Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 23 April 2016 / 15 Nisan 5776

The Complicated Case of Shemitta Wine on Pesach

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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“Now that Pesach of the Eighth Year is rapidly approaching, this means that Shemitta is long over and we don’t have to think about it and its complications again for at least another six years. Right?”

This common question that this author has been asked numerous times, could not be more incorrect in its logic. In Gemara terminology, ‘Aderaba’, or in Yiddish ‘Punkt Farkert’, would be appropriate responses. Or, as the French put it, ‘au contraire, mon frere’. The point is that unless Purim’s ‘Venehafoch Hu’ is still en vogue, one must certainly still take Shemitta produce into account. You see, now is the time that food items manufactured with Kedushas Sheviis produce start flooding the marketplace. The vigilant consumer must remain on high alert to know how to properly deal with these ‘holy fruit’.

In fact, the multiple complications of this simple-sounding issue recently manifested itself boldly to this author by the seemingly innocuous and straightforward distribution of Kedushas Sheviis wine for Pesach. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Pesach, We Celebrate…

Previous articles dealt with many of the myriad concerns that must be taken into accosunt when dealing with Kedushas Sheviis produce. This one sets out to explore uniquely Pesach issues.

Since we know that at the Pesach Seder we must drink the Arba Kosos, Four Cups of Wine, the most important question germane to our discussion is whether we may use the currently most commonly available wine at our Seder: the most recent harvest, a.k.a. Shemitta wine.

Well, although it seems an uncomplicated question, I am sure readers of previous articles in this column will remember an important rule: that the Torah states (Vayikra Ch. 25: 6 & 7) referring to the Shemitta year, “V’haysa Shabbos Ha’aretz Lachem L’achla…V’livhemtacha V’lechaya Asher B’artzecha Tihiyeh Kol Tevuasa Le’echol - And the Resting of the Land should be for you to eat… and for your domesticated animals and the wild animals in your fields, all the produce should be for consumption.”

And one important halachah that is inferred from these pesukim is:

Lachem- for you, lechol tzarcheichem, for all of your needs. (Sukka 40a and Bava Kamma 102a)

According to the Mishnah, and duly codified as halachah,[1] Kedushas Sheviis produce is not only permitted to be eaten, it is even allowed to be utilized in whichever manner the owner deems it necessary: drinking, anointing, dyeing, and even lighting. Although there is an important caveat, namely that the owner’s use of it during Shemitta must be that product’s main use year round, and otherwise, it would be considered ‘ruining’ the ‘holy’ fruit and duly prohibited,[2] this still should not affect Shemitta wine. This is because wine’s main use is to be drunk. So why should this rule trouble us? Shemitta wine should be perfectly fine for Pesach use.

The Yerushalmi’s Ruling

Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi in three separate locations[3] states regarding using Shemitta wine for the Arba Kosos: “Mahu Lotzais B’Yayin shel Sheviis? Tani Rav Hoshea Yotzein B’Yayin shel Sheviis”, “What is (the halachah regarding) using Sheviis Wine to fulfill the obligation? Rav Hoshea taught that one may (indeed) fulfill his obligation (of the Arba Kosos) with Sheviis Wine.

Although many authorities are perplexed by to the need for a question and answer format to what should be a simple statement, and conclude differently as to what additional underlying teaching we may glean from the Yerushalmi’s statement,[4] nonetheless, we clearly see that Kedushas Sheviis wine is explicitly permitted to be used for the Arba Kosos at the PesachSeder. If so, what could be the problem?

Cup Spilleth Over

Well, one main problem is the issue of spilling. The common custom is that at the Seder during Maggid, when reciting the Ten Plagues, some wine must be spilled from the cup (a total of 16 times).[5] Since spilling wine is not considered wine’s main use, and might be more accurately defined as wasting, many authorities prohibit doing so with Shemitta wine.[6] Therefore, although technically it would indeed be permitted to use Kedushas Sheviis wine at the Seder, it still should not be used for the second cup (Maggid), or any time one may not come to finish the entire cup - a caveat which might include most of us for the other cups as well.

This is akin to the halachos of making Havdallah using Shemitta wine (which several authorities maintain is actually preferable),[7] that one must be careful not to spill it, nor use it to put out the candle; rather he must ensure that it not only is “good ‘till the last drop”, but that he drinks every last drop. Definitely not necessarily the easiest way to make Havdallah![8]

This does not mean there is no solution; if one did end up using Shemitta wine for either the Seder or Havdallah, he can still rectify the situation by making sure that the collected drippings of wine are drunk afterwards. This is a good reason for making sure that a saucer or plate should be placed underneath the cup. This way, any spills will be caught, allowing ‘recycling’ of any spilled wine, and no potential ‘wasting’ of Shemitta produce.

