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Fruit Tree Mitzvos


What is orlah? What is netah reva’i? Are these prohibitions relevant nowadays? How do we treat orla and neta revai fruits? When is it forbidden to eat fruits grown in a private backyard? When is a prohibition dependent upon one’s awareness? Is orlah practiced outside of Israel? How is orla different in Israel and outside the Holy Land? Why was there no issue of orlah in ancient times? Why is orlah so prevalent nowadays? Why do nurseries require kashrus certification? What is the difference between regular kosher and mehadrin nurseries? When can a mature tree revert back to be orlah? What are the differences between the botanical age of the tree and its halachic age?

Orlah – Fruit of the First Three Years

In this week’s parasha, we learn of the mitzva of orlah. At first glance, city-dwellers might assume this agriculture-related mitzva is irrelevant. Indeed, in our day-to-day lives, we don’t meet the opportunity to keep this mitzva often, especially for those living outside Israel. However, precisely for this reason, we may not be aware of the scenarios in which we do encounter issues of orlah. In absence of awareness, we may unwittingly transgress the prohibitions involved. We must study these laws so we can recognize the situations where this law applies.

The Mitzva of Orlah

For the first three years of any tree’s life, consumption and benefiting from its fruits is forbidden, and the yield must be destroyed. Only from the fourth year onwards is the fruit permitted. [In the fourth year, the fruit is called “netah reva’i”, the laws of which will be detailed below].

According to most halachic authorities (Derech Emunah, Terumos, Chapter 1; Minachas Shlomo, 70:4), the prohibition of orlah is Biblical, even nowadays.

Botanical vs. Halachic Species and Age

How do we determine a tree’s age for orlah? The halachic age of a tree can be very different from its botanical age, but before we determine the age of a tree, we must first determine what is considered a tree. Not everything that classified botanically as a tree or fruit necessarily qualifies halachically as such. Conversely, there are plants botanically classified as vegetables, but halachically considered trees and fruits.

Halachically, anything on which we recite the blessing “Borei Pri Ha’etz” is subject to the laws of orlah and classified as a tree, while anything on which we recite the blessing “Borei Pri Ha’adama”, is not. However, there are several types of produce about which we are uncertain of their halachic classification, and due to the doubt, we recite the blessing of “Borei Pri Ha’adama” on the fruit. Here, the question arises: if there is doubt on a species, are the orlah fruits permitted?

A case in point is the papaya tree. While botanically considered a tree, its status is halachically unclear (for various reasons) and therefore, might be subject to the halachos of orlah (practically, in Israel the papaya is subject to the laws of orlah).

Netah Revai

Another commandment that only applies to fruits of the land of Israel, is the mitzva of neta revai. In the fourth year of a tree’s life, its fruit is netah revai – plants of the fourth year, which must be consumed in a state of ritual purity, within the designated areas of ancient Jerusalem sanctified by the Sanhedrin. If desired, the fruits can be exchanged for money, and the money becomes sanctified. Then, the money must be brought to Jerusalem, and exchanged for food which must be consumed in purity in Jerusalem. Once every three years — on Erev Pesach of the fourth year and Erev Pesach of the Shemitta year — all remaining neta revai fruit or money must be destroyed.

Nowadays, since we cannot eat this sanctified produce due to our impurity, we exchange them for money. Ideally, neta revai fruit should be exchanged for money of the same value. However, retroactively, fruit exchanged for even the smallest coin – a pruta — the fruit is no longer sanctified and can be consumed like any other. Even fruits worth millions of dollars — once exchanged for a prutah [an ancient copper coin worth 1/40 gram of silver – 0.025 grams of silver], has transferred the sanctity. Today, since the fruit cannot be consumed, all fruit is exchanged for a prutah. Some are stringent to do so for 1.25 prutahs.

