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Shabbat Parashat Haazinu 5776

Ask the Rabbi: Obtaining Arbaah Minim for the Sukkot after Shemitta

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: How does the consumer approach buying a lulav and etrog set this year?


Answer: Lulav – Classically, it is edible produce that has kedushat shvi’It (sanctity of Shemitta- see below), as the pasuk says “The resting of the land shall be for you for eating” (Vayikra 25:6). However the gemara (Sukka 40a) derives from “for you” that branches that are intended for a use in which the benefit comes before they are destroyed (hana’ato u’bi’uro shaveh), also have kedushat shvi’it. This is as opposed to wood for burning, where the wood burns before one enjoys its heat. The gemara implies that lulav has kedushat shvi’it, and some Rishonim (see Rashi, ad loc.) explain that it is because it is sometimes used as a broom. Others (see Ran, ad loc.) say that it does not have kedusha. Since people no longer use palm branches for brooms or the like, we posit that a lulav does not have kedushat shvi’it (Minchat Shlomo I:51.23).


Hadasim – Much of the above analysis applies to hadasim, which can be used for their fragrance. Practically, the assumption is that hadasim too are not cultivated for this purpose, and use for the mitzva of arba’ah minim is not considered worldly benefit, which would create kedushat shvi’it.


Aravot – Not only are they not a food, but aravot do not have any benefit that could be cause for kedushat shvi’it.

 While it is possible to discuss whether these three minim could become forbidden if they were grown in violation of Shemitta, the practical and/or halachic assumptions are that there are no restrictions in obtaining them this year.

Etrog­An etrog, as an edible fruit, certainly has kedushat shvi’it, if it is a product of the Shemitta year. There is significant discussion from the Tana’im to our day, whether an etrog’s status follows the time of its budding (chanata), like other fruits, or its harvest (l’kita) because it is watered similarly to vegetables (Kiddushin 3a). According to the latter opinion, if an etrog was picked off the tree after Rosh Hashana, it would not have kedushat shvi’it. While the Rambam (Shvi’it 4:12) follows l’kita, many (or most – see Shabbat Ha’aretz 4:12) say it follows when it grows. While last year extra care was taken to harvest etrogim before Shemitta, we assume that an etrog that grew during Shemitta has kedushat shvi’it even if it was harvested after Rosh Hashana. 

The main complication regarding an etrog with kedushat shvi’it is paying for it, especially that we do not want the sanctity of Shemitta to be transferred to the money paid for it (a broad topic beyond our scope). (Consumers do not weigh etrogim, so that is not a problem). There are three basic, valid approaches to deal with this issue. One is to buy the etrog b’havla’ah, i.e., the price of the etrog is swallowed up (even if it is more expensive) by being combined with the price of another commodity, perhaps one of the other minim. The mishna (Sukka 39a) actually talks about buying a lulav and getting the etrog along with it as a present.

Those who rely on the heter mechira can do so regarding an etrog as well, if there is a hashgacha that confirms that the given orchard was indeed sold. The otzar beit din system is fine for an etrog as well. Under this system, a beit din (rabbinical court) supervises the handling of the orchard and sets the price of the fruit according to the cost of expenses (including permitted labor), not according to the fruit’s value to the consumer. While it is best, according to this system, for all etrogim to have the same price, there are legitimate leniencies to allow the beit din to follow a selection process according to quality and attach different prices to the categories (see Shemitta (Burstein), p. 424)). After Sukkot, one should either eat the etrog, make jam from it, or dispose of it in the way he does for kedushat shvi’it produce.

One should always buy an etrog with rabbinical confirmation of its validity. This year, how Shemitta was handled becomes a major component.

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