The Biur Necessities

However, there is another important issue involved with using Shemitta wine at the Seder: that of Biur. As detailed at length in previous articles, this refers to taking Kedushas Sheviis produce out of the house to a public place and giving up all rights to the fruit, announcing it as ‘hefker’ in front of three people.[9] Once one properly performs Biur he may actually reacquire the produce himself.[10]

Every type of fruit has its own specific Zman Biur, time of year when this must be performed, as it depends on when each species of fruit is no longer commonly available in the fields.

The Gemara (Pesachim 53a) informs us of the Biur dates of four types of fruit: dried figs on Chanuka, dates on Purim, grapes on Pesach, and olives on Shavuos - all in the eighth year. Although the Mishnah (Sheviis Ch. 9: 2 & 3) divides Eretz Yisrael into nine different ‘zones’ for Biur, nowadays, since the exact locations are unclear and all types of fruit are readily available throughout Eretz Yisrael, the consumer must keep abreast of the actual Biur dates publicized in newspapers by the experts in the Agriculture industry.

But since we know that the Zman Biur for grapes, and therefore wine as well, is Pesach of the Eighth Year, that means that anyone wanting to use Kedushas Sheviis wine at the Seder (or actually any time after that) must perform Biur on Erev Pesach on all of his Shemitta wine. One more exciting thing to do on busy Erev Pesach - this means lugging all of your wine bottles out to the street and publicly declaring them hefker. If one did not do so, according to most poskim, all of your Kedushas Sheviis wine would be prohibited, and you would not have wine for the Seder.[11] Talk about Erev Pesach pressure. But don’t worry, after a successful Biur you may simply reacquire your wine.

It is due to the severity of these issues that although the Yerushalmi permits it, nevertheless, many contemporary authorities exhort extreme caution when thinking of using Shemitta wine for the Seder. Certainly while fulfilling one Mitzvah, one would not want to Chas Veshalom be transgressing others.[12]

Biur Chometz?

Another interesting Pesach - Shemitta question involves chometz. What if one made a peach cobbler or good ol’ American apple pie with Kedushas Sheviis fruits, and now it’s Erev Pesach. How would it be possible to perform Biur Chometz, the burning of chometz, without ‘ruining’ the Shemitta produce inside? What is one to do?

The answer is that, if at all possible, it would be preferable to perform this Biur Chometz the gastronomical way, by trying to make sure it is consumed before Pesach. But if not, one may do Biur the old-fashioned and usual manner of tossing it into a fire on Erev Pesach. This is because once the chometz items become forbidden to be eaten (at sof zman achilas chometz) on Erev Pesach, they are no longer considered edible items that are salvageable, and the issue of wasting such Kedushas Sheviis-infused chometz delicacies is no longer applicable[13]. Accordingly, if referring to a grape or wine and chometz item (perhaps a leftover hamantash with Shemitta grape filling) one can perform two different types of Mitzvos of Biur with one well-placed drop into the Sereifas Chometz fire. Truly a case of ‘killing two Biurs with onestone’.

Otzar All the Way

Postscript: Anecdotally, and as mentioned previously, in this author’s neighborhood, a chalukah (distribution) of Kosher Lemehadrin Kedushas Sheviis wine from a reliable Otzar Beis Din,[14] was recently held. Although, as detailed in previous articles, many are wary of Otzar Beis Din produce as the system tends to lend itself to potential abuse, conversely, this wine was given out in the halachically optimal manner - for free, and in the antechamber of a shul, and thereby not involving any possible issues of the prohibition of Schoirah, buying and selling in the normal manner, of Shemitta produce[15].

Fascinatingly, and extremely helpfully, the Otzar Beis Din printed several significant provisos as to the proper use of this Shemitta wine right on the labels of the wine bottles. It states that this wine which is not sold, but rather given out by the Otzar Beis Din, has Kedushas Sheviis status and cannot be spilled or wasted. If the wine was acquired before Pesach, the consumer must be aware that its Zman Biur is on Erev Pesach. This Otzar Beis Din is to be commended for taking such an initiative with its consumers and ensuring that they truly have a “Pesach Kosher V’Somayach”.

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. One should ascertain from his own halachic authority what he should personally do, and how to be noheg, with his Arba Kosos and Shemitta wine.

This article was written l’zechus 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. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.

