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Fruit Tree

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 18, 5781
Question
We have a fig tree about 7 feet away from the house, and extends over the neighbors backyard. It is overgrown and the fruits and leaves fall all over the roof, gutters and ground making a mess and attracting animals. I dont believe its possible to transplant -.We can have it pruned again but it does not solve the problem and getting costly. Can we have it cut down? I read the answers to a similar question on this site, and listened to few shiurim the subject.- I can never get a straightforward answer Thank you,
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. As you have probably gathered already, in general it is forbidden to cut down a fruit bearing tree. However there are times when it is permitted. In your case, if the cost of the upkeep due to the tree (pruning, cleaning, pest removal, etc) are greater than the worth of the fruit (which I imagine is minimal in an urban setting), then it is permitted to cut it down, especially if the tree is coursing damage. However, as you have also probably heard already, Rav Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) in She’eilas Yaavetz 1:76 takes the dramatic position that, while there is no Biblical prohibition to remove the tree in the above situations, it is nonetheless a sakana (danger) to do so. Rav Yaakov Emden’s position has been intensely debated for the past three centuries (See Yabia Omer, YD 5:12, for sources) [quote from the O-U website]. Because of this danger, you will have trouble getting a straightforward answer, as you comment. A good “middle-ground” ruling would be to get a non-Jew to cut it down. It would be best to formally give the tree to a the non-Jew, and then he would be cutting down his own tree. I hope this is of some help. Blessings.
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