Thursday, October 25, 2007

O Tempora! O Mores! O Annus Sabbatum!

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Rabbinate must allow for the allocation of Hechsherim based upon the Heter Mekhira. Personally, I am very sad that it came to this, because the Israel Supreme court is the absolutely last government agency that I want to see having any say in the future of the Torah. This certainly the case as the government works to foist more non-Orthodox conversion options on the population.

Indeed, it need not have come to this.

1) After all, as I pointed out below, what were Tzohar and Emunah asking for? They wanted a credible halakhic option to be made available. That's all.They wanted to prevent people from erring and transgressing. How? If you use Otzar Bes Din, you need to treat the produce בקדושת שביעית. Most people don't have a clue how to do so. So they buy produce and desectrate it unknowingly. If the Heter is implemented, at least that burden is removed, as the people will rely upon those Poskim who support it. Those who don't wish to do so, תבוא עליהם ברכות רבות מידו הרחבה ית'. [ It's not unlike an Eruv. No one forces anyone to carry if they don't hold by the Eruv. Those who do, though, יש להם על מי לסמוך.]

2) It might, however, be objected that יבול נוכרי is available. True. Is that, however, conscionable? The Arab suppliers have been known to cheat the Jews on this by supplying over priced 8th rate produce. The produce from Aza and the PA pays for terror (as the PA and the Hamas extort huge sums from their own people). This last point was laid out very cogently by Rav Shlomo Aviner, here.

This, in turn, reminded me of a story involving my beloved friend, and erst-while חברותא, Rabbi Dr. David Ha-Levi Applebaum זצוק"ל הי"ד (which I confirmed last night with his wife). David, as a loyal talmid and בן-בית, of Rav Ahron Soloveitchik זצ"ל, did not rely upon the Heter Mekhira. We once had a very, errrr, lively discussion on the matter. At the end he said: 'You're right. But I want to do it (i.e. not rely on the heter). So, what did he do? He travelled. He drove all over Israel: Bet Shean, Gush Qatif ע"ה, the Aravah, Eilat. You name it. However, he would never, ever bring יבול נוכרי into his house. The most he would do was, in case he needed to go out to eat, he would only go to a Mehadrin restaurant (יבול נוכרי) and would say he was going to go eat treif! (Oh, how I miss him!)

3) A Haredi apologist recently offered the following defense of coercing all Jews in Israel to reject the Heter Mekhira:

Later Shmittah years saw increasing number of farmers follow suit. Seven years ago, the number of acres left untilled had risen more than 200-fold from the 60s, to 55,000. This year, 3000-3500 farmers will be observing Shmittah, and 100,000 acres are expected to be left fallow in accordance with the Torah’s direction. Every major Orthodox kashrut-certification agency in North America approves only Israeli produce hewing to the highest Shmittah standard.

The reasons for the growth of Shmittah-observance are several, among them a general trend toward greater observance, recognition of the ad-hoc nature of the heter mechira, and the experience of farmers who not only did not suffer for their Shmittah observance but experienced unusual blessings.

To this half story, my neighbor, friend and colleague Professor Moshe Koppel replied:

1. Every individual and community has the right to set stringent standards for itself. But often these standards are such that they can be observed by a particular community only if the majority of people do not observe them. In plain English, much of the frumkeit of charedi communities in Israel is predicated on the fact that most Israelis are secular. I won’t go through the whole tired list of examples. This raises many basic questions about whether the Torah is intended as a way of life for the whole nation or is inherently limited to a frum minority supported by a minority of Jewish shabbos goyim. It may be that in the end many will decide, legitimately, that their stringencies trump global considerations, but the cost of that position might merit a few moments of reflection, none of which is evident in this article.

2. It is true that a small number of farmers can afford to take a year off and be supported by charity. But this is not a general solution. When you suddenly diminish the supply of produce with no parallel diminution in demand, there is more than a local bump in prices. Outside suppliers quickly take advantage of the situation, prices spiral upward along the whole supply chain, foreign customers abandon Israeli suppliers for more stable markets, and the whole agriculture-related economy can collapse. You might not personally know anybody who will lose their livelihood as a result but they are out there. In light of this, perhaps some of the rabbanim who are willing to sell twenty bucks worth of lokshen so their congregants can head off to Florida for Pesach without too much of a headache might have another look at the issue.

4) Finally, I just don't understand those rabbis who refuse to offer the Heter Mekhira option. In the local chat-list, I've been debating this issue for three days now. The borttom line, as I see it is what I responded to one letter:

My comments were directed solely at two issues: 1) The propriety of blocking legitimate recourse to a speific heter, when that places intolerable burdens on the community (something I learned from the Rov, in the name of Reb Hayyim) 2) My surprise at the news that Reb Shlomo Zalman זצ"ל , endorsed the legitimacy of the HM (as late as 1984), though he did not personally rely upon it.

When I had shimush in psak from the Rov זצ"ל and מו"ר Rav Gedaliah Felder זצ"ל, the author of the monumental series יסודי ישורון, the operative principle I learned was always to be מחמיר for oneself and try to be מיקל for others. This was summed up by a story the Rov told us on a number of occasions.

When Reb Moshe Soloveichik זצ"ל left for his first Rabbonus in Rassein, Reb Hayyim told him that a Rov has to do three things: א רב דארף גומל זיין חסד, א רב דארף לערנען תורה, און ניט פאסקענען פחות פחות מכשיעור פאר א חולה שיש בו סכנה יום כיפור.

עד כאן.

1 comment:

ADDeRabbi said...

in all, i'm happy that the self-perpetuating, unrepresentative Rabbanut was finally forced into some accountability, even though it came at the hands of the equally self-perpetuating, unrepresentative, and unaccountable Supreme Court.