitamins, paint, cosmetics, and more.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

A. Introduction

  1. Shemitah produce can be used for purposes other than eating and drinking, provided that they are similar to eating. Such uses include lighting candles and rubbing on one's skin.[1]
  2. Other uses that are not similar to eating and drinking are prohibited.
  3. The general parameters for permitted use of shemitah produce is "its enjoyment and consumption are equal;"[2] that is, the enjoyment derived from the produce and its consumption (or destruction) occur at the same time.

B. Lighting candles

  1. Oil produced from olives (or other plants) that have shemitah sanctity may be used as lamp oil.[3] For this reason, it is permissible to use such oil to light Shabbat candles, as it is used for people's benefit.[4]
  2. It is prohibited to use shemitah oil to light candles that are not used to benefit people, such as Chanukah candles, whose light may not be benefited from.[5] Similarly, a yahrzeit candle or the light at the amud in synagogues may not be lit with this oil.[6]
  3. It is forbidden to pour shemitah oil directly into a fire.[7]

C. Medical uses

  1. The Torah states (Vayikra 25:6) "And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat." From here, Chazal derive: "to eat, and not to medicate."[8]
  2. This prohibition is twofold:
    1. One may not prepare medicine or creams from sacred shemitah [9]
    2. One may not eat or drink shemitah produce when it is apparent that this is done for medical considerations. However, if the produce is used in a way that healthy people use it as well, it is permitted.[10]
  3. It is permissible to swish around shemitah alcohol in one's mouth (such as shemitah cognac) to alleviate tooth pain, if one eventually swallows the alcohol.[11] All the more so, it is permitted to drink a hard drink in the usual manner (or as an additive to tea), even though the intention is to ease the pain in this manner.
  4. It is forbidden to gargle shemitah oil to alleviate throat aches.[12] However, it is permitted to drink a liquid cooked with oil (such as chicken soup)—or even oil by itself—to alleviate the pain.
  5. It is permissible to prepare medicine from animal fodder.[13]
  6. Medicinal herbs that are generally not eaten by humans or animals do not have shemitah sanctity and may be eaten. All methods of medicine preparation are permitted from such herbs.[14]
  7. It is forbidden to prepare vitamins from shemitah produce, despite the fact that they are meant for healthy individuals as well.[15]
  8. It is permissible to take medication that includes sacred shemitah ingredients, even if prepared in a forbidden fashion.[16]

D. Ointments

  1. It is permissible to use shemitah produce to anoint one's skin when this is its conventional use (such as various oils). However, produce not generally used in this fashion (such as wine) may not be used as an ointment.[17] Furthermore, produce that spoils through this use may not be used as ointments either, such as avocado.[18]
  2. Creams and cosmetics may not be prepared from oil or other shemitah[19]
  3. One who regularly anoints his body or hair with oil may continue to do so with shemitah oil, even for medical reasons.[20] However, one should not use cotton balls to apply the oil.[21]
  4. Shemitah produce or oil may not be used to lubricate utensils, shoes,[22] or animals.[23]

E. Paint

  1. It is permissible to use shemitah produce meant for painting, but one should not paint animals with this paint.[24]
  2. Paint or ink meant for a mitzvah, such as gall for writing a Torah scroll or painting tefillin have shemitah It is permissible to use such paint and ink for writing and painting.[25]

F. Cleaning agents

It is forbidden to use shemitah lemons or vinegar to remove stains from clothing, to shine pots, and the like.[26]

G. Miscellaneous uses

  1. Shemitah produce that can spoil, due to prolonged exposure to heat or cold for the eight-day duration of the holiday, should not be hung as sukkah Some permit hanging shemitah produce that does not spoil under these conditions. Others forbid this, since it is forbidden to benefit from sukkah decorations or eat them throughout the holiday (and we may not cause shemitah produce to become forbidden to eat). However, it is possible to make a condition for using sukkah decorations.
    Therefore, the optimal route for those interested in hanging shemitah produce in their sukkah is to say the following:

"איני בודל מפירות אלו כל שמונת הימים של סוכות ושמיני עצרת"

"I will not abstain from this produce all eight days of Sukkot and Shemni Atzeret." This statement makes it halachically possible to eat them at any time, and thus averts the problem.[27]

  1. It is forbidden to prepare vessels from shemitah [28] Likewise, one should not carve decorative shapes in shemitah produce or form them into various shapes[29] if the rest of the fruit or vegetable is not eaten afterwards. This is permissible, however, if these remaining parts are eaten.[30]

