Shevat 19, 5771
Before last Pessach I bought three fruit trees.Two of them came in big plastic bags filled with earth. I left them inside the bags
ever since and put them in front of our house onto the ground (in Israel). I do not know if the bags have been perforated since
accidentally. The third tree was planted by me into a flower pot with holes. I am not sure how much earth was attached to its roots
when I planted it into the pot.
1) I assume that all 3 trees are considered in some way attached to the ground and subject to orlah.
2) However, I do not know exactly how old they were when I bought them - they’re about 1.20 m high so I estimate them to be at
least two years old. Am I right to assume that I cannot deduct that supposed age from counting orlah - also not in the two plastic-
bagged ones which I didn’t take out of their bags?
3) If we move houses and I take the trees with me, in the bags and the pot as they are, do I have to restart counting?
4) Can I leave the fruits they grow (lemons and kumquats) hanging in the tree because they are decorative?
5) If I have to dispose of the fruits, what’s the best way to do so? (burning is a bit impractical)
Orla is an example of a question that should really be shown to a rabbi so that he can see
the size and the type of holes or perforations and the pot or bag. I can answer in general
that the the trees are subject to orla, even if they were in a pot. The size of the tree is
no indication of its halachic age since it may have been transferred without sufficient
soil. To solve any doubt, in the future, try to buy saplings from a nursery with rabbinic
supervision where they could tell you the exact age of the tree and how it was transferred
from place to place. In your case, where you lack such information, start counting the orla
years from the year where you know for sure that it was in sufficient soil (the bags or pots
they are sold with, when full, are usually enough) from which it wasn’t removed, from
before the 16th of Av. From the following Rosh Hashana (1 and ½ months later), you
need to count just another 2 years. The following year, do neta reva’i (redeem the fruit,
and then they’re edible).
If you move and you transfer the trees in a large bag or pot with considerable amount
of earth, and then you replant them without removing them from their original soil, you
don’t have to start counting anew.
Regarding the fruit, if there is absolutely no chance of anyone accidentally eating the
fruit (not knowing it’s prohibited), then one can rely on the opinion of the Chatam Sofer
(Yoreh De’ah, 286) and just let them rot. But being that that’s almost never the case (ripe
fruit is enticing to children!), then even he agrees that they must be picked before they
ripen, or ruined (for example through burning, burying, or pouring kerosene on them).
May you continue to fulfill the mitzvah of settling, building and planting in Eretz Yisrael!
Rav Ari Shvat
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