Above: Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman
Top Haredi Rabbi Orders Charities To Trash Food Meant For The Poor
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Let them go hungry?
The top non-hasidic haredi rabbinic leader worldwide, 102-year-old Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, was asked in the past few days if heter mechira vegetables can be given by a haredi charity to the poor, the haredi news website Behadrei Haredi reported.
One in every seven years is the Sabbatical Year (shmita in Hebrew). During a shmita year, under biblical law all land in the Land of Israel is supposed to lie fallow, and any crops raised during that year in violation of the biblical law may not be eaten.
But when Jews started immigrating to the Land of Israel in large numbers beginning just before 1900 CE, the impracticality of this law in real life quickly became evident. Soon after, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Avaham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, allowed a legal fiction called heter mechira to be used. Heter mechira, a pro forma sale of Jewish-owned farmland to non-Jews which is similar to the pro forma sale of all leavened foods to non-Jews just before Passover and other rabbinic legal fictions, allowed Jews to continue to farm during the shmita year and kept the new Jewish community from starving.
But many haredi rabbis objected to the heter mechira – mostly, many non-haredi observers argue, on political rather than truly religious grounds.
Now, almost 100 years since Kook’s ruling was issued, Steinman was asked whether produce grown using the heter mechira could be given by charities to the poor.
Steinman said no. Instead, the produce should be destroyed, Steinman ruled – meaning he does not accept the heter mechira even in the case of need, even as only a second choice.
As for the poor?
The Behadrei Haredim report doesn’t say.