Volume 9 Number 56
                       Produced: Wed Oct 20 17:33:53 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Shmittah and Heter Mechira (5)
         [Aryeh Frimer, Dvorah Art, Daniel Felsenstein, Danny Skaist,
Dov Bloom]


From: Aryeh Frimer <F66235@...>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 93 03:52:54 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

    A hearty Yiyasher Koach to Eli Turkel for his Bird's eye view of
Shmittah. I would appreciate some input regarding separating Terumot and
Ma'asrot. I've looked through several poskim who indicate that me-Ikar
hadin (the simple law) one is exempted from such hafrashot on Shmitta
produce; nevertheless the minhag is to be stringent.
   Several Shmittahs ago, my brother Dov asked the Rav Zatsal whether he
could rely on the Heter Mechira to which the Rav Responded: "If you rely
on the Heter Mechirat Chametz which is a Biblical and Punishable by
karet, you certainly can rely on the Heter Mechira for shmitta which
according to most authorities is only rabbinic."  In his reponsa Rav
Shlomo Zalman Auerbach indicates that de Facto everyone relies on the
Heter mechira, since otherwise there would be impossible monetary
problems in Modern Israel. That is because money used to buy Shmitta
foodstuff becomes attached with the sanctity and all the rules of the
Shmitta fruit itself.
      Interestingly, Rav Ovadya Yosef is a strong supporter of the Heter
mechira. When asked why he does not rely on the Blessing Hashem promised
to those who keep shmitta he quipped: Most poskim maintain that shmittah
nowadays is only Rabbinic if not merely a Middat Chasidut (a custom of
the punctilious). When Hashem creates the problem, he promises to solve
it through his Bracha; when however the Rabbis create the problem - it
is up to them to solve it!
      Ironically, the Badatz is Hiring hesder boys to do the Hashgacha
temidit (continuous supervision) in the arab fields (to prevent the
Arabs from Switching Jewish produce for Arab) because they are the only
ones who are both Reliable enough and authorized to carry weapons!
      I, like many others, keep shmittah at home and rely on the heter
mechira when we eat at friends. There is no doubt that it is a hassle,
but there is also no doubt of its educational value and it makes the
shmittah year special in practice -  not only in theory.

        Aryeh Frimer F66235%<barilan.bitnet@...>

From: DVORAH%<HUJIAGRI@...> (Dvorah Art)
Date: Tue,  19 Oct 93 13:07 +0200
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

Rav N. Bar Ilan pointed out in last week's shiur on shmitta that the
great majority of the land WAS sold this year.  (It took till after
Succot to determine that, since things are more disorganized this
shmitta year than last.)  He also noted that in any given year, certain
crops (like cucumbers) are grown almost exclusively by Arab farmers
(~85%), while Jewish farmers concentrate on other crops, so if you eat a
lot of cucumbers (for example), the argument about buying heter mehira
produce in preference to y'vul nochri is a red herring.

From: Daniel Felsenstein <msdfels@...>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 93 13:51:59 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

Lets face it, by buying produce from a 'Shmitta-free' store you are not
'observing' shmitta but rather 'avoiding' it. In fact, in todays
urbanized society, the only segment of the population that can truly
keep this mitzva are the 3% of the population engaged in agriculture.
Everyone else is merely circumventing the mitzva.

Aside from the 'shalom alai nafshi' (I'm alright Jack) philosophy that
using a shmitta-free store promotes, a further point is that one might
be inadvertently promoting the issur deoraitha of 'Lo Techanem' - Lo
Titen Lahem Chanaya' (ie do not give non-Jews a foot-hold in Eretz
Yisrael). This is because, the absence of a Jewish presence on
agricultural land over the space of a year opens the flood-gates for
land encroachment by neighbouring Arab farmers. This has been the case
over past Shmitot in the Lachish area and in Emek bet Netofa in the
Galil. In this respect, avoiding the heter Mechira means trading off an
Issur Medeoraita with a mitzva that is, according to most authorities,
either Miderabanan (of rabbinic origin) or simply midat hasidut (a
righteous way of behaviour).

