Shemitah – Glossary of Terms

Heter Mechirah
A legal instrument to sell Jewish-owned land in Israel to non-Jews and thereby circumvent the shemittah status of produce grown on those lands.

Otzar Beis Din
A harvest and distribution system of produce run by rabbinical court in accordance with shemittah restrictions. Proceeds of the sale of produce (at a pre-set price) goes toward expenses only, rather than for profit. Otzar Beis Din produce may be consumed in accordance with shemittah requirements.

Matzah Menutak
Produce grown and harvested detached from the ground (i.e. in flowerpots) and with a roof covering. According to many authorities, vegetables that are grown in this manner are exempt from shemittah restrictions.

Rabbinical prohibition to consume annually planted produce (i.e. vegetables, grains) whose critical growth occurs during the shemittah year.

Because we may not maintain possession of shemittah produce once it is no longer readily available in Israel, we are required to remove items from our home and declare that we are relinquishing our ownership in the presence of others. Once biur is completed, we may reclaim the product. Produce that is always available does not require biur.

First separation from produce (approximately 2%), given to Kohanim (priestly family) to be consumed by them in a state of ritual purity. Because the biblical separation is of an unspecified amount, due to our state of ritual impurity, a trivial amount is separated, wrapped carefully (to avoid desecration) and discarded.

Ma’aser Rishon
Second separation from produce, a tithe of 10%, which is given to members of the Levite tribe. Today this is separated and then consumed in a normal fashion.

Ma’aser Sheni
Another tithe of 10% to be separated and then brought to Jerusalem for consumption there. This tithe is only separated from produce of the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the cycle. Today, following separation, this tithe is redeemed onto a coin and then consumed in a normal fashion.

Ma’aser Ani
Another tithe of 10% is separated and distributed to poor people. This tithe is only separated from produce of the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle. Today, following sep-aration this tithe may be consumed in a normal fashion.

Terumas Ma’aser
Secondary tithe of 10% separated by the Levite recipient of ma’aser rishon (above). Today this ma’aser is not given to a Levite. The original owner separates this tithe (1%) and discards, as with regular teruma.

Biblical prohibition to partake in fruits of a tree or vine’s first three years, from the time of planting.

Neta Revai
Fruits from the fourth year from the time of planting. These fruits would be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there. Today neta revai is redeemed into a coin and then consumed normally.

Rabbi Nahum Z. Rabinowitz