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26 Tishrei 5761 - October 25, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







The Laws of Shevi'is

by Degel Yerushalayim and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Part II

Editor's Introduction: The special laws that apply this year 5761, as a shmitta year, are not as familiar as other laws that apply all the time or at least every year. (This year there are also some additional unusual situations with erev Pesach coming out on Shabbos, as well as Purim -- but that is a later story.) All of Torah needs to be reviewed, and especially the laws of shmitta. Most laws apply only in Eretz Yisroel, but some apply directly worldwide, and others have consequences for those in chutz la'aretz. For example, the agricultural laws are not as relevant to our readers as those applying to the produce of shmitta (though they apply to flowers and plants in pots).

Last shmitta the Degel Yerushalayim Cultural Fund published a very popular sefer summarizing the laws of shmitta originally edited and compiled by HaRav Yosef Efrati and HaRav Meir Heisler, in consultation with the poskei hador, and is as clear and well-organized as it is authoritative. In some cases we made titles, but the text all comes from that sefer. We have generally left the spelling and style followed in the sefer. The page references are to the edition of Tishrei, 5754.

With the kind permission of Degel Yerushalayim, we herewith present excerpts from that work. We have tried to select the most important issues, but these excerpts should not be viewed as an authoritative halachic source, but merely as a springboard for questions and research. The sefer of Degel Yerushalayim has extensive citations of the sources of the halacha, and the guidance of a competent posek is essential as always.

Commerce With Fruits Of The Shmitta Year


(Page 227) The Torah prohibits trading with fruits of shmitta as it says (Vayikra 25:6) "[what grows while] the land is resting may be eaten by you," and the Sages in Avoda Zora 62a interpreted this as: for eating by you but not for commerce.

Buying fruit of shmitta the way that one normally buys is forbidden, because at the time of the sale we would disobey the prohibition of commerce with fruit of shmitta and disobey additional prohibitions such as:

1. The prohibition of sefichin by buying prohibited vegetables.

2. The prohibition of shomur (crops not left ownerless) and ne'evad (crops that were tended or worked on) according to those opinions that rule strictly on this matter.

3. One who buys after the time of biur ("removal") disobeys another prohibition: it is forbidden to eat these fruits if the mitzva of biur was not observed with regard to them.

4. Lifnei iver (causing another to disobey a prohibition) by causing the seller to commit the sin of commercial transactions.( Rashi Succah 39a).

5. Transfer of demei shvi'is (money paid directly for food of shvi'is) to an unlearned person, which the Sages prohibited.

Therefore one should be particular to buy fruits and vegetables that have the sanctity of shmitta only in stores that are supervised by shmitta committees. The shmitta committees see to it that there should not be any prohibited produce in these stores.

How To Buy Fruits And Vegetables In Shmitta


Fruit of a non-Jew

(Page 237) We have already explained in chapter 13 that there are two practices regarding the sanctity of fruit of shmitta with regard to fruit from a field of a non-Jew. The basis of these two practices can be found in the dispute between the poskim, the Beis Yosef and the Mabit.

Practice of Jerusalem

The practice of Jerusalem follows the opinion of the Beis Yosef that the laws of shmitta do not apply to fruit of a non Jew.

The opinion of the Chazon Ish

The Chazon Ish ruled according to the opinion of the Mabit that the fruits of a non-Jew are subject to the sanctity of shmitta and all the laws of shmitta apply to this fruit. As a result, there are differences in the way various shmitta committees market produce of shmitta. Those shmitta committees which follow the opinion of the Beis Yosef (the Jerusalem practice) supply the shmitta stores with produce which in their opinion does not have the sanctity of shmitta (such as non-Jewish produce or imported produce). Business in these shops is carried out as is usual every year, since the produce does not have the sanctity of shmitta.

Those shmitta committees which follow the opinion of the Mabit (and take up the decision of the Chazon Ish), that non-Jewish fruits have the sanctity of shmitta, conduct their shops in the framework of Otzar Beis Din (distribution on behalf of the Beis Din) or as agents of the buyers as will be detailed below.

Decorative Flowers

Sanctity of shmitta.

(Page 247) 1. Flowers that do not have a scent do not have the sanctity of shmitta.

Flowers which are meant to be smelled have the sanctity of shmitta and commercial transactions with them are forbidden.

Some are of the opinion that flowers which have a scent but are not meant to be smelled do not have the sanctity of shmitta because they are mainly for decorative purposes. Others are of the opinion that they do have the sanctity of shmitta since they have a scent.


