Buying a Shemita Esrog

Ask the Rov: Can I buy an esrog from Eretz Yisroel that grew during Shemita?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

Even after the Shemita year concludes, any produce grown during Shemita still has kedushas shvi’is and must be treated accordingly.

When it comes to daled minim grown in Eretz Yisroel, the lulav and aravos do not ever have kedushas shvi’is according to most poskim since they are not meant for eating or smell.1 Hadasim, on the other hand, are grown for smell, and may be similar to flowers that are made for scent which do have kedushas shvi’is. Yet, many poskim note that if they were harvested for the mitzva, they have a different status since mitzvos aren’t meant for pleasure, and they don’t have kedushas shvi’is. This is the accepted practice.2

The esrog is a fruit and therefore it has kedushas shvi’is.3 Produce with kedushas shvi’is may not be discarded. Thus, after Sukkos in Eretz Yisroel, one should either eat the esrog or dispose of it in a respectable way after it becomes dried out. If consumed, it must be before zman habiur – the time when it is no longer found in the wild – which is Rosh Chodesh Shevat.

Fruits with kedushas shvi’is are hefker for all and one is not allowed to trade it or do business with them.4 (There is a way for them to be sold for the cost of harvesting them, known as Otzar Beis Din.)

What about taking the esrog out of Eretz Yisroel?

Chazal decreed that one may not take Shemita produce out of Eretz Yisroel — to prevent one from doing business with it or mixing it with other fruit — and even if it was taken out, its sanctity remains.5 Though not the mainstream halacha, there is a view that fruit taken out should be returned to be consumed in Eretz Yisroel.6

Some poskim rule that esrogim may be taken out for private use but not for selling. Other poskim allow even importing for sale due to the need for esrogim and since the seller’s parnassa depends on this. An additional basis for heter is if the surplus of esrogim in Eretz Yisroel would go to waste and get ruined.7 In 5726, the Rebbe wrote that the ruling on this matter belongs to the rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel who are familiar with these halachos.8

This is all with regards to esrogim that were grown permissibly (without being guarded or worked upon in a forbidden manner). If they were grown in a forbidden manner, they may not be used.9

Though the Rebbe would normally have an esrog from Eretz Yisroel in addition to his Yanover one, on the year following Shemita they wouldn’t bring the Rebbe an esrog from Eretz Yisroel due to the above concerns.10

See Sources (open PDF)

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