From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“If we truly look at the good side of every individual, we will develop an inherent affection for them without having to lie to ourselves about their bad traits. This is because if we take an interest in the good in them that we encounter constantly, this will truly conceal from us all their bad traits…” (Erpalei Tohar 107)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
The Seed of My Beloved Abraham
“You, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My beloved” (Isaiah 41:8). Abraham merited to be called G-d’s “beloved” due to his own great love for G-d, a love that was tested by way of ten trials. As our sages taught: “Abraham was tested with ten trials, and he passed all ten. This informs us how great was his love for G-d” (Avot 5:4).
The climax of those trials was the “Akeidah”, the Binding of Isaac, where G-d told him, “Take your son, the only one you love – Isaac – and go away to the Moriah area. Bring him as an all-burned offering on one of the mountains that I will designate to you” (Genesis 22:2). The climax of those trials was also the height of Abraham and Isaac’s display of their love and self-sacrifice for G-d. True love, not dependent on anything, is revealed when those who possess that love act to fulfill the will of their beloved, despite all the difficulties and obstacles. Quite the contrary, the greater the difficulties, the greater the love that is released from a potential state to actual fulfillment.
In our lives, the love and self-sacrifice we invest are never in vain. Even in human relations, parents who give their children their love when those children are still infants will discover their children’s love when they grow old. How much more so that the love and self-sacrifice of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for G-d protects the Jewish People down through the generations. G-d’s great show of love for Israel and Israel’s show of love for G-d are the climax of our lives. As we recite each day: “G-d brings a redeemer to their children’s children, for the sake of His name, lovingly.” (Shemoneh Esreh). As Rav Kook said, “Faith and love are the essence of our lives in this world and in the next.”
How fortunate we are that G-d, who lovingly chooses His people Israel, imbued in our souls that great love that appeared in Abraham at the Akeidah. As we say in the Shema each day, “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, soul and might.” These words are not just a commandent – but a promise.
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
I Choose Heter Mechira
[Translator’s note: ”Heter Mechira” [literally the “sale license”] refers to produce from Jewish fields that were formally sold a non-Jew the way Chametz is. “Otzar Bet Din” refers to where Jewish fields are handed over to a Jewish court. Then, its Jewish farmers tend to the fields, harvest and process the produce as employees of the Jewish court, and bring the produce to market. The produce is holy.]
Question: If I can’t find ”Otzar Bet Din” produce, should I be lenient and purchase ”Heter Mechira”, or is that forbidden, such that I should prefer produce from Arabs.
Answer: Don’t buy seventh year produce from Arabs. Buy from Jews. First of all, you have to realize that heter mechira is not something forbidden or barely permissible. Rather, it is clearly permissible, with a strong basis in halachah. This is not the place to go into a halachic discussion since it was already decided 119 years ago, and the greatest sages supported it, including Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan; Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna; Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin; the Aderet; Rabbi Naphtali Hertz, Chief Rabbi of Jaffa; The Sochochover Rebbe; Rabbi Shmuel Mohliver; the Rishon LeTziyon Rabbi Ya’akov Shaul Elyashar; Rabbi Yosef Engel; and Maran HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. In recent generations, we do not have anyone who comes close to their level and can nullify their words.
Therefore, our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook wrote that if someone does not wish to use the heter mechira, he is just choosing a high level of strictness and saintliness (LeNetivot Yisrael 2:224)
It is known that with saintliness we have to be very careful lest it lead to sin, as Ramchal [Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto] explains in his Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 20, on saintliness. We have to examine well if our not availing ourselves of the heter mechira is not a stringency that will lead to a leniency, which would be a reason to distance ourselves from that practice. Indeed, numerous leniencies and many sins are involved in refusal to make use of the heter mechira:
Doing so harms the ability of Jews to earn a living. After all, it says, “Help your brother survive” (Leviticus 25:36). We have to take pains that our fellow Jews do not become poor.
“Buy from your neighbor” (Ibid., 25:14). If you have the possibility of buying something from a Jew or a non-Jew, you have to prefer the Jew, for he is our brother. This applies even in the Diaspora.
“Libeling the decisions of our predecessors” (Ketuvot 103a). If someone uses the expression “it is forbidden” regarding fruits provided in accordance with heter mechira, he is libeling the great rabbis who followed it. (see LeNetivot Yisrael, ibid.)
Scorning others. A major precondition for achieving saintliness is not scorning others who do not behave as we do (Yerushalmi Berachot 2:9). Here, the use of the expression “forbidden” scorns those Jews who eat these fruits. (LeNetivot Yisrael, ibid.).
Undermining Rabbinic Authority. It is told about Rabbi Tarfon that he following the strict approach to reciting the Shema like Bet Shammai. The Rabbis said to him, “You deserve punishment for that, “for you violated the words of Bet Hillel” (Mishnah, Berachot 1:2). This is puzzling, considering that Bet Shammai is stricter. Hence how did he “violate the words of Bet Hillel”? Ramchal therefore explains: “The controversy between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel weighed heavily on Israel. It was finally decided that the law follows Bet Hillel forever. This constitutes the upholding of the Torah. This final ruling will remain binding forever and ever, and will never be weakened. G-d forbid that the Torah should become two Torahs.
