Blueberries and Jerusalem’s Taiku Restaurant

Picking Blueberries
Let me begin by pointing out that this is not intended as a rabbinical treatise, but more a newsletter informing you, the reader, that certain problems do exist regarding blueberries and each person should do as he/she sees fit. This is my usual format and I am compelled to remind you that I do not profess to be a rabbinical authority on matters of kashrut. Since I published yesterday’s information regarding blueberries, I feel compelled to provide you with the follow-up as well. 

Blueberry picking in Moshav She'al

Blueberry picking in Moshav She'al

On Sunday (31 May), JKN reported about picking blueberries in Moshav She’al – מושב שעל in the N. Golan Heights. This is a continuation of that report but in essence, I have learned the facts pertain to blueberries grown anywhere in Israel.

As a result of a chain of events that prompted telephone calls to a number of rabbinical experts, including the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Golan Heights Local Religious Council, The Torah Land Institute and others. It appears that there is a dispute among achronim [preceding the halachic authorities of this generation] as to the status of blueberries, with most being of the opinion that it is a tree. Others disagree however and categorize it as a vegetable. (Bear in mind, the matter of which bracha is recited is not being addressed in this forum). If we do consider it a tree however, the laws Orla apply. [explanation of orla below].

Those who view it as a vegetable eliminate concerns of Orla. This opinion however takes many leniencies into account, factors that most of the rabbinical authorities do not wish to lean on.

At present, the blueberries in Moshav She’al and other areas in Israel rely on the lenient minority view, and also take some measures to cover themselves halachicly in the event the blueberry is indeed a tree, as is the opinion of most authorities. The more stringent kashrut agencies advise to refrain from using the blueberries, not just because they prefer a ‘hard-line’ approach, but because Orla, even in our times, is a Torah prohibition, not just a less stringent Rabbinical one.

Because of the holiness of the land, Eretz Yisrael, “safek Orla” [a doubt of Orla], is prohibited in Israel while the same situation in The Diaspora is permitted.

Once again, this highlights the magnificent privilege accompanied by the awesome responsibility we share, living in the Holy Land. As such, most agencies have advised against picking and using blueberries.

Those wishing to rely on the lenient [minority] view have a crutch to lean on. One is strongly advised to ask a knowledgeable rabbinical authority well versed the laws pertaining to Kedushat Haaretz and related matters.

NOTE: One of the top halachic experts in agriculture told JKN that one who delves into agronomy may be knowledgeable enough to make the correct determination. Others are advised to avoid placing themselves into a halachic doubt.

What is Orla?
The Torah states that fruits of the first three years shall not be eaten. When do we start the three-year count? Interestingly the three-year count is flexible, depending upon the time that the tree is planted. All trees begin their annual count from Rosh Hashanah. According to the halacha if a tree was planted 45 days prior to Rosh Hashanah, i.e., the 15th day of Av, the young sapling enters its 2nd year of the orla count in 6 weeks. However, if a tree was planted 44 days before a Rosh Hashanah one would have to wait an additional year before eating fruits. Fruit that ripen after the Tu B’Shvat following the third year are permitted.

Where does orla apply?
The Torah clearly states that the mitzva of orla began “Ki savo el haaretz”, upon entering the land of Israel. M’doreisa (according to Torah law), orla applies only to fruit grown in the land of Israel. However our Rabbis teach us that the laws of orla are not unique to fruit grown in Israel and the mitzvah is observed in the Diaspora as well!

However, there is a fundamental orla difference between fruit grown in Israel and fruit grown in the Diaspora. In Israel, orla fruit is prohibited m’doreisa (from the Torah).

Fruit grown outside Israel is forbidden through halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai, Divine tradition. If we have a question of a specific fruit whether it grew within the three years of planting, sofek orla, the halacha is as follows.

The fruit grown in Israel is considered an orla fruit and is prohibited . A fruit grown outside Israel, in the Diaspora, the halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai instructs us to permit the fruit.

