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The orlah year calculation


Two months ago we bought a dwarf lemon tree that says on it “from 2013.” We planted the tree together with the clod of earth that it came with, which only fell off a little bit. Do we have to start the orlah year count again? If so, can we uproot it and replant it, and in which way can we use its fruit without waiting?


Dr. Mordechai Shomron, agronomist

The orlah year calculation begins from the time the tree was placed in soil and attached to it, or planted in the ground. The fact that a certain date is written on the bag, or that the sales person (who is generally not the manufacturer) claims that the tree is a certain botanical age, holds no bearing from a halachic perspective. There are different situations in which the tree might be a certain botanic age, but halachically speaking its age is zero, such as if it was sitting for a specific amount of time on a concrete or plastic surface. Since orlah is a severe, biblical prohibition, which is nullified only in a ratio of 1:200, you must carefully research the tree’s history from the moment it was planted. If you can’t practically do so, you need to count the orlah years from the time the tree is planted in your garden. If your tree was planted this year (5778), it will be its first year of orlah.