Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Shmitta Tragedy

Here's a letter to the Star-K, received via my good friend, Amshinover.
Dear Star-K:

I was very taken aback by the information on your website (and in the mailing that I received from you) about shmitta. I quote:

"Since it's inception the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has sold the land every shmitta. However, now there are many Rabbanim who question whether the situation warrants the sale. In addition, for the consumer there is another more serious problem: The produce that is sold in the regular stores during the year of shmitta predominantly comes from non-religious kibbutzim and moshavim who would never agree to sell their land. This is compounded with the fact that the non-religious kibbutzim don't observe those prohibitions which Harav Kook instituted, and Harav Kook never permitted their current practices. Certainly, a tourist who is not knowledgeable about the dinim of shmitta should buy produce only from shmitta free stores."

Do you have any basis for the claim that the produce in the stores here in Israel is "predominantly" not heter mekhirah? That is certainly not what I see here in Israel. Do you have any basis for the claim that non religious kibbutzim and moshavim would never agree to sell their land? What is the basis for such a sweeping insult of Jews who farm the lands of Eretz Yisrael?

The information that I have from rabbis who support the heter mekhirah is that the entire country has been included. From opponents of the heter I have heard the strange argument that since the farmers don't really mean the sale, it is therefore invalid. But I wonder whether when the Star-K tells me that some large company has sold their chametz for Pesach, the Star-K is thus assuring me that the owners really had gemirut da'at about the sale.

I consider it very upsetting that the Star-K has maligned so many learned rabbis, hard-working farmers and honest store-owners here in Israel.

*******

Jerusalem

The following lecture from R' Aharon Lichtenstein addresses the conflict of shmitta today. Absolutely worth reading it in it's entirety.

More than any other mitzva, shemitta expresses our helpless inability to bridge the gap between reality and the ideal Halakha. Regarding this mitzva in particular, the pain of both the Almighty and Kenesset Yisrael is palpable...

Shemitta branches out into several halakhic areas: forbidden work and the required cessation from prohibited activity, similar to Shabbat; prohibitions regarding eating and commerce, resembling kashrut; the conferral of a status of sanctity and specific designation on the produce, like that conferred upon teruma and ma'aser sheni. In addition to the strictly halakhic dimension, the laws embody and reflect a network of values. We need not dig deep for reasons underlying this mitzva; they are obvious and self-evident. We may easily discern at least three aspects of this institution. Like the weekly Sabbath, the septennial Sabbath of the land infuses us with an awareness of the exclusive and absolute authority and control of the Almighty. It also absolves the farmer of the pressures of material life for the purpose of enabling him to devote more time to spiritual pursuits. Additionally, shemitta features a strictly democratic aspect, equating young and old, rich and poor, and, to some extent, even man and beast: “But you may eat whatever the land during its Sabbath will produce - you, your servant, your maidservant, your hired and live-in laborers who live with you, and your cattle and the beasts in your land shall eat all its yield” (Vayikra 25:6-7).

What remains today of this spectacular vision? Virtually nothing. The transition from an agrarian to industrial economy eliminated, for the vast majority of society, the direct relevance of the forbidden agricultural activities. Yet, in this area the situation is relatively good; most of us neither circumvent nor distort the prohibitions. We simply, to our good fortune, do not encounter them. However, regarding the prohibitions pertaining to eating and the sacred status of the produce, the situation is ten times worse...

I suggest you read the entire lecture -- it's that good.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

7 comments:

AMSHINOVER said...

a guy goes to Rav ..... Shlita
and asks for heter machira
he claims he is a poor framer
his children are starving
he needs an out.
sorry says the rabbi
"I only have heter iska or mechras chometz but not heter mechra.....maybe you want to go into banking or supermarkets ?"

AMSHINOVER said...

hey no hattip?

Fern Chasida said...

why is selling the chametz to a goy acceptable but selling the land to a goy a circumvention? is there a difference in the halacha and why?

Anonymous said...

Fern: While I agree that the charadi response is crazy and the trust in the heter mechira is ok to me,

A. Most "Ultra Orthodox" do not keep any chamatz left over pesch to sell to a non jew, what they do seel is the chamatz left on the surface of thier pots and dishes that were not able to be made kosher for pesach

B. The Heter Mechirah was conterversial when it was 1st used over 100 years ago, when the Eurpoean Rabbi's would not allow it.

tnspr569 said...

Another example of the idiocy and ridiculous chumrot espoused by the Kashrut agencies of America.

פייגא דבורה said...

lets hear it for Baltimore!

Shira Salamone said...

Here’s a worthwhile, albeit depressing, post from The Obiter Dicta claiming that “This Shemittah has, for various reasons, been a disaster.” Maybe I’m just an alarmist, but what’s more likely in Israel this Shmitta year— massive violations of kashrut, widespread malnutrition and/or hunger, or both of the above?

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