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Shemitah QA 1

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Is it permitted during the shemitah year to cover fruit trees (apricot, in my case) with netting to protect them from birds and insects?


Rabbis of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute

This action is performed to save the fruit. There is a dispute between the Chazon Ish, who permits this, and Rabbi Kook, who is stringent and maintains that no action may be performed on behalf of the fruit. For farmers, whose livelihood depends on this fruit, the official guidelines are to be lenient since today shemitah is a rabbinic injunction. For private individuals, though, it is praiseworthy to avoid putting up netting to protect the fruit. Those who want to may rely on the Chazon Ish's lenient ruling.

Question 2

I have a grapevine. The vine is infested by thrips and flies eat the fruit. May I spray the vine? If I avoid spraying it, it poses no real threat to the vine but all of the leaves will be damaged and the fruit will rot before it grows.


This issue is a dispute between Rabbi Kook and the Chazon Ish. While the Chazon Ish is lenient, Rabbi Kook is stringent and does not permit spraying in this case. For farmers, who would face a financial loss, it is possible to be lenient like the Chazon Ish. For private individuals, it depends. It is praiseworthy to be stringent and follow Rabbi Kook's opinion.

Question 3

May I remove fruit from my tree during its orlah years? Would my tree become forbidden if I do? That is: if I pick fruit from my tree during the shemitah year, will the tree and its future fruit become forbidden?


The act of removing fruit from a tree to increase the tree's strength is forbidden, but has no bearing on the status of the tree. That is, the tree does not become forbidden due to this act since even trees that are worked during shemitah do not become forbidden; the forbidden actions involved the tree and not the fruit—unless the tree itself was planted in a forbidden fashion (in the latter case, the tree must be uprooted). The harvest does not disqualify the tree. It is possible to permit removing orlah fruit if the purpose is to protect people from eating orlah fruit. Optimally, the buds of orlah fruit should be clipped (before they develop into flowers and subsequently into fruit).

Question 4

Is it permissible to go cherry picking in a hefker orchard  with my children during the shemitah year? Is it permissible to pick the fruit? What about the act of harvest?


It is permissible to harvest fruit only for your family's needs for the week. When you pick cherries with your children, you also have to take care to avoid harming the trees and the orchard. The trees themselves are not ownerless. You should not pick fruit and then destroy or throw it away. The fruit should be handled according to the guidelines of kedushat shevi'it.

Question 5

We grow onions and potatoes hydroponically during shemitah. At this stage of their growth, we need to plant them in the ground. Is this permissible during the shemitah year? If not, can we plant them in a planter? Does the planter need to be indoors?


If possible, keep them in water until Rosh Hashanah of the 8th year. If there is no choice, you may plant them in soil indoors when there is an impermeable surface beneath the planter (detaching it from the ground).

Question 6

  1. Is it permissible to plant for privacy's sake (i.e. a living fence)?
  2. Which actions may we do during shemitah to prepare for a new garden (putting plants in water so they can take root, laying soil, preparing an irrigation system, digging holes for trees, etc.)?


It is forbidden to plant during the shemitah year, even for privacy's sake. Instead, you can temporarily put up sheets or bamboo canes. Any action that resembles sowing or preparations to sow is forbidden. However, it is permissible to prepare the piping for an irrigation system.