Date of the Dates?

It’s with great interest that I read in the Prime magazine (14 Shevat) an in-depth article of “Fresh 2000-year Old Dates.” It seemed from your article that this past 15th of Shevat there was great excitement to eat the dates from this tree. However, I was wondering, why wasn’t there an issue of orlah?

Shlomo HaKohen Buttonzweig

Many thanks for Yisrael Katzover’s fascinating Tu BiShvat article in Hamodia Prime about the miraculous growing of Judean date palms and their fruit from ancient seeds! After reading about the truly amazing saga, my wife and I both wondered how the research project deals with the practical implications of the Torah prohibition of orlah fruit. After all the hard work, could the attractive and abundant dates produced by the rather young date palm prominently featured in the article perhaps be orlah, which in general cannot be eaten or used in other ways? Furthermore, even the retention of leftover seeds from consumed orlah dates for later planting or for research purposes could be problematic. Food for thought! It would be nice if the author could provide some clarification.

I look forward to future topical Tu BiShvat articles of this sort on the Seven Species.

Binyomin Moszkowski, Gateshead, England

Thank you for your letter.

Prior to our publishing this article, our mashgiach raised the same question. Yisrael Katzover, the author of the article, checked into it and learned that date trees generally do not bear edible fruits until at least five years after being planted, and so the prohibition of orlah, which applies only to the first three years, is rarely relevant — at least nowadays — to date trees. In the case of the trees described in this article, they were planted more than 15 years ago and only began to bear fruit recently.

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