Q. I saw the question about Shemita wine from Israel with a hechsher that reads “otzar bet din exported after biur.” What does that mean and who are the authorities that permit it?
A. Rambam (H. Shmitta 4: 1 – 24) rules that it is a positive commandment that a landowner should not treat what grows during Shmitta as his own; rather he must allow others to enter his field or orchard and help themselves. If his field is fenced, the owner must leave the gate unlocked and should remove any impediments that discourage people from helping themselves to the produce. They may take only as much as their family will eat, and the landowner himself may also only take this amount.
Tosefta (Sheviis 8: 1) relates that after the churban of the second Beis Hamikdosh, some people would during Shmitta abuse the system and collect large quantities of the hefker and unguarded produce, and then proceed unlawfully to resell it and enrich themselves at the expense of the needy.
Therefore, our Sages instituted that the local Beis Din should place guards and agents, working on behalf of the court and eventually the consumer, to store and protect the produce inside the warehouses of the city, and to distribute the permitted amounts equally to all, as the Torah commanded.
The Otzar Beis Din acts as the consumer’s agent and hires pickers, truckers, and other laborers; rents wine production equipment; purchases the bottles; produces Shmitta fruits, wines and oils; and delivers them to a convenient distribution centers
Obviously, the Otzar Beis Din cannot expect the pickers, truckers, and other laborers to work as unpaid volunteers, nor can they use the production equipment without paying rent. Similarly, the managers who coordinate this project are also entitled to a wage for their efforts. The Otzar Beis Din divides these costs among the consumers. However, no charge is made whatsoever for the fruit, since they are hefker and free for all, only for the labor and other costs involved. Thus, Otzar Beis Din products should cost less than regular retail prices for the same items.
(See Hashmita Kehilchoso 3: p. 64, Chazon Ish – Sheviis 22: 2, Mishne Halochos 9: 319, Oz Nidberu 11: 52 and others)
Star K (.org 5775) writes that “Produce of Sheviis is not permitted to be sold in its usual commercial manner.  This means that it should not be sold in regular stores, where it is weighed and/or sold for profit in its usual manner.  Furthermore, the money used to buy produce of sheviis becomes sanctified and whatever is bought with that money must be treated in the same sanctified manner as produce of sheviis.  Because of these potential complications, a system of Shmitta produce distribution has been organized in order to ensure a steady supply of produce for the urban population in a proper halachic manner.  The distribution of this produce is administered by the local Bais Din of each city, commonly known as the Otzar Bais Din.  Fees are permitted to be charged by the Otzar Bais Din to offset the cost of maintaining the warehouse, picking the produce, and doing permissible work in the orchards to maintain the fruit, but not for the fruit itself.
Last Shmita, some kashrus agencies in Eretz Yisroel were very maikel with the OtzarBeis Din in order to discourage the selling of Eretz Yisroel to a non-Jew (the Heter Mechira).  This was especially apparent with wine; a great deal of wine was produced under the auspices of an Otzar Bais Din and was sold in regular supermarkets.  Someone who buys the wine before the time of Biur (Erev Pesach 5776) can drink the wine.  However, after the time of biur it is very questionable as to what one can do with the wine.  This wine became available in the United States, and STAR-K received numerous calls questioning what one could do with such wine.  We suggest that before buying wine from Eretz Yisroel, even with a good hechsher, one should read the label carefully.  If the label states Otzar Bais Din, one should consult their