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Experiments during the shemitah year

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

Dear Rabbi Yehuda,

I'm doing a master's degree on botany in the Faculty of Agriculture. I am currently looking into pursuing a doctorate, and was wondering if this is possible, since the shemitah year falls out during that time. I am studying wheat and am performing experiments in the field and in planters, perform tests that destroy the plants, and produce DNA and RNA. Can I do this type of practical research during the shemitah year? If so, which tests may I perform and which are forbidden?

Planting herbs

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

To what category does herbs belong to? And thus, until what date is planting allowed?

Picking fruit from a tree owned be a non-religious Jew

Rabbis of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute

May I pick fruit from a tree that isn't mine? The tree in question is not in a private yard, rather on a public road and it's the shemitah year. The problem is that the owner of the tree is not religious, is unaware of the halachah, and in any case is not willing to declare the fruit of the tree ownerless.

Questions on heter mechirah

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

It is known that the haredim prefer and buy only yivul nochri, while our rabbis say that we should prefer heter mechirah to yivul nochri, and that it is problematic to buy yivul nochri today.

I have several questions on this issue:

  1. Why is the dispute ideological—that we say one thing and the haredim the opposite? Why aren't there haredim who believe that heter mechirah is better, or Zionist rabbis who maintain that yivul nochri is better than heter mechirah?
  2. If it is a sin to eat yivul nochri, why do the "stringent" haredim eat it, if they are known for being so meticulous with mitzvah observance?
  3. What are the forbidden aspects of eating yivul nochri?
  4. What is better: heter mechirah or otzar ha'aretz; I saw that Rabbi Ben Meir wrote that heter mechirah is better?

Herbs – last dates for sowing and planting before shemitah

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

To what category does herbs belong to? And thus, until what date is planting allowed?

Eating heter mechirah at other people's events

Dr. Agronomist Motty Shomron

I am strict about not eating heter mechirah, but I am invited to an event were heter mechirah food is served. Am I allowed to eat it? That is: do the laws of shemitah apply to buying the produce or also to eating?

Watering and fertilizing for planters

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

We generally water our plants (growing in planters) with kitchen leftovers, such as water we used to soak hummus kernels or leftover tea/coffee. The purpose of this is to minimize kitchen waste and fertilize without chemicals. Can we continue to do this doing the shemitah year?

Spraying pesticides and pruning for shape maintenance during shemitah

Rabbi Avraham Socholovsky, Torah VeHa'aretz Institute
  1. Is it permissible to spray trees with pesticides in areas where pests are generally attracted to?
  2. Today olive trees are often shaped into balls in home gardens. Following the opinion that pruning fruit trees is a Torah prohibition, is it permissible to prune them during shemitah in order to preserve their shape?

Pruning fruit trees during shemitah not for the tree's benefit

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

I have two fruit trees hanging over into neighbor's gardens. One is laden with fruit and one is a pomegranate so it will drop all its leaves into their pool. Routinely I would cut them back for the clients' and neighbors' sanity. Not for the tree. Am I allowed to do this during shemitah or because it is a fruit tree you can't?

Digging to harvest sweet potatoes during shemitah

Rabbi Avraham Sochovolsky

I planted sweet potatoes in my garden this year (sixth year, 5781). Is it permissible to dig in the ground unearth the bulbs during shemitah (in small quantities, for home consumption)?