5

Looking for something authoritative.

Wikipedia has the following

Hebrew Bible

Commentators generally assume that the law was good agricultural practice, and that early harvesting would conflict with careful cultivation and pruning during the first three years in order to insure later good harvests and allow maturing of the trees.[2] Grape vines produce fruit in three to six years, almond trees produce some flower buds in the fourth year and some fruit in the fifth, and sources from the Ancient Near East suggest that a good crop of dates was expected in the fourth year.[3] In discussing the commandment that the fruit could not actually be eaten until the fifth year, Rooker (2000) notes that in the Code of Hammurabi a tenant-gardener could not eat of the fruit of an orchard until the fifth year, when he shared the produce with the owner.[4]

  • Have there been any (scientific) studies that prove the benefits of Orlah? (i.e.: proof of what the Bible commentators above mentioned.)

  • What is the reasoning behind Orlah prohibition?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your question. – Scimonster Mar 17 '15 at 6:59
  • 2
    Well... The reasoning is that God said so. Very few commandments provide explicit reasoning. The defer hachinuch or Mishna Torah might provide some additional detail, but it's immaterial to the fact that we have to do it regardless. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 17 '15 at 9:10
  • 1
    Sefer HaHinukh on 'Orlah – Lee Jun 19 '15 at 8:22
  • Leaving the fruits on the tree to rot I'd a prerequisite to careful pruning? These musings are most often a joke. – HaLeiVi Jun 19 '15 at 13:48
  • I'm not sure the OP has provided sufficient information to determine what sort of information would be considered "authoritative" vis a vis an answer. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 19 '15 at 17:17
4
+100

You asked:

Have there been any (scientific) studies that prove the benefits of Orlah?

Well, as you will see from the answer to your second question, it's not about benefits.

You can see from articles like this one that most fruit trees don't bear (real) fruit for the first 3 - 4 years.

You then asked:

What is the reasoning behind Orlah prohibition?

Firstly we don't do Mitzvot because of their reason - unless the reason is explicitly stated in the Torah.

That said, some commentators did try give various reasons for Mitzvot. One of those is the Sefer HaChinuch.

In the Mitzvah of Orlah he says to see the Mitzva of Rava'i - the 4th year fruit - for the reason.

There he explains that Gcd wanted the first use of the fruit of each tree should be for an offering for Him.

Since [most] fruit trees produce their choicest fruit in the 4th year, He doesn't want us to eat the fruit for the first 3 years, so that (a) the first fruit to ever be used, will be used for the Mitzvah and (b) the choicest fruit are used for the Mitzva.

משרשי המצוה. שרצה הא-ל להיות האדם מתעורר להלל השם ברוך הוא בתחלת מבחר פרות אילנותיו, כדי שינוח עליו נעם השם יתברך וברכתו ויתברכו פרותיו, כי האל הטוב חפץ בטוב בריותיו, לכן צונו להעלותן ולאכל אותן במקום שבחר מימי קדם לעבודתו ברוך הוא, כי שם צוה יי את הברכה. ומבחר פירות האילן הם היוצאים בשנה הרביעית.‏

In other words, since we are expected to bring the choicest of fruit as an offering, and these fruit (usually) appear in the fourth year, and we don't want to eat any fruit before bringing this first offering, we therefore cannot eat any fruit that would grow during the first 3 years.

  • 3
    Another point against it being "scientific" - an old, transplanted tree that ALREADY bears fruit has to wait ANOTHER 4 years. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 23 '15 at 16:16
  • @IsaacKotlicky that is from Chazal. One (especially the sort who ascribe scientific explanations to mittzvos) could claim that all of the details of mitzvos dont reflect original intent of the author. Cf. shoresh sheni of Ramban's sefer Hamitzvos and the introduction to the Sefer Dor Harevii. – mevaqesh Jun 25 '15 at 5:13

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