Shabbat Parashat Bo| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Rosh Hashana for Trees (from Chavot Binyamin, I, pg. 63
[In honor of the upcoming Tu B’shevat, Rosh Hashana for trees, we will take a glimpse at some of the halachic issues connected to the impact of this day on the halachot of agriculture. By means of introduction, we should point out that the year has significance in regard to several halachot. Which maasrot one gives depends on the year of the Shemitta cycle, as do the various laws of the Shemitta year. We also count years to determine when the laws of orlah, which prohibit use of fruit from new trees for three years and is followed by the special laws of neta r’vai on the fourth year, end. When fruit starts growing in one year and are complete in another we need to know to which year to attribute them. Generally, for grains and vegetables we attribute their status to the year they are when they reach a third of their growth (gidul sh’lish).]
There is a machloket between Tanaim (Rosh Hashana 14-15) whether the status of an etrog in regard to the laws of Shemitta follows the time of budding of the fruit or the time it is picked. [Etrog is different from other fruit in that it is classically watered by its owner, as opposed to other fruit, which are sustained by rain water]. The mishna (Sukka 39a) assumes that the laws of Shemitta apply when buying an etrog in the seventh year. [Note that Sukkot falls in the beginning of the new year, in this case, the Shemitta year.] From this we see two things. First, we see that the mishna follows the opinion that an etrog’s status follows the time it is picked, not its budding. Secondly, we see that that the Rosh Hashana in regard to Shemitta of an etrog is the beginning of Tishrei, not Tu B’shevat.
Why does etrog follow the time of picking? The significance of a fruit’s budding is related to the fact that the fruit grows due to rain that fell prior to its budding. Therefore, the year that the rain fell helps determine the status of the fruit. But by etrog, which people water, the budding does not have the same significance. We have demonstrated elsewhere that the Rosh Hashana for the years of orlah Tu B’shevat even for an etrog. If so, we also follow the budding in regard to orlah, as Tu B’shevat is significant only in terms of budding. However, for some reason, the laws of Shemitta are not derived from the laws of orlah in this matter.
The question is what is the reason that we do not follow Tu B’shevat for Shemitta for an etrog? One possibility is that Tu B’shevat is only significant for fruit that follow budding, as that which buds before Tu B’shevat grows off of the previous year’s rain. If so, etrog is an exception, but the Rosh Hashana of Shemitta for other fruit is Tu B’Shevat, meaning that fruit that buds before Tu B’Shevat of the Shemitta year belongs to the sixth year of the Shemitta cycle. Although Tishrei is Rosh Hashana for Shemitta, the nature of fruit’s growth makes the practical cut-off point is Tu B’shevat. This is apparently the view of the Rambam (Shemitta V’yovel 4:9).
However, there is a second possibility. One can infer (as does the Pnei Yehoshua, ad loc.) from Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 14a) that Rosh Hashana of all fruit is Tu B’shevat even in regard to Shemitta. [Proof of this pointt is discussed at length, but it is too technical to present in this forum.] This is derived by a formal limud from the laws of orlah, where the Torah’s languague connects the third, fourth, and fifth years of the orlah process. This implies that there are fruit that grow during the fourth year but have a status of the third year and others that grow during the fifth year but have a status of the fourth year.
[We will continue next week, b’ezrat Hashem.]
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