Home – Laws of Religion, Judaism and Islam

Next – 12.  Intoxicating Drinks

Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

Index – Food Laws of Judaism and Islam

 

 

Laws of Religion

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

11.  Restrictions on Crops

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

The Lord tells the Israelites that when they come into the land (meaning the Land of Israel, which the Lord has given them) and plant trees, they cannot eat the fruit from those trees for the first three years. The fruit in the fourth year is holy and used to praise God. Only in the fifth year can the Israelites begin eating the fruit.[1]

 

The Israelites are forbidden from eating bread or parched grain or green ears of the new harvest until the Passover offering is made.[2]

 

The Israelites may not sow or harvest crops, or prune or pick grapes from their vines, every seventh year.[3] The poor and animals are to eat from what grows in the seventh year[4] though the produce of the land in the seventh year is also to provide for the owner and his slaves, employees and animals as well as any strangers that live with him.[5] Since sowing seed in the seventh year is prohibited, there will be no harvest in the eighth year either, so the Israelites must wait until the ninth year to harvest.[6] The Lord says that he will provide a sufficient harvest in the sixth year to last three years, so that there will be food to eat in the seventh and eight years.[7]

 

Similarly, the 50th year is the Jubilee year during which sowing and reaping of crops are prohibited.[8] However, it is permitted to eat what grows in the Jubilee year.[9]

 

It is forbidden to sow a field with seeds of different kinds.[10] Specifically, planting different kinds of seed in a vineyard will defile all the produce of the vineyard.[11] (Editor’s note: This is but one example of the rules against mixing things, which include the prohibitions against plowing with an ox and a donkey together or wearing a garment of mixed material, such as wool and linen.[12])

 

 

Restrictions on Crops

Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

Contents

First three years’ fruit

Eating from the new harvest

Sabbatical year

Jubilee year

Mixed plantings

 

First three years’ fruit.  The prohibition in the Torah (Leviticus 19:23, cited above) against eating fruit from trees in the first three years (‘orlah) refers only to the Land of Israel.[13] Even fruit from trees planted by heathens after the arrival of the Israelites in the Land of Israel is subject to the prohibition against eating for three years following the planting of a tree.[14] Maimonides describes the precise way, depending on the time of year of planting of a tree, that the time of expiration of the three year period is to be determined.[15] The punishment for eating a quantity of fruit of the first three years the size of an olive is flogging.[16] Fruits of the first three years were to be burned and the juices of such fruits were to be buried.[17] Although not stated in the Torah, it was revealed to Moses at Sinai that eating fruit known to be from trees in the first three years is also forbidden outside the Land of Israel,[18] so the punishment outside the Land of Israel is a flogging for disobedience.[19] However, if fruit may be from the first three years but a person does not actually see the fruit being harvested, then it is considered as doubtful and is permissible for eating if outside of the Land of Israel, but not in the Land of Israel.[20]

 

Fourth year’s fruit is discussed on a following page, Offerings of Food.

 

Eating from the new harvest.  The prohibition in the Torah against eating bread or parched grain or green ears of the new harvest until the offering is made during Passover (Leviticus 23:14, cited above) applies at all times, whether or not the Temple (in Jerusalem) exists, and in all places, both in the Land Israel and outside of it. Violating this prohibition by eating a quantity of new grain the size of an olive incurs a flogging.[21] Violating the prohibition by eating an olive’s bulk of all three of the forbidden foods is punishable by a triple flogging.[22]

 

Sabbatical year.  The prohibitions in the Torah against tending to crops and to the fruits of the vineyard every seven years is applicable at all times, whether or not the Temple in Jerusalem exists,[23] but only applies in the Land of Israel.[24] A number of actions during a seventh (Sabbatical) year are punishable by flogging: sowing, pruning and harvesting grain or fruit.[25] Other types of field work during a Sabbatical year are punishable by flogging for disobedience, including plowing to improve the soil, clearing stones, killing worms or dispersing birds to protect the a tree or its fruit, spreading manure and grafting or planting a tree – even a tree that does not bear fruit.[26] Plowing or spreading manure in a field or even just permitting the cattle drop manure in it during the Sabbatical year is punishable by a fine and the person who does this may not seed that field even in the eighth year.[27] However, necessary watering of a field, vineyard or orchard is permitted to keep the trees from dying.[28] Also, since heathen kings may inflict violence if they are not obeyed, it is permitted to plant in the Sabbatical year to provide for the servants of the king.[29]

