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Setting up balcony gardens during shemitah

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

We have recently received many inquiries on gardening during shemitah. Often, since shemitah laws are unfamiliar, many assume that everything is forbidden. However, as you can see below, it always pays to ask. Below are two questions I was asked by a shemitah-observant gardener:

Question: I have been asked to "plant" a balcony garden. I don't have time before shemitah. It is on the 9th floor of a tall building, not penthouse floor. There are balconies below and above the balcony. Does this constitute planting to move plants in pots from the nursery and placing them on the tiled concrete balcony during the shemitah year?

Replenishing pots during shemitah

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

I have a newly planted garden. Weeds from the nursery have really enjoyed the fertilizer and compost. Can I remove them to protect the plant? These are not the kind of weeds you can cut at soil surface as will just come back stronger.

Transplanting a tree during the shemitah year

Rabbi Yaakov Epstein

In the yard adjacent to my house construction will start soon, slated to begin after Rosh Hashanah. There are fruit trees growing in the yard: citrus, loquat, and plum trees. These trees will need to be uprooted and replanted during the shemitah year. Under which conditions can trees be transplanted during shemitah? The construction work cannot begin before Rosh Hashanah, and these are large fruit trees. What about orlah—will the trees need to restart their orlah count?

Sowing seeds of shemitah produce

Rabbis of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute

Is it permissible to sow seeds of fruits that have kedushat shevi'it?

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?