The Price of Halachic Power

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57 Responses

  1. Chardal says:

    Well said. I would add that most badatz certifications required establishments to hire two kashrut supervisors during the Shmita year which led to many establishments to either drop the badatz or sometimes drop any certification altogether. Any psak that only thinks of the individuals spirituality and not also of the effects on Klal Yisrael (in the broadest sense of the word) should be treated with suspicion.

  2. Mr. Cohen says:

    I recently read that the non-Jewish farmers that Halachic Jews
    rely upon during shemita years are Arabs who use the
    additional money they receive in shemita years to help
    organizations that kill Jews, like Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Therefore, being strict with the prohibition against eating
    shemita foods is really being lenient with the
    prohibition against causing Jews to get killed by Arabs.

  3. cvmay says:

    Thank you for an extensive article which highlights the plus and minuses of adopting ‘stringencies/chumrahs’ and its consequences. In short, it can be said that the candidacy of Rav Metzger brought the popularity of Tzohar Rabbanim to the helm.

    “as Arab farmers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza could provide fruits and vegetables” – 1. Does Halachic decision take into account the $$ earned by Arab farmers and if those funds can/did provide revenue for terrorism? 2. If an Arab is farming the land of Israel, which belongs to Am Yisroel, why is that any different than a Heter Mechira, where the land is sold (fictiously) and then worked upon by Arabs?

  4. Ben Waxman says:

    Your description of Rav Metzger’s attempt to kill the heter michra (not limit) is not accurate. Rav Metzger tried through various ways to stop the heter. When this failed, he called a meeting of the Rabbinate Kashrut Council (a conference call about which Rav Amar was not informed) a month or so before Rosh Hashana (in other words, daka hatishim). The council ruled that religious councils had the right to refuse kashrut certification for any establishment using heter michira products (a right not given for any other kashrut issue; it matters not if the local rav thinks that non-glatt meat or non-chalav yisroel is treif. He still has to issue a kashrut certificate to establishments using these products). The rabbanim of several cities immediately announced that they wouldn’t issue kashrut certificates, and this refusal would have effectively killed the heter.

    Tzohar threatened to issue their own kashrut certificates (and did, for a period of time. I remember seeing them in Machane Yehuda). However when the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils had to issue kashrut certificates to any establishment using the heter, there was no need to continue. The court said that the religious councils had to respect the heter michira, not just look the other way (http://www.datili.co.il/index.php?id=10030). In fact the Supreme Court ruled that the government had to replace any local rav who refused to issue a certificate!

    Although I am relying on memory I did read the court’s decision at the time. Essentially what they ruled was that the State had, over the course of several years prior to the last shmitta, through various official bodies and decisions, made it clear that the rabbinate would be relying on the heter. Rav Metzger could not make a last second declaration that would overturn the entire process. Government simply doesn’t work like that.

    In addition, the problem wasn’t that people would have had to buy ozar beit din tomatoes instead of heter michira tomatoes. The problem was that there wasn’t these tomatoes (or other vegetables) to be had. The amount of ozar beit din produce is very limited. Farmers could harvest what they had planted before shmitta and that was it for most of them. There are a very limited number of farmers in areas to which shmitta doesn’t apply. What about the rest of these farmers? Many of them also depend on export markets, which they would have lost as well. What were they going to do? In fact, the entire food industry was threatened by Rav Metzger’s decision.

    Knowingly buying from Arabs, especially from Hamas controlled Gaza, is simply not an option for many people. In their eyes, being machmir on shmitta leads to a few huge qulot.

  5. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I want to commend Cross-Currents for posting this excellent article, which should enlighten readers who are less familiar with the situation in Israel about the complexity of the relationship between haredi and non-haredi communities. While shmitta is far from the only area of contention, I think it provides as good an example as any of how the hashkafas and interests of various groups collide over an issue that is, itself, complex, emotionally charged for many, and misunderstood by many, and how these conflicts impact politics and attitudes in Israel.

  6. Shunamit says:

    Well done and honest. Thank you.

  7. David says:

    Yasher koiach.

    Part of the problem is that the charedim instinctively perceive every opposition to anything they want to do as an attack on Torah which they must courageously fight against. As the ‘other side’ is seen as an evil enemy bent on destroying Judaism, sensibility goes out the window and every small issue becomes a zero sum game.

  8. Reuven Ungar says:

    This is an excellent, balanced and thoughtful article-especially the last paragraph. Thanks to Rav Karlinsky for writing it, and crosscurrents for posting it.

  9. Thinking Charedi says:

    Great article, Thanks!
    A few points
    1. I think that Rav Elyashiv at least deserves credit for the purity of his motives. It would seem to be that it did not interest him especially what the secular in Tel Aviv ate, but rather that the Shmita be observed properly in Eretz Yisrael. Not doing so, as we know, can have severe consequences for the entire public. It is possible to see his Psak as an act of Ahavas Yisrael, and not as an attempt to “enforce our standards”
    2. I think the Charedi opposition to the Rabbanut could be a bit better explained. If it began and ended with stringencies in the world of Kashrus, that would be one thing. But many of the “independently minded” (read: not beholden to Charedi Rabbi’s) Zionist rabbis would like to introduce far-reaching changes in many aspects of Jewish life that go against the major Poskim of the last hundred years. (Perhaps a reference to Rav Goren would be in place here). The Rabbanut has vast powers in the realm of Gittin and Geirus (coversion) which have tremendous effects on Am Yisrael qua Kahal and touch on the most serious sides of Kedushas Yisrael. Rav Elyashiv appears to have a favored a Chief Rabbi who had no independent Daas in order to preserve these areas of Jewish life (again, I would contend as a gesture of Ahavas Yisrael). It appears that he overplayed his hand by choosing someone a bit too far out…)
    3. I take issue with the fact that the Charedim are trying to make the secular over “in their image”. The facts today are that one can get married secularly in Cyprus and the state must recognize it. One can convert in a Reform ceremony abroad and be recognized as a Jew. Pig is readily available in Tel Aviv (and even in Jerusalem in some places). Let’s not exaggerate. The Charedim are trying to zealously (both for good and for bad) defend our Masorah from infrigement. I don’t think they really see any value to “engaging” other sectors of the populace, for the simple reason that those other sectors have the single intention of affecting changes in Yiddishkeit to make it more palatable to their modern sensitivities
    Again, thanks for the well-written article

  10. L. Oberstein says:

    Thank you for clarifying the Heter Mechira and the background of why Ra v Elyashiv chose Rabbi Metzger.
    I am still confused as to why the chareidi population leadership is so intent on chosing a Chief Rabb who is not a major talmid chacham. The people I associate with are very open that Rav Elyashiv wanted to destroy the whole institution of Chief Rabbi and that it is more than just heter mechira. The horrible verbal attack on Rav Stav by Rav Ovadia Yosef only expressed in simple words what many feel in the chareidi world. They do not want a Chief Arabbinate like that of Rav Kook or Rav Herzog. I still do not understand why they want the people of Israel to be like sheep without a shephard ,that it is better for Judaism if the majority of Israelis do not have a Chief Rabbi who underfstands their needs and who cleans out the stifling roadblocks that exist. It isn’t even hidden, I speak to people all the time who openly want to destroy the Chieif Rabbinate. Isn’t the blood of 90% of the country as red as their blood? Why don’t they care about the rest of the country? If I am wrong, no one around me has explained it in a satisfactory way.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    There are always many choices involving “do I impose my will?” vs. “do I try my best to persuade the other party?”. Someone can enjoy success for a time using the former approach, but then find that the worm has turned and his will can no longer be imposed and the other party is now 100% turned off and unpersuadable.

