Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Why is the heter mechirah so controversial?

As we approach the upcoming shmitah year, interest natually focuses on the use of a rabbinic workaround to avoid the prohibition of the usual use of the produce of that year, as exemplified here.

The heter mechirah -- selling the land to a non-Jew -- was approved by Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, one of the great rabbinic authorities of the 19th century, and promoted by Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak Kook in the early 20th century. It is a workaround for a prohibition that according to many (most?) poskim is of rabbinic origin today because most Jews do not live in Eretz Yisrael. Yet it produces opposition that is loud, virulent, and not always polite.

I don't understand this. Nobody questions the the heter iska, or mechirat chametz, which are rabbinic workarounds of prohibitions which according to all opinions are in effect at all times in all places and originate from the torah. What is the justification for the virulent objection to the heter mechirah?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Mike S. said...

Three factors seem to be at play, depending on whose opposition you are talking about.

1) It is a far more complete avoidance of the issur than heter iska, which only applies to business transactions, or mechirat Chametz, which is not used to permit eating chametz, or even keeping it mingled with the Pesach stuff.

2) It was heavily pushed by Zionists such as Rav Kook, and is therefore tainted in some circles by association with Zionism

3) It involves selling large tracts in Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews , the permissibility of which in our time is a machloket in halacha.

You will naturally understand that reasons 2 and 3 tend to be adopted by different objectors.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Zach Kessin said...

Its so much easier to oppose a Heter when it only benifits people you don't know. I would guess that most of the people who are so opposed to this are not farmers, don't know any farmers and get their food at "the store". Shmitah in the modern day is very focused on a small part of Israeli socity (farmers) who are often secular and about as far from Hardi culture as you can be. Its always easier to do something that will harm others if you don't know them.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

‘eiruv is another subject that gets people inexplicably riled up like nothing else.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read the CI on this topic. He felt that it is an issur Deoraita to sell land in EY (much more so than Shmita which everyone agrees today is Medrabanan).

Also - using the device of Otzar Beit Din is a much better solution than any of the others and helps the farmers that Zach Kessin refers to.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Yus said...

I speculate that opposition to this particular heter stems from two factors.

1. Lack of Shemitta observance is specifically pointed out in the Tochacha as a reason for exile.

2. The grant of the original heter was based on specific socio-economic factors in play at the time. At present, these factors are greatly improved, which calls into question whether the original heter would have been granted under today's conditions.

The juxtaposition of these two factors may explain the resistance against the heter. It makes sense to me.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zach kessin:

at the time the CI came out against the heter mechira there were haredim on kibbutzim, such as chafetz chaim, and it most certainly did affect haredim directly!

11:58 AM  

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