Yisrael accompanied his father to buy arbah minim – the four species of Sukkos. He had joined his father for the last six years, ever since turning bar mitzvah.
Yisrael was already quite familiar with the various kinds of esrogim: with and without a pitam; golden yellow and still greenish; Yemenite and Chazon Ish; and various gradations of quality.
“Can I choose my own esrog this year?” Yisrael asked his father.
“If you feel comfortable doing so – go ahead!” answered his father. “You already know what to look for. Still, I think that it’s a good idea that I check the esrog after you choose.”
When they got to the esrog center, though, Yisrael saw large, new signs that he was not familiar with.
The esrog center was divided into several areas. One was marked “Otzar Beis Din.” Many esrogim in this section were being sold in closed boxes. Another area was marked “Heter Mechirah.” A third area was marked, “Not from Israel.”
“What’s going on?” Yisrael asked his father. “I’ve never seen these signs before.”
“That’s because you weren’t with me last Shemittah!” laughed his father. “You weren’t bar mitzvah yet.”
“But I thought Shemittah just finished,” said Yisrael.
“It did,” replied his father. “However, fruits that grew during Shemittah continue to have kedushas shevi’is and cannot be marketed in the regular manner.”
“Then you’ll have to explain these new signs to me,” Yisrael said. “Why is all this necessary?”
“I see Rabbi Dayan over there,” said his father. “Perhaps he can explain better.”
They approached Rabbi Dayan, and Yisrael’s father asked:
“Can you explain to Yisrael about the different Shemittah sections?”
“The Gemara (Sukkah 39a) teaches that a person who buys an esrog of Shemittah should include its cost in the payment for the lulav,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “This is because the esrog, unlike the lulav (which is inedible), has kedushas shevi’is and may not be sold commercially. Furthermore, money given as payment for Shemittah produce thereby acquires kedushas shevi’is and should not be handed to one who will not treat it properly” (Hil. Shemittah 8:10-11).
“There are two primary ways to allow payment for esrogim of the Shemittah year on a wide scale. The most prevalent option is through otzar beis din. The Tosefta (Shevi’is 8:1) describes that beis din would oversee the picking and processing of Shemittah fruit, and even hire workers, and store the produce under its supervision for distribution later to the city members.
“In this manner, the esrog is not being sold, per se, but rather distributed under direction of beis din. The esrog vendor is beis din‘s agent to distribute it, and the money charged is collected to defray beis din‘s expenses in enabling its distribution. For this reason, the money does not acquire kedushas shevi’is, since it is not payment to buy the esrog, but rather the recipient’s share in the expenses associated with distribution (Mishpetei Eretz, Shevi’is 13:4).
“Poskim further discuss export of esrogim. The Mishnah (Shevi’is 6:5) states that Shemittah produce should not be taken out of Israel. This is because it is considered holy; to enable bi’ur in Israel; lest it be treated as regular fruit; or to ensure sufficient food in Israel. Nonetheless, many poskim allow exporting esrogim for the purpose of arbah minim, especially if initially intended for such, at beis din’s discretion (Mishpetei Eretz, Shevi’is 20:2).
“The second option is through heter mechirah, for those who rely on it, whereby the esrog never attains kedushas shevi’is according to many poskim.
“You must be careful, though, to treat an esrog of otzar beis din properly after Sukkos,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “It is prohibited to destroy or ruin fruit with kedushas shevi’is, so that the esrog cannot be disposed of normally. It should be made into jelly, held until it dries out, or double wrapped respectfully when disposing of.”
Verdict: Payment for esrogim of Shemittah should be included in the payment for the lulav, subject to distribution through otzar beis din or relying on heter mechirah.