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Monday, June 29, 2015

The Haredi Boycott of Heter Mechira Fruits is Unsustainable, Part 2

The only logical explanation for the fierceness of Charedi opposition to the heter mechira is that they associate it with Zionism,


Last week I wrote about the history of the heter mechira implemented by the Gedolei Yisrael. I also mentioned that from the beginning of the second generation of renewed settlement in Eretz Yisrael, the defining characteristic of the opponents to the heter was their opposition in one way or another to the new settlements, Yishuv HaChadash, and their emphatic disapproval of the Zionist movement which, in the meantime, had been founded in 5657 (1897) by leaders and activists who were predominantly non-observant.

Without such an explanation it is difficult to understand the reason for their fierce opposition to the heter, since halakhically it is extremely well-founded – much more so than similar heters which all observant Jews rely upon.

In the opinion of an important group of eminent Rishonim (among them Ra’zaRaavadNimukei Yosef,Meiri, and others), there is no obligation to keep shmitta in our times. And even according to those poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who do believe shmitta is obligatory, there is agreement  that the obligation is merely of rabbinic status (except for a few Achronim, whose reasoning is problematic).

In addition to this, there is a genuine doubt as to when shmitta actually occurs: 
According to the opinions of RashiRosh, and Tur, the Sabbatical year was in 5774 (2014);
 according to Raavad it was in 5772 (2012); 
and according to our custom, which follows the opinion of the Geonim – 5775 (2015). 

This safek (doubt) is so significant that Mahari Engel wrote that because of it, shmitta could have been cancelled entirely, because each possible year could be annulled by the two additional possibilities (Otzarot Yosef, Shevi’it, pg.96).

Indeed, when analyzing the heter mechira, it actually tends to be in the category of a chumra (an obligation that exceeds the bare requirement of halakha) compared to what is customary in similar cases of sha’at dachak (times of distress).

The only explanation for the fierce Haredi opposition to the heter is that the machloket (controversy) against the Zionist movement ‘kilkala et shurat ha’din’ (defied the rules of proper debate), to the point where they ignored all the substantiated sources for the heter, while mustering all the possible chumra arguments.

The Heter in the Third Generation

In the third generation of the new settlement in Eretz Yisrael, the Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Herzog and the Rishon L’Tzion Rabbi Uziel, along with the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Frank, and most of the city and community rabbis in the country, implemented the heter mechira.

In contrast, the opponents were led by the Chazon Ish, who immigrated to Israel in the year 5693 (1933). It should be noted that unlike the rest of the opponents of the heter, the Chazon Ish demonstrated responsibility and concern for the religious farmers, went out of his way to guide them, and even introduced extreme kulot (leniencies) in the laws of shmitta so they could manage without the heter mechira. However, like the other machmirim, he was opposed the Zionist movement as well. It must also be pointed out that in his opposition to the heter, regrettably, he escalated the dispute to a grave level.

The Argument about the Validity of the Heter from the Prohibition of “Lo Techanem

One of the central claims of the Chazon Ish is that, since it is forbidden to sell land to a non-Jew in Eretz Yisrael because of the prohibition “lo techanem” (‘do not give them any consideration’, which may be rendered ‘do not give them a resting place in the land’), when farmers appoint rabbis as agents to sell the land, the rabbis become ‘shlichim l’davar aveira’ (agents for a prohibition), and as such, their actions are invalid because their shlichut is void, for we have a principle that "ain shaliach l’davar aveira” (there is no agency for prohibitions) (Chazon Ish, Shevi’it 24:4).

Naturally, the rabbis in favor of the heter had a convincing answer, for the prohibition of "lo techanem" is designed to strengthen Israel’s presence in the land, as the verse says: "When God your Lord brings you to the land you are entering, so that you can occupy it, He will uproot many nations before you…When God your Lord places them at your disposal and you defeat them, you must utterly destroy them, not making any treaty with them or giving them any consideration”(Deuteronomy 7:1-2). 

If so, when selling the land is for a limited time and intended to strengthen Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael, there is absolutely no prohibition (Yeshu’ot Malko, Y.D. 55; Aderet; Avnei Nezer, Y.D. 458).

Moreover, even if the mechira was unnecessary for strengthening the settlement of the land, the Rishonim explained that l’chatchila (from the outset), the prohibition of "lo techanem" only applies to a permanent sale, or at the very least when the non-Jew intends to act as the ba’al ha’bayit (owner) for a certain amount of time; but when the sale is for a limited amount of time and the non-Jew has no intention of acting as the ba’al ha’bayit, there is no prohibition of "lo techanem" (Ramban, and Chinuch 339, and so can be understood from the Rambam, Laws of Avoda Zara, 10:3-4).

The Challenging Argument against the Chazon Ish

Thus, in the opinion of the Gedolei poskim (eminent Jewish law arbiters), the rabbis conducting the mechira are fulfilling a mitzvah by assisting farmers settling the land. This being the case, even those who disagree with them cannot claim they are sinners – just as Sephardic Jews who follow the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch and refrain from warming-up soup on Shabbat cannot claim that Yemenite Jews who follow the Rambam and do warm-up soup, are sinners.

