Tishrei 5779, Issue no. 3
Mitzvah in a Minute - Ma’aser Sheni
Kashrut of Etrogim
Which of the mitzvot hateluyot ba’aretz apply to an etrog?
- Ma’aserot. Kosher etrogim need to be tithed. For this reason, etrogim should be purchased only from vendors who are known to separate terumot and ma’aserot from other etrogim (etrog growers generally give ma’aserot from defective etrogim to exempt kosher ones). If you have an etrog tree in your garden, make sure you take terumot and ma’aserot before Sukkot. Otherwise the etrog’s staus is tevel and it will be forbidden to make a beracha on it throughout all seven days of Sukkot.
- Giving the gifts. It is important to ensure that after terumot and ma’aserot are taken, the ma’aser rishon is actually given to a Levite; for etrogim that bloom in ma’aser ani years, ma’aser ani needs to be given to a poor person. The delivery of these gifts to their proper destinations is especially important: on the first day of Sukkot the arba minin have to be in one's ownership, since the verse states: "ולקחתם לכם ביום הראשון" "And take for yourselves on the first day." Chazal interpreted the word lachem as shelachem, "that is yours." This means that if we do not give the ma'aserot to their proper destinations, part of the etrog actually belongs to the poor and to the Levi'im. Moreover, this can also be considered stealing, and if the arba minim are stolen they cannot be used for the entire holiday.
- Etrogim of orlah status cannot be used. The poskim cite several reasons why orlah etrogim are not kosher; some disqualify such etrogim for the entire holiday. For this reason, we do not make a beracha on orlah etrogim.
- Grafted etrogim. Etrogim that are grafted, even if onto a different citrus tree, are considered pasul (even though different citrus trees can generally be grafted onto each other under certain conditions). This is why etrogim that are grafted onto lemon or other citrus trees cannot be used, even if they are beautiful and yellow.
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In Tammuz, we were visited by 30 students and faculty members from Machon Meir Yeshiva of Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Menachem Listman, the Machon Meir English Department Director.
We opened with a lecture on orlah and kila'im and toured the hothouses for vegetables at the school in Shavei Darom. We saw different plants and learned about various agricultural and halachic topics. At the Shavei Darom synagogue, Rabbi Listman made the beracha metziv gevul almana (a blessing made when visiting a new settlement in the Land of Israel). Following the tour, we discussed the process of separating terumot and ma'aserot and took terumot and ma'aserot with a beracha on lemons we picked.
We continued on to the Chasalat-Alei Katif factory, and after a hearty lunch we saw how insect-free leafy vegetables are manufactured. We finished the day with a tour of the Chasalat-Alei Katif hothouses, and saw how cabbage is grown there.
We would like to thank the rabbis of Machon Meir and Rabbi Listman for organizing the tour. The tour was given by Rabbi Moshe Bloom, the Torah VeHa'aretz Institute English Department Director.