H. Essential oils

  1. For herbs mainly used for their essential oils (to anoint the skin and/or their fragrance),[31] such oils may be produced during shemitah. However, essential oils should not be produced from herbs that are generally used as foods (or spices) and are also used for their essential oils.
    For this reason:
  2. Essential oils should not be prepared for ointments or medical uses from edible fruits or vegetables.
  3. There are plants that are mainly used for consumption, including herbs,[32] while they are also used to produce oil for medical purposes. All of these plants have shemitah sanctity and oil may not be prepared from them. For this reason, oil should not be extracted from the following plants: rosemary, melissa (lemon balm(, spearmint, mint, lemon verbena, hyssop, sage, oregano, basil, wormwood, parsley, stevia, white leaved savory, sweet marjoram, and the like.
  4. Oil extracted from plants that don't produce fruit, but have leaves with essential oils that can be used for smearing, has shemitah sanctity. Oil can be extracted from them for this purpose during the shemitah year (such as: geranium, eucalyptus, lavender, aloe vera, false yellowhead, African rue, nettle, and the like).
  5. Plants whose main purpose is to prepare oil for use as ointment (for humans) have shemitah It is permitted to use such oils, but it is forbidden to prepare oil for such plants for perfume or incense.
  6. If such plants (listed in §3–4) grew in a hothouse, they do not have shemitah sanctity.


[1] Rambam 5:1.

[2] Sukkah 40a; Bava Kama 102a. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:10 §1.

[3] Rambam 5:1, 8.

[4] Kerem Tziyon 13:15.

[5] Beit Ridbaz 5:9, gloss on Pe'at Hashulchan; Betzeit Hashanah, p. 48 §8 and n. 11. Rabbi Eliahu rules accordingly, adding that one should be stringent not even to light the shamash from shemitah oil, since some authorities prohibit using its light lechatchilah.
Rabbi Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 42) permits lighting Chanukah candles, maintaining that the Torah permits using oil for all forms of lamp oil, even if one does not derive physical pleasure from the oil. So as long as some sort of benefit is derived, the oil is not needlessly burned and it is permitted. See Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:8 §2, n. 13.

[6] Sefer Hashemitah, p. 32 §2; Betzeit Hashanah, ibid.; Yabiya Omer (III YD §19) concludes that these candles may be lit at night. It seems that Rabbi Auerbach (ibid.) would be lenient in this case as well; see also Kerem Tziyon 13:15, Gidulei Tziyon §6; Shabbat Ha'aretz, ibid.

7 Rather, the oil should be placed in a lamp (and not a bonfire): Rambam 5:8. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:8, n. 3. The rationale is that using oil for this purpose is unconventional, so it is considered wasting the oil. Alternatively, lighting bonfires is not a universal use of oil: important individuals do not use bonfire light, rather lamplight.

[8] Sukkah 40b; Rambam 5:10.

[9] Rambam ibid., 11. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §1.

[10] Tosefta 6:2. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:3 §3. The practical halachic guidelines that govern medication are similar to those for Shabbat. See Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah 34:4–5.

[11] See previous note. Rabbi Eliahu rules accordingly, adding that it is permissible to add cognac to tea in order to drink it.

[12] Rashi, Berachot 36a, s.v. techilah; Rambam, Shabbat 21:24. According to the Tosafot (Berachot, ibid., s.v. lo), drinking for medical purposes is forbidden if it is not done by healthy individuals as well.

[13] Rambam 5:11. Rabbi Kook (Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §6 and n. 31) cites the Gra's version of the Yerushalmi 7:1, that this heter is limited to situations where the form of the produce is not altered, aside for its conventional use (such as squeezing or juicing). However, according to the printed versions of the Yerushalmi, it is not prohibited to squeeze animal fodder for human medication. This is the ruling of the Rashas, ibid., s.v. melugma. See Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §6, n. 34.

[14] Chazon Ish §14:5, s.v. vanireh; Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §2.

[15] Kerem Tziyon 13:17, since their medicinal benefit "is not the same for everyone;" that is, this is not the type of use that everyone makes of such products. Only certain parts of the general population, namely sick people and some healthy people, use them in this way—not all healthy individuals. See Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §1.

[16] Aruch Hashulchan81:7, since if one prepares a drink from terumah fruit (such as apple liquor), the drink would not be prohibited for kohanim—even though it is forbidden to do so lechatchilah. Rabbi Kook (Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:3 n. 36) learns from the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) that this is also permissible with shemitah produce. Furthermore, one may be lenient even if the medication includes ingredients with sefichin (such as corn starch). For further discussion, see: Kerem Tziyon ch. 13, Gidulei Tziyon §10; Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:2 §3.