How is this done nowadays? There are two options: one is to take a small coin worth 1.25 prutahs and redeem the neta revai, then destroy the coin. Alternatively, one can use a larger coin, and redeem a prutah and a quarter’s worth from it on numerous occasions, until the coin is full.

For example, the value of the pruta published in April, 2024 is: 1 pruta = NIS 0.13. Therefore, on a coin worth NIS 10 one can exchange fruit 76 times, or 61 times (according to the stringent opinions requiring 1.25 prutas). The smallest coin that contains a pruta in Israel is a NIS 0.50 coin. In USD, a pruta is worth approximately 4c.

For regular updates on the halachic values of money, and other practical laws of agriculture, please check the Beit Midrash Gavoha For Halacha in Agricultural Settlements’ website ( or call 026488888.

Trees in Israel and Trees Abroad

The mitzva of orlah contains a fascinating and unique element, different from all other Torah laws: while the prohibition of orlah as it appears in the Torah applies only to trees that grew in the Land of Israel, Halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai dictates that the prohibition of orlah applies also to trees growing abroad. However, in cases of doubt, orlah fruit grown outside Israel may be consumed, l’chatchila.

Orlah Outside Israel

Orlah is singular in that while all fruit, both in Israel and abroad, cannot be consumed for the first three years, but outside Israel — if the status of the fruit is unknown, the fruit is permitted. Even fruit that is highly likely to be orlah, as long as it is not specifically known to be orlah, consuming it is permitted.

Therefore, outside Israel, if a vendor sits outside an orlah vineyard selling grapes, as long as they are not known explicitly to originate from that vineyard, eating them is halachically permitted.

Moreover, abroad, one is permitted to give fruit he knows is orlah to another Jew to eat. The Gemara (Kiddushin 39b) recounts that the amora Levi said to his contemporary, Shmuel, “When you have orlah fruits that grew in Babylon, give them to me without telling me that they are orlah so that I can eat them.” As long as one doesn’t know fruit is orlah, eating it is permitted.

In another case, two other Babylonian Amoraim, Rav Avya and Rabba bar Rav Chanan, had a fixed practice of giving each other the fruits of their orlah trees without informing each other that it was orlah. As long as they were unaware of the fruits’ status, even if there were reasonable doubts or suspicions, there was no reason to refrain from eating these fruits.

Orlah Nowadays

The laws of orlah nowadays can be divided into two different considerations: eating fruits directly from fruit trees, and purchasing fruit in markets. We will focus on each of these issues separately.

Orlah in Ancient Times

In ancient times, orlah was uncommon. Even grapevines, which typically yield fruit at a young age, produce lower quality fruit at this stage which is unsuitable for winemaking. Therefore, in the past, orlah was usually not a concern.

Mention of orlah-concerns appear in halachic writing in the Pischei Teshuvah (Bava Metzia 103) (over 150 years ago) where he mentions that orlah fruit were common in Poland. Even the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 127:17) discusses how it is permitted to buy grapes from vineyards owned by non-Jews when they are known to have new plantings or grafts [one of the ways to grow a new tree is to take a branch from an old tree, bend it into the soil, and pull it out at another spot. Then, after the branch takes root and yields fruit, it is considered planted anew, and three years must be counted again].

Abroad, we are lenient regarding these questionable planting methods, however, in Israel, we rule stringently.

Orlah Nowadays

Agriculture practices nowadays have changed significantly, demanding awareness of various issues.

In ancient times, the farmer would sow a seed or plant a cutting in his field, nurturing the sapling until it grew. This method had two major drawbacks: First, while the field might be ideal for nurturing mature trees, is not always the best place to grow tender saplings. Secondly, not all farmers are skilled in nurturing young saplings. The third consideration is the time it takes for the saplings to mature into fruit bearing trees. Due to these three considerations, modern agriculture split the process of growing fruit trees into two. Tender saplings are grown in specialized nurseries with carefully monitored weather conditions, protection from diseases, pests, etc. Only when the sapling matures is it transferred to the regular orchard.

