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Shemitta & Citrus Fruits in Garden

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Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 18, 5776
Question
Hi, We recently bought a new house that has fruit trees in the garden. A few questions: 1. Given that the previous owners did not observe Shmitta last year, are there any issues that we need to know about when tending to the garden now? 2. What is the correct procedure to deal with the fruits that are currently on the trees (lemon and pomelit)? From the calendar I’ve seen both still have kedushat shviit, however our neighbor said that they take truma/maaser out of doubt and also need to make the fruits hefker because they are kedushat shviit. Please explain what we need to do with the fruits in order to make use of them. 3. Following question #2 above, what is the correct procedure for these fruits after the dates when they no longer have kedushat shviit? Do the same fruits that were on the tree before now not have Shemitta status anymore after that date? If so, what is the correct procedure to deal with them? Thank you.
Answer
Mo’adim L’Simcha! Congratulations on your new house in Eretz Yisrael and your additional new agricultural mitzvot as well! 1. Being that the previous owners didn’t plant the trees during Shmitta and was allowed to water them as necessary, they aren’t as problematic as vegetables, and the fruit has kdushat shvi’it and is allowed for all (!), and some hold even a mitzvah, to eat! 2. My good friend HaRav Yehuda Amichai informed me that lemons take about 9 months to ripen, and accordingly the yellow (!) fruit which are on the tree now (during Nissan) bloomed during Shmitta (before this Tishrei), and must be mufkar (free for all to take) and have the holiness of Kdushat Shvi’it (don’t throw away the edible fruit, don’t to use to remove rust, etc.) and accordingly don’t (!) take off any Trumot and Ma’asrot (which would be wasting holy Shemita fruit). Only after the end of Nissan (in about 2 weeks), the ripe fruit may have bloomed before but also may have bloomed after Tishrei, so only from then on for the next 2 months (until the end of Sivan) because of this doubt, you should be stringent in both directions, treating the fruit with the holiness of Shmitta, but also take-off Trumot and Ma’asrot without (!) a bracha in case it bloomed this year. 3. From Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and on, all of the citrus fruits still on the trees bloomed after Shmitta, so then you take-off Trumot and Ma’aser Sheni with (!) a bracha. If you are not familiar with all of the details, I suggest signing up with Machon HaTorah v’HaAretz where, for a nominal fee, you are included in their Trumot u’Ma’asrot program which makes things much simpler [you just have to take off a little more than 1% (which you’ll eventually leave outside or double-wrap in plastic bags before putting in the garbage), and say the nusach in your siddur].
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