As I write, we are still under the exhilarating spirit of the
yom tov of Pesach. As at every time of spiritual
regeneration (and most recently Shavuos) those were days full
of splendor and contentment of soul, days in which we
attained fine and sublime feelings and strengthened,
clarified, and purified our emunah. Each person
according to his individual preparation and effort,
compatible with his level of care and dikduk in
halochos bolsters his bond with Hashem and becomes a
loyal eved of Hashem.
Maran HaRav E. M. Shach shlita, the rosh yeshiva
of Yeshivas Ponevezh of Bnei Brak, once wrote the
following about Pesach observance (Michtovim
"By writing to you what is bothering me I will perhaps find
some relief. `The remedy for an aggrieved person is to
discuss his grievance with others' (see Mishlei 12:25,
Yoma 75a). I never dreamed I would hear of such a
problem. Who would have thought . . . that people would dare
breach the many restrictions in matters of chometz
and matzo both for Pesach itself and for erev
Pesach that our fathers and forefathers introduced, and
that people would devise a way to be lenient in that which
Yisroel always maintained as being forbidden . . . Even if
according to some shittos certain halochos are
permitted, the minhagim of Yisroel adhered to by the
gedolim and geonim of previous generations is
the decisive halocho . . . Observing the mitzvah of
matzo and distancing ourselves from any chashash
chometz despite all the bother involved, was happily
adopted [by Am Yisroel]. We should not look for
leniencies since every kula begets another, and who
knows where it will all end."
The above are excerpts from the Rosh Yeshiva's letter that
refer to our topic. The conclusion is that Klal
Yisroel has always unreservedly loved the halochos
of Pesach. "Although not nevi'im, they are offspring
of nevi'im," and have acted with exceptional piety in
their esteem for particular mitzvos.
"All your mitzvos are faithful" (Tehillim 119:86). In
another few months, from Tishrei 5761, we will have the
opportunity to fulfill the precious mitzvah of
shmitta. If during the yom tov of Pesach the
Jewish People are zerizim, quick and alert to fulfill
its mitzvos and are wary of eating chometz, then
during the entire year of shmitta they are giborei
koach, courageously refraining from working their
For a whole year Hashem teaches them "for all the earth is
Mine" (Shemos 19:5). Even the earth's produce has
kedushas shevi'is. The Zohar calls the
matzo that we eat during Pesach the meichla
dehemnusa, the bread of trust and emunah in
Hashem, and perhaps it can be said that the produce of
shmitta that we eat during the entire shmitta
year (and beyond) has this same special, elevating
In Chayei Olom 2:8) HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Kanievsky
zt'l emphasizes how shmitta strengthens our
emunah: "Another matter of shemiras Shabbos is
the shmitta of the earth, as is written, `The seventh
year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a
sabbath for Hashem' (Vayikra 25:4). This is an
extremely sacred matter . . . Undoubtedly, strictly observing
the shmitta of the earth according to halocho
is a sublime tikun against the deterioration of
emunah, Rachmono litzlan. How fortunate is a
person to fulfill the mitzvah of shmitta by following
all its halochos."
Nonetheless, many try by various means, to uproot this
precious mitzvah, using imaginary heteirim.
Bechasdei Hashem the observance of shmitta
increases each cycle tremendously, but the opposing forces
are still strong. The introduction of Beis HaRidbaz
quotes an odom godol that, "The sitra achra
does its utmost to confuse people regarding this sublime
matter and upon which is dependant the geula or,
chas vesholom, the golus."
All this is well known. But recently we have encountered a
new, especially disturbing development. Now, in the period
before this coming shmitta, some people are saying
that Sephardim and Ashkenazim differ regarding the so-called
"heter mechirah." Anyone who knows a little Torah
realizes that this is not so. I am a Sephardic ben
Torah whose heart is pained at the attempts to create a
machlokes where none exists, where a broad consensus
of Sephardim and Ashkenazim agree we must even now observe
shmitta according to all its halochos.
All recent Sephardic geonim, among whom were HaRav Y.
Tzadkah zt'l and HaRav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul
zt'l, rejected summarily this flimsy heter.
These geonim were talmidim of HaRav Ezra Atiya
zy'a until his very last day of harbotzas Torah
in the yeshiva Porat Yosef. They testified unequivocally that
their prominent rav believed the whole heter is a
farce. We have written this since some people are publicizing
the exact opposite in his name, trying to blur the truth.
These current matirim rely heavily upon the RaZaH's
opinion that we do not have to observe shevi'is today,
and use his opinion as one of the bases for this
heter. All of the abovementioned geonim wrote
that the RaZaH's opinion is totally rejected by
halocho and cannot be considered as a basis for any
heter. Nonetheless, "a man is led in the way that he
wants to go," and those who are eager to find a heter
will find one. They have even written that the Rashbash and
other rishonim are of the same opinion as the RaZaH.
This is despite the fact that all contemporary halachic
experts have clearly proven that the rishonim have
explicitly written that shevi'is must be observed
today either mideOraisah or miderabonon. The
publisher of the manuscript of the Rashbash admits that "the
manuscript was unclear and not properly arranged, and the
editor was unable to fix it satisfactorily."
In hilchos Pesach itself we find where Maran the Beis
Yosef comments about a situation strikingly similar to ours.
See the Beis Yosef (443) who cites the opinions of the
poskim regarding chometz after midday on
erev Pesach. Some opinions rule it is forbidden
mideOraisah to benefit from chometz at that
time, while others write it is merely forbidden rabbinically.
However, the opinion of the Baal HaMaor is that one is even
allowed to eat chometz at that time. The Beis Yosef
concludes: "The minhag to forbid [even] to benefit
from it after midday has been generally accepted. Anyone who
rules so as to find favor among the masses and permits
relying on the lenient ruling of the Baal HaMaor should be
rebuked. `Anything basically permitted but regarded by some
as forbidden must not be permitted before those people.' All
the more so in this matter that is forbidden by all sages of
Yisroel. The single opinion of the Baal HaMaor against all
other opinions is discounted."
The same is true in our issue. We can add that all the
reasons behind the heter mentioned in the past are
irrelevant or not applicable today; all gedolei Torah
agree we are not in a situation of she'as hadechak.
(See the discussion in Shmitta Kehilchoso, p. 140).
Any intelligent person understands that the real source of
today's heteirim is, as Maran the Beis Yosef puts it
above, that people rule so as to find favor among the
The Beis HaLevi (3:1:7:1) writes that even if shmitta
is only rabbinical today it is different from some
gezeiros derabonon and is considered as strong as a
real issur deOraisa. He writes that there is no
chiyuv mideOraisah to keep shmitta but that one
who does keep it is nonetheless keeping a mitzva
mideOraisah and "it is certainly the will of the Torah
hakedosha that Yisroel keep it [shmitta] even
though this is no obligation." The Teshuvos Mahrsha
Albendri wrote similarly regarding shmitta.
Maran the Chazon Ish zy'a was zoche to
strengthen the observance of shmitta in Eretz Yisroel.
Boruch Hashem, all the different sectors of the
chareidi public have accepted upon themselves this mitzvah
with real simcha. Those who separate themselves from
the tzibbur are acting improperly. May HaKodosh
Boruch Hu with His abundant rachamim help us
protect the honor of His name, and may He place us among
those courageous people observing shmitta according to
all its halochos.