As the Israeli government continues to press forward in its
quest for peace with its Arab neighbors, living in Eretz
Yisroel these days seems to be getting more and more
The country's northern communities live in constant fear of
Katyusha rocket attacks from the Hizbullah. Israeli warplanes
attack suspected guerrilla positions in south Lebanon. And
while the residents of such communities as Neve Yaakov, Ramat
Shlomo and Ramot don't have to go into bomb shelters, they
keep a fearful eye on Israel's negotiations with the
Palestinians. The Palestinians have called for control of the
Arab-populated suburbs in East Jerusalem. If Prime Minister
Ehud Barak agrees to their demands, these religious
communities will be surrounded by Arabs on all sides -- a
situation that is likely to lead to increased violence and
crime in those areas.
Where does that leave Israel's residents? In a rather tenuous
situation, as they have always been. What are they doing
about it? Well, some are protesting the negotiations with the
Syrians, others are protesting the negotiations with the
Palestinians, and still others are expressing concerns that
bombing south Lebanon may not be in Israel's best
Chazal tell us, however, that the only way to ensure that the
Jewish people maintain control of Eretz Yisroel is to fulfill
the mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz, the laws of the Land
of Israel. Chazal's words now ring truer than ever.
A Lack Of Knowledge
Chazal tell us that it is not sophisticated weaponry and
satellite surveillance systems that will protect Eretz
Yisroel, but rather the observance of mitzvos unique to Eretz
Yisroel, such as shemitta, terumos and ma'asros,
According to the Center for Halachic Agriculture, however,
these mitzvos are only being fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel on a
But Center spokesman Rabbi Chaim Schorr says it's not because
people don't want to keep the mitzvos, it's because they
don't know how.
"In Eretz Yisroel today," he says, "there is a great thirst
for more knowledge about these mitzvos. People are not
keeping them not because they don't want to, but because they
aren't aware that they exist, or because they don't know how
to keep them."
The Center for Halachic Agriculture, founded in 1957, was
created to address this very problem. Run by Rav Yosef Efrati
under the guidance of HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, the center
is dedicated to raising the level of observance and knowledge
of mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz.
It achieves this by taking the rulings of HaRav Eliashiv,
implementing them on a practical level, and then providing
information to the public on how to fulfill them.
Following The Chazon Ish
In recent months, the center has increased its efforts to
raise the level of observance and knowledge of mitzvos
hateluyos bo'oretz by creating night kollels where
yungerleit learn the halachos that pertain to these
mitzvos. It then sends these men to outlying communities
where they give shiurim on the halachos to the
The creation of the night kollels was in accordance a
declaration of the Chazon Ish, that the more people who learn
about the mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz, the more these
laws will be observed.
This idea can be understood on two levels: First, it is well
known that when a Jew in one part of the world learns Torah,
he can prevent a Jew in a different part of the world from
sinning. As Rav Yisroel Salanter used to say, when a Jew sits
down and learns Torah in Poland, he causes a Jew in Paris to
change his mind about lighting a cigarette on Shabbos.
But this idea can be understood on a more practical level, as
can be seen from Rav Salanter's own actions. Not satisfied
with the "long-distance effects" of Torah learning, toward
the end of his life Rav Salanter moved to Paris, where he was
personally involved in outreach until his death.
Likewise, Rav Efrati's center not only enables yungerleit to
learn the halachos pertaining to the mitzvos hateluyos
bo'oretz through its night kollel program, but it
also uses it as a means of bringing those halachos to the
The Night Kollel Program
Participants of the night kollel learn seder
Zeroim, a subject not covered in the majority of
yeshivos. They are paid a generous stipend for learning in
the kollel, and in exchange, they are required to give
regular chaburos and to take exams on the material
It is only after they have fully mastered the material that
they are able to join the center's team of instructors, who
travel to outlying communities where they spread the word
about the mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz.
The center already runs five night kollels, and
another four are in the developmental stage.
"We hope," says Rabbi Efrati, the center's director, "to open
a large number of night kollels, with an eye toward
eventually sending these kollel members to communities
throughout the country and turning them into places where the
mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz are widely kept.
"And from there," he added, "we hope it will spread to people
throughout Eretz Yisroel."
An Overwhelming Response
So far, the kollels have succeeded in doing just
In recent months, kollel members and center personnel
have given hundreds of shiurim about the mitzvos
hateluyos bo'oretz in communities throughout the country,
from Kiryat Shemoneh in the north to Dimona in the south.
And according to Rabbi Schorr, the response has been
overwhelming, with residents from more than 150 communities
calling the center for more information about the mitzvos
after attending the shiurim.
"Whenever we give a shiur," he says, "the center's
information hotline is swamped with calls from that area for
"People," he explains, "want to know everything from how to
join the center's keren hama'asros, to how to learn
more about the halachos, to how to arrange regular shiurim
in their areas."
Because the switchboard receives so many calls, another goal
of the night kollel program is to train additional
yungerleit to field the many halacha- related calls
that come in on a daily basis.
Rabbi Shaul Reichenberg, senior lecturer of the night
kollel program, handles these calls, but in recent
weeks there have been just too many calls for one person to
handle. Once additional men are trained to field the calls,
they will not only assist Rabbi Reichenberg, but also allow
the center to expand its switchboard services.
Rabbi Schorr adds that the center's long-term goal is not
just to introduce observance of the mitzvos hateluyos
bo'oretz to all of the country's residents, but also to
make these mitzvos an intrinsic part of their everyday
"Many people are under the misconception that these are
mitzvos we only have to fulfill when Moshiach comes," he
says. "In reality, those who live in Eretz Yisroel confront
them on a daily basis, and they need to be knowledgeable
about them and fulfill them to the greatest extent
Our Most Effective Weapon
With Israel's security -- or lack of it -- likely to become a
major issue in the coming months, you can expect to hear more
than one nonreligious Jew charge that religious Jews should
not be exempt from army duty, especially when the country is
in a weakened state.
Any well-trained yeshiva student could easily tell that
nonreligious Jew that by learning, yeshiva students are doing
a lot more than the soldiers to protect Eretz Yisroel.
And now, Rabbi Efrati explains that by learning about the
mitzvos hateluyos bo'oretz and sharing that knowledge
with others, they are doing more than ever.
"Although any kind of learning increases our merit and
enables us to live in Eretz Yisroel," says Rabbi Efrati,
"according to the Chazon Ish, as well as the Chofetz Chaim,
our most effective weapons are the mitzvos hateluyos
If the center achieves its ambitious objectives of spreading
the word about these mitzvos and teaching people throughout
the country how to observe them, soon we may not need to rely
only on guns, early-warning systems or so-called peace
treaties to bring real peace to Eretz Yisroel.