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There is a Halachic prohibition of benefiting from Orlah trees (fruit trees during their first three years) meaning not only can you not eat their fruit, you can’t get benefit from them. My question is, according to Halacha, is it permissible to chop down an Orlah tree in order to use its wood for construction purposes? Say for material for the walls or roof of a house. Sources (if they exist) for the Halacha are appreciated please

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Mishnah, Orlah 1:9:

נוֹטְעִין יִחוּר שֶׁל עָרְלָה

One may plant a branch of an orlah tree

and Bartenura there:

שהעץ מותר בהנאה

because the wood is permissible for benefit

This is codified in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 294:11, with the added note שאין ערלה אלא בפרי, orlah applies only to the fruit.

(There is the point that Lo Ani made in a comment, that there's a separate issur involved in cutting down fruit trees.)

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The basic approach to this is in the opening Mishnah of Masechta Orla which implies it boils down to intent:

הַנּוֹטֵעַ לִסְיָג וּלְקוֹרוֹת, פָּטוּר מִן הָעָרְלָה. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, אֲפִלּוּ אָמַר הַפְּנִימִי לְמַאֲכָל וְהַחִיצוֹן לִסְיָג, הַפְּנִימִי חַיָּב, וְהַחִיצוֹן פָּטוּר:

One who plants [a fruit tree] as a fence or to provide wood beams, it is exempt from [the law of] orlah. Rabbi Yose says: even if he said, “The inward [facing part of the tree] is for food, and the outward [facing part] is for a fence,” the inward [facing part] is subject [to orlah], and the outward [facing part] is exempt.

See the Bartenura, amongst others, who clearly spells out this intention:

ולקורות. לגדל עצים לעשות מהן קורות לבנין, ואין עיקר נטיעתו לאכול הפירות

לקורות – to grow trees to make of them beams for building, but the essence of its planting is not to eat its fruit.

In other words, if the tree was planted with the intention to use the wood for timber or building materials it doesn't qualify as Orlah. The implication being that if there was no such intention, Orlah would apply.

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  • Orlah would apply to the fruits of a tree intended for fruits. But would it apply to the wood of such a tree if it got chopped down somehow?
    – Double AA
    Dec 13, 2023 at 18:30
  • @DoubleAA that's a good call. The only thing I can say is if we know why it was originally planted that would give us an answer. If we don't know the original intention, I don't have an answer...
    – Dov
    Dec 13, 2023 at 19:27
  • Knowing it was planted for fruit doesn't answer what the status of the wood of a for-fruit tree is
    – Double AA
    Dec 13, 2023 at 19:34
  • Correct, I'm not denying that, all I'm saying is knowing it was planted with building in mind would have an impact on the decision
    – Dov
    Dec 13, 2023 at 19:53

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