- Question: [Wednesday, 27th Menachem Av, 5781]
I live in Eretz Yisrael and would like to plant a non-fruit bearing tree in my garden before the Shemita year, and would like to know until which date I may do so.
In the Halachic borders of Eretz Yisrael, a non-fruit bearing tree may be planted up until 14 days before the start of the Shemita year, which is practically until the 16th of the month of Elul, not including the 16th. While the above is the accepted practice, some Poskim are lenient to permit planting such trees up until Rosh Hashanah, and in a time of need one may be lenient.
Explanation: In times that Shemita had a Biblical status, there was a Biblical positive command to add to the Shemita year by following all the restrictions against working the land beginning thirty days before the official start of the Shemita year. This is known as Tosefes Shevi’is and represents the adding of the Holy to the mundane. However, during times that Shemita is only Rabbinically observed there is no obligation of resting the land thirty days prior to Rosh Hashanah of the Shemita year. However, due to a Rabbinical decree, fruit bearing trees may not be planted past the 16th of Menachem Av, from the 17th and onwards, as in such a case the Shemita year is considered the trees first year regarding Arla. Furthermore, some Poskim learn that it remains forbidden to plant any item prior to Shemita without enough time for the plant to root prior to Shemita. Thus, non-fruit bearing trees, as well as bushes, may not be planted past the 16th of Elul, as it takes two weeks for a tree to take toot into the ground. Now, while there are Poskim who argue on this notion and rule that there is no restriction against planting plants before Rosh Hashanah of the Shemita year, practically, the accepted ruling is as above to initially be careful in this matter, although in a time of need one may be lenient.
Sources: See regarding Tosefes Shevi’is: Mishneh Shevi’is 1:1; 2:1; Rosh Hashanah 9b; Moed Katan 3a-4a; Rambam 3:1; Mitzvas Hashemita Kehilchasa [Goldberg] Chapter 1; Halichos Hashevi’is [Oz Vehadar] 1:1; See regarding fruit bearing trees: Rambam 3:11; Mishneh Shevi’is 2:6; Yoreh Deah 294:4; Rosh Hashanah 9b; See regarding non-fruit bearing trees: Aruch Hashulchan Hasid Zeraim 18:3 [stringent]; Minchas Shlomo 1:48 [stringent]; Chazon Ish Shevi’is 22:5 [lenient]; Sheves Haretz 3:5; Hashemita Kehilchasa 1:9; Mitzvas Hashemita Kehilchasa [Goldberg] 1:9; See Rosh Hashanah 10b; Tosafus Rid Rosh Hashanah 10a; Minchas Chinuch 298:5; 326; Halichos Hashevi’is [Oz Vehadar] 1:1-2