What is the proper procedure when purchasing dates from Israel during Shemita? Sometimes I buy them for a parent- should I separate some from each box each time I buy them, before giving the parent the rest? (We are in US)
Thank you for your question.
In general, you may separate terumos, from the fruits of the six year of the shmitta cycle, however it is in your best interest not to buy produce from Israel from what was grow during the shmitta year.
The reason is as follows. During the shmitta year, we are not allowed to work or cultivate the ground of Eretz Yisroel, and indeed many farmers keep shmitta and don’t work their fields. The produce of fields that were cultivated, (called shamur v’neevad- lit. guarded and worked) may not be eaten. Therefore, if the dates are coming from a field, that the owner didn’t keep the halachos, (which is highly probable), the dates should not be eaten. Additionally, any produce that grew during shmitta that has the sanctity of shmitta (called kedushas shviis) upon it, may not be exported to the diaspora. If it was, it is a clear indication that the owner didn’t keep to the halachos, and the dates should not be eaten. This is why it is best to stick away from Israeli produce during shmitta.
The only catch is to determine what produce in indeed from the seventh year. Although working the ground applies from Rosh Hashana until Rosh Hashana of the next year, fruits and vegetable start and end the shmitta year based on different criteria, which will affect the time that Isreali produce has kedusha sheviis. Vegetables, (which need to be watered on a constant basis), are determined when they are picked. Therefore, tomatoes which are picked after this coming Rosh Hashana (5782) will have kedishas shviis, and if they are picked after the next Rosh Hashana (5783), they won’t. Fruit from trees, (except for esrogim) are determined by when they blossom. Regarding dates, any dates that are picked at this point are from the sixth year, and if buy them in the States even in November 2021 or even in June 2022, they will not yet be from the shmitta produce, even if they are picked after Rosh Hashana 5782. The dates that grow during the shmitta year will not get picked until August 2022, and will not reach your area, until a while after that. (Determining when the shmitta dates are no longer being sold in your area is hard to know.) Therefore, for now you don’t have an issue of shmitta with the dates, and you can take off terumos etc. from them, because they are from the sixth year.