We will try to limit this article to Halachot that are relevant to homeowners rather than farmers, so we will generally talk about pots, flowers, balconies, and gardens rather than fields.
There are many Halachot to discuss; This will not be a complete article, but we will try to touch on many relevant Halachot.
Before we talk about the garden, let’s talk about the Shemitta in the house.
First of all, how about planting something inside your home?
Let’s review the pesukim . In Parashat Behar (Vaikra 25: 2-4) the Torah says:
ושבתה הארץ שבת לה ‘… שדך לא תזרע וכו’
“The land will be given a rest for Hashem … You cannot sow your field.”
The Gemara in Yerushalmi Orlah (1: 2) raises a question: The Torah mentioned your field, so perhaps Shemitta’s issurim would not apply to the interior of your home; but on the other hand, the pasuk said before, “the earth will have a rest” – and your house is part of the earth?
The Yerushalmi does not answer this question. Because it is a safek, although some poskim are forgiving, the Chazon Ish is strict.
But even in your home, what is “the earth” called?
Let's talk about pot plants - עציצים
There are two types of pot plants to consider, those with a hole (עציץ נקוב) and those without a hole (עציץ שאינו נקוב).
A hole for these purposes means one millimeter in diameter (rule of Rav Chaim Kanievski and Rav Elyashiv).
If the walls of a pot can be penetrated by roots, it is considered perforated.
Even if a pot with a hole is inside the house, under the roof and certainly if it is in a greenhouse, it is not allowed to plant in it for any purpose, as planting in the ground is considered.
A pot without a hole that is inside should not be taken outside or onto an open balcony, as it is a Toladah of the Melacha to plant to make it grow more.
Rav Elyashiv wrote that it is also Assur to open a window in front of a flower pot if there was an immediate benefit to the plant.
And if a pot is fixed to the ground or wall of a house, it is considered connected to them and therefore considered planted in the ground.
if there is a pot with a hole that is suspended above the ground, it is considered to be connected to the ground (since Chazal tells us that the nutrients pass through the air).
One must be careful not to lift or lower a pot with a hole, since any change in its Yenikah, that is, its extraction of nutrients is prohibited. It should not be dragged from one place to another (you should take this into account when cleaning the house or rearranging furniture) and again, if the pot is suspended in the air, you should not walk under it.
If you move home, you should ask a Rav how to move your pot plants.
Rav Bentzion Abba Shaul even talks about a pot with a hole that is on a balcony: is it allowed to walk under the balcony? Since the plant receives nutrients through the air, by walking underneath, perhaps it is doing two Melachot: take off and then plant? But don’t worry, he writes that it is allowed.
Just a word about flowers
if you bought flowers that were grown in Shemitta in a permitted way or that grew before Shemitta, you can put them in water in a vase or pot without a hole inside the house, to prevent the flowers from dying or even make the petals open.
Let’s briefly analyze a theme that occurs in some places in Eretz Yisrael. Suppose you live in a building with non-religious neighbors and they are doing Sheviit Issurei Torah in the shared garden, what can be done?
First of all, try to convince them to comply with the Shemitta. If that doesn’t work, you need to declare your part of the Hefker garden (no owner) in front of three people. Rabbi SZ Auerbach rules that it is permissible to pay the monthly fee of the Vaad Bayit, although it includes the expenses of gardening (for such prohibited activities during the Shemittah). The reason for this is that the payment of this fee is a legal obligation, so it is not necessarily considered part of prohibited actions.
Some say that you must pay the money for the Vaad Bayit b’havlaah, which means that you must make sure that your money goes to other expenses as well.
And a word about renting your property: if you want to rent a house with a garden to someone else, Rav SZ Auerbach writes that he must stipulate in the contract that Melachot cannot be made in the garden during Shemitta.
Now that we are out in the garden, let’s talk about the lawn first: the two main questions are about mowing and watering the lawn …
Mowing the lawn:
1) to improve it (since the grass will spread over the entire area) and 2) for its appearance: short grass looks clean.
