Shemitta Update

Update 10

Although the shemitta year is now over, produce which became prohibited during the shemitta year remains prohibited into motzei shemitta, the year following shemitta.  A list of dates for the end of shemitta restrictions can be found below.  If you have an enquiry about a product not shown in the list below, please feel free to contact the London Beth Din.

Vegetables:

Unless otherwise stated vegetables will become permitted from Chanukah (22.12.08)

The following are exceptions to this rule:-

Butternut Squash 15th Sivan 07-06-09
Chickpeas 1st Sivan 24-05-09
Courgette 1st Cheshvan 30-10-08
Cucumbers 1st Kislev 28-11-08
Dill 20th Cheshvan 18-11-08
Garlic 6th Adar 02-03-09
Lettuce 15th Cheshvan 13-11-08
Onions 1st Nissan 26-03-09
Dried Paprika 3rd Ellul 23-08-09
Pumpkin 10th Sivan 02-06-09
Radish 27th Cheshvan 25-11-08
Spinach 23rd Cheshvan 23-11-08
Spring Onions 20th Cheshvan 18-11-08

Fruit

The following have kedushat shevi'it until the dates specified below:

Apricots 10th Iyar 04-05-09
Avocados 1st Av 22-07-09
Cherries 10th Sivam 02-06-09
Dates 20th Ellul 09-09-09
Figs 15th Nissan 09-04-09
Grapes 1st Ellul 21-08-09
Lychees 1st Sivan 24-05-09
Mangos 1st Tammuz 23-06-09
Melons 25th Kislev 22-12-08
Nectarines 1st Nissan 26-03-09
Oranges 1st Ellul 21-08-09
Peaches 1st Nissan 26-03-09
Sharon Fruit 15th Ellul 04-09-09
Plums 1st Av 22-07-09
Pomegranates 15th Av 05-08-09
Strawberries 1st Tevet 28-12-08
Water Melon 25th Kislev 22-12-08

Glossary of Terms:

Shemitta:

This year of 5768 is a “Shemitta” or sabbatical year when the land of Israel enjoys a "Sabbath rest", as the verse states "...and the land shall rest a Sabbath to the L-rd". (Leviticus 25, 1.) During this year there are restrictions on both the agriculture and trade of produce from the Holy Land. Produce which grows in Israel during this period takes on an added level of holiness which means that it may not be wasted, mistreated or traded in the usual fashion, and some vegetables become forbidden under Gezerat Sefichin.                                   

LBD policy, in keeping with that of the other European Batei Din, the OU and other American Kashrut Authorities, is that given these considerations, it is preferable to avoid using products that are grown in Israel.

Kedushat Shevi’it: Literally “Holiness of the Seventh Year”.

This refers to produce from the seventh year, grown in Israel, which takes on an elevated level of holiness.  It is analogous to Kedushat Shabbat: Just like the seventh day of the week has an added level of holiness and some associated restrictions to honour the day, the seventh year has an added level of holiness and some associated restrictions to honour the year. Produce with Kedushat Shevi’it should not be traded commercially nor sent outside Israel, it may not be wasted nor used in an unusual manner. It may however be eaten and treated in a respectful way i.e. leftovers should not be thrown away with other rubbish but should be wrapped first.

Gezerat Sefichin: Prohibition against Consuming (certain) Vegetables.

According to Biblical law, produce that grew by itself during the Shemitta year, whilst having Kedushat Shevi’it, could still be eaten.  However the Sages were concerned that individuals would plant vegetables in the seventh year and claim that these had grown by themselves.  They therefore forbade consumption of Shemitta vegetables where the planting may have been during the Shemitta year itself. The date that this restriction starts depends on the type of vegetable and how long it takes to grow.  

The Heter Mechira:

Over 100 years ago, in order to protect the fledgling new settlements in the land of Israel, some leading rabbis in Israel devised a method of selling the land of Israel to non-Jews in order to avoid the restrictions of shemita – the “heter mechira”. Other authorities debated its validity. The generally accepted view amongst both European and American authorities was that one should avoid relying upon the Heter Mechirah outside Israel where other products are readily available. This was the position of Rabbi J B Soloveichik ז"ל , well known as the leading centrist/modern orthodox halachic authority in America, as well as other leading Rabbis.

Of additional concern this year are the reports that many Israeli farmers did not sign up to the heter mechira  and thus we cannot be certain that produce exported to the UK is indeed covered by the  heter.  

Please note: For those wishing to continue buying Israeli produce, we recommend the Alei Katif vegetables which are grown in such a way that Shemitta restrictions are alleviated. 


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