Aug 3, 2009

UTJ, Land Reforms, and Hetter Mechira

There was an article a couple of weeks ago on the Haredim website about the "fact" that Rav Elyashiv had permitted the UTJ faction to support the Land Reforms in the Knesset due to the land not having the level of holiness that prevents us from selling it.

It turns out that that hetter is no longer being mentioned. It makes you wonder whether the original quote was correct or not.

UTJ does not know what to do about the vote, considering the halachic issues involved, yet Netanyahu insists on all coalition partners voting in favor. The best situation in the vote that UTJ can hope for is tremendous overall support rendering UTJ irrelevant. if that happens, Netanyahu will allow them to disappear and not vote for or against. The real problem will arise fi the vote is close and UTJ's votes will actually count for something. Considering all Netanyahu gave them in the coalition agreement, he will demand from them their vote in return as part of coalition discipline.

It turns out the halachic issue is not as simple as the previous article had insinuated, and Rav Elyashiv has yet to decide on it. Rav Shteinman and Rav Kanievsky have both said it is prohibited to vote in favor, but they defer the decision to Rav Elyashiv's final word.

Both Kikar Shabbos and Haredim websites have articles on the dilemma UTJ finds itself in. Kikar Shabbos even suggests serious hypocrisy (they must have read my previous post on the issue) if UTJ is told to vote in favor, considering Rav Elyashiv's (and those of the other gedolim of UTJ) position on the hetter mechira.

Kikar Shabbos even lists a number of the hetterim that can be used to allow UTJ to vote in favor of the Land Reforms, but asks that if they can be used for this it is bas ehypocrisy to not allow them to be used for shmitta.

So this question that needs to be decided is much more involved than the Land Reforms. Come next shmitta, and you can be sure this decision will be pointed to, one way or the other. UTJ must really be hoping their vote becomes insignificant.


  1. What would add an even bigger twist to this plot is if Bayit Hayehudee votes against- as they are threatening to do and UTJ votes for.

  2. anon - you are right. the question and irony works both ways. how can bayit yehudi reject it on halachic grounds if they accept it for hetter mechira?

    of course it can be rejected because you think it is a bad idea or problematic for whatever reason. But if the reason is purely halachic, as Rabbi Hershkowitz is saying, then it is hypocrisy. unless he is also against heter mechira (I do not know his personal belief on the issue, but Bayit yehudi/Mafdal supports it)

  3. Rafi G,
    I am not aware of all of the ramifications of this bill, but
    I do know that when the poskim discuss the issue of לא תחנם with selling land for hetter mechira, the ones who allow do so because it is a temporary sale and because it strengthens the Jewish hold on the land. Neither applies here.

  4. heter mechira is the most anit-zionist thing one could do!
    how can you sell ERetz Yisrael to our enemies?

  5. the vote just took place a short while ago, and UTJ got lucky to find out the vote did not depend on them. The reforms bill passed with 61 supporters, UTJ abstained as per last minute instructions from Rav Elyashiv that they could not vote for the bill.

  6. UTJ abstained as per last minute instructions from Rav Elyashiv that they could not vote for the bill.
    Before or after it was apparent that the votes weren't needed?
    Joel Rich

  7. I heard R' Atias on the radio saying that he was told several times by ROY that it's mutar l'chatchila to support this bill (he said mutar, not mechuyav). He also claimed that Litzman and Porush supported it (I don't know if this is true), and that it couldn't have been a halachic issue, because Gafni et al are never quiet when they have a halachic objection.

  8. Mikeage - according to this article the guy claims that when Attias asked Rav Ovadia he asked a very general question if it is ok to sell the land forever, and Rav Ovadia answered very generally that when there is no yovel, tzmitus is not a problem. He never asked about the specific situation in which it might be possibel for a goy to buy the land....

  9. talking about hypocrisy - this week's Afarsimon has a gevaldig letter from the EIda that says: (and as Dave Barry, shlit"a would say - I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)

    "Do not buy products with not-tzniyus picture on them EVEN IF IT BEARS OUR HECHSHER."

    Yes, the eida can make money from these companies and then destroy any business that might have been gotten from the money paid for the hechsher (sounds like gezeila or at least genievas da'as to me) and feels no need to simply remove the hechser.

    The eidah had already lost most of it's credibility; now it has lost whatever it had left.

    These people are completely bankrupt. There is nothing Jewish at all about thier lifestyle.

    Just Frum-style, like kosher-style bagels with lox cream chesse and ham.

  10. Could be, could be. OTOH, Atias claimed that ROY criticized him for continuing to ask about this case when he [ROY] had already told him explicitly what to do.

    Ah, askanim.

  11. I had not read much detail about it, but today I read an article about how it went down:

    Hershkowitz of Bayit Yehudi voted in favor of the bill despite saying he would not. In his defense, he claims he and Netanyahu (and Hotoveli and some others) reached a compromise agreement that would protect in the future against hostile entities being able to take advantage. I hope he is not fooling himself, but this is what he says. The other 2 MKs form Bayit Yehudi voted against.

    In UTJ, 3 Degel MKs left the plenum so as not to have to vote. 2 Aguda MKs (Lizman and Porush) voted in favor. I saw no explanation, other than Netanyahu's insistence on coalition discipline or the threat of being fired (though the Degel MKs did not vote in favor and did not get fired).

    The bill passed with just 61 MKs voting in favor, so the 3 votes above were crucial for the passing of the bill.

  12. To defend Bayit Yehudi's positionon halachic grounds:

    There are opinions that the heter mechira can only be relied upon beshaat hedchek. Having thousands of Israeli farmers lose their livelihood sounds like it could be a case of shaat hedchek. There is no such leniency for selling land permanently as this bill might allow.


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