October 3: Flexible Halacha and the 'heter mechira'

The underlying problem has been the growing "haredization" of the religious establishment in Israel.

October 2, 2007 21:08
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Sir, - Re "End the monopoly" (Editorial, October 2): The underlying problem has been the growing "haredization" of the religious establishment in Israel. The voices of the modern Orthodox and religious Zionists have been stilled by the outspoken and outrageous stance of the haredim. However, the solution does not lie in throwing open state religious functions to all streams of Judaism, which would create a far greater problem than the one we are facing. As long as these functions stay within the framework of Halacha, they could and should be acceptable. Reform Judaism rejects the supreme authority of Halacha - and this, in areas of conversion and intermarriage, could create an irreparable schism within the Jewish nation. A true reading of halachic principles and their interpretation will produce a system flexible enough to accommodate the needs of almost all Jews living in the modern State of Israel. HAIM M. LERNER Ganei Tikva Sir, - I say, allow as many kashrut supervisory agencies as the market will bear. Today in Israel we have more than one choice. We have the rabbinates of various cities, and Badatz; and many imported products carry the symbols of a variety of foreign kashrut organizations, either alone or in conjunction with Israel's rabbinate A little competition can only have a positive result, with the consumer winning in the end. We're mature enough to make our own educated choices as to which agency we'll trust. STUART PILICHOWSKI Mevaseret Zion Sir, - I am a modern Orthodox Jew, emphasis on modern, and generally find myself firmly on the side of the most liberal of religious Zionist rabbis. But not this time regarding the heter mechira shmita controversy. I am dismayed by the continual analogy drawn between heter mechira and selling hametz during Pessah. When you sell hametz, you act as if it no longer belongs to you. You cover or close it up and do not sell or profit from it in any way during Pessah. The whole point of heter mechira - selling the land to a non-Jew during shmita - is so the Jewish farmer can continue to profit from the land. The "sale" is thus a complete legal fiction. Any hametz sold by a Jew during Pessah whereby he profits from the sale is rendered not kosher; so should it be with any produce grown on Israeli land during shmita from which a Jew derives profit. It also should be rendered not kosher. There is a solution - and it is not to buy produce from our enemies, our hard-earned money winding up in the hands of those who want to kill us. In the US, the government puts price controls on wheat to keep the price down. At the same time, the government subsidizes the farmers so they can continue to earn a decent profit from their crops. Israel should adopt a similar policy of subsidizing farmers for their lost crops during the shmita year. In order to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to our population we can adopt a two-pronged policy of 1. increased imports during shmita from friendly countries abroad, and 2. increasing investment in above-ground growing methods originally developed in Gush Katif, currently in use by the Otzar Ha'aretz organization. RANDI MELLMAN OZE Jerusalem Sir, - Your editorial "End the monopoly" was timely and thoughtful, though by itself it will do little to end the haredi Orthodox monopoly over religious affairs in this country. The Jerusalem Post is performing an important religious service by publicizing the fact that several courageous Orthodox rabbis are challenging the latest absurd ruling by an out-of-control government rabbinate regarding shmita. The haredi Rabbinate has slowly turned Israeli Judaism from a joyful and uniting community force into a series of often ridiculous rules and divisions; divorce has become a form of blackmail, conversion a near-impossiblity, and kashrut a matter of each individual rabbi's conscience. The general Israeli Jewish public has every right to demand that this process be stopped. If the rabbinate cannot be legally dismantled or controlled, more and more groups of other courageous rabbis must step forward and take over its powers. KENNETH BESIG Kiryat Arba Non-profit synergy Sir, - Greer Fay Cashman was spot-on about the importance of non-profit organizations working in cooperation and coordination with each other, as well as the value of "hands-on" philanthropy by becoming a volunteer ("To give or not to give…That is the question," A Helping Hand supplement, September 26). From our experience, there is much to be gained when non-profit organizations form partnerships and help each other. At ERAN we see how synergy expands and maximizes the good work for all concerned, and donors see how their money has a greater impact by helping more organizations achieve their aims. For over 35 years our organization, which provides 24-hour hotlines for the entire Israeli public, has specialized in teaching volunteers the essential listening skills needed in order to offer emotional first aid to every caller. Whether a person's emotional distress emanates from poverty, abuse, loneliness, sickness or trauma, volunteers dealing in these fields need to be properly trained in order to carry out their important and valuable work. This why we are organizing a conference for 2008 on the subject of forming synergy between non-profit organizations, and promoting cooperation, volunteer training, and listing skills. Volunteer and philanthropic organizations interested in receiving more information about the conference, as well as individuals wanting to know more about becoming a volunteer for ERAN, can contact me at tel: (972) 09-889 1306; or by email: eran-rd@zahav.net.il CANDY SHINAAR ERAN Kfar Vitkin Shattered community Sir, - Re "US Immigrant family shattered in two-car collision in Arava" (October 1): How many more innocent lives have to be lost, how many more orphans do we need before something is done about the carnage on our roads? The Bernsteins were a wonderful family, and our whole community is now shattered. A fortune is being spent on roads so we can no longer drive into the center of Jerusalem, but the horrible Arava road has been left untouched. It needs to become a four-lane road; until then, barriers need to be placed in the center so people can't pass where it isn't safe. TAMI SIMON Ramot Bet Cheers & jeers Sir, - Three cheers and two jeers for columns in your September 30 edition. All three cheers are for From the Archives, compiled by the gifted Alexander Zvielli. His daily selections from past years are apt and enable us to learn lessons from past events which, as Santayana wrote, may help us to avoid repeating past mistakes: For example, the report about the US not expecting Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon until all foreign forces are withdrawn (September 30, 1982). One jeer for Herb Keinon's repeated anxiety over his American-accented spoken Hebrew ("Back to bases"). I was privileged to emigrate to Israel 36 years ago, and when veteran Israelis mocked my American-accented Hebrew I told them I had arrived to become prime minister, which was why I spoke like the incumbent, Golda Meir. One jeer for Gary Taubes's Elsewhere piece on burning off fat via exercise. It was anorexically thin on content and obesely laden with junk-food for thought. MOSHE BERLIN Jerusalem

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