The Jewish Eye
Binyan Tzion: Is it Wise to Cut a Fruit Tree to Build a Building?
While the Rosh says that there is no Issur of Baal Tashchis to cut down a fruit tree for a constructive reason there is a machlokes acharonim if nevertheless it causes danger to the life of the one who cuts it.
The Gemara in Bava Kama (91b) says that if a fruit tree is worth more for its wood, or if the fruit tree is adversely affecting neighboring grape vines, it is permitted to cut down the fruit tree. The Rosh concludes from this that if the place of the fruit tree is needed for the purpose of building a structure it is permitted to cut down the tree whether it is for its wood or because you need the place of the fruit tree it is permitted.
The Yavetz says however that even when Halacha permits us to cut down the tree it is dangerous to do so. The son of R. Chaninah died for cutting down a fruit tree and most likely he cut it down for permissible reasons, and even so it cost him his life.
The Tshuvos Binyan Tziyon (Tsuva 61) disagrees with the Yavetz. He says that there is no danger to cut down a fruit tree for permissible reasons. The reason that the son of R. Chaninah died was because he cut it down prematurely while it was still bearing fruit. If the tree is old and no longer bearing fruit it is permitted to cut it down.
So why did the son of R. Chaninah cut down the tree? The tree that he cut down was old and was bearing very few fruits. He thought it was already permitted to cut it down since it was old but he was mistaken, since it was still bearing some fruit, albeit very few, it was forbidden to cut it down.
Do you remember the tree running through the temporary Shul after Rabbi Landau's Shul in Flatbush had a fire?
Important Note: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.
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