Overhanging Branches

Yossi from Har Nof asks:

I was walking home the other night when my hat was suddenly whisked off my
head by an overhanging branch. I looked up and discovered that the neighbour’s
flowering bush had grown into the street. Is it permitted to cut off the
protruding branch?

Pruning trees is forbidden during the sh’mittah
year. According to most opinions, this applies even if the tree is not fruit
bearing and one’s intention is only to maintain its shape. It is certainly
forbidden to prune such trees and bushes if the purpose of such work is to
promote future growth. However, if overhanging or protruding branches are
blocking a path, especially a public path, one may (and should) cut them off.
The cutting should be limited to those branches which are in the way. One should
also not have the good of the tree in mind while performing the work. Since this
is not the usual way of pruning trees, no change need be made in the method of
cutting off the offending branches. (By the way, the owner of the tree or bush
is responsible for removing the obstruction and any cost involved!)

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