Eretz Yisroel is in danger. It is a time of flux, a time of
Hundreds of thousands thronged to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv a
little over a week ago to express their concern and feeling
for Eretz Yisroel. It was politics too, but there was an
unmistakable concern for Eretz Yisroel itself.
We certainly share in this concern. Though it is no secret
that we disagree with the Right on matters of principle about
the balance between the love for the land and pikuach
nefesh, the pain at the thought (and reality) of giving
up pieces of the Holy Land and making them off-limits to
Jewish people -- as has happened with large parts of the
territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority --
is ours as much as anyone's.
Yet the deepest aspect of our love for Eretz Yisroel these
days finds expression in our work in another area entirely:
the observance of shmitta in the upcoming year 5761.
Did not Moshe Rabbenu teach us that we should strive to
fulfill the mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel and not just to enjoy
its material pleasures? In particular the mitzva of
shmitta is connected to our real, spiritual right to
live here, and is among what makes it the Holy Land and not
Exactly 13 years ago during that shmitta year, Maran
HaRav Shach shlita summed up the critical points in
his penetrating analysis. "I issue a heartfelt call to all
those who care for the word of Hashem, the Chief Rabbis of
the State of Israel" not to work against those who keep the
laws of shmitta. "And even if there were geonim
ztvk"l who entered a narrow breach in a time of extreme
pressure when poverty was great and there was a real fear of
true famine and they permitted [certain leniencies] by
selling to a non-Jew with certain conditions, that is not the
situation today, boruch Hashem, when millions and
millions of dollars are spent on luxuries and all sorts of
games, and there is no pressure (she'as hadechak)
against importing produce of chutz la'aretz to our
Holy Land. . . . I call upon you, have mercy upon your own
souls and do not cause the masses -- some three million
inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel -- to sin by dirtying them with
forbidden foods. And because of the sin of Shevi'is
exile is common."
According to the considered opinion of our leading halachic
authorities, the approach adopted once again by the Chief
Rabbinate of selling the entire Eretz Yisroel to a non-Jew
cannot and must not be relied upon today, and this view, they
say, is not a matter of dispute or communal affiliation but
is the baseline of Torah observance for every Jew.
Those who instituted the "sale" a century ago stressed its
temporary nature and the reliance of their ruling upon the
particulars of the situation prevailing then, which have
since changed considerably for the better.
Concern for the observance of the mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel is
a true expression of feeling for the land itself and our
gratitude at being privileged to live here. Those of us who
moved here or who come here to visit, who did not just find
themselves here but chose to come, must be especially
sensitive to the mitzvos here and not look for ways around
them since the easiest and best way "around" them is by
staying away. We must take care to keep the laws ourselves,
and do our best to influence others to do so.
May the heartfelt words of the rabbonim find their way to the
hearts where they are needed, and in this zechus we
hope to avoid all challenges to our right to live here and
may we see a full geula very soon.