Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 9 May 2015 / 20 Iyyar 5775

Shemitta Sheilos: The Case of The Contraband Carrots

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Shemitta Basics Part V
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All Souped Up

Right before Pesach, I received this fascinating Shemitta sheilah from a talmid who was in Americafor Yom Tov:

My mother-in-law, as you can imagine, is busy cooking like crazy for Yom Tov. She had already cooked up two huge pots of chicken soup when she got a phone call from a friend warning that the carrots the local store carried were likely from Eretz Yisrael. After a few phone calls it turns out that some of the carrots used were indeed Israeli carrots, grown in the Shemitta year contrary to the halacha. What now is the kashrus status of the soup, carrots, and pots?

Although carrots might be rich in beta carotene, and rumored to improve your eyesight,[1] nevertheless, these Shemitta carrots might not be so halachically healthy. In fact, this kashrus query is actually quite complicated and involves many aspects of Hilchos Sheviis, some of which were addressed in previous articles. But there are several important characteristics of Kedushas Sheviis that will shed some light on this issue.

No Exchanges

One interesting feature of Shemitta produce is that the Kedusha transfers to whatever item it is exchanged for, and even any further exchanges, no matter how many times it is transferred. For example, if someone purchases Shemitta produce (even if it was sold in a permitted manner)[2], although the fruit still maintains its ‘holy’ status, the money that was used to purchase it now contains Kedushas Sheviis as well. If one now uses that money to buy fish, the money is no longer considered ‘holy’ but the fish now is. If the fish is exchanged for oil, the fish has lost its Kedushas Sheviis status, but the oil has gained it. This cycle continues ad infinitum, and Biur must be done on the last item on the chain, along with the original fruit.[3] This certainly is a reason to be vigilant regarding unwittingly purchasing potential Shemitta produce.

Tasting the Kedusha

Another important issue is that there is ‘Taam Sheviis’. This means that similar to other halachos (for example, Hilchos Issur VeHetter), as long as the ‘holy’ item in question imparts taste to the mixture, the entire mixture must be treated as Kedushas Sheviis. This amount of added taste is assumed to be present unless there is 60 times its presence in the mixture, at which point it is considered nullified. This would mean that in our case in question, unless there was 60 times the amount of the Shemitta carrots in the pot, the entire soup must be treated as Kedushas Sheviis.[4]

Shamor V’Ne’evad

We all know that during the Shemitta year the land must lie fallow and no work may be done (Parshas Behar; Vayikra Ch. 25: 1- 5). Similarly, all fruit trees and their produce are halachically considered hefker, ownerless, and anyone may partake of the fruit. But what happens if the owner transgresses and ignores the Biblical commandment and instead works the land as usual or cultivates it via forbidden labors (Ne’evad)? Or what happens if he does not allow public access to his halachically hefker fruit (Shamor)? Obviously, it is not permitted; yet, more importantly, several authorities maintain that such produce that is Shamor V’Ne’evad becomes forbidden to be eaten![5] This would similarly make consuming those Israeli carrots problematic, as aside for the prohibition involved with their growth, they might be forbidden to be consumed at all.

Fruit Flies

As mentioned in previous articles and derived from Parshas Behar, several other issues are involved, including the fact that these carrots were purchased in the normal manner, and sent to Chutz La’aretz, violating several key tenets of Hilchos Sheviis. The Torah teaches us (Behar ad loc. 6 -7) that Shemitta sanctity applies L’achlah- for you to eat, and not for sechora, merchandise or commercial use;[6] and B’artzechah - in your land, and not in Chutz La’aretz, meaning that Kedushas Sheviis produce may not be taken out of Eretz Yisrael.[7]

Although it seems that me’ikar hadin regarding both of these Shemitta violations, one may still eat such produce even after transgression. Nevertheless, there are those who forbid it.[8]

Sefichin Statutes

However, the biggest problem with this sheilah is that the Shemitta produce in question was carrots - a vegetable, and not a fruit. This places the issue in a whole new category - that of Sefichin. Sefichin literally means after-growths, referring to plants that grew by themselves in the Shemitta year, ostensibly from leftover seeds that took root after the previous year’s harvest. Biblically, there is a Mitzvah that these growths may not be harvested in the proper manner during Shemitta: ‘Es Sefiach Ketzircha Lo Siktzor’ (Parshas Behar, Vayikra Ch. 25: 5). Yet, their consumption is permitted.

However, Miderabbanan, all Sefichin are strictly prohibited to be eaten.[9] The Rambam explains that this Gezeiras Chazal was instituted due to ‘Ovrei Aveirah’, transgressors, who, not being able to resist the temptation, would secretly plant such produce, but, when questioned, would pass it off merely as Sefichin that grew spontaneously with no human aid. Due to these concerns, the Chachamim prohibited outright all produce that can be considered Sefichin.

