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Q&A From the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

Forbidden Fruit?

Rav Aryeh Finkel

August 12, 2021

Q I purchased a small blueberry bush with small clusters of berries to plant in my yard. Does this present an orlah problem?

The Mishnah (Kidushin 37a) states that unlike other agricultural mitzvos, orlah (the prohibition to eat the fruits of a tree in its first three years) applies even in chutz la’aretz (the Diaspora), regardless of whether a Jew or a non-Jew planted the tree (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 294:8). But orlah, as we shall soon see, is subject to certain leniencies in chutz la’aretz.

Orlah applies only to the fruits of an eitz (“tree”). An eitz is defined as a plant whose branches survive the winter and continue producing fruit the next season (see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 203:1 and Mishnah Brurah). A blueberry bush meets this definition, so it is subject to orlah.

Blueberries, like most berries, are usually cultivated by propagating small shoots cut from a mature bush. Although these cuttings are taken from fully grown plants, they are considered new trees and are subject to a new orlah count (Y.D. ibid. 16). Some cultivators propagate cuttings up to 36 inches long; such shoots can produce fruit within their first three years. Still, one may assume that many of the bushes are not sold until they mature for a few years. Because you don’t know the age of your bush, it is only safek (questionable) orlah, which is permitted in chutz la’aretz (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 9 and Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:186). And although you replanted the tree, that doesn’t restart its three-year count if the root ball remained buried in its soil, which is usually the case (Y.D. ibid. 19).


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