Today in Israel, fruit charts with specific orla information are distributed to help consumers identify orla concerns.

At the conclusion of the orla cycle:
The fruits borne during the fourth year are vested with special sanctity and are known as neta reveii. Before eating these fruits, this sanctity has to be transferred onto a coin, similar to the procedure used to tithe ma’aser sheini.

Once the coin is vested with the sanctity of neta revaii, the fruit may be eaten. In the Diaspora, only grapes are imbued with this sanctity.

We hope this article gives the kosher consumer a greater appreciation of these mitzvos. (Excerpts taken from the Star-K Kashrut Agency website – See the website for the comprehensive explanation.


Taiku Restaurant Jerusalem (Meat and Fish)
31 Emek Refaim Street (German Colony)

Rabbi Shimon Kroizer, a supervisor of mashgichim for the Badatz Agudat Yisrael agency spoke with me this morning, requesting that I notify readers the restaurant is no longer under the agency’s supervision, effective immediately.

sushiYou guys know me already. I telephone the restaurant to ask what hechsher they have, and they assured me they are still under Agudat Yisrael. Rabbi Kroizer says otherwise.


  • Chaya Levy
    June 1, 2009 - 14:56 | Permalink

    I was really excited to stumble upon this site. I ‘d just raised the question of blueberries with some friends on Shavuos, and there it was! the information I had no idea I’d ever meet up with. I look forward to reading about other topics of interest- e.g. Can one get cream of tartar with a mehadrin hechsher in Israel?

  • Eliyahu Skoczylas
    June 1, 2009 - 16:20 | Permalink

    I just did some research on blueberries, and it seems that the confusion is not only halachic! There are numerous varieties of real blueberries, both “lowbush” varieties, which grow on the ground, and “highbush” varieties, which have a trunk and look like trees. In addition, since the shrubs are native to North America, their name is often confused with European and other strains like bilberries or huckleberries, which also include bluish to purple varieties, and have names in other languages that translate to “blue berry” in English. It is no wonder that halachic opinions could differ.

    Also, it seems that a common cultivating practice, especially for lowbush varieties, is to burn down the plants after every two harvest years! The plant then regrows more healthfully from the stem. I assume that for orla purposes this would still be considered the same “tree”, but it could have a “marit `ayin” effect as the tree would look new, even though it’s grown from the same stem that was in the ground for many years.

    In my humble opinion, I wouldn’t be satisfied with asking an agronomically knowledgeable Rav; I would want one who knew the plants in question, and the history of the “orchard” under question, before making a decision.

    Nonetheless, I fundamentally don’t understand the problem – since the stems produce fruits for many years, why can’t the growers just wait until the plants have had four halachic years? It seems to me that you could have an orchard divided into sections where the new plants are “l’kula” (lenient – treated as vegetables) and the old pants are “machmir” (strict – treated as trees). Then people who were concerned could go to pick in the “mehadrin” sections and be done with it.

  • Sassy
    June 2, 2009 - 17:11 | Permalink

    Taiku advertised on Janglo today claiming that they no longer have their Agudus Yisrael hechsher, but are now under OU supervision with a mashgiach tmidi. However, it was not on your current list of OU supervised resteraunts. Do you know anything about this?

  • Ron, TAIKU
    June 11, 2009 - 20:31 | Permalink

    TAIKU has recently chose to take on the hechsher of OU-Mehadrin. The change was made about two weeks ago and it is highly possible that the OU did not update their lists yet. The phone-call described in the article was an unfortunate misunderstanding of one of our waiters. The hechsher of the restaurant is a very important aspect of our service, and we follow the most strict regulations in order to provide it. There is indeed a mashgiach tmidi in the restaurant and all our meat and poultry are under the hechsher or Rav Rubin, Rav Landau or Eida Chareidis. For further information you are most invited to call the restaurant 02-5665262, We’ll be happy to answer any question.

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