Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Shemittah - Buying Your Fruits and Vegetables During the Shemittah Year

Food - Glorious Food!!!

Every seven years, there is a big change in the selling of fruits and vegetables in the Land of Israel. Starting on the first day of Tishrei and ending the next year first day of Tishrei, there are a variety of additional laws that apply to the Land itself, as well as to its fruits and vegetables. The laws also apply to the consumer who is purchasing those fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind, that although the laws of working the land during the Shemittah year will no longer apply in the new year, the actual fruit and vegetables that grow during the seventh year will still retain their status in the eighth year! This means that even though 5776 will come by, we will still need to be careful of the fruit and vegetables that were grown during this year 5775! 

This post will explore a variety of views in a very brief manner - with some practical photos to help you to understand more about what you need to be careful of if you are wanting to be careful about what you buy and eat this year - 5775 - a Shemittah year (otherwise known as the Sabbatical year.) You'll also learn some new Hebrew words - if you don't know them already!

The Torah in Parshas Behar (Leviticus 25:1-7) explains the commandment of the seventh year. "For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land..." Though brief in the Written Torah - the laws actual laws as taught in the Oral Torah can get quite complex - but as with all things, there are the most necessary points everyone should be aware of.

For six years you will probably feel a little easier about shopping (if you understand the basic kosher requirements of food!) When it comes to the Shemittah year, however, you will find people speaking about a host of unfamiliar terms - deciding for you, whether the fruits and vegetables you are purchasing are actually kosher or not. You'll need to ask your own local rabbi what's important for you - but we present below some photos and explanations of the general flow of things. This post is just an introduction and is not meant to direct you in the full Halacha.

Remember, choosing a reliable store to purchase from will help you to make better decisions and assist you to purchase kosher food far more easily than by visiting any general fruit and vegetable store. The pictures below were taken at Rami Levi. Personally, I have found the store to have outstanding prices, and am also a fan of the fact that he so often takes an active part in assisting the community in so many ways. (I have not been paid for this advertisement - though this blog is always open for this purpose!) Just one week ago - Parshat Noach - Rami Levi sold his Challot for just one Shekel each in honour of his contribution to the now infamous Shabbos Project (launched by the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Rabbi Warren Goldstein.)

I add my support to his store due to his thoroughness in making sure buyers know exactly what fruits and vegetables they are buying. I don't mean - of course - whether they are labeled "carrots" or "potatoes"! Rather that the fruits and vegetables are labelled in accordance with the different types of produce that can be purchased during the Shemittah year!

There are four types of categories you need to be aware of:

1: Chu"l (חו"ל): The quotes in any Hebrew word tell you that the word is abbreviated. This word can be read and pronounced as Chol, and everyone will understand you. It is, however, an abbreviation for the words "Chutz La'aretz" (חוץ לארץ) - outside the land - or better yet, the diaspora. If you should see this label above a selection of fruits and vegetables, you'll know that the food was imported from outside the Land of Israel! This means it was grown outside of the Land - which means it was not grown in Israel! Because of this, such food is permitted - even by the stricter opinions. You're safe! The prohibition of fruits and vegetables of the seventh year only apply to fruits and vegetables grown inside the Land of Israel. Take a look at the picture above. You'll see some Pilpel Adom (פלפל אדום) or "red peppers". The sign on the very right hand side of the picture tells you that the fruit / vegetable below is fruit / vegetable from outside the land - from Chu"l. 

There's another sign in the middle that helps customers to understand more about the produce in this store. It tells us that the fruit and vegetables in this store are under the kashrut supervision of the Eida HaCharedit - probably the most strict of all the kashrut agencies! The sign is also indicating that the produce (when not labelled otherwise) is produce of the seventh year - important to know too (see below)! (Note: Though this particular store can generally be trusted, such a sign is not in fact a proof of anything. The sign lacks a formal certification with stamp, date, signature and name and address of the store to certify that it really is real! A topic for another post. But there is in fact a certificate in the store which does testify and this smaller sign is here to just help the customer feel more assured about his purchase.)

