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Offering a non-Jewish caregiver kedushat shevi'it produce

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My elderly father is cared for in our home by a live-in foreign, gentile caregiver. Can we offer him our kedushat shevi'it fruits and vegetables, or is this like using kedushat shevi'it produce as wages?


Rabbi Moshe Bloom

In the case where food is not included in the contract, and now you want to provide meals and deduct it from wages, shemitah food cannot be offered. This is the classic case of paying wages with shemitah food.

If, however, food provision is part of the contract, and not deducted from the salary, OR even if you want to provide a perk (especially prevalent in your case), it would be permitted.

While this issue is subject to a halachic dispute, Rambam permits it (Hilchot Shemitah 5:13): "… or an agreement regarding his food was established, he is considered as a member of one's household and he may be fed [the produce of the Sabbatical year]..."

Rabbi Yosef Corcus (🇪🇸 ➡️ 🇪🇬 ➡️ 🇮🇱 circa 1540, a.k.a. Mahari Corcus, one of the first commentators on Mishneh Torah) holds that Rambam here refers also to gentile workers. 

If you decide to provide shemitah fruits or vegetables, it is important to instruct the caregiver how to handle them properly so that the produce will not be wasted.

Prohibition of giving food with kedushat shevi'it to non-Jews and the special status of guests

The Tosefta (Shevi'it 5:21) states: "One may not feed non-Jews or [per-diem] workers shemitah produce." This is based on the Sage's understanding of the verse (Sifra Behar 1:6): "'And the produce of the Sabbatical year is for you to eat.' – For you and not for others (gentiles)." Rambam rules accordingly.

Rationale: Some authorities hold that this prohibition is biblical and a derivative of the biblical hefsed prohibition (against wasting produce with kedushat shevi'it), since non-Jews will not be careful to avoid wasting this sacred produce.

Another aspect of hefsed is that this food is intended for Jews and now it will no longer be available for them. Others believe that the prohibition is rabbinic and stems from the special exalted status of shemitah produce.

Exceptions to the rule: Yesterday, we noted one exception to this rule, allowing long-term salaried workers (both Jew and gentile) to partake of shemitah food when one is in charge of their meals. Chazal extend this exception to gentile guests as well. Rambam likewise permits this.
Again, if offering shemitah produce to a gentile, or lehavdil, a Jew who is ignorant of the
laws of kedushat shevi'it, one should instruct them on how to handle the produce.