Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

8 Adar 5759 - Feb. 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







30th Seminar of the Institute for Agricultural Research According to the Torah

by B. Rabinowitz

Hundreds of participants, among them rabbonim, heads and directors of kashrus networks, scientists, agronomists and public figures participated in the 30th seminar of the Institute for Agricultural Research According to the Torah and the Academy of the Land and its Mitzvos. The seminar was held about a month ago in the kibbutz Chofetz Chaim guest house.

The two-day seminar was unusually successful. The many participants attended fascinating shiurim and lectures delivered by rabbonim as well as by lecturers and scientists who are leaders in their fields.

The Institute and the Academy have held day long study sessions and seminars for many years. They have become central platforms for the discussion of halachic responses to issues which have emerged as a result of the rapid technological developments of our times. In addition, lectures are sponsored throughout the country, as well as other activities which serve to heighten awareness on the topic of the laws of the land and its mitzvos. Knowledge of many people in these topics has been significantly enhanced as a result of the Institute's efforts.

A rich program was prepared for the 30th seminar, headed by R' Eliokim Shlanger. Participants came from all over the country to take part in the special seminar, which began on Monday, rosh chodesh Shevat.

Opening greetings were delivered by the head of the Sorek River Regional Council, Mr. Mordechai Hoenig, who supports the Institute and the Academy. HaRav Shoul Reichenberg then opened a series of lectures on the definition of the concept "tree" as it pertains to blessings and to kilayim, as well as the pertinence of these definitions to orla. He also discussed the well-known argument over eggplants, according to the Radbaz and Kaftor Vaferach, as well as questions relating to papaya and peppers.

Director of the Institute, R' Ze'ev Zaks, lectured on the counting of years in plant nurseries as pertaining to the laws of orla, and to the preparation of seedlings for the shmittah year. He displayed examples of various problematic plants, and discussed the new species which are being developed in Israel, and the various forms of cactus plants which are being grown for consumption in the Negev.

Rav Aryeh Shoul, who is responsible for the supervision of the nurseries, lectured on the method of growing plants in nurseries in order to reduce the years of orla in the fields.

Professor Eliezer Goldshmidt of the Weitzman Institute's Department of Agriculture in Rechovot, which collaborates with the Institute, opened the afternoon session. In a fascinating discussion, he explained the concepts of genetic engineering. He clarified how cells are removed and inserted in animals and plants and focused on the many halachic questions which emerge from this field. Dr. A. Maoz, secretary of the Government Committee for Plants, spoke about the technological and practical aspects of the use of genetics in plants and about future plans in this area. He also explained the overall process of genetic engineering and its influences.

Professor Avrohom Steinberg of the Sha'arei Zedek Medical Center presented the halachic and theoretical aspects of genetic engineering, and the attitude of halachic authorities to these developments. He noted the urgent need to study the halachic aspect, due to the rapid developments in this area.

The session was closed by HaRav Yosef Efrati, head of the Halachic Department of the Institute. In the first part of his lecture, he summarized some of the previous discussions and presented them from a practical-halachic perspective, in light of the halachic rulings of the posek hador, Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv. He also focused on whether the problem of hybrids arises when two different plants are crossbred by technical-genetic means. He discussed this issue at length, presenting the views of the Chazon Ish and R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. He also explained the differences between hybrids in animals and hybrids in seeds and plants.

In the second part of this lecture, he discussed the question of crossbreeding in poultry, and delineated all of the views regarding the signs of kosher poultry in the masores, citing the sources as well as the ramifications of cross- breeding.

The evening session was devoted to the problem of shatnez, and was opened by Dr. Yitzchok Shalev, a textile advisor. In his lecture, Dr. Shalev said that today it is quite difficult to identify fibers, since many fibers resemble flax and wool. He also spoke about the proportions between the fibers of the strand and in the whole garment, as well as the problem of the volume-weight ratio. He then stressed the unreliability of information on the labels attached to garments.

Rav Moshe Stein, a member of the Rabbinical Committee for Shatnez, focused on the reliability and expertise required of those who check shatnez and the need to check every single garment as opposed to relying on a general examination. He noted the case of the 1500 rabbinical frocks that recently arrived from abroad. Their inner buttons had shatnez.

Rav Yisroel Neiman, director of the Shatnez Laboratory, pointed to the need for personal experience in checking for shatnez in order to know where it is necessary to check.

The first day of discussions was concluded by Rav Ze'ev Patshino, rav of the Chofetz Chaim kibbutz, who brought the views of the rishonim regarding various types of weaves (shua, tovui and noz), the differences between them and the halocho according the more stringent viewpoint of the Rambam.

The morning session of the second day was devoted to kashrus problems and food additives. This series of lectures was opened by Rav Yehuda Sharashevsky of the Maskil LeDovid Institute for Kashrus. He spoke at length about problems of animal and vegetable fat, the combining of oil and water, the problem of gelatin and stabilizers, and a new type of gelatin which is made from kosher fish.

Professor Meir Schwartz of Haifa University discussed water recycling, "milk products" made of soy, home grown plants, and innovations being planned for the forthcoming decade. Rav Shmuel Troibe from the Belzer kashrus beis din delivered a lecture on the various problems of steam in factories and how to overcome them.

The afternoon session was devoted to the problem of interest. HaRav Arye Dvir, head of the Institute for Economy According to the Halocho and R' Ido Mark, director of the American Israel Bank, discussed the concept of heter iska and the new, binding improvements which have been instituted in light of problems which had arisen with the banks.

He also discussed installment purchases, advance payments, credit cards and overdrafts in banks, citing the opinion of R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on the issue.

All of the seminar participants said that they had truly broadened their horizons and enhanced their knowledge on the many topics discussed. They praised the coordinators for the outstanding program.

Throughout the seminar, halachic and professional perspectives were clearly separated. All professional and halachic conclusions will be presented to maranan verabonon the gedolei haposkim for their rulings and practical decisions.

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