Therefore, according to the view of this Mishnah, it is more saintly to hold like Beit Hillel, even if they are more lenient, than to be strict like Bet Shammai. This precedent provides us with the eyes to see in what direction the light of truth and faith will reside, so that we can do what is right in G-d’s eyes.” (Mesillat Yesharim, end of the Chapter “Mishkal HaChassidut”, Chapter 20).
“Give them no consideration” (Deuteronomy 7:2). Some say that every act that strengthens the foothold of non-Jews in the Land violates the above verse, which the Talmud explains as meaning, “Give them no foothold in the Land” (Avodah Zarah 20a). It is clear that the more we provide non-Jews in our land with a livelihood, the more rooted they will be in it. By the way, one of the arguments used by those who oppose the heter mechira is that by the sale we violate “Give them no consideration”. Yet according to what I have written here, the exact opposite is the case. The heter mechira is what strengthens the Jews’ foothold, and not using it strengthens the foothold of non-Jews.
Supporting terrorists. If we buy from Arabs in Gush Katif, for example, it is obvious that we are economically strengthening terrorists who until today have been involved with terror. By such means we are strengthening terror.
Non-Jews’ lands that really belong to Jews. If someone buys produce from non-Jews, he is working on the assumption that their lands really belong to them. Yet that assumption is refuted by reality. How did so much land in Eretz Yisrael come to be owned by Arabs? Did they buy them from Jews? Certainly not! Rather, when we were expelled from our land, it remained desolate, and down through the generations they took control over our land. It is theoretically possible that Jews sold land to non-Jews, but the possibility that this actually happened is infinitesimally small. 99% of Arabs lands were squatted on by Arabs. This approach is recognized officially by Turkish law as well: If someone settles on empty land, it becomes his. The conclusion is that almost all of the Arabs’ land are really Jewish lands, and all the laws of shemittah apply to them. Moreover, according to Halachah, conquest affords ownership. Therefore, the Wars of Independence and the Six Day War afforded ownership. This matter is agreed upon by almost all the poskim [halachic decisors]. Even the Satmar Rebbe admitted that the State of Israel has ownership over its lands. Therefore, in his view and the view of others, produce should be purchased only from non-Jews from outside the Land. The following paradox results: Arab land is really Jewish, and the prohibitions of the Seventh year apply to them, and Jewish lands sold via the heter mechira belong to the Arabs, and the prohibitions of the seventh year do not apply.
In conclusion, we see that compared to the one problem of heter mechira, which was decided on by the greatest rabbis for the past seventeen Sabbatical years until today, the failure to avail ourselves of the heter mechira involves a whole plethora of very complex halachic problems. Thus, it is bizarre to call that a “stringency” when it is nothing but an enormous laxity.
As far as Otzar Bet Din, that is not free from problems either. I will describe what the matter is. Our sages wrote:
“At first the emissaries of the court would go door to door through the city. If someone brought fruits to the emissaries, they would take it and provide him with three meals’ worth, and the rest they would place in the city storehouse. When the times came for figs, the court emissaries would hire workers who would cultivate them and process them into clumps of dried figs. When the time of olives arrived, the court emissaries would hire workers who would pick the olives, process them, put them in barrels and store them in the city storehouse. When the time came for grapes, the court emissaries would hire workers who would pick the grapes, crush them, put them into barrels and put the barrels in the city storehouse. Then they would distribute the food on Fridays, to each man in accordance with his family’s needs.” (Tosefta Shevi’it 8:12)
Presently Otzar Bet Din is run the following way: The farmer himself is appointed as an emissary of the court and he is paid money not for the fruits themselves but for his effort and investment. Anyone can see that Otzar Bet Din as well has several problems:
Rambam did not quote this Tosefta as law, nor did the poskim who followed him. Rather, it was the novel invention of the Chazon Ish to rule this way.
The Tosefta makes no mention of payment. After all, the fruits of the Land are hefker! [Free for all takers]. To say that the field’s owner deserves payment for his work and investment is a very novel idea.
If these farmers are being paid for their toil and investment, then the price for all the fruits should be uniform, whether the fruit is attractive or low-quality. To say that if it is nice that is a sign that the farmer worked more and invested more, and therefore deserves more money, is far-fetched. And anyway, the appointment of the farmer himself as the court emissary is a very revolutionary idea.
In a word, even regarding Otzar Bet Din there are not a few questions. True, there are less questions than regarding Arab produce, but this isn’t so smooth either.
Therefore, let us quietly and self-confidently follow the heter mechira, which was established by the greatest rabbis, already seventeen shemita-cycles ago. Let us strengthen the agriculture of our Jewish brethren. Let us strengthen our hold on the Land. Let us strengthen our faith in our rabbis’ rulings.
Translation: R. Blumberg