Rabbi Moshe Bloom
Head of English department, Torah VeHa’aretz Institute
In this week’s parasha (Kedoshim), we read about the mitzvot of orlah, neta revay and kilaim. In this article we will discuss the application of some of the mitzvot associated with the Land of Israel outside of Israel, even though it sounds like an oxymoron.
1. Orlah: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 294 §8) rules that orlah applies in our day even outside of the Land of Israel: “Orlah applies in every place and in any time, to [the produce of] gentiles and Jews; however, in the Land of Israel it is from the Torah; outside of the Land of Israel it is a halacha leMoshe miSinai.”
I assume that most readers are raising an eyebrow, and asking themselves: “Wait a minute. I’ve never heard or learned about the issue of orlah applying outside of Israel. How does this square with the Shulchan Aruch?”
The answer lies in the next section (§9):
“When there is an uncertainty regarding orlah … outside of the Land of Israel, it is permissible. How so? A vineyard with an orlah grapevine and grapes sold from outside of [the vineyard] … outside of the Land of Israel it is permissible…”
That is, we are lenient when there is any doubt regarding orlah outside of the Land of Israel. Moreover, the poskim extend this heter and explained that as long as it is not 100% clear that a given fruit is orlah, it will be permissible. So, if I buy the fruit at the store, since I cannot be completely certain that the fruit is orlah, I may eat it.
In the past, most fruit trees could not bear fruit on a commercial scale in their first three years. In recent years with today’s innovations, farmers can produce quality produce from many more trees even in their first years,
2. Kilei hakerem. Kilei hakerem that is, planting a vegetable, grain, or legume, together with a grape pit, is a rabbinic prohibition outside of the Land of Israel. It is also forbidden to eat a vegetable planted next to a grapevine.
3. Kilei ilan. Grafting. Most farmers graft two types of trees together in order to enhance the produce. They take a branch from one tree (the scion) and connect it to the trunk of another tree (the stock), thus creating a new tree, whose fruit is the same as that of the scion but is heartier and can withstand soil maladies and pests, like the stock.
Grafting is permitted when the trees of are the same type, when performed with two different types of trees, it is forbidden. The prohibition of grafting (kilei ilan) is also of biblical status outside of the Land of Israel (Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. 295 §1)..
The Shulchan Aruch rules in §7 that it is also forbidden to cultivate grafted trees. That is, if I bought a tree that was grafted in a prohibited manner, I should uproot it. In practice, there are poskim who are lenient when there are uncertainties in several areas; however, optimally one should not purchase a tree that is grafted in a forbidden manner.
My feeling is that since there are not many Torah observant Jewish farmers who live outside of Israel, in both past and present; and because for many years in Europe, Jews were even banned from owning land, nor did they serve as farmers, the general awareness about these mitzvot is very low. Moreover, those who live in apartment buildings and do not have a garden do not generally encounter these mitzvot. This is why, I believe, there is such a lack of awareness regarding these special mitzvot among observant Jews living outside of Israel.
Through our observance of the mitzvot associated with the Land of Israel — regardless of whether we currently live in the Diaspora or in Israel — may we merit to draw closer to the Land of Israel and to its special mitzvot.
Torah VeHa’aretz Institute, the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel, founded 30 years ago in Gush Katif, is a research institute that probes the application of the mitzvot associated with the Land of Israel. The Institute comprises leading rabbis and agronomists who work together on the unique bond among halacha, technology, and farming.
Recently, the Institute opened an English department to cater to the English-speaking public living in Israel and abroad. The department translates halachic material into English and disseminates it in various venues: on the institute’s official websites; lectures and tours for English speakers about the mitzvot associated with the Land of Israel; and halachic Q&A, among others.
For additional information and inquiries, you can contact us via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at:972-8-684-7325+ .