  12. Dr. E says:

    There is another “cost” that is sort of obvious to anyone following the news in Israel lately. That is when advocacy for a leadership position is based on a single agenda item, there are consequences. Ten years ago, a less-than-qualified (and now we see, worse) candidate for Chief Rabbi was pushed by outsiders for whom the institution of the Rabbanut, its rulings, and Kashrut supervision, are essentially irrelevant anyway. And so it was, as they got their man in for the next decade. But, this came in exchange for Chillul Hashem, not to mention a significant, ongoing facial omelette.

  13. joel rich says:

    R’Bob,
    There are always many choices involving “do I impose my will?” vs. “do I try my best to persuade the other party?”.

    ————————-
    Does the name Mohammed Morsi ring a bell? or as Chazal would say “tafasta, mrubah lo tafasta” (“If you have seized a lot, you have not seized”)

    She-nir’eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,

  14. DF says:

    This article is but one example where new chumrahs in one area leads to kulah in another. The kollel concept (which causes wives to enter the workforce, contrary to notions of kol kevudah bas melech) is another. Many more examples can be be shown, including whole hosts of cases where bein adam limokom is enhanced (if at all) only at the expense of bein adam limchavero.

  15. Hoffa Fingerbergstein says:

    Wait a second. For those who do not hold of the Heter Mechirah, what is the difference between Oztar BD and “Heter Mechirah” produce? They both have kedushas sheviis according to the majority of poskim who don’t hold of heter mechirah, no? If so, by accepting Heter Mechirah for the general public, one is living a halachic fiction, whereby we create an illusion that something is different about heter mechirah fruit than Otzar BD fruit. But there is not. Therefore, the handling of mass amounts of Otzar BD and heter mechirah improperly results in the same chillul kedushas shviis, except one is a fiction and one is not.

    Also, the DL community has started to wean itself away from heter mechirah, which R’ Karlinsky did mention briefly. Therefore, to say that this is purely a result of chareidi political machinations is not completely true. I remember hearing when I was a bachur learing in EY in the early 1990’s that R’ Avrohom Shapira shlita”a, RY of Merkaz HaRav had Otzar BD produce served in the yeshiva and there was a deliberate move by him to move away from that reliance. Therefore, while the choice of R’ Metzger is framed as one based on shmittah considerations by Chareidi leaders, this move was in line with the move towards less reliance on this now dubious heter.

  16. Dr.Uriel Levi says:

    Excellent editorial. There truly must be a dialogue between all Religious streams and movements- if we, as a people, are able to achieve our goals. The basic premise of that dialogue would be the delicate balance between the Halachos of Bein Adam L’Makom and Bain Adam L’Chaveiro. It can be done through extensive respectful dialogue, but requires a lot of patience & Emunah

  17. Ben Waxman says:

    I am still confused as to why the chareidi population leadership is so intent on chosing a Chief Rabb who is not a major talmid chacham

    1) Various spokesmen for Rav Sheitimann have said that they see the rabbinate as a way of providing services to outlying areas and to carry out policies which are to be determined by certain rabbanim. For this type of operation, not only do you not need a talmid chacham, you probably don’t want one.

    2) They want the 90% to have a shepherd, but they demand to be that shepherd.

  18. Shaul says:

    The Halachic unintended consequences are much more serious. It can be illustrated by looking at Israeli wine of 2008 vintage, produced from grapes grown during shmittah. Each bottle has one of two hechsheirim: Heter mechirah or otzar beit din. The former relies on the leniencies to bypass the shmittah limitations. The latter avoids these leniencies… But the fruit produced now has unadulterated shmittah sanctification. So its distribution has to be under the jurisdiction of the beis din, its price is supposed to reflect only the need to recoup expenses. No wine may be left in the glass to be poured down the drain, nor can it be used to extinguish a havdalah candle. And there is an explicit Talmudic prohibition against removing it from the land of Israel (read: export).

    Unfortunately, with the active limitation of heter mechirah, a significant amount of 2008 wine with shmittah sanctification was not treated in this manner, either by observant Jews who didn’t know better, non-observant Jews who didn’t care, or non-Jews who can’t be expected to take these precautions. Not a good Halachic outcome.

    However, as the writer mentioned above, Rav Elyashiv’s position on Heter Mechira was “that it had no validity whatsoever – certainly not in its current form”. As such, all fruit produced under the Heter also has “unadulterated shmittah sanctification” and is subject to all the limitations of Otzar Beis Din, without the allowance of being distributed under the jurisdiction of Beis Din. Additionally, many observant Jews who do know better, would not observe the required limitations due to their reliance on the Heter, which in Rav Elyashivs view is invalid & mistaken.

    On top of this, the fruit is subject to the additional status of Shamur V’Ne’evad – fruit which was produced through Halachically prohibited work during Shemitah, which may render the fruit assur to eat at all.

    Accordingly, in an effort that the lesser amount of Issurei Shvi’is occur, Rav Elyashiv used the tools which were available to him to do so.

  19. Abe says:

    “The main candidate at the time was Rav Yakov Ariel, a person with impeccable Rabbinic and personal credentials. But he was firmly in the Religious Zionist camp . . .”

    Irrespective of the heter mechira issue, we would all have been better off if the candidate who is “a person with impeccable Rabbinic and personal credentials” was selected. Such a Rabbi, regardless would act in an honorable manner and be mekadesh shem shomayim, even if he has his personal shittos and hshkafos on some things (which Rov does not?).

  20. yosef berger says:

    Rabbi Oberstien,the answer to your question about undermining the rabbinate can be summed up in 2 words “Rabbi Goren”.After the debacle of having a learned maverick like him be chief rabbi,the chariedi establishment is wary of anyone of halachic stature taking the post.Right or wrong,its a fact.Now,one may ask”but that’s ancient history ,more than 30 yrs ago?!!”However the answer to that question, is fundamental to understanding the whole total lack of communication going on between the warring sides in Israel today.All the little events that are not even on the periphery of many non charedi jews in how they view the state ,are for most chareidim (even not satmar)the ikar in determining how they feel about EY.To list a few;Herzl’ s athesism,the chofetz chaims fight against mizrachi,Rav Kook vs RYC Sonnenfeld,the whole nazi/zionist conspiracy documented in Perfidy,the treatment of the yeminite children,the debauchery at kibbutzim,the chazon ish not looking at ben gurion,the destruction of kevarim,the kikar shabbos demonstrations,nituchie mesim,the aformentioned rabbi goren maamzer saga,yossele shumacher,shulamit aloni ,the rabin/peres oslo diregard for jewish lifes and many other events totally drown out all the amazing positive ways one could view the state.One can fruitlessly debate the merits and history of what happened as many non chareidim waste time doing,or one can be totaly clueless about this component of chareidi DNA and get no where(ie Lipman)or one can acknowledge this reality and in that framework try and get the charedim to be functional members of society.

