Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Heter Mechira and the Problem of Unzer Yidden
All politics is local and in the splits among Frum Jews, the arguments are often very much local too. If there is one thing that explains the splits between sub-denominations of Torah Jews in Israel, it is that "Unzer Yidden", the interests of a specific community takes precedence over the feelings and needs and even physical survival of our brothers and even the land of Israel. That is why this will not be a popular post.
Heter Mechira like Gush Katif is little more than another rehearsal of "Unzer Yidden". Had there been a large Haredi farming industry, we know full well that Heter Mechira would as accepted as the sale of Chametz. And conversely if there wasn't a large Religious Zionist farming industry, Heter Mechira might well not exist. That is the nature of the Halacha of convenience.
The reality is that Heter Mechira is as legitimate as Heter Iska or the sale of Chametz on Pesach or Pruzbul or many other things I could name. The question to be asked of all these things is whom it hurts. With the exception of Heter Mechira, these have universal benefits. Heter Mechira does not. To the Haredi camp, Jewish agriculture in the land of Israel has no value, only Jewish study in their Yeshivas does. To the Religious Zionist camp, Jewish agriculture is one of the most fundamental ways to embrace the holiness of the land. The split is one that goes back to the divide between Galut and Yishuv, between Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi.
Much like the divides over Eruvs, it is a debate over lifestyles but it is also a debate over ideology and priorities and which Halachic fictions we are prepared to accept and why.
The Eidat Haredit who are buying tons of produce from Palestinian Arabs are not only directly funding the murder of Jews, they are still buying produce from the land of Eretz Yisrael ignoring the commandment that the land is meant to rest. There is no practical difference between produce from EY derived from land sold through Heter Mechira and produce from EY derived from land that is in Arab hands. Either way you are funding the creation of the produce when the Torah clearly spells out that the goal is for the land to rest in extremely strong language.
It is a fraudulent piousness that buys produce from EY and in doing so puts a sword into the hands of our enemies with which to kill us. If the Haredim were truly serious about being prepared to engage in personal sacrifice to avoid violating Shemitta as they counsel the farmers to do, they would simply abstain from produce that comes from any land in EY and from produce that is bought from the enemy. They are not prepared to make that sacrifice or to even consider it. They would rather buy from the enemy than pay inflated prices or slash their intake of fruits and vegetables. They would rather spill Jewish blood and observe a sham Shemitta by relying on Arab agriculture than suffer inconvenience and observe a true Shemitta.
And if the Religious Zionist camp was truly serious about the holiness of the land, they would stop relying on Heter Mechira and actually allow the land to rest. Because in the end Heter Mechira was a temporary measure and nearly a century later, it has long ago ceased to have any legitimacy. Heter Mechira is no more valid as a permanent state of affairs than Heter Iska, the sale of Chametz or Eruvs that stretch for longer than some countries. All are examples of explicit violations of D'oraisas that are mandated by business or lifestyle. What the Torah says is not remotely ambiguous and it ends with a warning that the failure to observe Shemitta will result in our expulsion from the land. Too many people who jump on every prediction made by a Kabbalist somewhere ignored what the Torah says in black and white.
But instead "Unzer Yidden" prevails, sides are chosen, self-righteous rhetoric is pasted up on posters and the same routine continues. The same "Unzer Yidden" mindset that allowed the Haredim to fold their hands when it came to Gush Katif because it didn't involve "Unzer Yidden" and allowed so many in the Religious Zionist camp to ignore the decades of police brutality directed against Chassidim and Haredim, before it was directed against them... rules the day.
What I have to say isn't pretty but it is true... much as I wish it wasn't. The answer is true unity around the Jewish people and the Torah, not around individual communities. Every day we are repeating the steps leading to the fall of Bayit Sheini and we... each and every one of us, those who care and those who don't, those who wear black hats and those who wear Kippah Srugah, those who daven Nusach Ashkenaz, Sefard, Ari or nothing at all... are part of the problem. Until we can look at ourselves and our communities in the mirror and recognize that we are part of the problem... there is no hope for us.
No hope but that we grow wiser and learn to love each other and learn to love G-d and his Torah. For those who do not love G-d cannot love the Torah and those who do not love the Jewish people cannot love G-d or the Torah.