[17] Yoma 76b; Rambam 5:1,6; Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:6 §1. In any case, it is prohibited to apply oil inside a bathhouse (also in a bath or shower, where people are unclothed), since this is disgraceful to the sacred oil; however, it is permitted to apply oil outside of the bath and then enter; see Rambam, ibid.

[18] Rabbi Eliahu writes that we should be stringent with avocado, since a large portion of the fruit is not absorbed in the skin. However, he writes that if the avocado would otherwise be thrown away unless used as a cream or ointment, it would be permissible to use it for this purpose (Katif Shevi'it 64:14).

[19] Rambam 5:6 "velo yefatem et hashemen," that is, one should not add perfumes to shemitah oil. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz, ibid. §2, citing the disagreement on the rationale for the prohibition, whether it is because it renders the oil inedible or it reduces the amount of the oil. About buying cosmetics from an individual suspected to disregard shemitah laws, see Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:6 §3.

[20] Pe'at Hashulchan 24:9 and Beit Yisrael §34; Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:6 §4 and n. 19.

[21] Pe'at Hashulchan, ibid., and 24:10 §33–34; Shabbat Ha'aretz, ibid. Rabbi Eliahu rules that it is forbidden to apply sacred oil to one's hair to remove lice and nits, since this is not done by healthy individuals. Those who are lenient on the matter rely on the fact that the oil is not absorbed by the hair; most of it runs off by the comb or when washing the hair after combing.

[22] Rambam 5:7, 6:10.

[23] Rabbi Kook, Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:1 §2 and n. 10.

[24] Rambam 5:1,9. The heter for painting applies also to utensils meant to benefit people, meaning one can paint them: Meiri, Bava Kama 101a, who permits dying clothes. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:1 §2.

[25] Rashas, 8:1 s.v. umeshani; see also Rabbi Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo §42, s.v. vekeivan, §51:13), who maintains that this is permitted, since benefit from a mitzvah is nevertheless considered a benefit , similar to his ruling on using shemitah oil for Chanukah lights (see n. 6 above). See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:9 §3. Rabbi Eliahu notes that it is problematic to use paint or pigment for this purpose, since it carries the obligation of bi'ur.

[26] Betzeit Hashanah (p. 58, §7), quoting Rashas (9:4). Rambam (5:10) writes that there is shemitah sanctity in some sorts of detergents, including: borit and ehel (plants with natural alcalic properties). While he rules that it is permissible to use these plants as cleaning agents (as this is their primary use), he continues that other plants with shemitah sanctity may not be used as detergent. See Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:10 §2 for a discussion: according to Kessef Mishneh 5:10, all cleaning agents have shemitah sanctity. Mahari Kurkus (ibid.), however, maintains that there is only shemitah sanctity in plants where their benefit and consumption occur at the same time. Rabbi Eliahu holds that lemon rinds do not have shemitah sanctity and can be used as cleaning agents. For detergent based on animal fodder, see Shabbat Ha'aretz 5:11 §6: some permit this while others forbid it.

[27] Rabbi Elyashiv maintains (Mishpatei Eretz 24:1 and n. 2) that hanging hearty shemitah produce is permissible, while Rabbi Eliahu is stringent, employing the rationale mentioned in the text above. However, he does permit this when stipulating that the fruit can be used throughout the holiday.

[28] Rashas (2:7 p. 37, s.v. alei), who writes in his first explanation that any use of the food for a different purpose is considered a deviation from its standard use. The Chazon Ish (§13:8) explains that any use of shemitah produce not for food is considered using it for transactions and is forbidden. See also Shabbat Ha'aretz 4:18 §8, 5:11 §6, n. 35. Rabbi Eliahu maintains that one may use fruit peels for this purpose.

[29] Even though one is not causing hefsed whatsoever, since the parts can be cooked and eaten, it seems that it is forbidden since in the end, all of the food goes to waste.

[30] Yerushalmi 2:7 and Bi'ur Hagra, ibid., explains that the reason it is forbidden to use shemitah produce as vessels is because this ruins the fruit (=hefsed). Thus, if forming a vessel does not cause any hefsed to the fruit, it seems that this is permissible. According to the rationale of the Chazon Ish, it would seem that this is permissible, since in any case the watermelon and grapefruit continue to be designated for eating. This can also be inferred from the Rashas, ibid., in his second commentary. However, according to his first commentary, one would be prohibited to form a vessel even if this does not cause hefsed to the fruit. This is the opinion of Emunat Yosef (Rabbi Dinklis, commentary on the Rashas), ibid., s.v. hori, 7:1, s.v. א"ל אתון.

[31] Plants grown for cosmetic use have shemitah sanctity; see Chapter 4 §B.

[32] Herbs have shemitah sanctity; see Chapter 4 §§B, D.