This arrangement is the most economical, but presents a complex halachic issue because transferring a tree from one place to another is often halachically equal to replanting. Even if the tree’s botanical age and yield is equal to a 4–5-year-old tree, it is considered a newborn, requiring a new counting of three years of orlah. As a result, the prevalence of orlah in fruit increased tremendously.

This issue also applies to private yards where people prefer buying mature saplings. If no steps have been taken to avoid issues of orlah, one is required to wait several years before enjoying the fruit of the tree, even if the tree is botanically old enough, and yields fruit.


Why is replanting a tree considered a new planting?

The Mishnah (Orlah 1:3) states that if a mature tree is uprooted and replanted in the ground without its soil, although it can survive, the years of orlah must be counted again. Despite the tree’s botanical age, it is halachically considered a sapling because it was uprooted and replanted.

A tree that was uprooted with enough soil to enable its survival, does not require restarting counting the orlah years, and the tree’s halachic age is the same as its current age.

The Chazon Ish (Yoreh De’ah 2:162) debates how much soil is necessary for the tree not to be considered uprooted. Should it be soil enough for it to survive for a few days, or does it need to be enough to sustain the tree for three years?

The Chazon Ish and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo, Volume I, Chapter 69) rule that this issue must be resolved by expert agronomists. If the tree consistently showed signs of vitality until it took root in the new soil (approximately 14 days after replanting), there is no need to restart counting the years of orlah. However, if the tree initially exhibited minimal or diminished signs of life and ceased growing, only to resume after taking root in the new soil, the amount of soil accompanying the tree was insufficient, and it is considered a new tree, requiring a new count of the orlah years.

Potted Trees

Are trees that grew in a sealed planter considered uprooted when replanted in the ground, requiring recounting of the orlah years?

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, (Kerem Tzion 7:2) holds that replanting this kind of tree in the ground or in a perforated planter requires recounting of the orlah years. However, Rabbi Yisrael Zalman Melzer (Kerem Zion Pri Hilulim p. 94) opines that there is no need to restart the counting of the orlah years. The Chazon Ish (Orlah 2:13) expressed uncertainty regarding this halachic ruling, leaning towards permitting it. However, in practice, he seemed to still consider it a halachic uncertainty.

Other Orlah Issues

There are various other issues that can affect the orlah years of a tree. For example: Is a tree that grew in soil encased in plastic sheeting (for protection) considered a potted plant, or is it considered in the ground, since the roots will eventually tear the bag? What size hole must the planter have to be considered unpotted? Can transporting a potted plant over an unpaved road [unsuitable for planting] have effect on a potted tree?

Kashrus agencies, responsible for minimizing the orlah in the markets, rely upon the most lenient opinions to save the Jewish people from transgressing the prohibition of orlah. However, mahadrin nurseries, that wish to appeal to consumers with higher standards of kashrus, follow more stringent opinions on these and other issues, and give specific instructions on planting and replanting trees.


In Israel, private yards and orchards necessitate awareness of the issues of orlah. It is advisable to purchase fruit trees from a reputable nursery, and ensure they are replanted by a halachically competent gardener. Alternatively, one can wait the required 3 years before enjoying the produce.

Before buying a fruit tree, it is advisable to contact the certifying agency to understand the level of certification involved, as well as to receive guidance on transporting and replanting the tree without it being considered uprooted and replanted.

Outside of Israel there is almost always doubts involved in replanting, and one can count the orlah years from the nursery. However, it is necessary to accurately determine the planting date. [If this cannot be determined, according to the Shivas Tzion (Chapter 49), it is considered safek orlah, which is permitted abroad].

Fruits outside of Israel or imported to Israel from abroad have no concern of orlah. However, fruits grown in Israel might involve orlah concerns. Next week, we will explain the various issues involved, as well as and when it is advisable to plant trees, and which species have orlah concerns.


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