If it is to improve, it is forbidden to cut the grass.
If it is because of his appearance and the viewers are clear that this is his only intention, For example. If the grass is tall and seems too big and ugly, you should ask a Rabbi, as it could depend on other factors.
It is allowed to cut the corners of the lawn as the purpose is to maintain the existing appearance of the lawn and not to initiate new growth.
Watering is allowed to avoid visible damage to plants, so the minimum amount and frequency should be used.
This would also mean that, in winter, if there is enough rain, the watering would be forbidden .
Some say that it is better to use a sprinkler system than watering by hand as you are doing an act of turning on the system, rather than a constant act of watering.
When washing your floor, ideally, do not allow the water to spill into the garden, unless the water contains detergent or some other chemical that could harm the plants instead of enhancing them.
And as for the watering of plants, shrubs, etc.
It is allowed to water a field that needs more than rainwater and the crops would be ruined if you don’t.
As we mentioned earlier, only then is it allowed to water as necessary, both in quantity and in area. So if only part of the field needs water, you cannot irrigate the entire field.
There is a discussion in the poskim about the use of a computerized water system that was pre-programmed before Shemitta. The discussion is really about the Mitzvah of “VeShavtah HaAretz”; some say that even in this way, you are denying that Mitzvah and others say that it is allowed because the act (of programming) was not performed in Shemitta. But again, you have to worry about the viewers, so if it looks like you have turned on the sprinklers in Shemitta, it will be forbidden even according to the lenient opinion.
I would assume this is what the municipalities rely on when you see the sprinklers working in Shemitta.
It is allowed to water them to keep them alive, but not to make them grow more. Since roses can be easily dehydrated, they can be watered to prevent them from dying.
On the other hand, it is not allowed to prune roses, as it stimulates growth.
It is mutated to collect roses during Shemitta to use them for decorative purposes, even though it will cause growth. The collection should be done unusually, for example, Cut them to a different length than usual.
If you are pruning to maintain the existing shape of the tree or shrub, it is allowed, if the plant is mature enough that the pruning does not cause new growth.
For this reason, it is permissible to prune a fence with branches. However, it is forbidden to prune young branches, since pruning starts the growth of new branches that fill the gaps.
It is to allowed prune in the following cases:
Branches sticking out to the side or on sidewalks that disturb passersby or grow near power lines; dead or diseased branches; cut out the arba minim (hadasim, aravot, and lulavim) and sechach for a sukkah.
But it should also be clear that the purpose is not to facilitate the growth of the tree.
Is it allowed to trim a bush around a property?
Unlike regular trimming that is done to increase tree growth, a shrub is trimmed to keep its appearance neat, rather than grow. Therefore, according to many Poskim, it is allowed in Sheviit.
However, some Poskim still see it as the Melacha of Zomer and it can only be performed in a way that makes it clear that you are not trying to improve the tree.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch, May Hashem send him Refuah Shelemah, concludes (שביעית כהלכתה פרק א ‘סע‘ יוא עמוד לא) that therefore it is correct to make a change, cutting only a small amount, thus showing that he is simply trying to prevent the bush from growing too large, you should also use a different tool than usual.
First of all, it is forbidden to plant seeds indoors during the Shemittah. It is also forbidden to plant seeds outside, in pots completely disconnected from the ground. However, the Chazon Ish wrote that when both situations are combined (sowing takes place indoors, in a pot disconnected from the ground) sowing is allowed.
This psak brought, according to most of Poskim, the possibility of hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants in a solution of mineral nutrients contained in containers rather than in the soil. They do not have Kedushat Sheviit and they do not have the forbidden Sefichim.
This article is based to an article by Rav Wigoda.
Written and edited by Hanna Bachar.
Together with the kind help of the contributors of our community of Beit Shemesh
May Hashem gives you beracha in this “New Year”.
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