INMHO, the heter mechira, while sadly an imperfect situation ( and one
that is becoming increasingly replaced by Otzar Bet Din, with each
Shmitta) is still the only feasible one given the contemporary
socio-economic realities of the (sad) State of Israel. As far as the
speculated relationship between the present struggle over out continued
presence in Eretz Yisrael and Shmitta observance, those type of
calculations are best left to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. For an ancient (and
timeless) view of contemporary events however, try looking up Yeshaya,
Chapter 28 and then look at the Targum Yonatan on Pasuk 15 (I think).
Its all in there.

Danny Felsenstein 

From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 93 06:07:05 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

There is 2 cents missing from the discussion of shmita, so I will throw
mine in.  Since there is a question whether "Yovel" [Jubalee year] which
comes out every 50th year is the 1st year of the next shmita cycle, or
an independant year and the 1st year of the next cycle is the year after
yovel, the shmita year 5754, is a "safek shmita".

This consideration must be added to other all the other arguements.


From: <bloomdov@...> (Dov Bloom)
Date: Sun, 17 Oct 93 09:54:21 +0200
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

1. Untrue comment!?

I was surprised to read Yosef Bechhofer comment on Shmitta in JM 45 that
I found untrue as well as supercillious.

> I would like to point out that in fact the majority of knoledgable
> [sic] Jews ... in modern Israel, do not rely on the Heter Mechire

The vast majority of the "knowledgeable Jews" that I know certainly
recognize the validity of the heter mechira and rely on it "halacha
lemaase". It would be hard to list even the most significant supporters
of the heter, but one could start with 5642 (or was it 5649, I was
pretty young then) and Rav Yitshok Elchonon and Rav Mohliver, go through
every single Chief Rabbi of Israel (the ones that have the
_responsability_ on their shoulder to pasken for Am Yisrael in Eretz
Yisrael, as the last Rav Rashi Rav Shapira said "nos'im be-ol
ha-hora'ah" [bear the burden of instruction-psak] ) and of course the
pre-State Rav Kook, and end up with present day poskim like Rav Ovadia
Yosef and even "haredi" poskim like Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who
agrees that the heter is halachicly valid (though he holds it is not
Yosef apparently has a limited cirle of knowledgable Jewish
aquaintances.  All of my friends and associates, including teachers and
Ramim, rely on the heter exept for 3 I can think of. O.K., maybe my
circle of aquaintances is limited, too.

2. "finding a way around Shmitta"

I would like to add to Moshe London's figure of 90% Orthodox Jews
"finding a way around Shmitta" the fact that around 96% of religious
farmers use the heter mechira at least partially, and another 3% of
Poalei Aguda followers use a whole plethora of questionable heterim, all
propogated by the Hazon Ish and never accepted by any posek before him,
and some brought down "in his name" orally only.

"finding a way around Shmitta" sound pretty unflattering to me.  The
"olam" uses various and sundry halachikly valid heterim for depositing
money in the bank and getting interest, selling chometz (ask your local
kashrut supervisor if he uses the "heter mechira" on Peasach), raising
sheep and cattle (bechorot), not actually giving maaser rishon and the
list could go on and on.  When someone pays money for "a letter" in
writing a sefer Torah, or fills in the outlines of one, would we use the
prejorative "finding a way around the mitzva de'oraita of writing a
sefer Tora"? Is halitza "finding a way around" the mitzva de'oraita of
yibum, or should we catagorize it in a more respectable terms?

What does Mr Bechhofer evaluate as the percentage of his knowledgable
Jews who follow those dinim De'oraita [Biblical] of Shmitta that relate
to _their_ ways of life? I refer to of course the cancelling of debts!
Do they use the prusbul _heter_? (Many knowledgable Jews aren't
knowledgable enough and dont even do that!) And how many _really_ follow
the basic mitzva and cancell debts and loans - it applies to nearly
every one in our capital based modern financial society!

How many of Yosef's knowledgable Jews would lose their income for a year
(whether they work in a University, in Israel Aircraft Industries or get
paid by a kolel) and not look for a heter?

