In the previous Halachot we have explained that fruits of the Shemitta year (this year, 5782) which grow in fields owned by Jews in the land of Israel which have not been sold to non-Jews as part of the “Heter Mechira” retain the sanctity of Shevi’it, as the Torah states, (Vayikra 25) “It is a Jubilee, it shall be holy for you” and our Sages expound, “Just as it is holy, its produce is likewise holy.”
Fruits Which Retain the Sanctity of Shevi’it
As we have explained, all fruits and vegetables grown on Jewish fields in Israel retain Shevi’it sanctity. Fruits and vegetables sold as part of the “Otzar Bet Din” system are likewise included in this law and retain the sanctity of Shevi’it, for these fruits grow in Jewish lands. We have also discussed the prohibition to conduct business with the fruits of Shevi’it. Let us now discuss several additional laws which apply to such produce.
Causing a Loss to Fruits of Shevi’it
The Torah states regarding produce of the Shemitta year, “And the Shabbat of the land should be for you for food,” and our Sages (Baba Kama 102a) derived, “For food and not for loss,” meaning that one may not cause the fruits of Shevi’it to incur loss or destruction; one may only use them for their primary and usual purpose in the way they are usually used, such as eating, drinking, rubbing, and for lighting candles depending on each fruits respected method of usage.
Squeezing Shevi’it Fruits
An example of causing loss to Shevi’it produce is regarding a cucumber which is usually eaten whole (or sliced). If one wishes to squeeze a cucumber in order to drink its juice, this will be considered causing a loss to Shevi’it produce, for this brings down the value of the vegetable greatly.
On the other hand, regarding oranges which are usually squeezed for their juice, according to the letter of the law, it is permitted to squeeze oranges retaining Shevi’it sanctity as well (some nevertheless act stringently). It is likewise permissible to squeeze grapes although they retain sanctity of Shevi’it.
Food for Humans and Animals
One may not feed animals or birds Shevi’it fruits meant for human consumption. Thus, if one has a parrot at home which eats sunflower seeds, one may not feed it sunflower seeds which retain the sanctity of Shevi’it and are meant for human consumption, for this is considered causing a loss to the fruits of Shevi’it.
The opposite is true as well and one may not consume Shevi’it produce meant for animal consumption, for this is likewise considered a loss for the fruits since they are more suitable for animals than humans.
Cooking Shevi’it Produce
Just as it is forbidden to cause a loss to Shevi’it fruits by squeezing or crushing them, it is likewise forbidden to cause them a loss by cooking them. Thus, a fruit or vegetable usually eaten raw may not be cooked during Shevi’it. It is therefore forbidden to cook vegetables which are not usually cooked, such as cucumbers, during Shevi’it.
Similarly, it is forbidden to a fruit or vegetable which is usually cooked in its raw state during Shevi’it. It is therefore forbidden to eat raw squash and other such vegetables during Shevi’it and these vegetables may only be eaten after they have been cooked.
Disposing of Shevi’it Produce
Based on the law prohibiting any cause of loss or destruction to fruits consecrated with the sanctity of Shevi’it, one may certainly not throw Shevi’it produce into the trash; rather, one must use the fruit for its intended purpose, such as eating or drinking, depending on the specific fruit. According to some Rishonim, one actually fulfills a Mitzvah by consuming Shevi’it produce.
Shevi’it produce which becomes so rotten that it is even unfit for consumption by animals no longer retains any sanctity and may be disposed of in the trash.
In the next Halacha, we shall continue discussing some more of these pertinent laws.