  21. Zvi K says:

    I’ll bet the restaurant was Gerlitz in Geula.

  22. Shades of Gray says:

    “It behooves the Charedi leaders and politicians to step back and carefully examine both agenda and process”

    There is a need for sensitivity and goodwill on all sides, or at least the tactics one brings to the table when negotiating with foreign countries.

    The president of Bar Ilan was recently quoted about separate gender classes for Charedim that, “our mission is to try to be a university for all Jews. The goal is to help them, not change them”. On the other hand, because the secular as well as liberal-religous in the army establishment perceived themselves as under attack, they were not willing to accomodate or exempt Hesder soldiers who did not want to hear a woman singing in the army.

    The NYT noted that out of concern for the Charedi acting health minister and other religious people who would be in attendance, a pediatrics professor and her husband had to sit separately and she was instructed that a male colleague would have to accept the award for her because women were not permitted on stage. The Charedi health minister, no doubt, did not want to impose his standards on the secular people and thought that there was good will. However, the underlying feelings of the public at large were not realized, thus, the NYT article.

    The Gemara introduces Kamtza and Bar Kamtza with Mishlei, אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם, מְפַחֵד תָּמִיד; וּמַקְשֶׁה לִבּוֹ יִפּוֹל בְּרָעָה(see Rashi in Gittin).

    In 2006, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz wrote in the Jewish Observer( “The Pierced Teen and I”), “Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if the recent, painful budget cuts brought about in part by the stunning ascendancy of Tommy Lapid and the Shinui party – the rioting of the secular Jews – was even in a small part caused by the self-imposed collective black eye that we suffered as a result of the aggressive actions of some members of our community? We cannot avoid these implications for our future. Just because Tommy bungled his mandate and is slipping from power does not mean that the forces that propelled him there have abated.”

    Similarly in 2007(“Is Everything a 10?”), Rabbi Horowitz wrote an analogy based on parenting teens regarding the proposed Daylight Savings Time Knesset legistlation that, “there is no doubt in my mind that sooner or later (probably sooner) there will be a colossal push-back from secular Israelis who are resentful at their growing perception that observant Jews are not only appropriately lobbying for the right to practice religion as they wish to, but are imposing their will on the broader community. “

  23. cvmay says:

    “One can fruitlessly debate the merits and history of what happened as many non chareidim waste time doing”,

    OR continue REWRITING, REPEATING and RELIVING many of those ‘NONfacts on the ground (chazon ish not looking at BG, Rav Kook verus R. Sonnenfeld, etc.) as the CHAREDIM waste time doing…

  24. cvmay says:

    Thank you for an extensive article which highlights the plus and minuses of adopting ‘stringencies/chumrahs’ and its consequences. In short, it can be said that the candidacy of Rav Metzger brought the popularity of Tzohar Rabbanim to the helm.

    “as Arab farmers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza could provide fruits and vegetables” – 1. Does Halachic decision take into account the $$ earned by Arab farmers and if those funds can/did provide revenue for terrorism? 2. If an Arab is farming the land of Israel, which belongs to Am Yisroel, why is that any different than a Heter Mechira, where the land is sold (fictiously) and then worked upon by Arabs

    BTW if I am correct the produce from Arab Farmers has kedushas shivis also due to the LAND being Jewish land.

  25. Shades of Gray says:

    “the chazon ish not looking at ben gurion…or one can be totaly clueless about this component of chareidi DNA and get no where”

    That’s part of the problem. How does one get past this DNA ? The Chazon Ish acted that way with Ben Gurion for a reason; how do we know what relevance his actions should have to conduct today(the Chazon Ish himself wrote ” ועלינו להחזירם בעבותות אהבה ” instead of מורידין ולא מעלין) ?

    Regarding the core curriculum, one can object inherently and on principle, as R. Aharon Feldman explained that it erodes kedusha and is against the system, or explain as Jonathan Rosenblum did that “to understand the Israeli chareidi mindset, one must first know something about the history of kulturkampf in the Holy Land, and the efforts by the government and the Jewish Agency in pre-State days and in the ‘50s to uproot religious observance among the younger generation”. No doubt both reasons are true, but what Jonathan Rosenblum says is part of the “chareidi DNA” and is the context, but doesn’t have to always be there as if it was a Mesorah.

    Another example of there being “two reasons”, Rabbi Betzalel Cohen, founder of Shachar, told Mishpacha, “For years the chareidi establishment stated the reason for not going to the army is because of limud Torah. But the real reason is that they want the boys to remain frum”. Both reasons could be true.

  26. David F. says:

    Two points:

    1 – I wonder what Rav Elyashiv zt”l would say to Rabbi Karlinsky’s points if he were still around to do so? Assuming his motivations were as Rabbi Karlinsky asserts, would he in hindsight agree that it was a mistake or would he feel that it was the correct choice at the time and in accordance with what halacha mandated given that we cannot be prophets or make political cheshbonos when it comes to defending halachah?

    2 – While I personally understand why Rabbi Karlinsky feels that this was an unwise move on the part of the Charedi establishment, I’d like to insert a point that he didn’t touch upon which may explain Rav Elyashiv’s motives a bit better.

    Since the founding of the state, a fierce debate has raged in Israel about the issue of settlements. Many believe that they are a terrible idea and nothing more than a provocation that has backfired and cost numerous Jewish lives. Many others believe that they are essential to our maintaining control and possession of the Land of Israel and must be built and defended at all costs.

    All agree that the costs are high but there are those that feel that they unavoidable. It’s either settlements or we lose the land. Interestingly, many of those who believe this way are the staunch Zionists – the DL and Chardal communities. Those communities are also the ones who have staunchly supported the Heter Mechirah which was never popular in the Charedi communities and of little concern to non-religious people.

    Observance of Shmittah is not just “another” mitzvah as we all know. It is one of those mitzvos that the Torah insists upon and threatens to expel us from the Land if we don’t observe. All would agree that when the Torah threatens expulsion, it’s a credible threat and not one that should be lightly addressed. While I can understand why some believed it was an absolute necessity to have the Heter in the early years of the State in spite of the potential dangers of ignoring the Torah’s mandate, it is far less easy for me to comprehend why the very same people who so strongly insist upon settlements and the like, aren’t more keen to observing Shmittah 100% according to standards. This would seem to be the most consistent position they could take, but for some reason, most don’t and cling to the Heter despite it’s shaky halachic foundations.

    It may well be that Rav Elyashiv was focused not on politics, but on a desperate desire to ensure that we will not be expelled from the Land. Some do that through settlements which cause their own laundry list of problems – halachic and political – and others through insistence on upgrading halachically acceptable methods of observing Shmittah.

  27. yosef berger says:

    Cvmay,for a chareidi to dwell on these (non)facts is not a waste of time as it justifies mantaining the status qoe,if the whole argument against the current chariedi system is contingent on debating history..Shades of grey,I would suggest that one need not get past the chariedi dna to affect change.One doesn’t have to be a zionist to want to support ones family,to have his children get the most suitable chinuch for each child,to have options in life other than staying in kollel.One can believe all the horrible “history”about Israel and still want to live an economicly viable life in a prosperous country.I would tell the chariedim in Israel,that we terribly regret all the horrors that have been commited in the past but that doesn’t change the fact that currently your system is a disaster.

