The first part of this article discussed the fact that
the origin of the heter mechira was closely followed
and applauded (and at least to some extent encouraged) by
the maskilim of the late nineteenth century, who
wanted to ensure that shmittah would not be observed.
Their preferred method was brutal coercion of individual
farmers, but they were willing to make do with the
hetter when they could not coerce the farmers into
working without it.
The Soton is still trying to prevent Klal Yisroel from
observing shmittah and now he also has new weapons.
One of these is the call for a boycott of Arab produce which
is not heard throughout the other years, when considerable
quantities of the produce sold in general Israeli markets is
from Arabs, but only during shmittah.
Recently a flyer was printed with the caption
"Do not eat." On top of the caption you see a picture of a
tomato filled with blood, and underneath it an explanation
about how the purchase of three kilograms of cucumbers and
tomatoes helps the Arabs to buy bullets, petrol bombs and
hand grenades. The conclusion to be drawn is obvious: do not
buy Arab produce! The authors make one more modest request:
to distribute the flyer to the general public and spread the
I have no idea who is behind the distribution of this
leaflet, whether they are supporters of a certain chain of
stores who boast of not selling any non-Jewish fruit or just
people who oppose shmittah observance. Unfortunately,
the propaganda is beginning to have some effect.
Last week I had the privilege of being asked by HaRav Y.
Silver to teach hilchos shevi'is to some Russian
newly- religious immigrants. One of the participants asked
the big question: is it not forbidden to use non-Jewish
For the sake of those upright Jews (as the Ridvaz calls
them) who are influenced by these statements, let me make it
absolutely clear: [whatever the status of using non- Jewish
produce] there is certainly no heter to use forbidden
Jewish produce. We must not be misled by new theories and
principles, rooted in falsehood.
Also, during the six-year periods in between shmittah
years the market is inundated with produce from the Arab
sector. Most cucumbers, okra, strawberries, beans and more
come from the Arabs all the time. The consumers during the
shmittah year decide which agricultural produce to
buy. We buy produce from the Arabs, and the forbidden
produce ends up in the general market.
Moreover, their argument is fundamentally flawed, because if
it is true that it is forbidden to buy Arab produce, does
the money from a cucumber only turn into a bullet during the
shmittah year, and for the following six years the
cucumber becomes kosher? If giving money to the Arabs is
causing the intifadah, why has no order been given to stop
hiring Arabs in stores, factories, greenhouses and
A few weeks ago while I was giving a shiur in one of
the settlements in Yehuda and Shomron, one of the
participants predictably raised the issue of Arab produce,
but another participant got up and objected to the question,
wondering how he was not embarrassed to ask such a question
when all their houses are built with Arab labor, and their
cars taken to Arab garages to be fixed because it is cheaper
and so on. Only during the shmittah year do we hear
about the prohibition not to buy from the Arabs.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no limit to the hypocrisy
surrounding this subject. I have in front of me a booklet
put out by Machon Hatorah Vehaaretz entitled, Emunat
Itecha, which says the following: "We would suggest that
one of the main points to stress at the outset of this
stormy shmittah year, during which the Jewish people
examines its connection to the land, is that the support of
Jewish agriculture is necessary from both the moral and
halachic points of view, as part of the struggle for
Eretz Yisrael. We must refrain from buying fruit and
vegetables from non-Jews who are rising up against us."
Many people can testify about how much we have helped
farmers from the area with which this institution is
connected (Gush Katif) by making sure that their greenhouses
are kosher lemehadrin. Towards the end of 5760 the
directors of that company asked us not to give
hechsherim to non-Jewish greenhouses. They even added
an implied threat, stating that if we would grant a
hechsher to such greenhouses, some people would stop
using the kosher greenhouses and rely on the heter
We asked the rabbonim shlita and based on their
response our reply was as follows: "We shall use all
possible means to support produce coming from your
greenhouses, but we shall not prevent the marketing of
produce of non-Jewish greenhouses, because there are some
who have a halachic preference for this produce. This is in
accordance with a ruling addressed to us by HaRav Y. S.
It goes without saying that the questioners were not happy
(to put it mildly) with this reply, but eventually, in the
middle of the shmittah year, when the company
realized that it made economic sense to sell produce from
non-Jewish greenhouses, they started marketing it as well,
and are now pressuring us to give it a hechsher. We
are only left to wonder what happened to their concern for
the prohibition to buy from Arabs.
