Rav Chaim Kanievsky Nixes Government Shemittah Program


A revolutionary government initiative to support Shemittah observant farmers was nixed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky and may never be realized. Rav Chaim argued the Chassam Sofer’s dictum that “chodosh (innovation) is forbidden by the Torah” applies here. Until now, Shemittah observant farmers have been supported privately by funds raised by the chareidi Keren Hashemittah (Shemittah Fund).

According to the government plan, farmers would invest a percentage of their monthly income in a Shemittah fund to be used later, with additional government funding, to support them during the shemittah year.

A letter penned by Rav Chaim’s grandson, Rav Yitzchok Shaul, laid out more arguments against the government scheme. Many farmers only become enthusiastic about shemittah a year in advance, the letter argued. Such people would have no money set aside from preceding years and would be illegible for government funding. Also, farmers supported by the government plan might only keep shemittah partially whereas Keren Hashemittah ascertains scrupulous observance. Furthermore, it is unclear how company owned farms would set aside monthly payments.

Due to these and other reasons, Rav Chaim ruled that things should be left as they have always been.

The government plan was initiated by Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi. An attempt to push it through in the previous government was torpedoed by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. In 2014, Israel allotted $28 million shekels to help farmers during the shemittah year.

{Matzav.com Israel News}


  1. Many years ago, menachem begin offered to fully fund chinuch atzmai. Rav schach Ztl refused and I believe one of the reasons given was that governments come and go and different priorities come with them. If the fundraising apparatus was shut down, it would be difficult to start it back up and we would be at their mercy for funding. The same would apply here, but as always, we must seek counsel from the gdolie hador and follow what THEY say.


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