3. Shaat Hadkhak of the heter mechira

     It is easy to look down on the poor farmers and ask what is the
great need nowadays that the saintly proponents of the heter such as Rav
Yitshok Elchonon and Rav Kook saw in their day? As someone who is
presently close to the financial agricultural picture I can
catagorically state that a farmer who loses 1/7 of his income is not
going to stay a farmer for long. The profit margin is just too low and
the fixed costs are too high.  The farming land will effectively go to
the Arabs as many Jewish small farmers already have been pulling out in
the last 7-8 years. That is a real "lo techonaim". The real need is for
a consumer network to allow the farmers to not use the heter but still
make a living, as does every other Jew in the world during Shmitta.

4. Positive mitzva Deoraita of Shmitta - Eat Shmitta Produce!

The Ramban and other rishonim hold that there is a positive mitzvat aseh
"lachem leochla", the Tora says. You are adjoined to eat the produce of
shmitta, fruits and vegetables with kedushat peirot shevi'it. How many
of Yosef's knowledgable Jews who are makpid about being "yotzei"
different shitot fulfill this mitzva de'oraita according to Rishonim? Or
do they buy from (and financially support - lo techonem again?) Arabs!

The vehicle to enable religious Jews to fulfill this mitzva is Otzar
Beit Din. It is not feasable for every Jew in Israel to trapse out to a
different field for each crop and take food for three meals, as is in
the mishna. For one thing, the fields today are not in everyones back

The Tosefta mentions a "way around" the dinim of the Mishna, that the
Beit Din sends its shlichim to practically do the harvest and then
allocates the food out. This Shmitta baruch Hashem there has been great
advances made in the organization of Otarei Beit Din. Tnuva, the major
marketing agent for fruits and vegetables has an otzar beit din, the
Beit Din consists of Rav Ariel chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan and head of the
Shmitta comitte of the Rabanut, Rav Y.D. Auerbach chief Rabbi of Tveria
and son of Rav Shlomo Zalman, And a Rav Adler from the moetza datit in
Yerushalayim who I don't know personally. This beit dim is supposed to
be the vehicle to obtain Shmitta holy produce from farmers who don't
rely on the heter mechira, using usually the farmers themselves as
shlichim who will get paid for the harvesting and other work now done
be'heter [legally] - (_not_ heter mechira).

This whole effort depends on people _buying_ the Shmitta produce that
has kedusha. This allows the beit din and its shlichim to cover their
costs.  If the charedi Shmitta stores and other ostensibly "knowledgable
Jews" buy form Arabs, the effort fails and we are left with only Arabs
or the heter mechira.  [According to the Chazon Ish opinion that is
followed in Bnei Brak (but not Yerushalayim), it is a real riddle to me
why they don't use Jewish produce with kedusha, because the Chazon Ish
holds that even the produce of goyim must be treated as if it has
kedusha (one can't throw it out or use it in an abnormal fashion, etc).
The reason must be "political".]

My own kibbutz wanted to have some field that were planted _before
shmitta_ harvested bekdusha under the auspices of the beit din. The
answer we got was: we don't have a market for that much (we offered 15
acres of carrots, a small field nationally but gives 240 tons of

5. Promise

But the Tora says "venatati et birchati bashana hashisit", Hashem will
bless the crops of the 6th year and there will be enough to last for 3
harvests! I can tell you that this past year was _crummy_ for
agriculture! Of course the Tora isn't wrong. The answer is that the
havtacha [promise] of an extra sucessful 6th year applys only when
Shmitta applied - de'oraita! And now shmitta is only de'rabbonon (and
according to many rishonim not even that!). There is no power of the
chachomim to insure the "havtacha" of the Tora.

The fact that shmitta is not de'oraita nowadays is in fact one of the
founding premises of the heter mechira.

6. A number of comments on this topic on the list have been bothering me
for a while. Forgive me if my comments came out jumbled.

Dov Bloom
Kibbutz Maale Gilboa


End of Volume 9 Issue 56