@Big Let Body=Some people are also doing their best to
thwart the efforts of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, which is
trying to prevent the "traditional" (i.e. somewhat
observant) population from consuming sefichim. They
are working day and night, making use of any strange
argument, so long as it will help them win the struggle.
I would first like to stress again what I have said in the
past: stores with a non- mehadrin hechsher are not
meant chas vesholom for the chareidi public. The only
purpose of these hechsherim is to prevent people from
transgressing the issur of eating sefichim. At
the behest of our rabbonim, we are working to minimize the
prohibitions relating to shevi'is which our
"traditional" brethren inadvertently transgress.
Apparently, the yetzer hora is not satisfied with
this either, and every day we hear of yet another measure
undertaken which would coerce stores into making their
customers transgress the sefichim prohibition.
This non-mehadrin hashgocho is a bedi'eved
one, and its only purpose, under the direction of the
rabbonim, is to prevent the entry of produce which may be
sefichim. Every time we give a shiur, we
appeal to frum Jews not to buy from these stores,
explaining that they are only meant to be used by the wider
public, who will thereby be saved from transgressing the
prohibition of sefichim. Goods sold in these stores
are certainly not mehadrin. The religious population
who wants to buy products with our hashgocho should
buy only from mehadrin stores.
@Big Let Body=In Har Nof, Yerushalayim, some people who were
misled by the false propaganda convinced the owner of a
fruit and vegetable store to give up the mehadrin
hechsher of one of the kashrus committees and
sell instead produce which satisfies the new "halachic"
criterion of "Jewish produce." One of the rabbonim in the
neighborhood asked for my reaction.
I wrote him a letter in which I explained the halachic
drawbacks of these goods, and why religious people should
buy only from mehadrin stores.
This letter was subsequently published (without my consent)
and I received a letter from a rov -- a staunch supporter of
"Jewish" goods -- which contained some harsh accusations.
His main point was that I should not be opposing stores
which will limit the use made of the heter
Let me therefore make my position clear: every act which
results in people relying less on the heter mechirah
is welcome, provided the following two conditions are
fulfilled. First, any such act has to receive the approval
of the gedolim, who can use their insight to
ascertain whether the proposed act may not result in people
chas vesholom coming to the conclusion that the
heter mechirah is valid, but just needs to be
improved. Second, all those supporting a proposed
restriction of the heter must state explicitly that
they are proposing the measure only because the wider public
has not yet come to the full realization that the
heter has no basis whatsoever. G-d forbid that we
should adopt a path which would cause frum Jews to
buy doubtful produce because of false propaganda claiming
that it is preferable to the mehadrin produce.
@Big Let Body=The struggle for shmittah observance is
not an easy one. Stating the truth is not always a pleasant
task, and arguments come from both the right and the left.
But it is our duty to shout out: we have it on the authority
of past and present rabbonim that the heter mechirah
has no halachic validity.
It is impossible to rely on a heter which was based
in the past on considerations of pikuach nefesh
relating to the destruction of all the Jewish settlements in
the country. It consisted of the sale of all the land in the
country to a non-Jew, an act which so obviously lacks the
requisite halachic intention (gemirus daas).
We must also speak out against those sitting on the fence,
who on the one hand support full observance of
shmittah and on the other hand, come up with
heteirim and objections to non-Jewish fruit. Some of
them meet with farmers, holding deeds of sale in one hand,
and Powers of Attorney for the otzar beis din in the
other! They argue vehemently that although there are
problems with the heter mechirah, it would be
inconceivable to buy goods from the Arabs, and they
formulate new theories about the prohibition of buying Arab
We make this heartfelt plea to our dear brethren: do you not
realize that handing over land to a non-Jew for one year is
bound to be followed by our relinquishing territories for
many years? If we are privileged to observe shmittah
properly, on the other hand, Hashem will expedite the
Geuloh bimhero beyomeinu omen.
This article was seen by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita
(Note: I talked about some of the issues contained in this
article at the end of a shiur in the kollel
Mishkan Rotem in the memory of Rav Sh. Rotem z"l.
In the article I have added certain points.)
HaRav Yosef Yekusiel Efrati is the head of the Beis
Hamedrash for Halocho relating to Agriculture and the
secretary of Maran HaRav Eliashiv.