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Transplanting a tree during the shemitah year

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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?


Rabbi Yaakov Epstein

Only in extenuating circumstances may fruit trees be uprooted, together with their clod of soil encasing their roots, by a non-Jew during the shemitah year. However, under no circumstances may they be replanted during shemitah. This is especially the case because this is not a financial issue, rather a matter of benefit (the fruit of the trees are not sold commercially).

(Addition by Rabbi Moshe Bloom): You should place the tree with its clod of earth in a nylon bag, store it in a shady area or put it on the porch (but not in the soil). Placing it directly on the soil is considered planting vis-à-vis shemitah. Following the shemitah year, it will be possible to plant the tree in the ground. Note: you will have to restart the orlah count, since the tree was detached from the ground, even though it was in a clod of earth.