JERUSALEM (VINnews) — A clip by Motty Steinmetz in support of farmers who are keeping Shmita (leaving their fields fallow during the upcoming Jewish year which is the seventh year of the cycle) has garnered criticism from Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane because it seemingly calls for people to keep the most stringent form of Shmita by not performing any work in their fields.
The clip describes a farmer who has fallen on hard times and “has no choice but to rely on the leniency of an unknown rabbi” and to till his field in the Shmita year.
Many farmers in Israel rely on the Heter Mechira, a leniency which was first issued in 1889 and then upheld by Rabbi Kook, the first chief rabbi to serve in Israel. The leniency allows for the land to be sold to gentiles during the course of the seventh year and thus it can be cultivated by Jews since it is not Jewish-owned land which is required to lie fallow. Some rabbis consider this leniency to be crucial to maintaining Israel’s agricultural viability which is a strategic asset in a world which is still dependent on local produce for economic viability.
The leniency has been hotly disputed for over a century and the current opinion of the chief rabbinate as well as the chareidi establishment is that it should only be used in emergency circumstances but in general the biblical command should be maintained. Kahane however felt that the clip degrades those who rely on the leniency, a large proportion of Israel’s farmers as well as those rabbis who supported the leniency.
Clip with Motty Steinmetz (Hebrew with Yiddish subtitles, Yiddish with Hebrew subtitles)
“I really love the songs of Motty Steinmetz, its a pity he has joined the chareidi propaganda against the Heter Mechira which is based on the holy giant Rabbi Kook. It is good that there are different viewpoints, we can differ but there is no need to degrade gedolim. What a shame.”
Bannet Productions which issued the clip responded by stating: “Dear brothers, we saw your responses and it’s important for us to stress that we do not slight the rulings of any rabbi or Jewish practices of any kind.
“The clip was not intended to insult any person or community and if anyone was insulted we request forgiveness on the eve of the High Holydays. We bless everyone with a happy new year, a year in which we will “see each other’s attributes and not the shortcomings.”