  28. dr. bill says:

    Opposition to the heter mekhirah is a deep seated issue that has not had a positive history. From editing the words of RSZA ztl (removing his reference to rav Kook, as marah de’eretz Yisroel and his authority vis-a-vis the heter mekhirah despite RSZA’s personal opposition), denigrating gedolai Yisroel who held that the heter mekhirah was legitimate, to the willingness (or perhaps even desire) to make a mockery of the chief rabbinate ostensibly over this issue, should generate reaction. Perhaps tzeddek (be’) tzeddek tirdof, does not apply to so lofty a purpose!

  29. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I think David F’s comment about Rav Elyahiv’s motives is entirely reasonable, although I disagree with the comment questioning why people who “so strongly insist upon settlements and the like, aren’t more keen to observing Shmitta 100% accordintg to standards.” First of all, many dati leumi people, particular from the “hardal” wing of the dati leumi community, do not hold by the heter mechira, and that trend seems to be increasing. Second, many people in the dati leumi camp would make halachic arguments that even from a halachic perspective, relying on heter mechira is less problematic than buying from Arabs, which is the solution employed to a large extent by those that reject the heter mechira. I’m not taking sides, I’m just pointing out that this is not a straightfoward question of higher and lower standards as the comment implies. As I side note, I’d like to mention that one of the most positive things that came out of the most recent shmittah is the Otzar HaAretz organization, which provided a framework for supplying produce to consumers based largely on Otzer Beit Din, and which attempted to minimize both reliance on the heter mechira and the use of Arab-grown produce. This organization worked with some very prominent poskim. It was mainly utilized by the dati leumi community, but some haredi rabbaim also worked with it, with certain limitations based on their own hashkafas and psakim.

    The linkage between shmitta and settlements is interesting and makes some sense to me. But I think it’s important to add that politically, the dati leumi community has paid a very heavy price for its support of settlements. In fact, the settlement issue is the main cause (in my opinion) of the former National Religious Party’s loss of the position it held for many years as a party that could be relied upon by any coalition in return for government support of its sectorial interests, a role that Shas took over and has held in most governments, and lost to Yesh Atid in the current government. Thus, by linking settlements to shmitta, I think David F. is buttressing Rabbi Karlinsky’s point, which is (I hope I am not mistating it) that by expanding its field of inflence from its own narrow interests to issues that effect the general public, the haredi community is causing a political backlash that endangers its more sectorial interests.

  30. Chardal says:

    >It would seem to be that it did not interest him especially what the secular in Tel Aviv ate,

    >It is possible to see his Psak as an act of Ahavas Yisrael

    Do you really not see the irony in these two statements? Ahavas Yisrael is now acting in ways that have questionable mystical/magical effects on the klal and not actually being concerned about the observance of mitzvos by the klal??

    >The facts today are that one can get married secularly in Cyprus and the state must recognize it

    I think that your tone would be quite different if, lets say, the USA made kidushin illegal and you have to travel to canada to get married.

    >Also, the DL community has started to wean itself away from heter mechirah, which R’ Karlinsky did mention briefly.

    We do not do so by paseling the heter mechira, which is something ALL RZ rabbis (of course) consider perfectly valid. The chief rabbi of tenuva tried lessening the heter mechira two shmitas ago – the results vis-a-vis the farmers were nearly catastrophic. It leads to many much greater problems than those under the heter mechira.

    >Rav Elyashiv’s position on Heter Mechira was “that it had no validity whatsoever

    He is entitled to his opinion. He is not entitled to tell people who rely on THEIR competant rabbis that it is not kosher or that they are doing aveirot. See igrot haRaaya #555.

  31. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Thinking Charedi: I think the Charedi opposition to the Rabbanut could be a bit better explained. If it began and ended with stringencies in the world of Kashrus, that would be one thing. But many of the “independently minded” (read: not beholden to Charedi Rabbi’s) Zionist rabbis would like to introduce far-reaching changes in many aspects of Jewish life that go against the major Poskim of the last hundred years. (Perhaps a reference to Rav Goren would be in place here).

    Ori: It seems that in the 1950s Mapai (secular socialists, the biggest party) and the Mafdal (Religious Zionist) came to an agreement. Mapai will let the Mafdal “own” the religion and allow Halacha to control the issues Mafdal considered most critical, such as marriage law and military cooking (which is supposed to be Kosher). In return, Mafdal made sure that the Halacha non-religious Jews will be required to follow won’t be too onerous. This required far reaching changes in Halacha, which were probably approved because the alternative was the have the majority of Israeli Jews leave Halacha completely, which is what happens in places like the US.

    Now it seems that Israel is going the way of the US in this regard.

  32. Kalman Neuman says:

    Thanks for a balanced and clear article, which after reading it everyone can reach their own conclusions. Just one clarification : the notion of “mehadrin hechsherim” is more that “more than the bear mimimum” but rather “yotzei l’kol hadeot” (following all possible stringencies) . The standards of the mehadrin hechsherim as far beyond those of of the OU in North America.

  33. L. Oberstein says:

    Thanks to those who answered my quesion about why the chareidi leadership in essence still opposes the exisitence of the Chief Rabbinate. Is Medinat Yisrael something special, something from Hashem that is an open miracle and a sign of Divine Concern for Am Yisrael or is it not? That seems to be the question. No other people on earth has returned to its ancient homeland after thousands of years of exile. Was this purely a secular movement, G-d had nothing to do with it and the state is ephemeral and ony another way station in our long exile or is it holy?I think that is the fundamental argument. The chareidim, as I see it,do not look upon the State as anything that changes halacha or affects how one decides quesions. Thus conversion does not take into consideration the need to naturalize a million Russians,nor the need for farmers to plant crops in the Sabbatical year if the land is to have food. How much of a factor is the existence of a viable state of Israel in deciding halachic questions.
    I recall a speaker at our shul back five years ago or more who said that it would be better if we still had the British Mandate. No one else in the room really fathomed what he was saying, it is so far from our mindset.This man lives in Lakewood and had written a widely read book that was later condemned because he gave “legitimicy” to Reform Judaism. As Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “prdicdtions are hard, especially about the future”. Who would have believed in the post Holocaust era that old time orthodoxy would have such a rebirth? From being ignored, the very orthodox are fast becoming the norm in much of our community and their ifluence on Israel got to a point where there was a backlash.If Rabbi Karlinsky and most of us were in charge, we would put forward our agenda without the huffing and puffing and not be so “ugly” in the sight of our non frum fellow Jews. We are on the cusp of a new age and if we frum Jews would act better, we could accomplish more and then maybe ,belately,we would appreciate the Nes Galui of Medinat Yissrael.

  34. While We're At It says:

    1. The article doesn’t discuss the halachic underpinnings of the otzar beit din. As I understand it, that’s a much more recent invention than the heter mekhira. Why should its workings necessarily be halachically valid?

    2. In my experience, otzar beit din produce is significantly more expensive than non-shmitta produce or heter mekhira produce, which is odd if in indeed the beit din is merely reimbursing the farmer for his expenses. The price hike suggests that someone involved in the oversight process is taking a cut of the money along the way from the farmer to the end purchaser.