It is important to note that not all produce is considered the problematic Sefichin. For example, all fruits are not considered Sefichin. This is due to the fact that even if one would desire to plant a fruit tree during Shemitta, there is no way he would be able to benefit from its fruits during the entire year, as it would take too long to grow and produce fruit. One would have no reason to violate Shemitta for a potential fruit so far off. Chazal were only concerned with a temptation that would be relatively quick to fulfill, such as vegetables and legumes. Since the turn-around time from planting to harvesting is not that long, one may be tempted to transgress Hilchos Sheviis to ensure he has adequate food supply for several weeks or months down the line. Therefore, all vegetables and legumes that grew in the Shemitta year[10] are considered Sefichin and consequently prohibited to be eaten.[11] On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that even Sefichin contain Kedushas Sheviis and still must be according the proper respectful treatment (as detailed in previous articles).

Another important exception to this proscription is Sefichin that grew on land owned by a non-Jew. This is because Sefichin is essentially a kenass, a fine on those who unlawfully violated Shemitta to produce their produce. However, since a non-Jew has no commandment to rest the land, he cannot be included in the kenass either. Therefore, one may purchase vegetables from a non-Jew during Shemitta, as the prohibition of Sefichin does not apply to them.[12]

Back to our contemporary carrot question, even those authorities who still allowed the produce to be consumed after all other issues raised, would nevertheless prohibit it if it was considered Sefichin. In fact, this prohibition is so strong that the Rambam writes that Sefichin from the Shemitta year remain prohibited even the next year.[13]

Based on the above, many Acharonim understand that Sefichin must be treated like all other real deal Issurim (such as non-kosher; albeit Derabbanan). Therefore, they maintain that if someone cooks Sefichin in their pots, not only will whatever mixture they were cooked with become prohibited, but their pots are rendered non-kosher as well, and would require kashering.[14] This would be the biggest issue affecting our harried housewife and her pots of chicken soup.

Thankfully, in this specific case, since her pots were enormous, there was 60 times the amount of Sefichin in her soup, and their problematic taste was nullified, just as it would have been if a non-kosher item was cooked in its place. Hence, after removing the criminal carrots, the rest of the soup had full kashrus clearance, and, according to her son-in-law, was “delicious”.

Note: This article is not intended to serve as an exhaustive guide, but rather to showcase certain aspects of the intricate and myriad halachos of produce imbued with Kedushas Sheviis. Many other relevant Shemitta halachos of will IY”H be addressed at length in future articles.

This article was written L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben Yechezkel Shraga, R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah, Henna Rasha bas Yutta Ratza and Rochel Miriam bas Dreiza Liba, and Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

[2]Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch.8, Mishna 7), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 6: 1, 6, and 7).

[3]This process was explained at length in a previous article titled ‘Kedushas Sheviis Produce’.

[4]Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. &, Mishna 7) and main commentaries and Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 7: 22). See also Chazon Ish (Sheviis 11: 8), Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 3: 6), Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 22: 7), Kovetz M’Bais Levi (vol. 16, pg. 38: 1), and Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 16, Taam Pri Vehayerek 2). How to properly treat Kedushas Sheviis Produce was discussed at length in previous articles.

[5]This is essentially a machlokes Rishonim in the end of Gemaros Sukkah (39b) and Yevamos (122a) with Rabbeinu Tam arguing on his grandfather, Rashi. Many other Rishonim take sides as well. In fact, the Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 1: 12; however, see his Shu”t Pe’er HaDor 15, where he seemingly changes his mind) writes that any produce that was grown during Shemittah, whether intentionally or not, must be uprooted! Other poskim who allowed it (as they held the issur is only on the seller, and not on the buyer) include the Mabit (Shu”t vol. 1: 21), the Kapos Temarim (Sukkah 39a), the Noda B’Yehuda (Kama, Even Ha’ezer 77 s.v. umah shehavi mechutani), and the Rogatchover Gaon (Shu”t Tafnas Pane’ach HaChadashos 94 s.v. harbeh). On a more contemporary note and quite interestingly, although the Chazon Ish (Sheviis, Ch.26 Seder HaSheviis 1 s.v. avar) explicitly rules that such produce is forbidden for consumption, nevertheless it is widely quoted that he really held that it was muttar me’ikar hadin. See Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish (vol. 2: 162), Kreina D’Igresa (vol. 1: 147), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 2, Sheviis 81 and 82; however the Steipler Gaon was stringent), Shu”t Cheishev Ha’Eifod vol. 1: 22), Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 3: pg. 149), Dinei Sheviis HaShalem (Ch. 22: 1), and Mishmeres HaSheviis (Ch. 11: 7). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim vol. 1: 186) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shu”t Minchas Shlomo, Kama44: 1 s.v ela) both permitted the food to be eaten. On the other hand, the Gedolei Yerushalayim of previous generations forbade it outright. This is indeed the position of the Badatz of the Eidah Chareidis (in their Devar HaShemitta 5775, 5: 1 and 2, pg. 56), citing precedents of the Ridbaz and Rav Chaim Berlin, that any produce that is Shamor V’Ne’evad is strictly forbidden to be eaten. For more on this topic, see Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 19: 13 and 14) and Minchas Asher (Sheviis, Tinyana 15: 2).

