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Q: I recently was in Israel and was told not to eat certain fruits as they were arlah. Is this something that we need to be concern of here in America?
A: Fruits that grow in the first three years after a tree is planted are forbidden to eat and derive benefit from; this mitzvah is known as “arlah”. [The exact determination of when those three years ends is somewhat complicated and beyond the scope of this article.] In Eretz Yisroel there are lists which provide information as to the arlah status of different fruits, and there are some fruits grown there that are essentially not eaten at all due to arlah concerns.
Typically mitzvos that depend on the land are applicable only in the land of Israel but arlah is an exception as it applies worldwide in a somewhat modified form. Outside of Eretz Yisroel, the only fruit which is forbidden is one which is definitely arlah. If there is any doubt as to whether a given fruit is arlah it may be eaten. Accordingly, even if a significant percentage of trees are arlah, once the fruit reaches market it is impossible to identify the specific arlah fruit and therefore all of them are permitted. As a result, essentially the only fruits in chutz la’aretz which are subject to the prohibition of arlah are those that were grown in a home garden where the owner knows which fruits are within their first three years.
The above leniency refers only to fruit that grew in chutz la’aretz. Fruit grown in Israel is subject to the full restrictions of arlah even if one is unsure if the given fruit is arlah and even if that fruit was exported to chutz la’aretz. (Answer by Rabbi Mordechai Millunchick)