  35. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    Excellent piece.

    From what I understand, R’ Elyashiv zt”l’s darko bakodesh was to apply halachic theory untempered (or unadulterated, depending on your perspective) by external considerations. Recall that he never earned a salary as a local pulpit rabbi or teacher. (Or am I mistaken?)

    It’s a rather sharp distinction with someone like Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Rav Moshe is always considering a dozen different angles. (Moshe Koppel observes the incredibly high frequency of the word “veGam” in R’ Moshe’s writing style.) My impression is that there were matters of American Orthodox public policy that RMF very clearly sought (and succeeded) in changing, but when it came to Israel it was sufficiently not his world that he would pasken individual shaylos (“eh personally I say don’t use heter mechira”) but avoided policy matters (“you ask me for a halachic definition today of milchemes mitzvah? The Israeli government isn’t asking me, and if they did I wouldn’t know what to tell them anyhow.”)

  36. Dovid Shlomo says:

    Reply to David F.:

    Shemittah b’zaman hazeh is D’Rabbonon.

    That means that m’Doraissa, there is no obligation at all.

    This is relevant because one cannot assume that the Torah’s blessings and curses related to Shemittah observance and lack thereof apply in a situation where there is no Torah obligation at all.

    This is not my idea, but that of — I believe — Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank.

    The price that was paid for being “machmir” about Shemittah is that rather than having had a Rav HaRashi whose tenure who have been a Kiddush HASHEM, the first time in decades that there would have been a Talmid Chacham v’Ratsui l’Brios Chief Rabbi, we had someone [edited]

    Given the lost opportunity for Kiddush HASHEM that Rav Ariel would have brought, a Rav that would have been respected by the Clal, we got [edited].

    All supposedly in the name of being machmir in Shemittah, which BTW, coincide with the financial interests of Rav Elyashiv’s aides, chiefly among them. [edited] who are closely tied to pproduction of non-Shemittah produce, where millions of dollars were at stake in compelling many more establishments to buy from them.

  37. Shaul says:

    He is entitled to his opinion. He is not entitled to tell people
    who rely on THEIR competant rabbis that it is not kosher

    Of course, if he’s entitled to his opinion & in his opinion he CAN tell others who rely etc., then you’ve contradicted yourself.

    But the point is anyway irrelevant because the issue was not one of telling people what they should eat or that they did aveiros. The issue is preventing such produce from reaching the market in the first place. Rav Elyashiv held that the food is assur so he did what he could to make it unavailable. If you/your Rav holds it to be muttar, and could find some, go ahead & eat it.

  38. Ari B. says:

    This article is an excellent, though subtle, example of how expansionist Chareidi tendencies have left the whole concept of a religious “staus quo” in tatters. Tznius is a more tangible example. Only 20 years ago there were a few tznius signs in the core Chareidi neighborhoods of Meah Sharim and perhaps Mattisdorf. Then, tznius regulations started popping up in “regular” Chareidi neighborhoods, followed demands that mixed neighborhoods adopt certain standards (witness the Ramot mall ban). Meanwhile, the core Chareidi neighborhoods have become more extreme, and the cycle continues and expands outwards. There doesn’t seem to be the internal will to stop this trend, or even the intellectual honesty to admit that it’s happened. So when at the inevitable backlash occurs, as is happening now, the Chareidi establishment can hardly cry “status quo!” in it’s defense.

  39. Shaul says:

    @WhileWe’reAtIt
    From crcweb.org: “The halachos of Otzar Beis Din are based on Tosefta,
    Shevi’is 8:1-3 (cited in Ramban, Vayikra 25:7) as clarified by
    the later Poskim; see many details in Derech Emunah 6:19.”

  40. Reb Yid says:

    This article fails to make its case because it doesn’t demonstrate that anyone did anything objectionable. For example, it acknowledges that decreased willingness to rely on the heter mechira is largely because of the fact that “the religious population was increasing in numbers and moving to the right religiously.” So the government responded to the changing needs of the population. Problem? Further, it implicitly agrees with the rabbinate’s original stance of “maximum Kashrus with minimum standards” because that shunted as many Israelis as possible into default kashrus observance, but the author then castigates the chareidim for “the desire to impose “our way” and “our standards” on those outside of our community”, even thought that would essentially accomplish the same thing.

    If the chareidim were really the bogeymen, they would be content with following halacha on their own and not caring in the least as to whether anyone else was. In reality, they want all Jews to follow the Torah, and this is the opportunity they feel they have to accomplish that. And for that, you criticize them?

  41. Dovid Shlomo says:

    To Reb Yid:
    Please read my comments above, stamped July 4 11:22 AM.
    I believe they answer your questions.

    The blocking of Rav Ariel for Chief Rabbi had nothing to do with “wanting all Jews to Follow the Torah.”

    Rav Elyashiv’s handlers blocked the appointment of a widely respected Rav, posek, and Rosh Yeshiva who would have enhanced the country’s respect for Torah and earned the respect of the entire country.

    The candidate they inserted instead, who would do their bidding on Shemittah, had never published a teshuva, never sat on a Beit Din, never published even one serious essay on any Torah topic, never taught in a yeshiva, and was someone who — to say the least — the broader public had no respect for.

    This was why the anti-religious members of the electing council voted with the haredim for the haredi candidate, for they as well did not want a Rav HaRashi who would present a positive image of Torah and Yiddishkeit.

    I do not believe for one second that Rav Elyalshiv was himself aware of what was being done, nor was he aware of the tremendous financial incentive certain of his handlers had due to their Shemittah heksherim, which would now earn more money given the greater number of customers who would be forced to use his heksherim as well as the “non-Shemittah” companies he had a financial stake in.

    l

  42. Eli in the USA says:

    Note the difference between this post and others on Cross-Currents, and how this go discussion going. Any post which doesn’t allow comments is more of a dictation. Unfortunately, with the Ner Yisroel Rosh Yeshiva (and the recent “incident”), we no longer know who is doing the dictating, or if he will be Chozer when different “facts” come to light.

    That being said, the two do tie together. If the Charaidim want to withdraw from the state, they may certainly do so (and become NK/Satmar, and not longer take any funds, including health insurance). As (IIRC) Rav Stav said, why should the Charaidim have anything to do with the Chief Rabbi elections when they don’t hold of him anyway?

  43. www.mohoshiv.com says:

    Just to throw some light (hopefully) on this issue from a somewhat different perspective. From R’ Eliashiv’s point of view the Chief Rabbinate was hopelessly compromised after the Goren fiasco. He felt that the entire institution was completely trustless, and could not be relied upon for anything of substance. Consequently, he preferred to have R. Metzger as chief rabbi who hopefully he could have at least some influence on both for Shemitta as well as for other issues, rather than R. Ariel who by virtue (sic!) alone of being a part of the Chief Rabbinate could not be trusted.

    An anecdote: There was once a need for a Shabbos goy in the neighbourhood and R. Eliashiv was asked how to determine if someone is a goy. He said that someone who had undergone a conversion under the Chief Rabbinate could be considered a goy lamehadrin min hamehadrin.