[6]Gemara Avodah Zarah (62a); see also Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. 8, Mishnah 3), Tosefta (Ch. 7, 6), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 6: 1 - 3). Therefore one may only obtain Kedushas Sheviis produce in a non-standard way.

[7]Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. 6, Mishna 5), Tosefta (Sheviis Ch. 5: 1), Rambam (Hilchos Shemittah V’Yovel Ch. 5: 13), Ridbaz (glosses to Pe’as Hashulchan, Sheviis, Ch. 5: 18), Chazon Ish (Sheviis 13: 4), and Shemittah Kehilchasah (Ch. 3: 17).

[8]The Rambam (Hilchos Shemittah V’Yovel Ch. 5: 13 and Ch. 6: 1) implies that the actual produce is still permitted to be eaten. In fact, Tosafos (Kedushin 52a s.v. hamekadesh) explicitly rules this way regarding selling Shemitta produce and this is also the conclusion of the Mabit (Shu”t vol. 1: 21), the Noda B’Yehuda (Kama, Even Ha’ezer 77 s.v. umah shehavi mechutani), Ridbaz (Beis Ridbaz glosses to Pe’as Hashulchan 5: 18; regarding taking abroad), the Chazon Ish (Sheviis 10: 6 s.v. v’im shulchan - regarding Chutz La’aretz; and Kuntress Seder HaSheviis 7 - regarding merchandise) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shu”t Minchas Shlomo, Kama 44: 1 s.v ela). This is also how it is cited lemaaseh in Dinei Sheviis HaShalem (Ch. 17: 2 and Ch. 27: 1). However, Rav Moshe Sternbuch in his Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 3: 17) cites several machmirim who forbid their consumption, including the Raavad, the Ra”sh and the Vilna Gaon, and cites that Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein ruled that one should attempt to return them to Eretz Yisrael. He concludes that it is preferable not to consume them and rather leave them until they rot by themselves. Similarly, Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 7, Tzion Hahalacha 125) concludes not to eat the produce but rather try to send it back to Eretz Yisrael.

[9]Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch.9, Mishna 1), Gemara Pesachim (52b), Gemara Menachos (5b), Yerushalmi (Bava Basra Ch.5, Halacha 1), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 4: 2 and 3), Sefer HaChinuch (Parshas Behar, Mitzvah 328). See however Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 2: 1, footnote 1) who explains that although we hold that the prohibition of Sefichin is strictly Derabbanan, that is only regarding actual after-growths that grew by themselves. However, when referring to produce intentionally grown during Shemitta contrary to the halacha, many Rishonim are of the opinion that the proscription is indeed MiDe’oraysa.

