Volume 9 Number 61
                       Produced: Thu Oct 21 12:30:34 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Shmittah and Heter Mechira (4)
         [Eli Turkel, Lon Eisenberg, David Gerstman, Lon Eisenberg]
Shmittah in CHU"L
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Shmittah Shabbos Clock
         [Josh Klien]


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 93 15:45:41 +0200
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

   Allen Elias gives the order of priority of the vaad hashemitta.  I
wish to point out that there are many groups that give hecshers to
"shemitta" products, e.g. badatz-edit ha-charedit, sheerit israel,
Agudah, R. Landau. Each one has their own set of priorities. As I
already mentioned the badatz will not accept any food grown on Jewish
israeli land.  The Badatz is well aware that there is a problem in
supervision of arab produce because of the intifada and previous
attempts at cheating.  Rumor has it that some of the Badatz produce is
imported from Jordan.  It is also said that the badatz requested the use
of Israeli army helicopters to supervise the arab fields at night when
it is to dangerous for regular mashgichim (supervisers), they were
turned down. The next rumor that I heard was that they wanted to use
hesder boys who already served in the army as supervisers of the arab
fields (off hours from their yeshiva learning). There was an article in
last weeks Yom hashishi (one of the weekly religious newspapers)
discussing which towns use which hechsher. It seems to be mainly
determined by the connections of the chief rabbi in each town. We speak
of the Jerusalem and Bnei-brak customs but in reality both customs exist
in many towns. The sheerit supermarket in Jerusalem follows the
Bnei-brak customs not the jerusalem customs. Ashdod has three shemitta
stores under three hechsherim !!  I have heard from friends in Rechovot
that the rabbanut there does not accept the use of greenhouses and will
not allow produce from Gush Katif in their "shemitta" stores.

     One of the chief questions is the effect of shemitta should the
entire israeli system truly observe it. I have heard arguments both
ways.  It would be interesting if an economics major at bar Ilan would
do a thesis on such a topic. My personal feeling is that all
agricultural exports from Israel would disappear. Usually if someone
doesn't deliver one year than the importers find someone else and then
stick with them. To the best of my (limited) knowledge the settlements
that completely keep shemitta (hafetz chaim, shaalvim and komemiyut)
rely on non-agricultural business or charity to last through the year. I
am not sure it would be in israeli's best interests to get rid of all
agriculture in Israel even though subsidies are needed to encourage

     As far as the blessing of the Torah for keeping shemitta it is
debatable whether it applies today since many hold that shemitta is only
rabbinical. Even the Hazon Ish said that we keep shemitta not because of
the blessing but rather because that is what is right.

     I heard from one rabbi that problem with shemitta observance in
Israel is that it is being used as a yardstick to distinguish between
the "real" religious people and other religious people. i.e. it is no
longer a strictly halachic question but rather a politicial or social

I disagree with Svetitsky and feel that most towns in Israel do have
shemitta stores available. On a personal level my main difficulty is
that many of my friends rely on the heter mechira. My wife is not
anxious to tell everyone that we will not eat out for an entire year.
Furthermore, there are very few restaurants or catering halls that use
shemitta stores.  In addition some of my children attend Bnei Akiva
schools that rely on the heter mechirah. Even though I use the shemitta
stores at home I cannot really tell the children not to eat in
(dormitory) school.  Finally, if one does not live in Bnei Brak or
Jerusalem the difficulty of canned foods becomes a minor disaster.  I
used to think that one of the advantages of Israel over America is that
in Israel one can eat (almost) everywhere and kashrut is relatively
easy.  When it comes to shemitta observance (non heter mechira) kashrut
in Israel is much harder than anything in the old country.


From: <eisenbrg@...> (Lon Eisenberg)
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 04:13:23 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

The following are excerpts from what Aryeh Frimer wrote and my replies:

>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.

I don't understand this.  We know that in years 1,2,4,5 of the Shemitta
cycle, we must separate ma`asser sheni and that in years 3 and 6
ma`asser 'ani.  What would you separated in the 7th year?

>   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." 

IMHO, this is not a valid argument.  Let's not forget that according to
the Torah, it is sufficient to simply declare our hamez (leaven) hefker
(ownerless).  It is only rabbinic to sell it to a non-Jew.

>In his reponsa [sic] 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.

IMHO, this is not a good reason to look for heterim.  Just like we are
obligated in other mizvot of the Torah, even when inconvenient, we are
obligated to treat the money with qedushath shvi`it as such, not to try
to take its qedushah away due to lack of care by the general population;
we don't use heterim to contort what the general population is doing to
be okay at the expense of lowering the standards of the Torah-observant
community.  People have to learn to care and do what's right.

A slightly related issue is the argument against changing the clocks for
the summer, since Shabbath ends later and non-observant businesses
(mostly eateries) open while it is still Shabbath: IMHO, we shouldn't
change the time Shabbath ends (even if only on the clock) to make their
opening time okay; they must learn to care enough to open after Shabbath
ends.  And here, it is not even a matter of lowering standards; it would
just be an inconvenience (most people prefer the later daylight hours).

>Interestingly, Rav Ovadya Yosef is a strong supporter of the Heter mechira.

Does he use it personally?  I don't think so.  How many of the
supporters of the heter actually rely on it themselves?  Let's not
forget that there are also political considerations.  Unfortunately, I
think it has gotten to the point where shemittah has become a political
rather than halakhic issue: Anti-state individuals have been associated
with shemittah observance, pro-state individuals with the use of the
heter mekhirah.  IMHO, this is incorrect.  Let's keep halakha separate
from politics.