 

While the Torah indicates in one passage (Leviticus 25:6, cited above) that harvesting (by the owner) is permitted during a Sabbatical year, such harvesting is limited to produce resulting from seed dropped the previous year or roots that are producing again after their yield has already been harvested.[30] However, in order to prevent people from harvesting crops that they planted while claiming falsely that they did not plant the crops, Scribal rulings, based on the Oral Law*, prohibit the harvesting even of crops of these types.[31] Nevertheless, it is still permitted during the Sabbatical year to harvest fruit from trees and herbs of types that are not normally planted[32] or what grows in an uncultivated field or in a field that has been prepared for growing grapes.[33]

 

Since the laws concerning the Sabbatical year do not apply to heathens, it is permitted to eat what was planted in the Sabbatical year on land owned by a heathen in the Land of Israel.[34] Also, Sabbatical year produce may be imported from outside the Land of Israel.[35]

 

During the Sabbatical year, fields and vineyards must be left open and unfenced so that anyone can partake of what is produced, as the Torah (Exodus 23:11, cited above) says that it is for the poor.[36]

 

Jubilee year.  The year following seven Sabbatical cycles was the Jubilee year. Thus it was the fiftieth year, during which the Sabbatical cycle was suspended, to be resumed in the fifty-first year.[37] The farming restrictions of the Sabbatical year also applied in the Jubilee year[38] (resulting in two consecutive years of such restrictions). The Jubilee year is only in effect when each tribe of Israel is on its own land and thus has not been in effect since the exile of the tribes of Israel began[39] (over 2700 years ago). Jubilee years will again be counted when the Jews settle the land of Israel for the third time.[40] (Editor’s note: The requirement for counting the Jubilee years, that each tribe be in its own land in the Land of Israel, occurred in the past only during the time of the first settlement of Israel. It will, according to Maimonides, only occur again after the third settlement. The ending of first settlement of the land of Israel began with the Assyrian conquest in the 8th century B.C. and was completed with the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C. Maimonides’ reference to the third settlement of the land of Israel means the repopulation of the Land of Israel by all Jews at the time of the coming of the Messiah.[41] He is not referring to the third settlement of Palestine/Israel by many, but not all, Jews which occurred in the 20th century).

 

Mixed plantings.  Sowing a vineyard with different kinds of seeds, which is prohibited by the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:9, cited above), refers to any grain or vegetable growing together with the vine. If this happens, neither may be eaten or used for any benefit (such as giving or selling to a non-Jew).[42] The prohibition against different kinds of seeds in a vineyard applies only in the Land of Israel according to the Torah, but was extended by the Scribes, based on the Oral Law*, to include all places.[43] Eating a quantity of grapes or other crop or both from a planting of different kinds of seeds in a vineyard that, in total, equals the size of an olive is punishable by flogging only in the Land of Israel since the Torah prohibition applies only there.[44] Whatever grew from seeds of different kinds in the vineyard was to be burned.[45] The same prohibition on eating, but not on planting, applies outside of the Land of Israel on the authority of the Scribes, based on the Oral Law[46], so violation there incurs a flogging for disobedience.[47] However, if the crop may be from a planting of different kinds of seeds in a vineyard but a person does not actually see the crop being picked in the mixed field and sold, its status is considered doubtful and it may be eaten if outside the Land of Israel, but not within the Land of Israel.[48]

 

The more general prohibition in the Torah against mixing seeds (Leviticus 19:19, cited above), not referring specifically to vineyards, applies only in the Land of Israel, where violation is punishable by flogging. By tradition, this prohibition against mixing seeds is not applicable outside the Land of Israel[49] This prohibition refers only to edible plants.[50] The prohibition includes grafting of different types of trees or grafting of vegetables and trees, and such grafting in any place, not just in the Land of Israel, is punishable by flogging.[51] However, eating produce from fields planted with mixed seeds or from grafted trees is permitted, though the growing of such food is not.[52]

 

________________

 

*The Oral Law and the Written Law are explained on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 13, 2012

 

Home – Laws of Religion, Judaism and Islam

Next – 12.  Intoxicating Drinks

Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

Index – Food Laws of Judaism and Islam

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.

Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.

Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.

Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.

Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here. (Book 10, the Book of Cleanness, has not been published by Moznaim.)

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] Lev 19:23-25

[2] Lev 23:14

[3] Exod 23:10-11, Lev 25:3-5, Lev 25:20

[4] Exod 23:10-11

[5] Lev 25:6-7

[6] Lev 25:22

[7] Lev 25:20-22

[8] Lev 25:11

[9] Lev 25:12

[10] Lev 19:19

[11] Deut 22:9

[12] Deut 22:10-11

[13] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 10 (pages 390M 204Y)

[14] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 5 on Second Tithe and Fourth Year’s Fruit, Ma’aser Sheni V’Neta Reva’i; Chapter 10, sec 9 (pages 586M 281Y)

[15] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 5 on Second Tithe and Fourth Year’s Fruit, Ma’aser Sheni V’Neta Reva’i; Chapter 9, secs 10-12 (pages 580-582M 278-279Y)

[16] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 9 (pages 390M 204Y)

[17] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 7 on Hallowed Offerings Rendered Unfit, Pesulei HaMukdashim; Chapter 19, sec 10 (pages 786-788M 382Y)

[18] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 10 (pages 390M 204Y)

[19] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 21 (pages 396M 207Y)

[20] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, secs 11-12 (pages 390M 204Y)

[21] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 2 (pages 386M 202Y)

[22] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 3 (pages 386-388M 202Y)

[23] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 3, secs 1, 9, 11 (pages 734M 357Y, 736-738M 358Y, 738M 359Y); MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 25 (pages 750M 364Y)

[24] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 25 (pages 750M 364Y)

[25] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 1, secs 1-3 (pages 718M 350Y)

[26] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 1, secs 4-5 (pages 718-720M 350-351Y)

[27] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 1, sec 13 (pages 722M 352Y)

[28] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 1, secs 8-10 (pages 720-722M 351-352Y)

[29] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 1, sec 11 (pages 722M 352Y)

[30] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 1 (pages 738-734M 359-360Y)

[31] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 2 (pages 740M 360Y)

[32] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 3 (pages 740M 360Y)

[33] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 4 (pages 740M 360Y)

[34] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 29 (pages 752M 365Y)

[35] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 6, sec 5 (pages 766M 371Y)

[36] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 4, sec 24 (pages 750M 364Y)

[37] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 10, sec 7 (pages 810M 390Y)

[38] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 10, sec 15 (pages 814M 392Y)

[39] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 10, sec 8 (pages 810M 390Y)

[40] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 7 on The Sabbatical Year and the Year of the Jubilee, Shemitah V’Yovel; Chapter 12, sec 16 (pages 828-830M 400Y)

[41] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 5 on Manner of Offering Sacrifices, Ma’aseh HaKorbanot; Chapter 2, sec 14 (pages 370M 171Y); MT Book 14, The Book of Judges, Sefer Shoftim; Treatise 5 on Kings and Wars, Melachim UMilchamotehem; Chapter 11, sec 1 (pages 238Y); MT Book 14, The Book of Judges, Sefer Shoftim; Treatise 5 on Kings and Wars, Melachim UMilchamotehem; Chapter 11, sec 4 (pages 608-610M 240Y)

[42] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 6 (pages 388M 203Y)

[43] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 8 (pages 390M 203Y); MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 5, secs 3-4 (pages 42M 18Y)

[44] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 7 (pages 388M 203Y); MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 5, sec 2 (pages 40M 18Y)

[45] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 7 on Hallowed Offerings Rendered Unfit, Pesulei HaMukdashim; Chapter 19, sec 10 (pages 786-788M 382Y)

[46] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 8 (pages 390M 203Y)

[47] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, sec 21 (pages 396M 207Y)

[48] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 10, secs 11-12 (pages 390M 204Y); MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 8, sec 14 (pages 76M 34Y)

[49] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 1, secs 1-3 (pages 14M 5Y)

[50] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 1, sec 4 (pages 16M 5Y)

[51] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 1, sec 5 (pages 16M 5Y)

[52] MT Book 7, The Book of Agriculture, Sefer Zeraim; Treatise 1 on Diverse Kinds, Kilayim; Chapter 1, sec 7 (pages 16M 6Y)