• August 7, 2022
  • 10 5782, Av
  • פרשת ואתחנן

Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah

Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah
In this series we will discuss the controversy which exists to this day around the remarkable ruling of Rav Kook zt”l that land in Israel may be sold to non-Jews in order to circumvent the restrictions of the mitzvah of shemittah. Join Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman and learn both Rav Kook’s ruling, the arguments made against it, and further exploration of Rav Kook’s philosophy regarding the land and its people.
October 11, 2021 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

Rav Avraham Yitzchak haCohen Kook zt”l (1865-1935) was one of titanic figures in Jewish history. His mastery of all areas of Jewish knowledge, his prolific writing on all branches of Torah, his bold leadership of the Jewish people coupled with his absolute love for all Jews make him absolutely unique.

The title of this series of talks is “Rav Kook’s Teachings:Shmittah.” When people mention Rav Kook in connection with Shmittah they are referring to his famous “Heter Mechirah” the sale of agricultural land to a non-Jew. This sale would abrogate (to a certain extent) the Shmittah regulations which limit agricultural activity.

Rav Kook’s book on the laws of Shmittah is titled Shabbat ha’Aretz. The book has three sections. The first section is an extended essay on the meaning of Shmittah and the return in our time of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. The third section is Rav Kook’s extensive notes to the laws of Shmittah  of the Rambam. The second section is Rav Kook’s “Heter Mechirah.” This section is sixty-six pages long and is an exhaustive discussion of the laws of Shmittah and the basis for selling land in Eretz Yisrael in order to abrogate the regulations of Shmittah.

Rav Kook zt”l did not invent the Heter Mechirah.[1] As the Jews began returning to Israel to work the land they were under tremendous financial pressure from their supporters in Europe to continue the cultivation of the land during Shmittah. This being the case, the first “Heter Mechirah” was promulgated in the Shmittah year 5649. The Heter Mechirah was renewed ever since. Rav Kook published his defense of the Heter Mechrah in his book Shabbat ha’Aretz in the Shmittah year 5670.

What makes Rav Kook’s defense of the Heter Mechirah so noteworthy is his poignant confession which appears before the actual defense. In this brief “Note to the Public” (in the original Hebrew it is “וזאת למודעי” ) Rav Kook expresses his ambivalence regarding the Heter Mechirah. On the one hand he vigorously expresses his view that the Heter Mechirah has a solid basis in the Halacha. On the other hand he is saddened that necessity is preventing many farmers from observing the mitzvoth of Shmittah. It was only Rav Kook’s devotion to the cause of reestablishing a Jewish presence in The Land of Israel that motivated him to work so hard to defend the Heter Mechirah.

So to understand the Heter Mechirah we must study not only the Halachic portion of Shabbat ha’Aretz. We need to study Rav Kook’s writings on the return to the Land Of Israel and its importance to Judaism.

So in the six weeks set aside for this course we will study many of Rav Kook’s writings. I hope that the meetings will give us all a greater appreciation for one of the most magnificent people that the Jewish people have been blessed to know.

[1] https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%99%D7%AA%D7%A8_%D7%9E%D7%9B%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%94#%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%93%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%94%D7%94%D7%99%D7%AA%D7%A8

October 18, 2021 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

Hello Everyone.

In today’s meeting we will study Rav Kook’s writings on the new return of the Jewish people to Israel and its significance. This return is so significant that it justifies seeking out a lenient ruling regarding Shmittah.

October 25, 2021 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

Hello Everyone,

Having reviewed Rav Kook’s attitude towards the renewal of Jewish life in the Land of Israel we can begin to study his “Heter Mechirah”- the suspension of the laws of Shmittah by selling agricultural land to a non-Jew.

The suspension of the laws of Shmittah is based on two premises:

a) the mitzvah of Shmittah in our time is a Rabbinic mitzvah. At some time in our history for some reason the Torah-level obligation to observe Shmittah came to an end.

b) the purchase of land in Israel by a non-Jew abrogates the sanctity of that parcel of land. The mitzvah of Shmittah (such as the other agricultural mitzvot which are known as “mitzvot dependent on the Land) is itself derived from the sanctity of the Land. The fundamental question is whether this sanctity is terminated when the land is no longer owned by a Jew.

Today we will begin to study the various texts from the Talmud which address these premises.

November 1, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

In last week’s session we discussed the basic premises which underlie the “Heter Mechirah.” These two premises are that the mitzvah of Shmittah is currently Rabbinic and that when a parcel of land in Israel is sold to a non-Jew some mitzvot (such as Shmittah) no longer apply to that parcel of land.

Today we will discuss one of the several objections raised to the Heter Mechirah.  This objection is that it is forbidden to sell land in Israel to a non-Jew. This prohibition is known as “.לא תחנם”

November 8, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

Up to today we have discussed the rationale of Rav Kook zt”l for supporting the “Heter Mechirah.”Today we will see the position of a scholar who was perhaps the equal of Rav Kook- Rav Yakov Dovid Wilovksy zt”l who is known as Ridbaz. Ridbaz wrote a monumental commentary to the Talmud Yerushami. Ridbaz opposed the Heter Mechirah on many grounds. This evening we will focus on what might be his most interesting objection. Ridbaz asked, if it is possible to abrogate the mitzvah of Shmittah byr selling the land to a non-Jew, then is there any longer a mitzvah to settle in the Land of Israel? If the mitzvot are not applicable, then what sort of sanctity exists?

We will see what Ridbaz wrote and what Rav Kook replied to him.

November 15, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Rav Kook's Teachings: Shemittah: Rav Kook’s Teachings: Shemittah
Class description

One of the questions that some people like to ask is , “What is the methodology of Halacha?” And it is a fair question.  The halacha must have a method since Poskim do not arrive at their decisions by tossing a coin. But it is rare to find in one single spot an extensive discussion by a Posek  explaining how he arrived at his decision.

I hope that I was successful during the past few weeks in sharing with you such an explanation. I am of course referring to Rav Kook’s “Introduction” to his book שבת הארץ.

In today’s session we will see how Rav Kook explains on what basis he followed minority opinions in arriving at his ruling.

Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.