The Forbidden Fruits

In some ways it is easier to keep kosher in Israel. In other ways it is much easier to keep kosher outside of Israel.

With kosher restaurants in abundance in cities like Jerusalem, you almost don’t have to think twice about the laws of Kashrut. However, when shopping for fruits and vegetables there are many factors relating to Mitzvot Hatluyot Ba’Aretz, Mitzvot that only apply in the Land of Israel that must be considered such as: Was it grown during a Shmitta (Sabbatical) year? Is it Orlah (fruit of the trees first three years)? Were Terumot and Maasrot (tithes) taken?

As one student from the United States told me when she came to Israel during the Shmitta (Sabbatical) year “at least outside of Israel you can count on the fruits and vegetables always being kosher”.

In Israel you actually need kosher certification for your produce!

“When you enter the Land and you will plant any food-bearing tree, you shall regard its fruit as closed off (v’araltem arlato). For three years it will be closed off to you (arelim) it shall not be eaten. On the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be holy upon which to say praises to God. On the fifth year, you may eat its fruit, so that it will increase its produce for you. I am HaShem your God”.  –Vayikra, Kedoshim 19:23-25

Ramban explains that the fruit of the first three years (Orlah) is not fit to be brought up to God since it is small and doesn’t have much flavor and therefore we wait until the fourth year. He adds that it may actually be harmful to the body as well.

If the fruits of the first three years are not fit to be eaten anyway, why is the Torah worried about people wanting to eat them?

According to the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, magicians and sorcerers tried to practice witchcraft at the time of the planting of the trees thinking that by doing so they would accelerate the coming out of the fruits before their natural time and when the fruits appeared, they would offer them to the idol. Therefore, the Torah commanded that the fruits which come out before three years should be forbidden in order that people should not come to practice these evil deeds.

Enjoy all that Israel has to offer, just stay away from the forbidden fruits!