  44. Perry Zamek says:

    1. As has been pointed out, Otzar Beit Din has, in theory, been an option since the time of the Mishna.
    2. Some Charedi schools of thought reject the concept of Otzar Beit Din completely. Hence, we are left with strict Shmitta or non-Jewish produce.
    3. Many rabbis, even in the Dati Leumi camp, in their shiurim on the laws of Shmittah, recommended that we use Otzar Beit Din where available (since it is a mitzvah to use produce with Kedushat Shevi’it), then southern Arava (no Kedushat Shevi’it), then Heter Mechira (which, according to some views, has Kedushat Shevi’it), and finally non-Jewish produce (from abroad or from Arab farmers – in Israel or in Judea/Samaria).
    4. The issue of quality of the produce comes into play, I think, as well. Is it appropriate to require the purchase of poor quality Otzar Beit Din produce at a (significantly) higher price, above good quality heter mechirah produce at a lower price?
    5. Regarding Otzar Beit Din wine, which should have a fixed price – many of these wines end up being sold through the supermarket chains, which apply their regular pricing policies to them (including offering them on special, etc.). This happens up to two or three years following the actual Shmittah year.
    6. There are rumors, of course, of Arabs in Judea/Samaria purchasing produce in Israel (heter mechirah) and then on-selling it to charedi sellers as their own produce. Since it is very difficult to determine the true source of produce, there is another unintended consequence – charedi Jews eating heter mechira produce.
    7. The purpose of the heter mechirah is not so much to benefit the end consumer, but rather to ensure that the grower does not (technically) infringe the strict laws of Shmittah, and so that the State of Israel’s agricultural industry does not lose valuable export markets. This is something that the Charedi view does not seem to take into account.

  45. DF says:

    It should be noted that the author, as nice as his article is, assumes that hetter mechirah is a “minimal standard.” This reflects the author’s background and bias; the other side of the coin sees it as no different in essence than hetter mechiras chametz or hetter mechiras bechor. The only reason those concepts are not challenged is because they arose in the midieval period, whereas there was no practical need for hetter mechirah until the 19th century. As no one says those hetterim reflect minimalist standards, neither does this one. (Naturally there are always distinctions to be drawn by opponents and proponents, but at the core they are halachilly permissible forms of sale.) The preo-hetter side also takes into consideration mitzvas like yishuv haaretz and the concept of supporting Jewish produce vs Arab produce, which are not considered, or at least not as much considered, by the anti-hetter side.

  46. Ben Waxman says:

    An anecdote: There was once a need for a Shabbos goy in the neighbourhood and R. Eliashiv was asked how to determine if someone is a goy. He said that someone who had undergone a conversion under the Chief Rabbinate could be considered a goy lamehadrin min hamehadrin.

    Frankly that story sounds completely unreliable, an urban myth at best.

    Rav Elyashiv held that the food is assur so he did what he could to make it unavailable. If you/your Rav holds it to be muttar, and could find some, go ahead & eat it.

    And when a small minority tries to impose its will on the vast majority, the small minority shouldn’t be surprised when the large majority not only refuses, but pushes back in all sorts of ways.

  47. cynic says:

    To mohoshiv.com:
    Let’s see the Rav who will sell the community chametz to a random convert under the Chief Rabbinate. Don’t further undermine Rav Elyashiv’s credibility with unsatisfactory anecdotes, beyond what Rav Metzger has already done.

  48. Chardal says:

    >Just to throw some light (hopefully) on this issue from a somewhat different perspective. From R’ Eliashiv’s point of view the Chief Rabbinate was hopelessly compromised after the Goren fiasco. He felt that the entire institution was completely trustless, and could not be relied upon for anything of substance. Consequently, he preferred to have R. Metzger as chief rabbi who hopefully he could have at least some influence on both for Shemitta as well as for other issues, rather than R. Ariel who by virtue (sic!) alone of being a part of the Chief Rabbinate could not be trusted.

    This is highly disingenuous. If anything, the chief rabbinate is orders of magnitude more transparent than the chareidi model of leadership. You would have us believe that a talmid chacham who is in the public eye, whose decisions are subject to public scrutiny and who is answerable to the effects his decisions have on klal Yisrael is somehow less trustworthy than the chareidi model, where pious (but somewhat gullible) sages are manipulated by handlers with deep financial interests that are often hidden from the public and who have internal mafia like wars with each other?

    The RABBI Goren fiasco was political at its very core. And R’ Elyashiv rode its coattails right into a leadership position in the chareidi world. But did it render the chief rabbinate less trustworthy?? R’ Goren published an entire book justifying his psak and his position on the matter was quite clear way before he was chief rabbi. His opinions on everything from the philosophy of halacha to derech haPsak to the relationship between rabbinate and state are an open book which is available for all. He was also well loved by the majority of the Jewish people living in EY, including the majority of the RZ world and earned his position as chief rabbi both on the merits of his learning and on the merits of his being “mekubal al haBeriot”. His detractors, on the other hand, knew no bounds or restraint in their use of nasty language and lashon haRa against R’ Goren, nor did they ever respond (with a few minor exceptions) to his arguments for being matir the brother and sister. In fact, the Steipler, when he was called on the lack of actual content that came along with the verbal venom he was employing, said that he knows that R’ Goren had no good arguments. why? because if there was a way to be matir the brother and sister, then Unterman (! – notice the lack of Rabbi for someone who was unquestionably a Torah giant) would have found it. And this is the system of leadership you would have us believe is superior to a chief rabbinate with a talmid chacham at its helm?!?

    The chareidi world may or may not succeed in destroying the rabbinate. But if they do, they will only create an even greater antipathy towards them than already exists. And it the chareidi world thinks that they have troubles now, they should know that it can get much much worse if they continue alienating everyone who does not think like them – and it will.

  49. Mordy says:

    >> The RABBI Goren fiasco was political at its very core. <<

    I won't ask you to go to the Kevarim of:

    Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
    Rav Elyashiv
    Rav Moshe Feinstein
    Rav Yechezkel Abramsky
    Rav Shach
    RAv Zolty
    The Tchebiner
    Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky
    The Steipler
    etc., etc. to ask Mechilah.

    Only Rav Solovetichik and Rav Shaul Yisraeli's. That's it.

  50. mycroft says:

    “Rav Elyashiv”

    If one mentions Rav Elyashiv around this time of the year it is worth remembering that we just had his first yahrzeit.

  51. Simcha Younger says:

    I am fully in favor of destroying the Rabbanut, but I have no idea how anyone could think that you can do that by appointing unqualified rabbis.

    Appointing unqualified rabbis will only disgrace the one who appointed them, and religion in general, but the institution will survive. Appointing them actually legitimatizes the institution, by giving his approbation to the appointees and to the institution.

    If he wanted to destroy the Rabbanut, all that he had to do was tell his followers to stop respecting it at all, that no one should accept a position there, and for all chareidi batei din to stop cooperating with the Rabbanut. Thats it, and its gone. He actually maintained the rabbanut all these years, by sending his own people there, and giving it a basic level of respect in the chareidi world.

