Friday, January 25, 2008

orthomom returns with an excellent post...

orthomom: Freakonomics on Shemita and the Law of Unintended Consequences

After you read that, I have some questions and ideas. Ruminations and vague thoughts.

The Torah is nowhere near as strict as the corpus of Jewish law afterwards collectively known as halacha when it comes to chametz. Back when the original negative mitzvah was handed down, everyone pretty much made their own bread. Later on, not so much. Why such interest in making it more strict to include things that no sane Jew would ever try to eat? To keep the same sense of importance and urgency as in millennia past?

Maybe only the actually sane edible chametz could be destroyed and the inedible chametz containing products could be escrowed with righteous Gentiles instead during Pesach and bought back afterwards for a nominal fee? Maybe someone could find self-storage operators who were fitting and acceptable, and get them to have a Pesach Escrow Service. Just an idea.

AM gives this comment:

heter mechira was instituted in the late 1800s because it was considered pikuach nefesh. The farmers would starve without it, and that's why R Yitzchok ELchanan Spektor (the godol hador at the time) agreed to it as a necesarry measure. I think the original stipulation was that the fields would be sold and worked by non-jews.
The main objection to heter mechira was related to "Lo Tachenem" a prohibition in the Torah against selling land in Eretz Yisrael to non-jews. Those opposed felt that by selling you would violate a Torah prohibition to remedy a rabbinic prohibition. (Most poskim hold that shmitta today is d'rabannan)
With regard to chutz la'aretz, it was never pikuach nefesh, so perhaps the heter would not apply.
I heard R' Herschel Schachter say that Rav Soloveitchik instrutced Rabbi Genack and the OU not to rely on heter mechira for this reason.
I think most Kashrus agencies follow the smae reasoning.

I agree with this largely, but am I agreeing because I wish for a more lenient outcome, because I believe G-d to be generally lenient and not intending for us to create perverse incentives and unintended consequences despite free will to do so? I wonder to myself.

Perhaps the more important rule of not selling Israeli land to non-Jews would then imply that Israel needs a nearby but trustworthy and low-cost source of imports. Perhaps hydroponics on converted cargo freighters, registered to somewhere other than Israel by non-Jews and docked in Israeli waters? So they would be within Israeli security and control, but not actually Israeli land and thus not running afoul of the injunction.


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