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How long must a tree be left to grow before harvesting its fruits?

How long must a tree be left to grow before harvesting its fruits?

E-mail

Your innocent question is actually quite complicated. I'll try to make this as concise as possible -- so bear with me!

First the biblical source (Leviticus 19:23-25):

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you for three years, not to be eaten. And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the L-rd. And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.

We are forbidden to eat the fruits1 which grow upon a tree during the first three years after its planting.

These fruit are called "orlah."

The fruit of the fourth year on a tree grown in Israel was brought to Jerusalem to be eaten there by its owners. The owner was permitted to do as he pleased with the fruit of the fifth year.

The prohibition of eating the fruit of the first three years applies no matter where the fruit was grown. There are however, a few Halachic differences between the fruits of these years grown in Israel, and those grown outside of Israel. Most notably amongst these differences is that fruit grown outside of Israel is only forbidden to eat if one is certain that it is orlah, whereas in Israel it is forbidden to eat a fruit whose orlah status is in doubt.2

Outside of the land of Israel, the laws of the fourth year only apply to the fruits of the vineyard.

The fruits of the fourth year can only be eaten by someone who is ritually pure. Since we are all considered ritually impure, and today we do not have the means necessary for purification, instead of bringing them to Jerusalem, we "transfer" the holiness of these fruits to (a small amount of) money, and we discard that money.

The three years are not always complete, depending on when the tree was planted. This is where Tu b'Shevat plays a role, see Tu B'Shevat Q&A.

For more about orlah, click here.

All the best,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

FOOTNOTES
1.

All of these laws apply only to fruit trees. Certain "fruit" -- such as bananas and pineapples -- grow on trees which halachically are not considered to be trees.

2.

This is one of the reasons why it is important to only purchase produce grown in the Holy Land which has reliable kosher certification.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (7)
September 12, 2013
bananas question moshe galapo
Why is banana adama if it grows on trees I'm really curious thanks shana tova gmar chatima tova and shabbat shalom : )
moshe galapo
queens ny
October 30, 2011
Orlah outside of Israel
Doesn't orlah apply to all fruit trees outside of Israel. not only grapevines?
Anonymous
west bloomfield, MI
June 20, 2009
Pineapple Trees?
Footnote # 1 states: "Certain "fruit" -- such as bananas and pineapples -- grow on trees which halachically are not considered to be trees."
However pineapples do not grow on trees at all, they grow in the field, similarly to a head of cabbage or lettuce.
Schooldaze
Navajo Nation
August 29, 2008
Harvesting vs. Eating
Not only are we not allowed to eat fruits of orlah, we can't even derive any benefit from them. So there's really no reason you would want to harvest them. Thus, you really shouldn't give Rabbi Davidson a hard time.
SAS
February 12, 2007
eating or harvesting
Dear Rabbi,
it is of some importance to notice the wording of ones question, before answering it, lest you mislead the questioner.
"harvesting" and "eating" are not the same thing. in fact Halachicly speaking, I think they are quite different.
zalmy
bklyn, ny
February 12, 2007
Author's Response:
If a tree is transplanted, we must wait an additional three years before we can eat its fruit.
An exception would be if the tree was moved together with the earth around it (enough for it to continue growing without being placed in the ground), in which case the additional three year prohibition does not apply.
Rabbi B. Davidson
February 12, 2007
determining the years
Is a transplanted tree three year old tree subject to the three year interpretation a second time?
Kamillia
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