2. Commercial transactions and buying and selling of flowers that do not have a scent is permitted if they were not sown or cultivated in a prohibited manner during shmitta since they do not have the sanctity of shmitta.

Sefichin and ne'evad

3. It is forbidden to buy flowers even without a scent if they were sown, planted or hard work devoted to them in shmitta, for a number of reasons: Some poskim are of the opinion that these flowers have the prohibition of sefichin. (However, there are opinions that the prohibition of sefichin does not apply to that which does not have the sanctity of shmitta). They are also prohibited because they were sown and hard work devoted to them in the shmitta. Even those who are lenient regarding the prohibition of ne'evad (see chapter 22: "Shomur Vene'evad") are not lenient about plants such as flowers that are not essential for everyone.

4. Flowers that have the sanctity of shmitta, that began growing before shmitta, are not subject to the prohibition of sefichin. However, one should treat them with the sanctity of shmitta with all its rules.

5. Roses that survive from one year to another have the sanctity of shmitta but not the prohibition of sefichin because they are like tree fruit.

Otzar Beis Din


Source for Otzar Beis Din

(Page 251) It is in the public interest that shmitta fruit that was declared hefker should be brought to one place by the Beis Din and distributed according to the law. The source of this institution is the Tosefta (Shvi'is 8:1) which states: Originally agents of the Beis Din would sit at the city entrances and take the fruits brought in by people and give them enough for three meals, while the rest was put in the city store house. When the time of ripening of the figs came, Beis Din agents would hire workers to pick them and press them into cakes of pressed figs, and put them in the city store house.

Distribution by Beis Din

The Tosefta goes on to teach us that every Friday the Beis Din would distribute the produce according to the size of the family. The Ramban in his commentary on the Torah (Vayikra 25:7) cites this Tosefta and so does the Rash in his commentary to Shvi'is 9:8.

Two Halochos are expressed in the Tosefta: 1. That Beis Din agents would take produce from those bringing it and give the bringer food for three meals. The rest would be put in the city storehouse.

2. Beis Din agents hired workers to pick fruit and process it.


The Ramban in his commentary to the Torah explained that fruit put in the city storehouse do not require biur. (The laws of biur will be explained below). He writes: "The produce gathered in the Otzar Beis Din does not require biur since it has already been removed from the house (of their owner). Both poor and rich are permitted after the time of biur to come and receive them from the Beis Din and eat them."

Method of harvesting and fruit picking

According to the ruling of the Chazon Ish, where the harvesting and fruit picking was done on behalf of the Beis Din, there is no need for it to be done in a different manner. The Chazon Ish writes: "the verse in the Torah 'not to harvest' which is interpreted to mean as not in the normal way refers to the owner and the implication of the Tosefta is that all of it can also be cut at the same time," which means where agents of the Beis Din act with the aim of distributing shmitta fruit to the community they can harvest it in the normal manner. So too fruit that is in the public storehouse does not require biur.

The proper manner of distributing shmitta fruit collected from shmitta-observing settlements, to the consumer is through the Otzar Beis Din. The consumer must treat this fruit with the sanctity of shmitta.

The Laws Of Shmitta For One Who Lives Outside Of Eretz Yisroel


Sanctity of Shmitta Abroad

(Page 313) The Sages prohibited taking shmitta fruit outside of Eretz Yisroel. Unfortunately, many fruits that have the sanctity of shmitta are exported in a prohibited manner. Therefore those who live outside of Eretz Yisroel should know how to conduct themselves with such produce as all of the laws of shmitta apply to everything exported that has the sanctity of shmitta. This includes fruits, vegetables and canned goods, juices and wine if made from fruits or vegetables that have the sanctity of shmitta or if they contain shmitta year fruits in part.

Ban of export

1. It is forbidden to export shmitta fruit that has the sanctity of shmitta from Eretz Yisroel. However, fruit that was exported in a prohibited manner does not become forbidden because of this. Therefore if there is no prohibition of sefichin or shomur vene'evad these fruits may be eaten outside of Eretz Yisroel. (see below)

Exported shmitta fruit must not be transported from one place to another because that is considered as another act of export.


2. However, one should take care not to use vegetables that are subject to the prohibition of sefichin outside of Eretz Yisroel. (See Table of Dates compiled by the Institute of Agricultural Research According to the Torah at the end of this work).

Shomur vene'evad

3. Most of the exported fruit (and vegetables that are not subject to the prohibition of sefichin) were not declared hefker in the proper manner and were guarded in a prohibited manner or prohibited work was done to them. Therefore some say that it is forbidden to use them. Others say that shomur and ne'evad may be eaten (see chapter 22: "Shomur Vene'evad"). However, one must treat these fruits with the sanctity of shmitta (for details see above chapter 16: 'Proper Use of Shmitta Fruit and the Prohibition against Improper Use").

