Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Iyar 5761 - April 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Shnas Hasheva, an Anthology that Includes Eretz Chaifetz and Chukos Olom (New Edition)
by Rabbenu Moshe Nechemia Kahanov
reviewed by Avraham Zuroff

Rav Kahanov's halachic compendium on the laws of shmittah has been reprinted by the Kest-Lebowitz Foundation, appropriately coinciding with the present Sabbatical year. One hundred years has passed since Shnas HaSheva's original publication. The editor, Rabbi Nechemia Frankel, himself a descendant of the author, has painstakingly researched Rav Kahanov's sources, and meticulously corrected misprints and inserted omitted sources.

For hundreds of years prior to 5630 (1870), Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisroel were concentrated in Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfas, and Tiberius. Jewish farming was almost non- existent as the trend of immigrants were Talmudic scholars, usually in their later years.

In approximately 5630 (1870), agricultural labor was intensified by both the Diaspora Jews who founded Mikveh Yisrael, and by the local populace, who started to colonize Petach Tikvah. With the "first wave" of immigrants in 5640 (1880), many additional colonies were founded.

The theoretical study of the laws dependent upon Eretz Yisroel's holiness had at once become practical. However, practical guidelines were sorely lacking. At the time, two halachic digests were in print: Shaarei Tzedek, and Pe'as HaShulchon. Each work had left the need unfulfilled. In his zeal to write in a brief format, the Chayei Odom omitted several crucial halachic opinions. In contrast, the Pe'as HaShulchon's scholarly presentation was too time-consuming for the observant farmer who, nevertheless, wished to scrupulously perform Eretz Yisroel's mitzvos.

Rabbi Moshe Nechemia Kahanov filled the gap by writing a practical, yet thorough guide to shmittah observance for the layman.

The HaRav Kahanov made aliyah to Jerusalem in 5624 (1864), fulfilling the precepts of shmittah for the first time in 5628 (1868), and subsequently in 5635 (1875). In anticipation of shmittah 5642 (1882), Rav Kahanov published his work. Already in his advanced years, Rav Kahanov passed away in Jerusalem in 5647 (1887), leaving a legacy which would contribute towards future halachic understanding of Eretz Yisroel's laws.

HaRav Shmuel Wosner has given an enthusiastic approbation to the revised edition, writing that it is a "great mitzvah to republish the book."

The present edition includes an historical letter written by the author, who decries the "possible-heterim" for not observing shmittah in modern times, which were raised by one of the gedolim of Rav Kahanov's time, who published his heter in two Hebrew newspapers. The godol's position was based upon a combination of singular opinions raised, which include: in our times, shmittah is not even rabbinic, rather a custom; we are not aware of the precise year of shmittah; and the Amoraim decree that shmittah not be observed when arnona, government taxes, are imposed by the gentile rulership.

Rav Kahanov rejects the above arguments in a passionate, yet civil, discourse where he raises the point of acharei rabbim lehatos, the halacha is based upon the majority decision. In Jewish legislation, we do not follow a minority opinion lekula. Drawing a parallel to a minority opinion that bitul besheeshim applies to chometz on Pesach, the author notes that no one follows this opinion today, even in wake of hardship. The author then rhetorically asks what is the purpose of coming to Eretz Yisroel, if not for fulfilling the special mitzvos dependent upon kedushas ho'oretz? In our troubled times when the Ishmaelites are trying to destroy Jewish settlement of the land, I found this statement highly relevant to our times.

Shnas Hasheva is available in Israel by contacting the Kest-Lebowitz Foundation. Although currently unavailable in bookstores, Diaspora Jews may obtain the book by contacting the editor at: Frankel, 6 Sdei Chemed Street, Kiryat Sefer, Mobile Post Modiin, Israel; or by telefax: +972-8-974-0391.


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