Beit Midrash

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קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
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1. Date and Place: 23 Marcheshvan 5670 (1909), Yafo

Recipient: Mr. Zvi Henri Frank, one of the lead administrators of the Jewish Colonization Association, which was the conduit for Baron Edmond De Rothschild’s support for the development of the Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. Mr. Frank was mentioned in past letters as one who was involved in implementing the Heter Mechira over the fields the Baron owned.

Body: I received a telegram from Safed, saying that the administration is forcing farmers from Yesod Hama’ala and Mishmar Hayarden to work the land this year, despite it being the year of Shemitta and that they thereby are arousing great acrimony between brothers and lack of ease in the whole area. I already asked your honor to please instruct the officers who are within your domain that they should allow each person to do what he wants to do. Let us not subjugate anyone to act against his religious convictions.

Realize that the accepted leniency (the Heter Mechira) is a leniency allowed only because of the pressures that make it necessary, and whoever wants not to work the land at all is to be praised. Religious coercion weakens the whole basis of the Heter Mechira, as it was adopted with the understanding that no one would intervene in [individual farmers’] decisions, but rather everyone would act as his heart tells him to act. He who wants to act leniently, will act leniently; he who wants to act stringently, will act stringently.

I request very, very much of your honor that you will fulfill my request. If there is a need for us to speak in person, I will not trouble you to come to me. Rather, if you will give me a time frame in which I can come to you, I will do so because of the great importance of the matter of removing the coercion on matters of religion and life in Eretz Yisrael.


2. Date and Place: 2 Kislev 5670 (1909), Yafo

Recipient: The Council of Ekron (presently, Mazkeret Batya).

Body: I have the honor to inform you [my opinion] on the matter of those who are keeping Shemitta. Justice, rectitude, and the law of the holy Torah require us to act in this matter with honor and serenity.

Although we must never question the right of our brethren who are compelled to follow the accepted leniency based on selling the land, still we need to know that it is a great and holy thing for some to observe Shemitta according to the halachot. They thereby sanctify Heaven’s Name and cause to be recognizable the Land’s sanctity and the affection for that which is sacred to grow. Therefore, beloved brothers you must not, Heaven forbid, create additional difficulties for those who are keeping Shemitta. Only those damages that will be caused to you by those who are observing Shemitta should come for a hearing in a rabbinical court. Certainly, no favorites shall be played there, and if those who are keeping Shemitta will be causing you damage, they shall suffer for it, and they should give in advance a document of debt as a guarantee.

The matter of how to arrange the voting rights should also be decided by a rabbinical court. [They will determine] if the manner of calculation that is used by the government will be such that those who refuse to work will cause more payment than if they had worked.

I hope that you will all know how to preserve your dignity and the dignity of the Holy Land. You should act with love and friendship, and there should not be any jealousy or tension between you on this matter, as it says: "Your nation are all holy" (Yeshayahu 60:21).
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