Lot 270: (ISRAEL, LAND OF).
March 12, 2014
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Important collection of historical letters and documents pertaining to the issue of cultivating the land of Eretz Israel during Shemitah and the question of Heter Mechirah. All from the archives of R. Shmuel Salant.
* 1. R. Shmuel Salant's copy of the decision of R. Yisrael Yehoshua of Kutna, R. Shmuel Mohilever of Bialystok and R. Shmuel Zanvil Klepfish of Warsaw permitting sale of the land in Eretz Israel to non-Jews (Heter Mechirah). 28th Shevat, 1888.
* 2. R. Shmuel Salant's copy of R. Isaac Elchanan Spector's agreement to the Heter Mechirah. 3rd Adar, 1888.
* 3. An original letter to R. Shmuel Salant, signed by 18 farmers from various settlements, urging that he should permit farming during the forthcoming Shemitah. "If God forbid you prohibit work, then we, our wives and our children will starve to death...Think of the thousands of workers who will be affected...there is no other work available in Eretz Israel. In your decision, these thousands of souls whom we represent, should stand before your eyes." 16th Adar, 1895.
* 4. An original letter to R. Shmuel Salant, signed by 30 farmers from Petach Tikva, written in a more conciliatory tone. "We are ready to abide by any decision that will leave your holy mouth...but please keep in mind that of the 150 families residing in Petach Tikva, only 28 colonists are supported by the Baron...the rest may die of thirst and starvation if they do not receive any outside help. We are sure that your honor will judge this matter in accordance with the Torah." 24th Adar, 1895.
* 5. Unsigned draft of a passionate letter by R. Shmuel Salant to Wolf Friedland of St. Petersburg explaining why he opposed the Heter Mechirah of 1889. For just as R. Salant loves those who toil in Torah, so does he love those who toil the land. He relates a conversation with the Baron who promised to support the farmers during Shemitah. He vigorously protests against those who falsely accuse him of disapproving of those that work - such opponents of his seek to uproot Torah in general. Unlike those who look at this issue from a distance, R. Salant lives in Eretz Israel and knows first hand how such opposition and associated lies have caused destruction. "Woe to the eyes who see and the ears who hear these people during the year of Shemitah." R. Salant emphasizes his support for the pursuit of work and especially Torah combined with work. 12th Nissan, 1890.
* 6. Copy of response by R. Shmuel Salant to Rabbi Alexander Moshe Lapidus who published certain lenient opinions concerning Shemitah, Terumoth and other matters in the newspaper Halevanon. Rabbi Salant states "I believe your honor is mistaken in this matter." He writes that he thoroughly studied the matter 41 years ago when he first emigrated to Eretz Israel and believes he spoke to Rabbi Lapidus about the issue in 1860 when they met in Grodna. He requests that Rabbi Lapidus either retract these views in the next issue of Halevanon or forward this letter to the editor for publication. 1882.
* 7, 8 and 9. Copies of three responses by R. Shmuel Salant (two dated 1876) to the Netziv of Volozhin concerning matters pertaining to Shemitah and conducting business with Ethrogim that grew during Shemitah.
* 10. Draft of letter by R. Shmuel Salant to R. Yechiel Heller of Suvalk (author of Amudei Ohr), comments on a responsa concerning an issue of Shemitah.
* 11. Letter Signed by R. Shmuel Salant to R. Akiva Lehren concerning a comment of the Vilna Gaon regarding the holiness of parts of Eretz Israel (Beth Sha'an) as pertaining to Shemitah. 24th Nissan 1888.
* 12. Letter by R. Shmuel Salant to R. Chaim Elazar Vachs, pertaining to Ethrogim of Eretz Israel. 1878.
* 13. Yehoshua Leib Diskin. Dinei Shevi'ith Biktzarah Lehalacha Lema'aseh. Manuscript of five pages containing 36 clauses, with autographed corrections. This manuscript was later published in Shailoth Uteshuvoth Mahril Diskin (Jerusalem, 1911). Likely shown to Rabbi Salant for his review.
* 14. Five manuscript leaves, in various hands, on topics pertaining to Shemitah.
• Chief Rabbi Shmuel Salant (1816-1909) was the central figure of the Ashkenazic community in the Land of Israel and was the final arbiter of all major disputes and issues facing the Yishuv. Therefore all matters concerning Shemitah and the proposed Heter Mechirah were directed to Rabbi Salant for his review.
The papers in this lot are from Rabbi Salant's personal archive and deal with this particular issue.
Shemitah ("the sabbatical year") is the seventh of the seven-year agricultural cycle in which the land of Israel is left to lie fallow and all agricultural activity is Halachicly forbidden. For millenia, Shemitah remained a theoretical problem only, discussed purely by Talmudic scholars. However, with the dawn of the modern settlement of Eretz Israel in the later third of the 19th-century, this became a practical issue for farmers who were prohibited from cultivating their land. Many felt that they were doomed to starvation if a Rabbinical solution were not found.
In 1888, in anticipation of the Shemitah year of 1889, three leading rabbis considered whether it was permissible to enact a formal sale of all Jewish-owned fields and vineyards to non-Jews in order to permit the working of the land of Eretz Israel during the coming sabbatical year. These Rabbis, R. Yisrael Yehoshua of Kutna, R. Shmuel Mohilever of Bialystok and R. Shmuel Zanvil Klepfish of Warsaw considered the situation to be one of life or death and if not resolved, would lead to the collapse of the new colonies in Eretz Israel. After drafting a resolution, they sent it to R. Isaac Elchanan Spector of Kovno for his approval. He in turn agreed with them, but only if the deed of sale would be composed by the Beth Din of Jerusalem. This leniency was vigorously opposed by R. Shmuel Salant and thus many of the colonists refrained from work during the Sabbatical Year in accordance with R. Salant's stringent ruling.