Purchase of fruits

4. Even when the fruit is permitted one should take care not to buy it from a Jew in a manner that would cause the seller to disobey the prohibition of commerce or he should buy it from non-Jews who grew it in Eretz Yisroel. (see chapter 18: "How to Buy Fruit and Vegetables").

Sanctity of Shmitta

5. One should take care to treat the fruit as explained in the chapter "Proper Use of Shmitta Fruit." Therefore the fruit should only be used in the normal manner. One should also not serve it to a non-Jew (but he may serve it to a non- Jewish guest).


6. One should eat the fruit before the biur time otherwise he will have to remove them and declare them hefker at the time of biur. (Some rule strictly and require that the fruit be returned to Eretz Yisroel before biur time since some opinions require the biur to be done in Eretz Yisroel.)

Export of an esrog

7. It is permitted to export an esrog if there are grounds to fear that otherwise the mitzva will not be observed in that place. This is the way the Chazon Ish ruled.

8. Some permit the export of shmitta esrogim within the framework of Otzar Beis Din.

9. Even if the esrog was exported in a prohibited manner, it can be used for the purpose of the mitzva of lulav and esrog but if it was shomur or ne'evad then according to those opinions who prohibit shomur and ne'evad there are some that say that the esrog may not be used. (See chapter 22. "Shomur Vene'evad").

10. An esrog of shmitta that had been exported should be eaten before the time of biur (that means, before the month of Shevat).


11. The practice is to make a pruzbul on the day before Rosh Hashana of the eighth year. Some take a stricter line and also write a pruzbul the day before Rosh Hashana of the shmitta year, since there are Rishonim who hold that it is forbidden to claim a debt in the shmitta year itself.

Pruzbul abroad

12. If the shmitta has passed by and he did not make a pruzbul some say that his loan is not canceled because shmitta does not cancel loans made abroad.

13. One outside Eretz Yisroel to whom people in Eretz Yisroel owe money, should arrange the pruzbul before sunset of Rosh Hashana in Eretz Yisroel because the debt would be canceled with the sunset in Eretz Yisroel for the borrower in Eretz Yisroel.

Traveling abroad

14. Those who travel from Eretz Yisroel should not take food that has the sanctity of shmitta for the journey, but should prepare food that does not have the sanctity of shmitta or buy food abroad. In extenuating circumstances he may take food but only for the journey itself.

Shmitta Of Money

(Page 333) At the end of seven years you shall observe the shmitta year.

The manner of the shmitta is that every creditor shall cancel any debt owed to him by his neighbor. He shall not exact it from his neighbor and his brother when G-d's shmitta comes around.

You may collect from the alien, but if you have any claim against your brother for a debt you must relinquish it (Devorim 15:1-3).

Be very careful lest you have an unworthy idea and say to yourself: the seventh year is approaching and it will be the shmitta year. You may then look unkindly at your impoverished brother and not give him. He will complain to Hashem about you and you will have a sin (Devorim 15:9).

We have been commanded to observe three mitzvos regarding shmitta of money

1. There is a mitzvas asei to cancel all debts that a person owes, as it says "At the end of seven years you shall observe the shmitta year, the manner of the shmitta is that every creditor shall cancel any debt owed to him by his neighbor."

2. There is a mitzvas lo sa'asei not to claim debts from another person after the shmitta as it says, "He shall not exact it from his neighbor and his brother when G-d's shmitta year comes around."

3. There is an additional mitzvas lo sa'asei not to refrain from lending money before shmitta because of a suspicion that the return of the loan will be delayed and therefore canceled. One who refrains from lending disobeys a Torah prohibition, (Devorim 15:9) "Be very careful lest you have an unworthy idea and say to yourself: the seventh year is approaching and it will be the shmitta year, you may then look unkindly at your impoverished brother and not give him. He will complain to Hashem about you and you will have a sin."

The Laws Of Shmitta Of Money


(Page 339) 1. It is a mitzvas asei to cancel all debts, both written and oral, during shmitta.

According to most Rishonim shmitta of money is afka'ata demalka (cancellation by heavenly decree) meaning that the lender does not have to declare that he is canceling the debt; the debts are canceled by themselves.

2. Cancellation of the debts includes foodstuffs -- for these foodstuffs which were borrowed are not returned -- therefore the shmitta cancels the debt of foodstuffs that one lent a neighbor.


