Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Adar II 5760 - March 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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The Mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel are the Real Key to Israel's Security

By Moshe Schapiro

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 dangerous.

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 interests.

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, and orlah.

According to the Center for Halachic Agriculture, however, these mitzvos are only being fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel on a small scale.

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 public.

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 masses.

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 covered.

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 that.

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 several days.

"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 life.

"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 possible."

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 bo'oretz."

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.

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