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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5783

Igrot Hareaya Letters of Rav Kook: Baron Rothschild and the Heter Mechira #155

Date and Place: 18 Elul 5668 (1908), Yafo


Recipient: Mr. Frank. Mr. Frank is clearly a high-level administrator at the Jewish Colonization Association (Hebrew acronym – Yaka), the organization which was in charge of running the operations of the moshavot which Baron Edmond De Rothschild owned and supported in Eretz Yisrael. We have no other information on him.


Body: I am turning to your excellency with this letter as an inquiry on a matter that effects the totality of the Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, I hope that you will be so kind as to respond at the earliest possible time with information on the matter.

You should be aware that after the year of 5669, which should come upon us in the best possible way, the following year of 5670, will be the “seventh year,” which according to the laws of our holy Torah, is the shemitta year (in which agricultural work on the land of Eretz Yisrael is forbidden). The most brilliant Torah scholars of the generations before us, to whom the question [of how to handle the nascent agricultural settlements] about the yishuv came, found only one solution to continue to work the land, without a religious impediment. That is to make a sales document to sell the land and the trees, using a known formula, which works religiously, to a non-Jew (this is known as heter mechira).

This sale has to be approved by the baron or by a representative on his behalf. Halacha requires that the documents will be prepared in advance, for there are several clauses that must be worked on. Therefore, I turn to you to inquire if the authority you have as a representative of the baron will suffice to enable you to sign on the sales document in a manner that the sale will be considered halachically binding. Alternatively, there might be a need to obtain a special document of authorization from the honorable Baron Rothschild and from the leadership of Yaka.

Before the previous shemitta year, there was a special authorization from Baron Rothschild and Mr. Borwin, in whose name the land was registered; they authorized Mr. Pariente to carry out the sale. Therefore, I am confident that if the matter requires certain steps, the honorable baron will definitely fulfill this holy obligation again, which is necessary to facilitate the arrangement that enables work to be done in the yishuv during the shemitta year in a way that does not conflict with the holy Torah. This solution not only is important religiously, but it is also needed to handle the practical and, especially, commercial concerns. Without this, it will be totally forbidden to sell fruit, wine, and all the produce that grows in the Land, in addition to the fact that it will be forbidden to work the land.

You may require clarification of the matter in a deeper manner. I can do that for you; let me know if you would like me to clarify matters further orally in person or by written correspondence.



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