The claim of the Chazon Ish, therefore, is a huge insult to the Gedolei rabbanim (eminent rabbis) of Eretz Yisrael. Not only did he disagree with them – though they were the local rabbinic authorities and greater than him in wisdom, public responsibility, and understanding of the situation – he went even further, claiming that their opinion counts for nothing, and anyone following them was considered as having sinned.

The Harsh Consequences

Unfortunately, as a result of such severe and harsh positions against the Gedolei rabbanim, rabbis from the Charedi community have been afraid to clarify major issues appropriately for three generations. They fear that if they express an opinion that does not comply with the machmirim and the fanatics who support them, all of their opinions will be disqualified, and they will be denunciated and driven out of the Charedi camp, as instigators and accomplices to sinful acts.

In this way, Charedi society has deviated from the path of Torah in a number of issues, to the point where many of them have become used to degrading Gedolei rabbanim, such as Maran HaRav Kook and his students, despite the fact that in private, many of their Gedolei rabbanim are opposed to it.

In a similar fashion, many of them have done away with the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land),  which our Sages said is equal to all the mitzvot, and many of them dare to publicly deny the great mitzvah the soldiers fulfill by defending the people and the country. 

They have even invented new prohibitions against secular studies and Sherut Leumi (national service), and various other chumrot deviating from the letter of Jewish law.  Regarding all of these issues there are several Charedi rabbis who oppose in private, but they do not clarify their views openly due to the risk of being attacked by the ba’alei machloket (‘masters of dissension’).

Limud Zechut

Nevertheless, with regard to the Chazon Ish, there is room for a bit of limud zechut (benefit of the doubt), for he was extremely tenacious in nature, and everything he derived from his studies he wrote, paying no heed to those greater than himself. 

Additionally, the Chazon Ish displayed particular honor to Rav Kook, by addressing him as "his honor, Maran, shlita".

A similar type of limud zechut can be made for the Ridbaz, one of the fiercest opponents of the heter, who was fervent and impassioned by nature, and compelled by the Torah that boiled within him, and often expressed regret that he had humiliated Rav Kook. For example, when a certain rabbi began considering himself to be the Rabbi of Jaffa, while undermining the authority Rav Kook, the Ridbaz wrote that it was an act of villainy, "because it is ludicrous to think that a wingless fly can wage war against the Great Eagle, whose name is famous in the entire world..."

However, it is difficult to give benefit of the doubt to all those Charedi rabbis who are of equable character, but nevertheless negated the opinion of the Gedolei rabbanim entirely. And certainly, limud zechut cannot be given to those who went even further, and added obscenities and humiliated the rabbis in favor of the heter, who were greater Torah scholars and more righteous than they were.

Those Who Boycott Heter Fruits

The continuation of their sin is expressed in their boycott the fruits grown under the framework of the heter mechira. For in addition to their position being based on the sin of contempt for Torah scholars of the most severe level, it also runs contrary to the fundamental rules of halakha, for as we know, a dispute exists whether it is permissible to eat fruits that were grown and saved in a prohibited manner in the shmitta year. 

According to most poskim, fruits grown by means of work prohibited in the shmitta year are permitted to be eaten (R”Sh, Ramban, Rashba). The same holds true for shmitta fruits that were saved in a prohibited manner and not made hefker (abandoned) – according to most poskim, they are permitted to be eaten (Rambam). 

And although there are poskim who disagree and prohibit the fruit, since the opinion of the majority of poskim is to be maykel (lenient), and additionally, shmitta in our times is of rabbinic status – the halakha goes according to the lenient opinion, kal v’chomer (all the more so) when there are opinions that there is no obligation at all to keep shmitta nowadays, and there is also a doubt about when the shmitta year actually occurs.

Thus, the machmirim pasken contrary to the rules of halakhakal v’chomer when the farmers are not working in a prohibited manner, but rather, according to the rulings of the leading rabbis; therefore there is no room whatsoever to claim that the fruits are forbidden because they were grown b’issur (in a prohibited manner).

Crops of the Field

Indeed, some poskim argue that concerning crops grown in the field there is a special prohibition, because our Sages decreed that sifichim (grasses and vegetables that grew on their own accord in the Sabbatical year), are forbidden to be eaten, kal v’chomer is it forbidden to eat vegetables that were grown b’issur.  

All this would be true if the farmers planted the seeds without a heter, but since they planted the seeds according to the instruction of rabbis, there is no prohibition to eat the vegetables. And even those who disagree with the heter must concur with this, since the entire gezeira (decree) of sifichim is a rabbinic prohibition in order to prevent an issur, and therefore, when farmers act according to the directives of rabbis - there is no room to prohibit the crops.

Other Claims

Some argue that just as it is forbidden to buy fruit from those who are suspected of working in the Sabbatical year, in order not to l’sayea l’dvar aveira (assist a transgression), it is likewise forbidden to buy fruits grown under the framework of the heter mechira

However, since the farmers work according to a heter of the rabbis, there is no transgression in their actions whatsoever. And those who claim it is forbidden to assist them completely annul the words of the rabbis who permit it, and transgress the severe prohibition of bizuy Talmedei Chachamim (contempt of Torah scholars), and asi’at machloket (causing a dispute).

