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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. I just learned that arlah (fruit from trees in the first three years after they are planted) is forbidden in chutz la’aretz (mid’oraisah), and it is only because it has some significant leniencies that most people are not even aware of it. My question is that I bought a year-old cherry tree sapling and replanted it in my backyard. Do I start counting the three years from when it was first planted or from when I replanted it?
A. It depends on how it was replanted. If you purchased it “bare root”, or if all the dirt fell off from around the roots during the process, then the 3-year count starts again from when you replanted it. But if the tree was balled, burlapped, or in a pot, the 3-year count start from when the tree was first planted. If the nursery is not sure exactly when the tree was first planted, then – since this is chutz la’aretz – you may follow their earliest estimate of when that occurred.
Some variations of this are that if branches are cut off a tree and planted elsewhere, a new three-year arlah period starts for the sapling. In contrast, if a branch is grafted onto a tree that is more than three years old (מרכיב), it “adopts” the post-arlah status of the host tree. Another form of propagation is where the branch from a tree that is more than three years old is “layered” into and out of the ground (מבריך) and begins to grow as if it is an independent tree. As long as the shoot (new tree) remains attached to the “parent” tree it maintains its post-arlah status, but as soon as that connection is severed the three-year arlah period must be counted once again.
As noted, arlah applies to fruits that grow during the first three years of the tree’s existence, but that time period does not last exactly three years from the day of planting. Rather, the “three years” is calculated based on which part of the (Jewish) calendar they were planted.
The issur of arlah includes all parts of the fruit, including the peels and pits, but not the leaves, sap, or other parts of the tree. Not only may we not eat arlah, but it is even forbidden to have hana’ah (benefit) from it, and it, therefore, cannot be fed to pets. [During the tree’s fourth year, special halachos apply if it is a grape vine.]
This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, May 5, 2023.