    Most people have no idea what the agenda is in appointing a rabbi, and they see the appointment as a confirmation of his legitimacy by those who backed him. Anyone who is familiar enough with the politics to know what the agenda was either had no respect for the Rabbanut in the first place, or would just see it as a political move, with no further implications for the general standing of the institution. Those people who were less aware of the political considerations – and these are the ones whom the de-legitimization is intended for – will only have increased respect for the Rabbanut because of the authority of the people involved, and they will be mostly oblivious to the subliminal message of the appointment.

  52. Dovid Shlomo says:

    To Chardal:
    I don’t understand your line of argument with mohoshiv.

    You are trying to use substance, while he has stories.

    Don’t you know that nasty, petty stories of questionable origin carry MUCH more weight and are much more convincing than substance?

    I have a story of my own, although not nasty or petty, so I hope it still passes.

    Thirteen years ago ro so I attended a Kinnus on Shemittah and the Hetter Mechira at Kollel Eretz Chemda, in honor of Rav Shaul Yisraeli.

    Rabbi Efrati spoke there about the Hetter Mechira, to a group of talmidei chachamim who are students of Rav Yisraeli, as the personal representative of Rav ELyashiv.

    In fact, he said that he was there because Rav Elyashiv insisted that he go there as his representative and to express to them the very high regard with which he held Rav Yisraeli, who was the Rabbanut’s posek for MItzvos HaTeluyos b’Aretz — and who was the posek for how the hetter mechira would be operated by the Rabbanut.

    When Rav Efrati explained Rav Elyashiv’s approach, at no timke did he say that Rav Elyashiv considered it worthless or a joke, only that he had kashias that caused him to question its validity. These were expressed in detailed fashion, with a great deal of give and take in response from the talmidim and Roshei Kollel.

  53. dr. bill says:

    rav goren’s psak wrt the langer twiins is rather complex. if you want a rather complete review you could listen to a series of lectures by rabbi rakeffet on YU torah, who does a complete job. i would not call the opposition political. however, the way rav goren operated was a factor in generating opposition. given the gedolai olam who saw the evidence he assembled and agreed with him, and the strong tradition of poskim in dealing with safek mamzeirut, i do not think that blogs can even approximate the complexity of the dispute. of course, given the views expressed by r. sherman in a case that did not invove mamzeirut, r. goren’s position has an ironic basis of support. i doubt r. goren would pasken like r. sherman without other factors and only because the case involved mamzeirut.

  54. Chardal says:

    >I won’t ask you to go to the Kevarim of

    Since I am a Kohen, I will not be going to any kevarim anytime soon. 🙂

    >Only Rav Solovetichik and Rav Shaul Yisraeli’s. That’s it.

    I am not sure what I am supposed to ask mechila for. The only thing I can assume is that you mean that I need to apologize for stating that the opposition was mostly political in nature. However, reading the literature, this is clearly true. From a hilchot mamzerim perspective, the psak is not really more innovative than that which is common fare in the shu”t literature. What happened was that in this case, there was extreme pressure from secular politicians that a heter be found. It was under this conditions that the chareidi leadership felt that the only proper response was to circle the wagons since finding a heter would lead to continued pressure from secular circles.

    (In truth, the secular politicians who were pushing the issue in the media were hoping that no heter would be found which would empower them to pass legislation that would institute civil marriage – stopping such legislation was definitely a factor that motivated R’ Goren executing his heter – which, BTW, he had argued for before the issue hit the media in a big way)

    This issue was ALL about the relationship between larger Israeli secular society and the rabbinate. R’ Goren felt that in a modern democratic state, we must find ways to make life livable for most Jews within an halachic framework, and he worked hard to find ways to pasken accordingly. He also knew how to push back against that democracy when he felt it was called for. He certainly did not feel that the flag of rabbinic authority should be planted on top of the Langers. In fact, in his early brief to the rabbinic appellate court, before the politics began, he argued for the same heter – and in fact, R’ Yisraeli argued for questioning the conversion of the first husband but could not convince R’ Elyashiv in the beis din.

    Now back to my supposed need to offer apologies. Two RZ gedolim who defended R’ Goren’s psak, R’ Zvi Yehuda Kook and R’ Avraham Shapiro were colleagues of R’ Yisraeli for many years after the Langer affair. I can assure you that they offered no apologies for their support and that R’ Yisraeli, who agreed with the chareidi leadership over this issue but refrained from casting verbal abuse upon R’ Goren, demanded no apology. (and yes, in their defense of R’ Goren, they both also labeled his opposition as being primarily of a political nature).

    Can’t speak for R’ Soloveitchic, but I assume that he would have had a similar attitude towards those who disagreed with his opposition.

    PS. I recently looked through a recent book of shu”t that was published in bnei brak by a major chareidi posek. There is one teshuva which is matir an aguna based on dna identification of her dead husband. There is another teshuva which is matir a mamzer in spite of a dna test which showed that his mother’s husband could not be his father. I don’t think anyone would shake heaven and earth to reverse the second (very questionable) psak – because who want to fight for more mamzerim?!? But comparing this psak to that of R’ Goren, one can not help but come to the conclusion that the issue was one of politics and religious authority, not mamzerut.

  55. Chardal says:

    >i doubt r. goren would pasken like r. sherman without other factors and only because the case involved mamzeirut.

    It gets even crazier. Because R’ Sherman claimed to have the support of R’ Elyashiv on this matter and rallied much of the ashkenazi chareidi world behind him. But in the Langer case, R’ Elyashiv argued that Borkovski’s (supposed) conversion could not be reversed since in this cultural mileau, he is only behaving how he thinks Jews should behave and therefore the (supposed) conversion is valid in spite of his flaunting of halacha.

  56. dr. bill says:

    chardal, you are correct but the basis for rav goren heter had two other snifim lehakail.

    1) he was totally insincere and did not even intend a to behave like an irreligous jew. one could argue that even the dvar avraham – r. kahane shapiro, who strenuously opposed RCOG view on accepting the conversion of one who sincerely accepts the observance of an irreligious jew, would agree that a sham conversion at even that level could be annulled. RSYE was reflecting the view of RCOG; rav goren felt the circumstance was different and both RCOG and R. Kahane shapiro would agree with him.

    2) rav goren raised a doubt if there ever was a conversion by a proper BD. that is one complex issue.

    neither of those points were proven; however their plausability was established, at least to rav goren’s satisfaction.

    in a case of mamzeirut, the combination of snifim lehakeil, is more standard. anyone familiar with psak in this area, knows of yet more difficult positions poskim maintained.

  57. Shaya Karlinsky says:

    Many of the comments that needed responses have been made by others. There are a number of comments that require my response and clarification.

    Before getting started, I would like to direct readers to a Cross Currents post by Rabbi Shafran at the beginning of Shmittah 5678 (2007-08)to see some of the issues already discussed then.

    Much Ado About Shmittah


    (If a link to this is not allowed, it was in October 2007)

    The following two posts are representative of some Halachic confusion which I will try to clarify.