3. According to most Rishonim, nowadays, shmitta of money is a Rabbinical requirement. The Sages instituted it so that the concept of shmitta of money not be forgotten by the Jewish people (Gittin 36b.)

Where does it apply

4. According to most poskim this mitzva applies everywhere, both within and without Eretz Yisroel because it is not a mitzva dependent on the Land but rather it is a personal obligation.

The time of the cancellation

5. According to the halacha, shmitta cancels debts at the end of the year, that is at the end of the afternoon of 29 Elul 5754 as it says (Devarim 31:10), "At the end of each seven years at a fixed time on the Festival of Succos," and the Sages (in the Sifri) explained that "at the end" means after the shmitta.

The shmitta year

Therefore during shmitta one is permitted to claim any debt owed to him and after shmitta, it is forbidden to claim any debt whether the loan was made before shmitta or during shmitta.

Claiming debts

6. According to some Rishonim claiming a debt is forbidden even during the shmitta. Therefore some follow the practice of writing a pruzbul on the eve of Rosh Hashanah of the shmitta also (see below chapter 30: 'Pruzbul').

Cancellation stipulations

7. Shmitta cancels debts even if the lender made a condition that shmitta should not cancel the debt, because if one makes a condition which is contrary to that which is written in the Torah, the condition is void.

However, if the borrower and the lender agreed between themselves that the borrower will not cancel the debt, the condition is valid, because in this case the borrower undertakes to pay the money that the Torah does not obligate him to pay, and this is not prohibited because a person can undertake any financial obligation (since all conditions involving money are valid).

Repayment after shmitta

8. When a borrower comes to repay a debt after shmitta, the lender must declare, "I cancel it and you no longer owe it". If the borrower says, "even so I want you to accept it," the lender is permitted to accept the money because with this statement the borrower's intention is to give the money to him as a present.

The Sages were pleased with one who repays a debt after shmitta.

These laws also apply today if the lender did not write a pruzbul.

9. Some people are accustomed to lend a small sum of money after writing a pruzbul. The pruzbul, having been written before the loan, does not apply to this debt. When the borrower wishes to repay the loan the lender can then say "I cancel it" and refuse to accept it. In this way he can fulfill the mitzva of canceling debts in shmitta in actual practice.

He should stipulate at the time of the loan that it is to be repaid before Rosh Hashanah.

Refraining from Lending

10. One is forbidden to refrain from lending money because he suspects that perhaps the borrower will not repay his debt until after shmitta and then it will be canceled.

There are certain cases which the end of shmitta does not cancel:

Loan for a period of time

11 a. If a loan is for a number of years, such as ten years, and the period ends after shmitta the loan is not canceled.

Since both the lender and the borrower agreed to the condition that the loan is for a certain period, and during that period the lender has no possibility of claiming it, it is not defined as a loan which "You shall not exact," and the laws of shmitta of money only apply to money that can be claimed now.

Loan against Security

12 b. Shmitta does not cancel loans where the lender holds something of the borrower's as security, because a loan made against security is considered as having already been claimed. If the amount of the loan is more than the value of the security there are those of the opinion that the shmitta cancels the part of the loan that is greater than the value of the security; others disagree and say that any loan against a security is not canceled at all, not even that part that does not have a security against it.


13 c. Shmitta does not cancel credit given by a store that did not give a specific date for payment, for a store usually gives credit for a long period and does not demand payment immediately. Thus it is as if the time of payment was arranged for a date after shmitta. Here shmitta does not cancel a loan.

However, if a specific time was given for payment, the money due is considered as a debt and is canceled by shmitta. Some are of the opinion that even if the storekeeper had only prepared the bill the money due it is not considered as "store credit" that is not canceled, but is considered as an ordinary debt that the shmitta cancels.

Salary 14 d. Since salary is not a loan it is not canceled.

Promissory notes handed over to Beis Din

15. Shmitta does not cancel a debt transferred to Beis Din. The lender can transfer his promissory notes to Beis Din and Beis Din claims the loan from the borrower (because shmitta only cancels debts between one individual and another as it says, "Any claim against your brother"). This means that a lender is forbidden to claim a debt, while Beis Din may, because it is not included in shmitta of money.


The Enactment Of Hillel

(Page 353) Hillel the Elder saw that people were refraining from lending to one another because they suspected that perhaps a borrower would not pay back his debt until the shmitta and the lender would lose his money. Thus they were disobeying what was written in the Torah, "Be very careful lest you have an unworthy idea." He also saw that the poor people could not find from whom to borrow. He therefore instituted the pruzbul.