[1] See Mishnayos Sheviis (Ch. 8: Mishnah 2), Tosefta (Sheviis, Ch. 7: 2), Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5: 1 - 5), Rash (on Mishnayos Sheviis ibid.), Aruch Hashulchan Ha’asid (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel 24: 3; however he classifies this as a separate issur and not that of ‘ruining), Chazon Ish (Sheviis 10: 4), and Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok (vol. 8: 102).

[3] Yerushalmi Shabbos (Ch. 8: Halacha 1), Pesachim (Ch. 10: Halacha 1), and Shekalim (Ch. 3: Halacha 2; 13a) - cited by the Chazon Ish (Sheviis Ch. 15: 7).

[4] For example, see the main commentaries on the Yerushalmi, the Pnei Moshe and Korban Ha’eidah (ad loc.), as well as the Taklin Chadtin (ad loc.), Shu”t Dovev Meisharim (vol. 3, 1: 3), Kuntress Mishmeres Labayis at the end of the Beis Ridbaz version of the Pe’as Hashulchan, quoting the Machazeh Avraham (pg. 19b, 2nd column) and Chazon Nochum (pg. 24b, 1st column s.v. u’lichorah), Ohr Somayach (Shabbos Ch. 29: 14), the Aderes’s Tov Yerushalayim glosses on the Yerushalmi (ad loc.), Shu”t Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim vol. 2: 68; see also Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach vol. 2, pg. 108), Even Yisroel (vol. 2, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros Ch. 13: 25; see also Halichos Even Yisroel pg. 157 - 158), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 9, footnote 69; also citing Rav Ezra Alteschuler’s explanation), and Minchas Asher (Sheviis, Tinyana 38).

[5] See Rema (Orach Chaim end 473), citing the Maharil (Sed er Hahagadda 27), Maharash (Minhagei Maharash 398: 7), and the Sefer Haminhagim (Leil Haseder 7 - 8), and later commentaries. Interestingly, there is some debate as to which finger to use for this. See Darchei Moshe (ad loc. 18), Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 35), Chok Yaakov (ad loc. 37), Magen Avrohom (ad loc. 28), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 74), Shaar Hatziyun (ad loc. 81), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 163).

[6] See Sefer HaShemitta (Ch. 7: 3 and footnote 4), Shabbos Ha’aretz (Kuntress Acharon to Ch. 5: 3), Derech Emunah (vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5, Tziyun Hahalacha 19), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 9: 35), Chut Shani (Shemitta, Ch. 5, pg. 218), Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 2: 40), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 2: 137), Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 6: 36), the Steipler Gaon’s Haggada shel Pesach Kehillas Yaakov (pg. 559), Shemitta Kehilchasah (Ch. 3: 11), Yalkut Yosef (Sheviis; Ch. 22: 7, pg. 485), Mishpetei Aretz (Ch. 21: 5),Mishmeres HaSheviis (Ch. 16: 30), and Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 16, s.v. Shimushei Mitzva 4 and Ch. 32, Pesach 15 - 17). Aside for the issue of potential waste, there are those who maintain that one is not supposed to drink the wine spilled for the ‘Esser Makkos’ - see for example, Chok Yaakov (Orach Chaim 473: 37) and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 165), citing the Pesach Me’uvin (261) - perhaps this is applicable here as well. See also Shaar Hatziyun (ad loc. 81), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 163), and Moadei HaGra”ch (pg. 57 - 58).

[7] This is the opinion of the Ridbaz (glosses to Pe’as Hashulchan, Sheviis, Ch. 5: 18, haghah; cited in Dinei Sheviis Hashalem, Ch. 32, 1: 4). His reasoning is that instead of simply performing one Mitzvah, making Kiddush or Havdallah with regular wine, one can instead perform it with Kedushas Sheviis wine and enhance the Mitzvah with another.

[8]Additionally, one may not even put the customary several drops in the eyes and pockets; all of the above are not the ordinary way to drink wine. Hence, all of these Havdallah extras are forbidden with Shemitta wine. See Sefer HaShemitta (pg. 31: 4), Shabbos Ha’aretz (Kuntress Acharon to seif 22), Shemittah Kehilchasah (Ch. 3: 11), Derech Emunah (vol. 4, Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 5, Tziyun Hahalacha 19), Bris Olam (Sheviis, Ch. 5: 3), Chut Shani (Shemitta, pg. 218), Mishpetei Aretz (Sheviis, Ch. 21: 5 & 6), Mishnas HaGri”sh (pg. 83), and Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 16, s.v. Shimushei Mitzvah 3). However, it is known (see Halichos Shlomo, Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 9: footnote 242) that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would use Sheviis wine for Havdallah (careful not to let the cup ‘runneth over’), and was not worried about the few drops that would naturally spill. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shemittah Kehilchasah Ch. 3: footnote 11), Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Ohr L’Tzion on Sheviis Ch. 2: 6), as well as Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner (cited in Dinei Sheviis Hashalem, Ch. 32, 1: 12) conclude similarly, that one does not have to worry about a spill of several drops that one would not ordinarily concern himself with, as this is the normal way one drinks.