    Hoffa Fingerbergstein:
    Wait a second. For those who do not hold of the Heter Mechirah, what is the difference between Oztar BD and “Heter Mechirah” produce? They both have kedushas sheviis according to the majority of poskim who don’t hold of heter mechirah, no? If so, by accepting Heter Mechirah for the general public, one is living a halachic fiction, whereby we create an illusion that something is different about heter mechirah fruit than Otzar BD fruit. But there is not. Therefore, the handling of mass amounts of Otzar BD and heter mechirah improperly results in the same chillul kedushas shviis, except one is a fiction and one is not.
    Also, the DL community has started to wean itself away from heter mechirah, which R’ Karlinsky did mention briefly. Therefore, to say that this is purely a result of chareidi political machinations is not completely true. I remember hearing when I was a bachur learing in EY in the early 1990′s that R’ Avrohom Shapira shlita”a, RY of Merkaz HaRav had Otzar BD produce served in the yeshiva and there was a deliberate move by him to move away from that reliance. Therefore, while the choice of R’ Metzger is framed as one based on shmittah considerations by Chareidi leaders, this move was in line with the move towards less reliance on this now dubious heter.

    Cvmay:
    If an Arab is farming the land of Israel, which belongs to Am Yisroel, why is that any different than a Heter Mechira, where the land is sold (fictiously) and then worked upon by Arabs

    For those not holding of the heter mechirah, Jewish farmers are farming Jewishly owned land. According to many opinions, that renders the fruit prohibited because of “shamur v’ne’evad.” And everyone agrees that all vegetables planted on such land would be prohibited as “sfichin.”
    Arabs farming land that is permanently registered in their names does not created either of the above Halachic prohibitions. According to some opinions, no laws of shvi’is apply to that produce. According to some opinions, it is permitted, since it was grown by non-Jews, but still has kedushas shi’is, since it was grown on the land of Israel.
    The middle category is created by the heter mechirah, with Jewish farmers working land that has been temporarily sold to non-Jews. According to those who impute validity to it, the Jewish farmer has some limitations on what he is allowed to do, but the produce is permitted without having kedushas shvi’is, since the land is owned, temporarily, by a non-Jew. But the legalities are very complex, since the heter mechirach must balance two conflicting goals. There is a prohibition of selling land in Eretz Yisrael to a non-Jew. Therefore, the sale must be made for a limited time, to avoid that problem. But the sale must have sufficient validity (“powerful enough”) to create non-Jewish ownership necessary to uproot the sanctity that generates the laws of shmittah. Again, I refer those who want to understand the Halachic issues in an authentic way to study the laws of shmittah through the books available on the subject.

    The next set of comments got me thinking that I must have it right (absolutely no pun intended) since the two writers criticize my approach from exact opposite perspectives. Both of them miss the point.

    DF
    It should be noted that the author, as nice as his article is, assumes that hetter mechirah is a “minimal standard.” This reflects the author’s background and bias; the other side of the coin sees it as no different in essence than hetter mechiras chametz or hetter mechiras bechor.
    Shaul
    The issue is preventing such produce from reaching the market in the first place. Rav Elyashiv held that the food is assur so he did what he could to make it unavailable. If you/your Rav holds it to be muttar, and could find some, go ahead & eat it.

    To DF I can say that the heter mechirah is more complicated than the two examples you bring, even beyond the need to balance the conflicting limitations mentioned above.
    . To Shaul I say that when there are reliable authorities with whom a poseik disagrees, doing “what he could to make it unavailable” is not wise policy, let alone in accordance with the way machlokes is supposed to be handled. You should be aware that in the RZ world, there is a prevelant opinion that using Arab produce is a violation of Halacha, since it provides resources for terrorists out to kill Jews. Would you allow them to “do what they could to make unavailable” Arab produce necessary for the charedi community to observe shimittah without relying on heter mechirah? You would be screaming “religious coercion.” In addition, there is an important Halachic principle motivating chazal in a number of cases to refrain from imposing a prohibition in order not to be “motzi la’az al harishonim,” not to defame earlier generations that behaved with different standards.
    Shaul’s argument illustrates as sharply as possible one of the issues I was raising. It is one thing to be of the opinion that the food is prohibited, publicize that opinion, and even insist that ones talmidim behave accordingly. It is quite another to work to make it unavailable to those whose accepted Rabbinic authorities are of the opinion it is permitted. (And that would be inappropriate even if there were NO negative Halachic consequences.) The Chief Rabbinate isn’t a private enterprise, and it should not be working to limit legitimate Halachic options with which one disagrees. If the Rabbinate has power to exclude what some Rabbonim hold to be muttar, then saying “go ahead and eat it” is disingenuous. And when the shoe is on the other foot, as it looks like it might be, the entire approach will undermine basic charedi needs.

    From While We’re At It:
    In my experience, otzar beit din produce is significantly more expensive than non-shmitta produce or heter mekhira produce, which is odd if in indeed the beit din is merely reimbursing the farmer for his expenses. The price hike suggests that someone involved in the oversight process is taking a cut of the money along the way from the farmer to the end purchaser.

    This is an important point, and needs some clarification which may shed light on some of the other comments made.
    Otzar beit din produce, for all the shmittah’s that I have been in Israel (from 1973) was always significantly cheaper than regular produce. It also had much more limited availability. And it was distributed in a regulated way. A sign went up in charedi neighborhoods a couple of days before a “distribution” announcing what would be available, when and where, and the cost. A truck would show up with bags or cartons of – oranges, peaches, avocadoes, grapes, etc. You could only buy full bags/cartons, usually having 5-8 kilo, and the price was about half of the store (heter mechirah and/or Arab originating produce) price. It had kedushas shvi’is, we all treated it that way, and it came from religious kibbutzim and farms where the laws of shmittah was meticulously observed. Wine and grape juice required an advance sign up, at the end of the summer. You signed up for full cases (12 bottles) and paid in advance, at about 60% of the store price. The only major winery doing this was Carmel Mizrahi, with Tirosh grape juice. King David sweet wine and SelectD dry wine availble. (All other Carmel wine was produced with heter mechirah.) It was delieverd during the coming few months, as it was ready from the winery.
    In contrast, produce from Arab sources was always more expensive than heter mechirah produce, due to the added cost of supervisors to ensure that what was being provided was really Arab grown (as opposed to an Arab buying from a Jewish farm, claiming it was his produce and selling it to the unsuspecting shmittah observing distributors.) In 1973 it was significantly more expensive, since only two kashrus organizations provided it. In shmittah 1980, with local Rabbinates developing mehadrin branches, as well as an expanding private mehadrin kashrus network, prices dropped, and by shimttah 1987 the price was never more than 10% over regular prices.
    2008 saw a number of major changes with the attempt to limit heter mechirah and demand either Arab produce or otzar beit din for the public at large. Otzar Beit din fruit became available in many stores in charedi neighborhoods, but the price was equal or higher than other produce, and it was sold by weight. This is problematic with produce that has kedushas shi’is. In addition, virtually all wine and grape juice products were produced with either a heter mechirah, or an otzar beit din that had the products available in every supermarket at regular prices. And the otzar beis din wine was exported. (The Golan winery requires its own discussion, as they had always been producing wine with an otzar beis din during shmittah, and Rav Auerbach of Tveria has two pages of explanation to justify the appropriateness of their practices.) The ONLY Carmel grape juice available – at least in Jerusalem — in the “old fashioned way” during shmittah 2008 was a relatively small amount from the beit din of Rav Nissan Karelitz.

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