The word pruzbul is a shortened form of the word pruzbulote and is composed of three words, proz -- enactment, bole -- wealthy, bote -- poor. Pruzbul was an enactment for the benefit of the poor to enable them to find people to lend them money (that the doors of credit should not be closed in their faces) and an enactment for the wealthy that they should not lose their money by having their loans canceled in shmitta.

The Basic Pruzbul Itself

I (the creditor) transfer to you, so and so and so and so, the judges, (the power of attorney) that I shall be able to claim through you any debt owed to me whenever I wish. And the judges or the witnesses sign.

The Nature Of The Enactment

The essence of Hillel's enactment is that the Sages broadened the scope of the law of transfer of promissory notes to Beis Din as follows:

1. If one informs Beis Din about his debts it is considered as if he transferred his promissory notes to Beis Din.

2. The Sages further added to this enactment that pruzbul is even effective for verbal debts, even though according to basic law the concept of transferring them to Beis Din does not apply.


A pruzbul is only written if the borrower has land (if the borrower does not have land (see below chapter 31: "The Laws of Pruzbul").

The Text of The Pruzbul

We were in a session of three dayanim and appeared before us and said to us: This year is the seventh year and I have both promissory notes and verbal debts owed to me by various people. I am handing you a pruzbul, and give you as a present four amos of land that is mine in a formal act of acquisition, and by means of that land I have authorized you to claim all debts owed to me by various people. I now request you to be my dayanim, to claim and receive the debt on my behalf. Should you not claim them, since I have handed this pruzbul over to you I may claim any debt owed to me until this day by anybody whenever I wish.

And we the Beis Din, have heard these words and granted him power of attorney so that shmitta should not cancel his debts, and that he may claim them by means of this pruzbul according to the enactment of Hillel and our Sages of blessed memory.

And we affix our signatures this day of the month year

Signed Signed


The Time For Writing the Pruzbul

A pruzbul may be written as long as the lender may claim his debt which is until the end of shmitta.

Pruzbul Today

According to the opinion of the Rambam the enactment of pruzbul is only effective when shmitta of money is a Rabbinical requirement.

(Page 67) The purpose of resting the land on the seventh year is to proclaim that Hashem created, from nothing, the entire world. He who created the world and continues to provide for its existence, deemed it worthwhile to declare a year of rest. We must disown whatever grows by itself, in order to realize that the previous crops were not the produce of our efforts, but the decree of the true owner. The true owner has the right to reclaim His land and prohibit us from working on it.

One who violates this trust and buys and sells the produce of Shmitta, in disregard to the sanctity within the fruit, is denying Hashem's title to the world. Therefore, his just punishment will be that he loses title and ownership to his house and fields, and will, eventually, be sold into slavery.

During the period of exile, the land will remain uncultivated. This is an atonement for cultivating the land during Shmitta. Hashem has warned us, "If you will not disown, even partially, your title to the land by keeping Shmitta, I will reclaim it and you will be exiled from the land. Once you will realize this bedrock foundation, I shall return you to your land."

Thank G-d, in our day, we have those stalwart heroes that keep the laws of Shmitta. May they receive His Blessings.

(Maran HaGaon Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, Of Blessed Memory -- Author of Chazon Yechezkel)

(Page 137) Through shmitta a person humbles his heart and does not say "My power and strength have given me all this wealth." He comes face to face with the fact that all is from heaven and in the hands of the A-mighty. Through this awareness he will find that he is obligated to submit to Him and keep His commandments. This is what is said, "Just as shmitta was mentioned at Sinai etc." because shmitta is the foundation of faith and trust. This arouses him to purify himself because everything is dependent on His will. It should be added that the Torah was given at Sinai which is a low mountain to indicate that a man should not become conceited because the A- mighty champions the oppressed. This is an important principle of the Torah: a person should not be conceited. By means of shmitta he humbles his heart.

(Kesav Sofer)

"To Eat From Her Fruit"

(Page 163) Rabbi Avrohom Dov, the Tzaddik from Avritz came to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Tzefas. He took upon himself to eat only produce that is grown in Eretz Yisroel.

As a result of a drought, they were forced to import wheat, from abroad. However, the Tzaddik preferred to go hungry rather than eat bread that was imported. He justified his refusal to eat the imported food, with the following explanation. "The Torah considers the possibility that we will ask, 'What shall we eat during the seventh year?' And promises us that the harvest of the sixth year will suffice for the seventh also. The Torah could have provided a much simpler solution. Import food from abroad. We derive from here that this is not the answer, and we need a Heavenly promise to provide food grown in Eretz Yisroel.


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