[9] See Ramban (Parshas Behar Ch. 25: 7), Rosh (Sheviis Ch. 9, Mishnah 8: 5), Rash (ad loc.), Minchas Chinuch (Parshas Behar, Mitzvah 329: 7), Shu”t Maharit (vol. 1: 43), Shaarei Tzedek (19: 4 and 5), Pe’as Hashulchan (27: 3), Pnei Yehoshua (Pesachim 52b), Aruch Hashulchan Ha’asid (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel 27: 8), Beis Ridbaz (Sheviis, Ch. 12: 7), Chazon Ish (Shemitta 11: 6 and 7; 14: 13; and 26, Seder HaSheviis 1 end s.v. pri), Shemitta Kehilchasah (Ch. 3: 20), the Badatz Eidah Hachareidis’ Dvar HaShemitta, Pesakim V’Hora’os 4, pg. 55 - 56), and Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 21). When the Zman Biur for a specific fruit arrives, the Mishnah (Sheviis, Ch. 9: Mishnah 8) teaches us that one may still keep enough of that particular fruit for three meals worth for every member of the household. However, there is another opinion, that of the Rambam (Hilchos Shemitta V’Yovel Ch. 7: 1 - 3) that Biur refers to actually destroying said produce when it is no longer available in the field. As mentioned, this is not the normative halachah and Ashkenazim certainly follow the shittah of the Rosh, Rash, and Ramban, of removing it from the house and making it hefker, as cited by the aforementioned poskim. [Interestingly, the Chochmas Adam (Shaarei Tzedek Ch. 19: 4 and 6) expresses preference to fulfilling Mitzvas Biur al yedei Sereifah, like the shittah of the Rambam.] However, whether Sefardim need be machmir for the Rambam’s shittah is a matter of dispute between contemporary Sefardic authorities, with Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Ohr L’Tzion on Sheviis, Ch. 3, Question 4) ruling to be machmir and Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l (cited in sefer Ma’ohr Yisrael vol. 2, pg. 105 and Yalkut Yosef on Sheviis, Ch. 21: 1, pg. 468) maintaining that making the produce hefker is sufficient.

[10] This is due to the fact that the halachah follows Rabbi Yosi’s opinion - see Mishnayos Sheviis (ibid.), Tosefta (Sheviis Ch. 8: 4); Yerushalmi (Sheviis Ch. 9, Halacha 4), Chazon Ish (Hilchos Sheviis 11: 6 & 26, Seder HaSheviis 1 s.v. pri), and Shu”t Minchas Shlomo (Tinyana 123: 10 and vol. 3: 132, 13).

