Ask the Rabbi

fruit tree


Rabbi David Sperling

Sivan 10, 5783
I bought a property and I told the builders not to cut the blackberry bush as Im sending someone to replant it elsewhere. they didnt listen and chopped it off. Is it a danger to live in this house now?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. There are various laws about when it is forbidden to uproot or cut down a fruit tree. In general, when there is a greater benefit in cutting down the tree than leaving it standing, it is permitted to do so. Without knowledge of why you wanted to the tree moved, it is hard to say if it was permitted to cut it down or not. (Although it could well be that it was permitted to be cut down). None the less, let us address the issue of a spiritual danger attached to cutting down fruit trees. The Talmud, Baba Kama, 91, states “Rabbi Ḥanina said: My son Shivḥat did not die for any reason other than that he cut down a fig tree before its time.” There is a discussion amongst the commentators as to whether this spiritual punishment was because he cut down a tree in a situation when it was forbidden to do so, or whether in any case, even though he was technically allowed to cut it down, there exists a spiritual danger in doing so. Most commentators believe the first possibility is correct – and there is no spiritual danger when the law allows one to cut down the tree. But there are codifiers who believe that even when one is allowed to cut it down, there is still a danger. Having said that, one should note that when a non-Jew cuts the tree down (even at the request of the Jew), the spiritual danger does not exist (especially in a case when the tree was allowed to be cut down). In your case, I assume the workers were not Jewish. Also, they acted against your wishes and directives. In such a case, there is certainly no spiritual danger. Let me add, that there is no source that even in a case where there was a spiritual danger, that it would somehow “transfer” to the house, or those living in the house. When it comes to cases like this, of spiritual dangers etc, that are beyond the understanding of human logic, we limit their application to the very words and cases written in the sources. There is no correct way to try and “logically” apply the cases from one situation to another. The Talmud talks about the danger of an early death to a person who cuts down a fruit tree – not a danger to use the place the tree was growing in. So, in your case, you should have no fear at all in moving in to your new house. May your new house be one of Torah and Blessings.
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