Shabbat Parashat Bereshit 5766
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Why is it permitted to eat fruit that were made from kilayim (mixed species- regarding fruit, by grafting)? Shouldn’t we boycott them?
Answer: The Rabbis derive the prohibition to create new fruit varieties by grafting branches of one type onto the tree of another from the comparison between kilayim of animals and of agriculture (Kiddushin 39a, based on Vayikra 19:19). While man is instructed to harness the world for his needs (Bereishit 1:28) the limitations on meddling with the natural order of creation are at the heart of the laws of kilayim (see Ramban to Vayikra, 19:19). Halacha teaches us which actions are forbidden and which are permitted. It also teaches us the repercussions of forbidden actions, including grafting. We are not required to boycott when the Torah and the Rabbis did not take the prohibition that far.
There are two main halachic reasons to distance oneself from aveirot (violations of prohibitions). In some cases, a food that was created or processed in a forbidden manner is forbidden to eat (e.g. food that was cooked on Shabbat- Ketubot 34a). Sometimes it is forbidden even to benefit from it (e.g. milk and meat that were cooked together and a vineyard that was involved in kilayim (Chulin 115a)). The gemara (ibid.) derives from p’sukim that neither is the case for kilayim not involving grapes. So the same Torah that forbids grafting permits one to eat or sell its fruit afterward.
Another reason to stay away from aveirot is that it is forbidden to facilitate (lifnei iver- from the Torah) or even aid (m’sayeiah …-from the Rabbis) in aveirot. However, these laws apply primarily before or as an aveira occurs, as one’s involvement has somewhat direct impact. Fear of post facto justifying an aveira or allowing the sinner to gain is not included.
The feeling of disgust at the existence of fruit that should not have been produced is discussed regarding the beracha of Shehecheyanu, which may suggest our happiness that the fruit exists (see Yabia Omer V, OC 19.)
The question of boycott is pertinent on a public scale in Israel, where the religious community makes up a sizable share of the market. Might a boycott affect how much grafting will occur in the future? While we cannot give a full answer to this question, let us point out that it is unclear how many farmers from whom we buy fruit are sinning. We will introduce some factors without ruling when a given farmer can actually rely on them. (You are asking us to address consumers, who do not really have a halachic problem.)
Kilayim is not one of the seven Noachide laws. Yet, the Rambam (Kilayim 1:6) says that one cannot let a non-Jew graft his trees. Commentaries (ad loc.) disagree as to whether this is because there is a lower level prohibition for a non-Jew to graft or because a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to do something that is forbidden for Jews. In any case, if a non-Jew does the original grafting, there is more room for leniency. Regarding more severe forms of kilayim, it is forbidden to maintain the kilayim. However, it is not unanimous that this applies to grafting. We rule stringently (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 295:7). Yet, the Chatam Sofer (VI, 25) says that once it is not recognizable that branches were grafted onto the tree, these halachot fall off. The Rambam (ibid.:7) and Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) agree that one may cut a shoot off a grafted tree and plant it as a new tree. Furthermore, poskim pointoutthat since grafting is forbidden only between two species, it is not always clear which of our modern applications involve halachically distinct species. One can see a summary of the practices that rabbis permitted to religious farmers in Eretz Yisrael in Eretz Hemdah II, 5:14.
In summary, a consumer may eat grafted fruit. In fact, most farmers who grow the fruit have grounds for leniency due to a combination of factors.
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