Do neta revay laws apply during the shemitah year?
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We have a pomegranate tree, and next year it will begin its fourth year. Because next year is a shemitah year, is there something special we have to do with the fruit besides separating terumot and ma'aserot? Is there a different way to perform the separation?
The Rambam (Ma'aser Sheni and Neta Revy 9:7) rules as follows:
When a person had [an orchard that was in] its fourth year of growth in the Sabbatical year when everyone is allowed equal access to it, he must mark it with mounds of earth so that [those who take the produce] will recognize [its sacred quality] and not partake of it until they redeem it. If [the produce is] within the [three] orlah years, it should be marked with baked clay so that [people] will shun it. [We use clay instead of mounds of earth], lest the latter crumble. [The rationale is that] the prohibition of orlah is more severe, because benefit from it is forbidden.
Those who are meticulous in their observance of the Torah's prohibitions would set aside money in the Sabbatical year and say: "The holiness of everything harvested from these fruits of the fourth year is transferred to this money." [The redemption must be carried out in this fashion,] because it is forbidden to redeem [the produce] while it is attached to the ground, as explained.
That is, during the shemitah year there is no obligation of terumot and ma'aserot, but the fruit does have the sanctity of neta revay. For this reason, even though fruit is ownerless, it is important to put up a sign and notify the public that the fruit is neta revay and should not be eaten before being redeemed. Optimally, though, to prevent others from eating neta revay fruit that is not redeemed, it is best to put aside a coin and say the text for redeeming fruit that will apply the moment the fruit is picked from the tree.