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.


Monday, January 21, 2008

My reply to: Rabbi without a cause: Poland's Jewish Cultural Festival

Rabbi without a cause: Poland's Jewish Cultural Festival

People do horrible things under the pressure of fear of dying, under the fear of displacement, fear fear fear... Even the seeming most evil people do things on automatic pilot without much thought like fleeing death at their heels through a hotel, hall to hall to stair to hall to room to room. Slaloming this way and that hurtling forward through events knocking others this way and that in a cascade failure.

No one pebble thinks it is the avalanche and no one drop of rain thinks it makes the flood. It just happens that way.

There's a lot of people dead now, gone and there's a lot of living people who didn't do those things of decades past. People who were just children when the Nazis were removed from the world. I don't hold the sons or daughters of those who wrong me to account for the sins of their parents and won't now.

I get the feeling there's plenty of Poles today whose ancestry two or three generations back, maybe more, was Jewish and under the fear of ostracism from the greater whole of Polish society or pogroms and death , whatever drives people to throw away their religion, and maybe we should leave the door open to people healing, some returning.

If we don't have the capacity to forgive, we don't have the capacity to heal. We don't heal, then the evil wins. And we take up the mantle of those who wronged us, and we wrong ourselves and generations undreamt of.

I see sheepish half-hearted attempts at making pain go away, pain people don't know what to do with. The sons and daughters of those who wrong me aren't their parents and I won't hold to blaming them for what someone else did. Nor will I keep on the argument that wasn't and the fight that didn't. It was never the point, not for the parents, not for the grandchildren, not for anyone.

Evil is more in the absence of us and between us in the empty places we define by where we're not for our fears and anger. I won't let that be.

That ain't stopped others though the the war that isn't keeps on going. It's time to steal the thunder from the darkness and let it lay. Let those who didn't cause it and would gladly die to make the past different cry out their sorrows on our shoulders and clap hands to their backs and get ourselves back together with our neighbors. It's long past time to close the gap where evil lives and give it no place at all.

I've wronged others myself and in the moment didn't know what I was doing and for the lack of sense of it after when I finally knew, I've hurt. Hurt as bad as any I've hurt. That's the price of doing wrong by others. When your conscience is awake and you know, you will hurt. The Germans, the Poles, they're hurting. Many many many of them are hurting over a pain they didn't inflict on people who aren't alive to scream out and can't make it get out of their heads.

We feel free to represent and speak for the dead every other time and issue, but when it comes to forgiving, never.

That needs to change. People not born, not responsible partaking adults when the crimes happened need to be forgiven by we who weren't born, not responsible partaking adults either. We need to stop hurting. All of us. We're holding people responsible who weren't for the deaths of those they never met, knew or could have.