2. Shishit (שישית): This type of produce was grown in the sixth year. Shishit - from the word Sheish (שש) - six. Since there is no prohibition to eating food grown in the sixth year - buying such produce is also safe! You can purchase this fruit and these vegetables and feel safe that what you are eating is okay! Did you know that the Ediah HaChareidit had already stored enough potatoes over the past year to be able to support the entire Israeli population for the entire seventh year without having to worry about potatoes grown in the seventh year?!!! Check out the picture above! You'll see that these juicy Afarsimonim (אפרסימונים) - Persimmons were grown in the sixth year - last year! This delicious fruit is an Israeli favourite in the winter season. Get it now - before summer comes back (before you know it!)

3. Nochri (נכרי): The word Nochri means "a non Jew." Such produce was produced on the land belonging to non-Jews. There are many who allow this produce to be eaten, and there are many who prohibit it. After all, if the actual Land itself should rest from all work, then even if produce is grown on non-Jewish land, that produce should be forbidden to eat because the produce itself was produced against the Halacha - irrespective of the owner. On the other hand, it could well be that since the land was not actually owned and worked by Jews, that produce should be permitted. It's really important for you to ask your own rabbi what the best is to do - for you. What's important when you do your shopping, is to pay attention to the signs so that you know what you're buying and if it's okay! 

4. If you find produce that has no label - you really won't know where the produce is coming from!!! As a result, the produce may well be problematic! Once you are partaking of produce of the Shemittah year, there are many laws that need to be learnt. It is important to learn the necessary laws from a competent Halachic authority. You can also download a chart of the growth periods for the various fruits and vegetables by simply clicking on the link. It will help you to understand when the various fruits and vegetables begin their new cycles of growth - to be considered a part of the seventh year produce.

While point 4 clearly applies to a store that has labels (and one shelf lacks the label etc.) there is another time to take into account the problems of non-identified produce. Take a look at the picture above. These are fruits and vegetables that are being sold at another general fruit and vegetable store (not the Rami Levi store in the pictures above.) What do you notice?! There are NO signs indicating any information to help you understand what produce you are buying!

This can mean a number of things:

1. The store may be selling "problematic" fruit on a variety of levels. (Were Terumos and Maaseros taken? Is it fruit of Orlah?) In this case, the chances are slight (though never impossible!) as I know the store to be selling in an area where people are watching everything going on in the community.

2. The produce may be: Chu"l, Shishit or Nochri (there's nothing to tell us anything here!) In this case, it really is unfair - as many people do not rely upon Nochri.

3. The produce may well be okay, but it may be Shemittah year produce, in which case one would need to follow the necessary Halachot involved. (See calendar above and listen to the Shiurim below.)

As a result, if one is purchasing from such a store, it will be vital to talk to the store owner for assistance - if he can be relied upon of course! If you're concerned about what you are purchasing and would prefer to find yourself in less of a problematic situation, do your best to purchase from a store with a reliable Hechsher (הכשר) - Kashrut Authority, which will also have labels over their produce making it easier for you to know what you can purchase and exactly where you stand with the produce in terms of its permissibility.

Below the following pictures, I have also attached three outstanding Shiurim given by Rabbi Dovid Fink - a master in Halachah! Spend some time listening to them - or contact him yourself if you're not sure about something!

Take a look at the picture above. You'll see labels for both Shishit (left and right) and Chu"l (centre). Be careful so that you know what is what. Don't forget - you may have guests during the year. They might want to know what produce you have and which category it fits into. It's fair to them to tell them what you're buying so that they feel comfortable in your home. Keep a record of the different produce or keep them in separate compartments so that you'll remember if you've purchased something which not all agree to, or that requires you to follow many Halachot when peeling or cooking it etc.

The picture above depicts another difference in the vegetables and the shelving. You'll see the sweet potatoes as being Shishit - but the white cabbage as being Nochri! Keep in mind the paragraph above!

Enjoy the video Shiurim from a most reliable source! If you're still not sure about something or don't know who to contact for assistance, contact us by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. Shemittah year is a great time to consume fruits. If we have options to buy fruits online during this season, it would achieving the next level of business and extent of the brand!



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