Rabbi Nechemya Taylor
Torani Advisor to Torah Miztion
As we all know, 5768 is a shemitah year. While most related halachot affect only residents of Eretz Yisrael, shemitah does have certain implications and ramifications for our brothers in the Diaspora as well.
The Mishna (Masechet Shviit 6:5) states:
“One may not remove shemen s’raifah [trumah oil that has become tamei and is to be burnt] and peyrot shviit (literally, seventh fruits – i.e. shemitah fruits) from the Land to chutz la’aretz.”
The source of this halachah is Torat Cohanim on a pasuk in Vayikra:
“And for your animal and for the beast that is in your land will be all its produce to eat.” (25:7)
“’That is in your land’ – what is in your land may be eaten, not what Akilas removed for his servants.”
The Ra’avad on Torat Cohanim notes that this prohibition is dirabbanan (rabbinic) and that the pasuk is an asmachta b’alma (an allusion rather than an actual source). The Chazon Ish (Shviit 13:3) concurs.
We can identify several reasons for this prohibition:
Perhaps peyrot shviit derive their kedushah (holiness) from the holy ground of Eretz Yisrael, and therefore, the mitzvah of eating peyrot shviit applies only when a person is standing on that same ground and breathing in the holy air of Eretz Yisrael. In other words, the fruit’s kedushah is somehow diminished when it is consumed abroad.
This explanation is consistent with the Ramban’s view (in his commentary on Sefer HaMitzvot – Positive Mitzvah 3) that eating peyrot shviit is a positive mitzvah from the Torah. (See the final booklet of Shabbat HaAretz 21 and also the Chazon Ish 14:10.)
The Rambam includes this prohibition in his perek on kedushat peyrot shviit; the implication is that the prohibition is meant to protect or maintain the fruit’s kedushah. Similarly, the Baal Aruch HaShulchan HeAtid (24:25) writes:
“They feared that in chutz la’aretz, they would not observe the accepted laws of kedushat peyrot shviit.”
Furthermore, we can add that since the fruit would have been designated for the use of non-Jews, there was concern that the fruit’s kedushah would have been impacted. In contrast, in Eretz Yisrael, the fruit is mainly intended for Am Yisrael’s use.
This approach is supported by the Rambam himself. He lists the prohibition of taking peyrot shviit to chutz la’aretz in Hilchot Shemitah ViYovel 5:13, and in the very same halachah, he adds:
“And they are not to be fed to an idol worshipper or to a sachir (a hired worker).”
The source for this halachah is the Sifra:
“’And the Shabbat of the land shall be yours to eat, for you’ (Vayikra 25:6) – but not for others.”
In his commentary on the Mishna, Rav Ovadiah Bartenura cites the Rash MiShantz as follows:
“And similarly, peyrot shviit require biur (literally, elimination) in the land, as it is written, ‘in your land will be all its produce.’ (Vayikra 25:7)”
In other words, the mitzvah of biur peyrot shviit applies only in Eretz Yisrael. Hence, peyrot shviit are not to be taken to chutz la’aretz.
The Ridbaz (the Gaon R’ Yaakov David Wilovsky) explains (Beit HaRidbaz 5:18) that according to the Rash – and also the Ramban – biur is accomplished by hafkarat hapeyrot (repudiating ownership of the fruit). And the ultimate goal of the hefker is to permit all the residents – as well as the animals – of Eretz Yisrael to enjoy the peyrot shviit – each individual according to his ability. Therefore, in order that the hafkarat hapeyrot can benefit the residents of Eretz Yisrael, the fruit may not be removed to chutz la’aretz.
At first glance, the difference between these explanations is: may the fruit be taken abroad after z’man habiur? According to the first two explanations, the fruit may never be removed from Eretz Yisrael, because doing so would impact negatively on the fruit’s kedushah. Yet, the third explanation would seem to indicate that once z’man habiur has elapsed, the fruit may, in fact, be taken abroad.
Indeed, the Ridbaz himself goes to great lengths to prove that peyrot shviit may be taken to chutz la’aretz after the biur. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that prior to z’man habiur, the prohibition applies.
Several questions remain:
1. Does the prohibition apply to the one removing the fruit from Eretz Yisrael or to the one receiving it in chutz la’aretz?
2. If the fruit was removed, what is its status? May it be consumed? Does it have kedushat shviit and therefore must be treated accordingly?
3. Do the laws of biur pertain to the fruit?