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May 18, 2008

Shmitta: Hetter Mechira: Halachic Revisionism

In today's day and age, where it is common to wash over opinions of the Rabbonim that do not jibe with the consensus, it was a bit of a surprise to read the following in the Mishpacha (Hebrew) magazine this week.

The Mishpacha interviewed a Haredi fellow who is the Director of Mossad HaRav Kook (the publishing company belonging to the Yeshiva, if I am not mistaken). This fellow related the following story:

When my father , Rav Yitzchak Rafael, the Minister of Religious Affairs, and the leader of the Mafdal, became Haredi and learned in Yeshivas Kol Torah, he decided he would not eat in his parents house. That year was a Shmitta year, and his parents bought fruit and vegetables that were from Hetter Mechira produce. His parents were very upset - will our own child not eat in our home because he does not trust our Kashrus? Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach paskened that he should continue to eat by his parents, even the hetter mechira produce, for shalom bayis. Rav Shlomo Zalman said, "In your own house, do what you want. In your parents house, continue eating."
The fact that Mishpacha ran this piece is surprising. Nowadays the trend is to black over such opinions. In todays discussion of Hetter Mechira, no balance is given with the option of Hetter Mechira being considered allowed, b'dieved, in a sha'as ha'd'chak, as Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed it. Nowadays, seforim printed explaining in great detail all the various halachos of shmitta and the rejection of hetter mechira - none of them mention that Rav Shlomo Zalman was willing to rely on it (even if only as a b'dieved). Nowadays, all we here is that it is assur, it is like treif, if you cook such produce you have to kasher your pot as if you cooked chicken and milk, etc.

And even among those who are willing to admit that Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed people to eat hetter mechira produce (at least in certain situations), they presume that nowadays he would never allow such a thing. Today's land sale is nowhere near as reliable as it used to be, they say. He would agree that it is completely assur. This is halachic revisionism.

The fact is that Rav Shlomo Zalman allowed the use of Hetter Mechira produce, and he lived not so long ago. It is not like claiming that of Rav Kook, who lived 100 years ago. Maybe you can get away with saying that he would never have said his hetter had he lived today. but Rav Shlomo Zalman lived just a few short years ago and he still supported it (at least b'dieved). His upcoming yahrtzeit is only the 13th. if anything, the quality of the sale today is much better halachically as all the issues regarding who really owns the land, how much of the land is sold, and all the other problematic issues are dealt with much more thoroughly in today's sale and not just ignored with a broad sale.

Nowadays, anybody who paskens differently than Rav Elyashiv is questioned and looked down upon.

So, I am not saying that one who does not rely on hetter Mechira should start relying on it (ask your Rav of course).

I am saying it was refreshing to see that the Mishpacha did not just wash over Rav Shlomo Zalman's opinion like many others do. It was refreshing to see that the posek ha'dor who passed away only a short while ago, had a different opinion, and there is nothing wrong with a machlokes. He held it was ok (b'dieved) and others held it is assur (even b'dieved). At least the other opinion has now been voiced in a mainstream Haredi publication (albeit in a small piece in a small interview on the last page of the magazine).


  1. Kol HaKavod to Mishpacha magazine. they are willing to address issues that no other Charedi media will.

    When it came to Gush katif they were loudly "orange".

    They speak about the shidduch issues, teen at risk questions and the idea that "everyone has to be in learning".

    May Rav Grylak and his magazine go mchayil el chayil!

  2. Mosad HaRav Kook doesn't belong to the Yeshiva. It's a private organization.
    The Yeshiva's publishing is called "Machon HaRav Tzvi Yehuda".

  3. It was probably an oversight...

  4. Rafi here in the U.S. we are being bombarded with advertising for keren sheveiis. Almost every shul is talking about it and they say that the "gedolim" support it (they actually do not mention in the ad who are the gedolim that support keren sheveiss). Another problem is that they don't give any payment options regarding the amount, everyone is supposed to give 180 dollars. Do you know anything about the orginization and do you have any thoughts about it?

  5. I don't know much about Keren shviis. I see their ads. They seem to be very mekubal. I have read a lot of articles of them with the various gedolim, getting brachos and praise for their work. They aid farmers who choose to not work during the shmitta year, so assuming they are an honest organization (and I have not heard otherwise), it would seem to be worthwhile.

  6. zb - you can call the number and give them a credit card over the phone. then you can give any amount you want

  7. R' Yitchak Rafael was a bachur probably over 70 years ago. What's the proof that R'S.Z. Auerbach still held of the "heter" in the past 20 years.
    Also Mosad Rav Kook and Merkaz are not connected.

  8. two points: Not to nit-pick, but i think that Rab Shlomo Zalman died 14 years ago, because our friends who named children after him are making bar mitzvahs this year.

    Keren hashevi'is in the UK/Europe is run by an extremely nice, very sincere man - i don't know what they do with the money when they get it, but he is definitely a yirei shomayim

  9. Anon,

    Typically, once celebrates a Bar Mitzvah 13 years after a child is named. Anyway, I remember that I was at RSZA's levaya, and I was here in 1995. Wikipedia backs me up.

  10. Aren't you referring to Rabbi Shilo Refael, who was the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Refael? He was a dayan but unfortunately died at a very young age a number of years ago.

  11. The last poster is right. The interview was with Rav Yehuda Leib Rafael, who is Rav Shilo Rafael's son. Rav Shilo was the son of Dr. Yitzchak Rafael, the Minister of Religion for Mafdal, who was married to Geula Bat Yehuda, who was the daughter of the great Rav Yehuda Leib Maimon, after whom Rav YL Rafael is named.

    The one who became haredi was Rav Shilo Rafael. He learned in Kol Tora, and asked Rav SZ about eating at his parents.

    So whereas it wasn't 13 years ago, it was not 70. More like 35, approx.

    Rav Maimon himself wrote many books, among them Sarei Hameah, a fascinating series about various gedolim he heard about or met in his many travels. He was also a talmid of the Aruch Hashulchan. You may be aware that the AH was recently issued and Sarei Hameah was a prime source for the publishers, who included a short bio of the AH. But the problem is - they didn't credit him! They were too embarrassed. Their other source was a book by Rav Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin), From Volozhyn to Jerusalem, IIRC. He was a grandson of the AH. They also didn't credit him.

    You should also note that Rav SZ's sefer Maadanei Aretz has been out of print for many years, but in it he discusses the Heter at length, and he states that though he doesn't love it, there is no question that it is valid ("chal").

    What he held in 1990 is anyone's guess, but it's a bit unfair to say he changed his mind w/o specific knowledge.

    How would Anonymous (post #7) feel if I said, "Rav Aharon Kotler strongly supported setting up kollelim (and strongly opposed university studies) 45 years ago, but things have changed since then, b/c of blah blah blah." Not so nice, huh?

    In 40 years, some guy will pop up and say, "Rafi was against halachic revisionism 40 years ago, but now circumstances have changed."

    You get the picture.

    As to Keren Hashviis: By all means give to them, but give to Otzar Haaretz too, an organization which tries to encourage people to use Otzar Beit Din food and not support our "cousins".


    To tell the truth, it doesn't seem that they have a vehicle for tzedaka - it's more based on people joining them and purchasing veggies and fruits through them. That's what we do here in Israel.


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