>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.

I've heard of others who do the same, but I do not.  After all, would
you go to your Sephardi friend on Pesah and eat the rice?  I have found
that most friends have been accomidating to prepare appropriately when
inviting me.  I do the same when I invite guests, whether it be a
request for a special shehitah (ritual slaughter) or by a vegetarian or
by someone who is allergic to X.

From: <dhg@...> (David Gerstman)
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 10:04:02 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

There were several items in Dov Bloom's posting in mail-jewish v9 n56
which call for a response:

First he wrote:

>sefer Tora"? Is halitza "finding a way around" the mitzva de'oraita of
>yibum, or should we catagorize it in a more respectable terms?

Halitza wouldn't be in the same category as heter mechira for it is de'oraita.
Just as is Yibum.  If I remember correctly (I don't recall the Daf except
that it was the last Amud Bais of a perek) Tosfos brought several reasons
why Yibum is no longer performed.  One of which was that we no longer trust
the purity of a brother-in-laws intent.

>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!

My Rav, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff, said that Shmitta (most poskim say the end
of Shmitta) only negates the lender's right to collect.  A borrower may still
pay back a loan.  The lender may never ask for payment after Shmitta if he does
not have a Pruzbul.  Further, it only applies among Jews.  A Jew may still
collect loans to non-Jews after Shmitta.

David Gerstman

From: <eisenbrg@...> (Lon Eisenberg)
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 93 03:52:58 -0400
Subject: Re:  Shmittah and Heter Mechira

Eli Turkel has brought up a point that has always bothered me, even if you
accept the sale:
>...but major planting still cannot be done by Jews. 

But today, who does virtually all the work?  Perhaps in the days of HaRav
Kook, the Arabs did the work.


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 93 19:27:29 -0400
Subject: Shmittah in CHU"L

     A  "lomdishe"  ("scholarly")  query  to  MJ  readers  to  answer
themselves or to canvass their LOR's:
     A certain Yeshiva in Yerushalayim is marketing as a fund raising
venture a scheme by which you acquire a thimble-sized plot of land (I
hear it is the measure of land necessary to plant one seed) in Israel
which is not planted during Shmitta and thus, for  $36,  fulfill  the
mitzvah of Shmitta even in Chutz la'Aretz.  Although  it  seems  that
some great Rabbis have endorsed this plan, it bothers me  on  several
accounts, as I think that I am  fulfilling  the  mitzvah  of  Shmitta

a) The mitzvah of Shmitta is "to desist" ("shev v'al  ta'aseh")  -  I
too am desisting from going to Israel, or sending a  proxy  (such  as
the JNF), to plant during this coming year, aren't I? b) Even if land
were required to fulfill the mitzvah,  doesn't  every Jew possess land
as their birthright  in  the  Land  of  Israel  (the proverbial "4
amos") - so why bother with this land purchase?  c) If, indeed, some
form of "Active Desisting" (?) is necessary, am I indeed fulfilling
the mitzvah with land which I never intend to plant and am only
acquiring for the purpose of this mitzvah?  d) What if someone lives
in an apartment building  in  Israel  -  are they not fulfilling the
mitzvah  of  Shmitta.  Is  it  recorded  that Gedolei Torah of
previous generations who lived in urban areas in the Land of Israel
bought land during Shmitta to fulfill this mitzvah?

It is of course a nice mitzvah to give $36 to sustain  Talmud  Torah,
but that's not the point of my query...

Any answers?


From: Josh Klien <VTFRST@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 14:54 N
Subject: Shmittah Shabbos Clock

A tractor that works on the 'grama' (indirect action) principle has been
developed for some time by Tzomet, the institute for technological solutions
to halachic 'problems'. Essentially, the farmer drives the tractor and the
agricultural action required (seeding, harvesting) takes place but not under
the direct control of the driver. This doesn't work for plowing, since that
must be continuously performed and at the control of the driver. The tractor
has not been generally accepted halachically,a s far as I know. What I'd like
to know is what is the difference between relying on 'grama' and relying on a
shabbos clock/sha'on shabbat to turn things on and off? For that matter, on
many kibbutzim 'grama' is used for dishwashers (I think this has been
discussed here peviously). So why is what is good for shabbat not good for
A few words from the shmitta front lines: 1) The otzar bet din of Tnuva is
mostly intended for the army, for hospitals, and for other large institutions.
They couldn't get it organizedto the supermarket level, for the most part.
Where they do have 'pinot shmitta', I've noticedthat prices are 30-100% higher
than 'heter mechira' produce. It is not possible to produce cucumbers between
Rosh Hashana and now, so what they're selling for 2 shekel/kilo in the shuk
must be the same stuff that goes for 4 shekel/kilo in the 'pinat shmitta'. The
radio ahs already had reports of sky-high prices in shmitta stores, and how
the authoritites will soon crack down. Talk about making the torah into a
2) A moshav that I know that grows grapes wnats to go with an otzar bet din.
They can't find one that will allow them to treat the vines in such a way that
damage won't be done in the year after shmitta (this is a major problem with
eating grapes, but less so with wine grapes). One otzar bet din even has on
it's form qaauestions about whether women cover their hair, and where do
children go to school.
3) Why do several MJ correspondents say that they 'keep shmitta' at home but
rely on 'heter mechira' outside? 'Heter' implies 'keeping', as surely as
having lights going on and off in your house on shabbat still means that you
'keep' shabbat, if you have a shabbat clock.
Josh Klein VTFRST@VOlcani


End of Volume 9 Issue 61