[11] There are several Acharonim, including the Pnei Moshe (on the Yerushalmi ibid.) and Taklin Chadtin (ad loc.) who opine that the chiddush of the Yerushalmi is that Shemitta wine for Arba Kosos may be used even if Biur was not performed on it; yet, this theory is resoundedly rejected by the vast majority of poskim, who maintain that if Biur was not performed, the Shemitta wine becomes prohibited. See Shu”t Dovev Meisharim (vol. 3, 1: 3), Shu”t Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim vol. 2: 68), Chazon Ish (Sheviis Ch. 15: 7), Even Yisroel (vol. 2, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros Ch. 13: 25), Halichos Even Yisroel (pg. 157 - 158), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 9, footnote 69), Orchos Rabbeinu (new version 5775; vol. 3, pg. 330), Minchas Asher (Sheviis, Tinyana 38), and Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 21). However, if one did not perform Biur on his Shemitta wine on Erev Pesach, according to several poskim he still has what to rely upon to use said wine for the Seder. This is due to the Mishnah’s ambiguous lashon when it states that the Zman Biur for grapes is ‘on Pesach’. Although most understand it to mean Erev Pesach, others, including the Chazon Ish (ibid.) and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah vol. 4, Hilchos Shemittah V’Yovel Ch. 7: 58), understand the Mishnah to mean the first day of Pesach. Another understanding is the last day of Pesach. [Based on this machlokes, some maintain that when performing Biur on Erev Pesach and reacquiring it, one should have in mind not to actually completely acquire it for himself until the last day of Pesach, and up until that point everyone can use it]. Following either of the last two shittos would mean one is still permitted to use the Shemitta wine at the Seder. An additional rationale for leniency is that, technically speaking, after a fruit’s Zman Biur, one may still possess enough of that food for three meal’s worth for him and his family. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l is cited (Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 32: Pesach 27), as maintaining that this would include the Seder itself. However, it is known that the Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu ibid.) was of the opinion that this refers to three regular meals - which would only add up to the amount of three Revi’os of wine - decidedly not sufficient for the Arba Kosos. [He also would personally perform Biur on wine twice - on Erev Pesach, reacquire what he needed for the Seder and first day of Pesach, and then do Biur again on the first day to fulfill his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish’s, opinion as well]. Rav Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher on Sheviis; Tinyana 42) offers an alternate solution and novel approach, utilizing a tziruf to be meikel b’shaas hadchak and hefsed merubah, as there are those, including the Chochmas Adam (Shaarei Tzedek Ch. 19: 5; citing the Chareidim) and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky (Sefer HaShemitta Ch. 9: 10), who hold that b’makom oness, not performing Biur will not prohibit the produce. See also Yalkut Yosef (Sheviis Ch. 22: 2 - 5, 7 & 9; ppg. 479 - 483) who holds similarly, that b’dieved there is what to rely upon that the wine did not become prohibited. Either way, it is certainly preferable to lechatchilla not come into a sheilah.

[12] However, using Kedushas Sheviis wine in Chutz La’aretz hosts an additional set of problems, including that of taking Shemitta produce out of Eretz Yisroel. Although most poskim maintain that b’dieved one may indeed partake of them (although one should be aware that the exporters and importers probably relied upon Hetter Mechirah; which is not a simple proposition, as delineated in previous articles), this is strictly prior to the fruit’s Zman Biur. Otherwise they are assur, but still must be treated with proper Kedushas Sheviis status. This is an important issue to be aware of, and if possessing Shemitta wine in Chutz La’aretz on Erev Pesach, one must ascertain what to do from a knowledgeable halachic authority. These issues were dealt with at length in a previous article titled ‘Shemitta Sheilos:Using Arbah Minimof Sheviis’.

[13] Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 1: 15) and Sefer Dinei Sheviis Hashalem (Ch. 32, Pesach 9 and 12), citing the psakim of Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner and Rav Nissim Karelitz. This is based on Tosafos’ (Pesachim 13a s.v. v’sorfin)explanation of the Gemara’s statement (ad loc.) that on Erev Pesach that falls on Shabbos, on Erev Shabbos they would burn all of thechometz ‘Terumos Tame’os v’Teluyos Tehoros’. There is, however, a minority opinion that holds it is preferable to have this Biur done by a non-Jew.

[14]The institution of Otzar Beis Din and all related issued were discussed at length in previous articles titled ‘Shemitta Sheilos: Using Arbah Minimof Sheviis’. Basically, it is based on the Tosefta that explains that during Shemitta, Beis Din has the right to gather (hefker) Kedushas Sheviis produce to store and distribute it as they see fit in small quantities. Although one may not actually pay for Kedushas Sheviis produce, as it is halachically hefker, and as explained in previous articles, there is an ‘Issur Schoirah’ on business transactions with Shemitta produce. Nonetheless, the Otzar Beis Din workers may get paid for their time and effort as well as distribution costs. However, this means that the price one pays for Otzar Beis Din Kedushas Sheviis produce must be significantly and substantially less than one would generally pay for such produce in an ordinary year. Additionally, such produce may not be bought in the regular manner, but rather acquired (as one is not actually purchasing, but rather receiving a distribution, with payment exclusively reserved for necessary operating costs) on credit or in advance, with no regard to the actual weight or amount of each individual item. Of course, since Otzar Beis Din produce contains Kedushas Sheviis, it must be treated as such, with all of the nuances that entails.

[15] As discussed at length in previous articlesShemitta Basics: ‘Kedushas SheviisProduce’, Shemitta Sheilos: The Case of the Contraband Carrots’, and ‘Using Arbah Minimof Sheviis’.


Rabbi Yehuda Spitz's recent extensive English halacha sefer,
Food: A Halachic Analysis,” (Mosaica/Feldheim)
containing over 500 pages featuring over 30 comprehensive chapters discussing the myriad
halachic issues pertaining to food, is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.

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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