Shabbat Parashat Vayeilech 5773
P'ninat Mishpat: Acceptance Committee (part II)(condensed from Hemdat Mishpat, rulings of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)
Case: The plaintiff (=pl) wants to rent a home in a yishuv (a communal settlement) (=def). The yishuv’s rules state that one must be accepted by the va'adat kabbala (=vaka – acceptance committee) in order to do so, and vaka rejected pl. Pl claims that the head of vaka attributed the decision to her age and lack of financial resources and that these reasons are unacceptable. Furthermore, pl argues that no group should have authority to limit who can live on government-owned land, and that the halachic requirements for making such a rule were not met. Def responds that the need for acceptance to the yishuv by a committee is the minhag of the yishuv from its inception, and that private statements of the head of vaka do not have public standing.
Ruling: [Last time we saw that it is possible for the community to decide to require a prospective resident to be accepted by an acceptance committee (vaka). We add that this is so when the owners of the land (
Beit din cannot replace the vaka or oversee its operation on an ongoing basis when vaka is operating in a reasonable and proper way. However, if vaka violates basic elements of natural ethics, its actions can be questioned. Even in regard to dina d’malchuta (the law of the land), laws are not binding if they negate certain basic principles of ethics and fairness.
As far as the running of the committee is concerned, the only flaw we saw is that they did not keep minutes of their session, which we recommend they remedy, but that does not void their decision. The residents have to decide what criteria there are for membership in the yishuv and what its atmosphere and style will be, within reason. The extent to which a candidate’s age can be a factor depends on whether this is likely to have an impact on the lifestyle of the yishuv, which is unlikely regarding someone who is only renting.
Lack of financial resources is certainly an improper criterion, for two reasons. Firstly, people of means are supposed to live a life in which they help poor people and the rule is that the poor people of one’s own city come first. How will there be poor people in one’s city if residents do not allow poor people in. Our Rabbis tell us to “be careful in your actions with the sons of poor people, for out of them, Torah emerges.” Including poor people in one’s circle should not be viewed as merely a burden on society, but as a source of beracha.
It is not clear though that these were the factors that were responsible for pl’s rejection. However, after clarifying some of the matters that may and may not be grounds for rejection, we believe that def should reevaluate their decision. Since the tendency is for people to try to uphold the opinion they put forward, an ad hoc committee should be put together to redo the process. This group can be put together by residents or by the secretariat of the yishuv.
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