[10]There is some debate in the Rishonim as to when this prohibition starts. The Rambam (ibid. 11) and Ra”sh M’Sirlio (Yerushalmi Ch. 9, Halacha 1 s.v. aval ha’emes), as well as the Mabit (Shu”t vol. 3: 45), are of the opinion that regarding vegetables, Sefichin status follows when they are picked (lekita). Accordingly, if one would pick a carrot on Tzom Gedalya, even though 99 % of its growth was in the previous year, it is still considered Sefichin and prohibited. However, Tosafos (Kedushin 2b s.v. esrog) maintains that Sefichin status follows ‘rov gedulo’, the majority of its growth. If it grew mostly in the 6th year then it is permitted; ergo if it grew mostly in the 7th year, prohibited. Most other Rishonim including the Ra”sh (Sheviis, Ch.9, Mishnah 1), Ramban (Parshas Behar, Vayikra 25: 5 s.v. es sefiach), and the Rosh (beg. Sheviis Ch.9) maintain that in order to be considered Sefichin, it must have at least sprouted during Shemitta. Following this shitta would mean that the Issur of Sefichin would only start several months into the Shemitta year. However, any vegetable harvested after Rosh Hashana would still contain Kedushas Sheviis and must be treated accordingly, as regarding vegetables their Kedushas Sheviis status follows lekita (as explained in a previous article titled ‘Kedushas Sheviis Produce’). Most Acharonim, including the Pe’as Hashulchan (22: 3), Chazon Ish (Sheviis, 9: 13 s.v. yerek), Bris Olam (3: 3), and Mishpetei Aretz (17: 8), follow the more lenient opinion of the Ra”sh. However, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shemitta Kehilchasa Ch 2; 2 and 3 and in footnote) writes that although one may be lenient Me’ikar Hadin, still ‘ein lehakel ela b’shaas hadchak’, but otherwise should be machmir for lekita like the Rambam. Similarly, the Yalkut Yosef (Sheviis Ch. 23: 13) writes that since Shemitta nowadays is derabbanan, therefore ‘somchin al hameikil’ but still, ‘hamachmir tavo alav bracha. On the other hand, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Ohr L’Tzion on Sheviis, Ch. 5: 1) concludes to follow the Rambam’s more stringent opinion. This also seems to be the Badatz Eida Chareidis’ shitta (Devar HaShemitta 5775, pg. 53, 1: 4). There is also another opinion, that of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shu”t Minchas Shlomo, Kamavol. 1: 49and 50) who maintains that its Sefichin status should depend on whether the produce in question reached its ‘onaas hamaseros’ (basically a third-grown) in the sixth year or the seventh (this was also explained in the afore-mentioned article). He explains that several of the above-mentioned Rishonim actually mean to pasken this way.

[11]Rambam (ibid. 3 and 10), Sefer HaChinuch (ibid.). See also the Chochmas Adam’s Shaarei Tzedek (16: 3), Pe’as Hashulchan (Sheviis, Ch. 25: 3), Sefer HaShemittah (Ch. 6: 5, footnote 2), Chazon Ish (Sheviis, 9: 17), and Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 2: 1 and 2).

[12]Rambam (ibid. 29), Shaarei Tzedek (16: 14), Chazon Ish (Sheviis, 20: 7), Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 2: 1). However, according to the shitta of the Mabit and Chazon Ish (a.k.a. Minhag Bnei Brak), these goyish vegetables still contain Kedushas Sheviis and must be treated accordingly. There are other Sefichin exceptions as well, including being grown on land where that produce is not normally grown, if it was grown indoors, and in certain areas that are not fully considered part of Eretz Yisrael for this purpose. All of the above will IY”H be discussed in a future article.

[13]Rambam (ibid. 6). A similar assessment is given by the Yerushalmi (Sheviis Ch. 2, Halacha 5). See also Shaarei Tzedek (16: 5), Pe’as Hashulchan (Sheviis, Ch. 25: 5), and Aruch Hashulchan HaAsid (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel 22: 12). The Chazon Ish (Sheviis, 9: 13s.v. v’ha) writes that we see from here that “im nilkatu baSheviis,asurin l’olam, if produce was harvested during Shemitta, it remains prohibited forever”.

[14]See Shemitta Kehilchasa (Ch. 2: 9 and Ch. 4: 12), Derech Emunah (vol. 4, Hilchos Shemittah V’Yovel Ch. 4, Tziyun Hahalacha 23), Chut Shani (Shemitta Ch. 4; 2, pg. 161), Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 27: 3), Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 15: 19), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 2, Sheviis 107, pg. 352), and the Badatz Eida Chareidis’s Devar HaShemitta (5775, pg. 53, 1: 1). This is also widely quoted as the Chazon Ish’s and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv’s shittah. However, if 24 hours have elapsed in between cooking the Sefichin and other food items, the following foods will be permitted; akin to Hilchos Kashrus. However, one does not have to worry about Kashering the Keilim being considered Mafsid Sheviis, as there is a Mitzvah to uproot Sefichin and leave them on the ground to rot, even though they contain Kedushas Sheviis. See Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 4: 18), Kessef Mishna (ad loc.), Aruch Hashulchan HaAsid (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel 22: 10), and Chazon Ish (Sheviis, 9: 6 s.v. v’kishetolshin). Therefore, we see that indirect ‘wasting’ is indeed permitted regarding Sefichin. Additionally, according to the Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 2, Sheviis 108, pg. 353) bleeyos taam Kedushas Sheviis inside a pot no longer have an actual form, nor can they physically impact further. Meaning, once the imparted taste is absorbed into the pot it is already considered ‘the end of the line’ for it, and especially after 24 hours, when it is nosein taam lifgam. Therefore, at that point, there is no issue with Kashering the utensil, even though it has bleeyos of Kedushas Sheviis Sefichin inside.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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