Winner's Auctions No. 111

Important Historic Documents, Haskalah, Einstein, Seforim, Manuscripts and Letters from Rabbis and Rebbes

December 11, 2018
Opening $15,000
Estimate $30,000 - $40,000
Sold for $23,814
Including buyer's premium

The heter mechirah controversy:

With the renewal of the Jewish agricultural settlement in the Holy Land, when we were privileged with His help to take hold of the Holy Land with plantations of fields and vineyards, the issue of shemittah came to the fore. Before the seventh year, which was 1888, the gaons and rabbis of the Holy Land rejoiced leading up to the fulfillment of the sabbatical of the Land by its children-its builders, those who returned from exile, and they entirely disregarded those who demanded searching for some type of dispensation with various schemes to absolve themselves of this commandment. However the 'Baron''s clerks and the leaders of 'Chibat Tziyon' turned to the rabbinical leaders of Poland, and after they presented them with the danger of extinction of all the colonies and the new settlement should shemittah be observed, the rabbis considered this and found dispensations. Rabbinical leaders of Jerusalem and the majority of rabbinical leaders of Lithuania opposed the dispensation and did not accept it. Beginning in shemittah 1889 until this day, every seven years the validity of this dispensation again arises.

Background to the Chazon Ish's responsum - and the discovery:

In the Kerem Tziyon booklet (booklet 3, Jerusalem 1936), a long article by the gaon of Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, was printed, in which he sided with those who permit the dispensation. The primary proof brought by the rabbi was "I saw two books just published by the study hall, and both as one cancel the dispensation, rejecting it with both hands, and the leaders of the generation who allow it appear to them to be mistaken in their study." One of the books intended by Rabbi Frank is the Chazon Ish on Tractate Sheviit which was published then, and in the body of the article, he mentions it explicitly. In 1944 Rabbi Kalman Kahane published his Hilchot Shemittat Karkaot which concludes with the article "Birur Halachah" where he disputes Rabbi Frank's article and vehemently rejects his words - according to this manuscript, it turns out that most of the article was penned by the Chazon Ish who drew his sword against those who support the heter mechirah. What was known until now, was that apparently the Chazon Ish transmitted his words for publication to Rabbi Kahane so that they would be published anonymously, and now it has been clearly revealed that almost all that was printed there is actually the word of the Chazon Ish himself. Before us is the responsum which continues over seven pages, in which the Chazon Ish honed his pen and responded sharply, wrote and erased, added and changed, as a warrior in the battle of Torah.

The reaction of the Chazon Ish is divided into three parts:

1) Which facts were presented to the rabbis and how they checked them. Here is a small segment: Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank writes at the beginning of the article: "It has become clear for a number of reasons that it is almost impossible that all the inhabitants of the Land will observe shemittah." The Chazon Ish responds to this: "The method of checking has not been fully clarified, whether it is possible to observe the seventh year or not, the simple basis of the test is whether there is fear [of G-d] in this place. Hence it must not be said that this test showed that it is impossible." Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank wrote, "The question was presented to the leaders of the generation and they decided to permit it," to which the Chazon Ish responded, "Where are the sources for all these words that are written, and why have we not merited knowing the names of those who testified before the writer ... they surely gave him the names of the members of the investigative committee which was set up by the gaons of the generation ... why would the writer ignore all this and write as one of the authors whose words are written without any responsibility ..."

2) Who were the rabbis who permitted, and what was the reasoning of the rabbinical leaders: the Chazon Ish writes: "The gaons who were the rabbinical leaders of that generation, who instructed the generation are about seven: The gaon Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan - Av Beit Din of Kovno, the Netzi"v of Volozhin, the gaon Rabbi Yosef Dov of Brisk, the gaon the Av Beit Din of Karlin, the gaon Rabbi Y. Z. Stern - Av Beit Din of Shavel, the Ridba"z - the Av Beit Din of Slutzk. The response to the inquiry was split; the gaon Rabbi Y. E. of Kovno permitted the sale, and the other six mentioned forbade it. According to the well-known rule, halachah is not established according to the individual against the many, hence instruction was disseminated to forbid it. We learn from this that what was written as to what was clarified then - that observing shemittah is impossible - is fabricated."

3) Basis for the dispensation. The Chazon Ish covers all the halachic topics relevant to the substance of the dispensation: whether there is acquisition by a gentile to expropriate, etc., whether there is a difference between sale for a short or long period, the prohibition of selling the Land of Israel to gentiles, sale via emissary, financial loss, etc. He rejects them one by one and concludes: "The sum of the matter, when all has been considered, instruction has been given to forbid it by the majority of the generation's gaons. Their word is as embedded nails, clearly decided, and there is no place for doubting their truth, because their words are aligned and enlighten all intelligent people, and sheviit is conducted in our times ..."

The Chazon Ish's responsum was printed, as stated, in the aforementioned Hilchot Shemittat Karkaot, with many omissions and in a different version, possibly according to a different manuscript, in Chason Ish Shu"t V'Chiddushim (Bnei Brak 2016) siman 351.

Before us is the complete and continuous responsum in the Chazon Ish's own handwriting, with no changes to language or style - This precise format has never been printed!!

This is aside from the essence of the discovery that all that Rabbi Kalman Kahane wrote in Birur Halachah at the end of his book, is actually comprised of quotations from the Chazon Ish's responsum, as he was requested by the Chazon Ish to conceal his authorship of what was written.

7 pages. Ink on notebook paper. 22x14 cm. 21 lines written by his holy hand on each page.

Fine condition. Professional restoration in the white margins. The ink is faded in a number of places, mainly on the last two pages. Magnificent new leather binding.

Letters from Ashkenazic Rabbis