The Sin of the Boycotters

Thus, those who believe that it is forbidden to eat fruits grown in the framework of the heter mechira, lump one sevara (speculation) onto another l’chumra (to be stringent), in contradiction to the rules of halakha.

 In addition, they undermine the honor of the Gedolei Yisrael who implemented the heter in accordance with the opinion of the majority of poskim, so as to assist the holy Jews returning to their Land.

This argument is not directed towards those who have studied the issue and concluded that it was inappropriate to employ the heter mechira, and therefore, prefer avoiding eating fruits grown under the heter – on the condition they do so as a personal minhag chassidut (a desire to fulfill the mitzvah according to all opinions),
 but instruct the public at large that according to the letter of the law, it is permitted to eat fruits grown under the heter (as explained in Ma’adenei Eretz Shevi’it, 159:2).

This argument is directed against those who claim that heter fruits are entirely forbidden to be eaten, and that a person should not eat at the home of someone who relies on the heter, nor should he trust hechsher’s that rely on the heter mechira, and should even boycott public or family events because of this. 

Such people transgress the sin of bizuy Gedolei Yisrael (contempt for eminent Torah scholars), and raise their hand against the sanctity of Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, and anyone who lends a hand to this boycott, is partner to their sin.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The only logical explanation for the fierceness of Charedi opposition to the heter mechira is that they associate it with Zionism"

This is a patently false statement. Their are Very Very Very strong Halachik arguments to oppose the Heter Mechira. Along with many the current and passed Gedolim being opposed to it.

Dusiznies said...

6:13
and there were many in favor!

Anonymous said...

to 6:13
The statement is absolutely 100% emes!
Because the proof of the pudding is that only anti-Zionist Rabbonim ossered the Heter!
Ant those who were for the Heter also had "Very Very Very strong Halachik arguments"

Fake Phony Fraud Watch said...

The bells are ringing at the mention of this Rabbi Melamed who not only distorted Rav Spektor's shita in part 1 to fit his heter mechira agenda

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/197433#.VZH94vlVhBd

But here he is fighting to defend Shlomo Riskin with his women "rabbis" and other gross distortions in kol Hatorah kula

This isn't about Zionism. Melamed identifies with Reformers

Dusiznies said...

10:29
Rav Spektor's psak vis a vis the Heter Mechirah is very clear .... it is today;s anti Zionist Rabbis that are distorting Rav Spektor's shita... the psak has absolutely no doubts where he stood and he actually authored the famous Heter Mechira, but since it doesn't fit the agenda of the "big beards" and the "tzi flogenea" peyos so now they are saying he meant something else... with that logic you can re interpret the entire Torah!

Dusiznies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

DIN- I'm sure you have read all of Rav Shternbuch's sefer on the topic. It is very clear that the Halachik issues with it are very strong.

Dusiznies said...

10:29
Rav Sternbach was a fanatical anti-Zionist and that's exactly the point!
Also if Rav Goren would have invented the pruzbel he would have been against it with very very strong halachic arguments ....
BTW Rav Sternbuch is now the hated one ....because he was matir a development in Beit Shemesh that was sitting on graves that the Asra Kedisha said was Jewish!

Anonymous said...

DIN- so what?thats exactly the Point! The book talks nothing about Zionism its Halachik arguments and obviously you haven't learned it so you ares simply unaware of the halachik arguments against it. Go learn the sefer then come back and talk. Don't just dismiss it because its a halachik sefer written by rav Shterbuch.

Well, Hillel Hazeken (with the Pruzbul) wasn't matir mamzerim.

I know that some bad people now attck Rav Shterbuch... what does that have to do with anything?

Dusiznies said...

12:52
Of course he says nothing about Zionism in the psak... but he like every human being make decisions based on their own biases ....
his psak was clouded by his hate against the State...
this is the point of the article....

Yes he found strong halachic points against the Heter, but he could have easily found strong halachic points for the Heter, but because of his fanatical hate against the State he argued against the Heter...

The facts are that most Rishonim say that Shmittah bizman hazeh is Rabbinic in nature, also we don't really know when Shmittah is .... no one including Rav Sternbach argues this point if you read his Teshuvah...
So the point of the article is that if its Rabbinic and we have doubts on the real years of when Shmittah is, is it then not reasonable to be meikel?
NO OF COURSE NOT ... why should we be meikel for a Zionist entity!

Dusiznies said...

12:52
My point that some people attacked Rav Shternbach is an important one...
Rav Shternbach found out albeit a bit too late, that when you hang out with sharks ... you get bitten...
He hung out with fanatics and at the twilight of his life they called him a "sheygatz" "apikoras" and a "mamzer"
And these were not as you said "some bad people' this was the total Williamsburg population!
He realized weeks before his demise that these vicious anti-Zionist are as you yourself put it ...."bad people"