[Avodah] Star-K on the Heter Mechira

Prof. Levine via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Wed Jul 15 02:01:32 PDT 2015

 From http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-shmitta-5775.htm

Who Owns The Land?  There is a difference of opinion among the poskim 
as to whether produce grown on land owned by a non-Jew living in the 
Land of Israel is considered produce of sheviis.  The custom in 
Yerushalayim is not to consider it produce of sheviis, while the 
custom in Bnei Brak is to consider it produce of sheviis.

Selling The Land:  The Heter Mechira was formulated and instituted by 
many very prominent rabbanim (including the Gadol Hador, Harav 
Yitzchok Elchanan Spector) in the year 1887.  There was a great deal 
of controversy among other prominent rabbanim surrounding the heter, 
the foremost of whom was the Netziv (Harav Naftoli Zvi Yehuda Berlin) 
of Volozin.  Most of the controversy centered around the problem 
regarding the Torah prohibition of selling any part of the Land of 
Israel to non-Jews.  Those who proposed the heter claimed that the 
situation in the Land of Israel was so precarious that not working 
the land for an entire year would put the entire Jewish settlement in 
danger, thus warranting this drastic measure.  Others claimed that 
the prohibition of selling the land was worse than the prohibition of 
working the land.  Since then, every Shmitta there have been rabbanim 
who have sold the land.  Harav Avraham Yitzchok Kook 
institutionalized the sale (although he, too, agreed it was to be 
done only under grave duress).  Since it's inception, the Chief 
Rabbinate of Israel has sold the land every Shmitta.  However, there 
are presently many rabbanim who question whether the current 
situation in Israel warrants this type of sale.  Furthermore, there 
is another more serious problem the consumer faces.  The produce that 
is sold in the regular stores during the year of Shmitta 
predominantly comes from non-religious kibbutzim and moshavim, who 
would never agree to sell their land.  This is compounded by the fact 
that the non-religious kibbutzim do not observe those prohibitions 
which Harav Kook instituted, and Harav Kook never permitted their 
current practices.  Certainly, a tourist who is not knowledgeable 
concerning the dinim of Shmitta should buy produce only from stores 
that do not rely upon the heter mechira.


llevine at stevens.edu 
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